Outrage after Egypt court jails two singers for ‘violating family values’ over video with belly dancer

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Hamo Bika and Omar Kamal have been jailed for violating family values over their viral video with a Brazilian belly dancer (ArpuPlus/Twitter)
Hamo Bika and Omar Kamal have been jailed for violating family values over their viral video with a Brazilian belly dancer (ArpuPlus/Twitter)

Human rights activists in Egypt have criticised the government’s decision to imprison two pop singers in the country for dancing in a viral video that “violated family values”.

Pop singers Hamo Bika and Omar Kamal danced with a Brazilian belly dancer called Lurdiana in the clip following which they were sentenced to one year each in prison and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds [approximately £430] each.

The video posted on YouTube was a massive hit in October 2021 and was viewed millions of times. The two Egyptian singers can be seen belly dancing with a Brazilian dancer Lurdiana, who, instead of a traditional costume, is seen wearing a red dress and a leather jacket. The three can be seen dancing to the song “Enti Ma’lema” in the viral video.

Both singers have been suspended from singing in Egypt. But local news organisations reported that while this means the duo can’t sing at any event, they can still record and post on any outlet.

Egypt’s BolNews reported that the two are often criticised for their lyrics, music and performance and often accused of “lacking taste” and “spreading vulgarity”. However, they still remain popular.

“Egyptian authorities should not prosecute musicians solely for their artistic expression,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch (HRW). “The poorly defined restrictions used to convict these men should be repealed.”

The HRW report said the verdict against the singers comes as part of a larger crackdown targeting “mahraganat” singers and artistic work deemed antithetical to Egyptian values, including bans on performing certain genres in public and dismissals of artists from the Musicians’ Syndicate.

“Mahraganant is a relatively new and hugely popular genre of low-budget Egyptian electronic music developed since 2007, often portraying stories from the lives and struggles of lower-income Egyptians,” the statement says.

The media also reported that the local government body that regulates the work of musicians in Egypt, the Musicians’ Syndicate, banned Kamal from working as a professional musician four times between 2020-2022 for his lyrics that included words such as “alcohol” and “hashish”.

The bans are often not limited to a time frame, reports said.

“The Musicians’ Syndicate should end its baseless censorship of artistic works on the basis of vague morality charges,” Mr Stork said.

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