The arrests began after people began raising rainbow flags during a concert by Mashrou' Leila, a Lebanese band whose lead singer is openly gay.
Days later, BBC reports, Egyptian Public Prosecutor Nabil Sadek ordered state security prosecutors to investigate an "incident" that "incited homosexuality."
While Egypt does not specifically have laws criminalizing homosexuality, BBC notes that authorities often arrest people who are suspected of engaging in consensual homosexual behavior on charges of "debauchery", "immorality" or "blasphemy."
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a local human rights organization, reported that 6 men were arrested on Sunday in connection to raising the Pride flag, and went on trial along with at least 10 others who were arrested last week.
On Monday, Amnesty International reported that since the concert, authorities in Egypt have arrested a total of 33 people — 32 men and one woman — based on their perceived sexual orientation. Not only that, Amnesty reported that officials have also carried out anal examinations on at least five of the people arrested, which BBC says is a procedure used regularly while prosecuting homosexual sex in the country.
"In a matter of days the Egyptian security forces have rounded up dozens of people and carried out five anal examinations signaling a sharp escalation in the authorities’ efforts to persecute and intimidate members of the LGBTI community following the rainbow flag incident," Najia Bounaim, North Africa campaigns director at Amnesty International said in a statement. "Forced anal examinations are tantamount to torture — there is no scientific basis for such tests and they cannot be justified under any circumstances."
The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights told Amnesty that several of those arrested have been put on trial, with a verdict set for October 29.
On Monday, Mashrou' Leila denounced the arrests in a statement on Facebook, writing, "It is sickening to think that all this hysteria has been generated over a couple of kids raising a piece of cloth that stands for love."
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