Egypt slammed after singers jailed over belly dancing video

The singers, Omar Kamal (L) and Hamo Beeka (C), have been found guilty of ‘violation of family values’

Human rights groups have criticized an Egyptian court for jailing two popular singers over a video they made with a Brazilian belly dancer.

In the clip, they are seen lip-syncing and smiling as the dancer, wearing a long dress and jacket, performs her moves.

The video was a YouTube hit in 2020 and has millions of views.

But the court in Alexandria found the men guilty of “violation of family values” in what is seen as part of a wider crackdown on artistic expression.

They were also found guilty of taking advantage of the video featuring dancer Lordiana, who became famous in Egypt for her slinky moves.

The singers – Hamo Beeka and Omar Kamal – were sentenced to a year in prison and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($540; £435). If they pay the same amount plus fees, they can have their jail terms suspended.

Human Rights Watch says Egypt is increasingly relying on what it calls “abusive and ill-defined family values” to exert control over social media.

He calls for the repeal of sections of the Cybercrime Act that he says criminalize freedom of expression.

At least a dozen young women acting as social media influencers have been charged with breaking the law, with courts handing them heavy fines and sentences of up to five years in prison.

The latest verdict is part of a wider crackdown on a relatively new genre of low-budget electronic music known as mahraganat, or festival music, which is hugely popular in Egypt.

It’s generally upbeat and lively, depicting stories from the everyday lives of less well-off Egyptians.

Some mahraganat songs have gained international attention since they were used by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab in Moon Knight, a new Marvel series.

However, the state-run Musicians’ Union has banned a number of mahraganate singers, including Mr. Kamal, preventing them from legally performing in public.

Since President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi took office, the union has increasingly taken on a role of censoring what it sees as violations of morality.

In the case of Mr. Kamal, it was pointed out that he used words such as “alcohol” and “hashish”.

Human rights activists argue that restrictions on freedom of expression due to public morals must be proportionate, non-discriminatory and clearly defined.

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