Egypt has been prosecuting bellydancers for some years now, and recently it was Egypt-based Armenian bellydancer Sofinar Grigoryan's turn.
Publicly known as Safinaz, the bellydancer was accused of "inciting debauchery" after videos of her performing on stage with a woman wearing a bikini went viral online. The incident reportedly took place in a resort located in Egypt's North Coast during a performance the dancer was hosting there last month.
While on stage, Sofinar asked women in the audience to join her; one female beachgoer went up the stage and started dancing. Footage capturing the dance angered many in Egypt, who deemed it "explicit" and "unacceptable."
At the time, the backlash led the country's Musicians' Syndicate to issue a statement saying action will be taken against the dancer. However, no move was made until this week since the syndicate's board was "busy hosting internal elections."
The head of the syndicate's investigation committee said board members received details of the incident. Egypt's Censor Board also took immediate action against Sofinar this week, filing an official report against her, accusing her of "inciting debauchery."
If convicted in the charge, the bellydancer can face up to three years in jail and be deported from the country.
According to Sayidaty Magazine, it is expected that until her trial is over, she will not be able to perform or work in Egypt.
Sofinar has since issued a statement
Speaking to Al Watan News, the bellydancer refuted claims that she was dancing naked at the event. "I always adhere to rules concerning wearing appropriate belly dancing outfits. I was never on stage naked," she said.
The dancer also explained that she could not be held responsible for the actions of two women who joined her on stage.
"They both performed on stage half an hour before I went on. They joined me in on the show and it wasn't my place to stop them from doing that. This isn't the first time women dance on stage like this [wearing swimsuits], especially at events held in beach resorts," she added.
In 2015, Sofinar got a 6-month prison sentence and a fine worth 15,000 Egyptian pounds ($907) for wearing an outfit that resembles the Egyptian flag. Egypt had released a law the year before warning people of offending the country's flag. She was released on bail for being a foreigner unaware of the new law.
Not the first time a bellydancer is prosecuted in Egypt
Just last week, Egyptian authorities issued an arrest warrant against a man who was filmed belly dancing on a ferry boat ride.
In 2018, Egypt-based Russian bellydancer Ekaterina Andreeva - who's publicly known as Johara (Jewel) - sparked controversy after a video of her dancing went viral. Earlier this year, she was sentenced to one year in jail for "inciting debauchery." She has since reportedly fled to Beirut, Lebanon.
The sentencing was passed by the Giza Misdemeanors Court and came almost a year after the dancer was arrested by police and interrogated "on charges of inciting debauchery and dancing semi-naked, as well as working as a dancer without obtaining a permit from the Manpower Ministry."
At the time, she was also labeled as a threat "to public security due to her provocative dancing."