The Red Hot Chili Peppers gave a much anticipated performance by the Giza Pyramids on the western outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, but the concert has been dampened by news that Egyptian authorities "banned" concertgoers from bringing Pride flags to the event.
LGBTQ+ rights have often been on shaky ground in Egypt; according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Egyptian citizens believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society at large. Although Egyptian law does not explicitly criminalize homosexual acts, it does enforce wide-reaching social codes that crack down on any behavior deemed immoral or scandalous.
But the news that Egyptian authorities were not allowing people to enter the concert venue if they carried "gay" flags has ignited significant controversy online.
Journalist Samer Al-Atrush was among the first to tweet about the policy.
Entering Red Hot Chili Peppers concert at Cairo Pyramids. Police officer asks: "you have no flags?" Asked what type… https://t.co/bsFw6SdaUB— Samer Al-Atrush (@Samer Al-Atrush)1552661959.0
Others shared similar news, with at least one person observing that police confiscated a child's crayons to keep her and her family from "drawing" the rainbow flag.
Officer at entrance of #redhotchilipeppers concert asks if we have any flags with us: “With the colors, for the gays, not allowed!” #Egypt— Eduard Cousin (@Eduard Cousin)1552662015.0
@EduardCousin They actually took my friends’ daughter crayons that were in the car so in case we think of drawing the rainbow flag !!— Ahmed Mohieldin (@Ahmed Mohieldin)1552716409.0
@SameralAtrush I heard it was top ranking police officers supervising this task!!— Ismail (@Ismail)1552736712.0
While there don't appear to have been arrests in the wake of these searches, many have decried them as an example of the Egyptian government's overreach.
Some criticism was also directed at the Red Hot Chili Peppers for deciding to perform despite the controversy.
Shame on you Red Chilli Peppers for allowing security staff to ban pride flags at their latest Egyptian concert 😭… https://t.co/Xl135nxo6w— ThinkPleasure (@ThinkPleasure)1552984917.0
Gay Pride Flag (and you won't believe what else) ‘banned’ From Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert in Egypt The Peppers… https://t.co/qNpmRBD8Gm— Dane B. McFadhen (@Dane B. McFadhen)1552957287.0
Imagine hating the gays so much that you ban crayons because people could draw rainbows. "Hold on, miss, do you ha… https://t.co/fLPcPO6PPv— Danielle Golinsky (@Danielle Golinsky)1552931805.0
In #Egypt at the @ChiliPeppers concert: No alcohol, no drugs, no "flag of the gays". They're talking about the Rai… https://t.co/VmTu9KeBhd— Robert Rutledge (@Robert Rutledge)1552750887.0
Egyptian police have cracked down significantly on displays of the Pride flag since the 2017 Rainbow Flags' Incident, when Egyptian teens unfurled the flag during a concert for the Lebanese band Mashrou' Leila.
Pictures of the act went viral on social media and more than 30 people were arrested in subsequent days on charges that they'd engaged in "promoting sexual deviance" and "debauchery."
According to The New Arab, those arrested in that purge were convicted and sentenced to between six months and six years in prison. The Egyptian government has also imposed a wide reaching ban on media, including television and film, from discussing LGBTQ+-related matters.