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Egypt is ‘hunting down’ and jailing gay men for waving rainbow flag

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Six men arrested in Egypt for “promoting sexual deviancy” on social media will be subjected to “anal examinations” before their October 1 trial, reports Reuters on Saturday.

According to Amnesty International, the men’s arrest was triggered by a crackdown against homosexuality that started after music fans waved a rainbow flag at a Mashrou’ Leila concert last week. The lead vocalist for the Lebanese band is openly gay, and the group is beloved in the LGBTQ community overseas as well as in the United States.

“The fact that Egypt’s Public Prosecutor is prioritizing hunting down people based on their perceived sexual orientation is utterly deplorable. These men should be released immediately and unconditionally — not put on trial,” Najia Bounaim, North Africa Campaigns Director at Amnesty International, told Reuters. She also described the anal exams as “abhorrent” and “torture.”

Homosexuality is unacceptable, even if not specifically outlawed, in the very conservative country. LGBTQ people face harsh treatment in Egyptian prisons.

So far, 11 people have been arrested for “deviancy” and one of the men has already been sentenced to six years in jail. According to Human Rights Watch, there was no lawyer present at the man’s trial, nor will he have one on his October 11 appeal. Additionally: “The court sentenced him to an additional six years of probation which will require reporting to the police from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. until 2029.”

The exams are intended to determine whether the men have had anal sex in a country known for controversial medical practices. Women arrested there have often been subjected to “virginity tests” to prove that they are upstanding citizens (many arrested during the 2011 revolution and subsequent unrest there were accused of being “prostitutes”). There have been recent calls to subject women to similar exams before allowing them to enroll in university.

Reuters quoted an unnamed judicial source defending the exams: “Allegations of torturing or insulting those medically examined are lies not worth responding to. The examinations are carried out by a forensic doctor who swore to respect his profession and its ethics.”

For its part, Mashrou’ Leila has remained silent on the arrests, only issuing a statement on Twitter on Tuesday:

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