Is it Love? Egyptian Govt Praises Rami Malek's Oscar Inspite of LGBT Crackdown

Published March 5th, 2019 - 04:27 GMT
Malek won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody” last week. (AFP/ File)
Malek won the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar for “Bohemian Rhapsody” last week. (AFP/ File)

Egyptian authorities have been criticised as hypocrites for praising Rami Malek's Oscar win for portraying music legend Freddie Mercury, with rights groups highlighting the government's dire record on LGBTI rights.

Malek, an American of Egyptian origin, received the best actor Oscar award last month for his portrayal of the gay icon and lead singer of iconic British band "Queen".

"We made a film about a gay man, an immigrant, who lived his life just unapologetically himself," Malek said during his acceptance speech.

"The fact that I'm celebrating him and this story with you tonight is proof that we're longing for stories like this," he added, noting for the audience that he is "a first-generation American" of Egyptian descent.

On social media, Egyptians widely praised Malek, highlighting a quote from his Oscar speech: "I am the son of immigrants from Egypt."

Egyptian authorities were also eager to claim a connection to the actor, with Egypt's Immigration Ministry even tweeting a quote from Malek's speech.

But many were quick to point out the hypocrisy of support from officials in Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's government.

"Rami Malek took home his Oscar because he gave life, joyfully, to a queer icon. But Egypt under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi would not allow either a Mercury to thrive on its soil, or Malek to celebrate him," Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said.

In Egypt, Malek's full Oscar speech could not be reported, and Bohemian Rhapsody was only shown in cinemas after several scenes were cut.

"Were Mercury in Egypt today, he could be charged under Egypt's debauchery law, like 76 people were last year according to Cairo-based rights organization Bedayaa," HRW's Ghoshal said.

Mercury would also not be allowed to be interview on Egyptian media, with the Supreme Council for Media Regulation issuing a 2017 ban on "homosexuals" appearing in press outlets unless they have "repented".

Earlier this year, television host Mohamed al-Gheiti was sentenced to one year in prison for interviewing a gay man in 2018.

The Supreme Council banned the appearance of homosexuals on any outlet after a rainbow flag - symbolic of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community - was waved during a Cairo concert in 2017.

At the time, the authorities launched a large-scale crackdown on suspected homosexuals, triggering condemnation from right groups.

Men arrested during the crackdown were subjected to invasive forensic anal examinations.

This article has been adapted from its original source.  

Copyright @ 2019 The New Arab.

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