Egyptian Singers Jailed For 'Inciting Debauchery'

Mar 3, 2018
Originally published on March 4, 2018 11:26 am

These days you can add to the list of unexpectedly risky professions: being a popular singer in Egypt.

Sherine Abdel Wahab, known as Sherine, has been sentenced to six months in prison for "spreading false news" in a concert. She took a fan's request to sing her hit song, "Have You Drunk from the Nile."

There's and old belief in Egypt that someone who drinks from the Nile will always return home to Egypt.

But Sherine joked that if you drink from the Nile, you might get parasites. She told her audience, "Drink Evian instead."

The generals who run Egypt are not known for a sparkling sense of humor. In November, a lawsuit was filed against Sherine after a video surfaced of her making the joke. The Egyptian Musicians Syndicate said it banned her from performing over her "unjustified mockery of our dear Egypt."

Sherine is appealing her sentence and told her 14 million Facebook followers, "My beloved Egypt and its children: I apologize from all my heart for any pain I may have caused you."

Then there's a singer known as Shyma. She was arrested for her video of the song, titled in English, "I Have Issues," in which she's shown undressing and eating fruit evocatively.

Shyma was quickly convicted of "corrupting public morals" and "inciting debauchery." She faces a year of prison.

And there's Laila Amer. She's been sentenced to two years for the song, which is titled in English, "Look At Your Mother."

But that line Arabic is apparently a profane pun. Laila Amer has been found guilty of "inciting debauchery and immorality."

Human rights groups say Egyptian authorities have arrested, detained, and jailed as many as 60,000 people to stifle dissent and free speech. All it takes is a joke, a prank, a pun, or a song.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

These days, you can add to the list of unexpectedly risky professions being a popular singer in Egypt.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAVE YOU DRUNK FROM THE NILE")

SHERINE ABDEL WAHAB: (Singing in foreign language).

SIMON: Sherine Abdel Wahab, known as Sherine, has been sentenced to six months in prison for spreading false news in a concert. She took a fan's request to sing her hit song "Have You Drunk From The Nile."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HAVE YOU DRUNK FROM THE NILE")

SHERINE: (Singing in foreign language).

SIMON: There's an old belief in Egypt that someone who drinks from the Nile will always return home. But Sherine joked that if you drink from the Nile, you might get parasites - told her audience, drink Evian instead.

The generals who run Egypt are not known for a sparkling sense of humor. Sherine is appealing her sentence and told her 14 million Facebook followers, (reading) my beloved Egypt and its children, I apologize from all my heart for any pain I have caused you.

Then there's a singer known as Shyma.

(SOUNDBITE OF UNIDENTIFIED SHYMA SONG)

SHYMA: (Singing in foreign language).

SIMON: She was arrested for her video of this song, in which she's shown undoing a strap on her dress and eating fruit evocatively. Shyma was quickly convicted of corrupting public morals and inciting debauchery. She faces a year in prison for a video that looks only a little more provocative than what Americans might see in a lip balm commercial.

Then there's Laila Amer. She's been sentenced to two years for this song, which is titled in English, "Look At Your Mother."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AT YOUR MOTHER")

LAILA AMER: (Singing in Arabic).

SIMON: That line in Arabic is apparently a profane pun. Laila Amer has been found guilty of inciting debauchery and immorality.

Human rights groups say Egyptian authorities have arrested, detained and jailed as many as 60,000 people to stifle dissent and free speech. All it takes is a joke, a prank, a pun or a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOK AT YOUR MOTHER")

AMER: (Singing in Arabic). Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.