Egyptian-American actor Rami Malek's Oscar win was not only remarkable, but also controversial. His victory sparked a string of various debates - one of which the status of the LGBTIQ+ community in Egypt.
Malek took home the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
Since he portrayed a queer rock icon, many social media users took the opportunity to highlight the plight of LGBTIQ+ individuals in Egypt.
Egyptian state media proudly reported Malek's Oscar win, as the latter was born in the United States to Egyptian immigrants.
"Rami Malek has made Egyptians happy and proud tonight as the first Egyptian American to win an Academy Award," the Embassy of Egypt in the U.S. tweeted.
Additionally, social media users from Egypt, and the Arab world in general, widely expressed their pride and excitement.
Apart from those celebrating the news, several users criticized the state's expressing pride in the actor's achievement, all the while cracking down on LGBTIQ+ individuals in the country. Some also noted that Malek might have faced prosecution had he performed a similar role in Egypt.
In fact, one Egyptian MP said the actor's win "aims to spoil the morals of Egyptian youth."
According to Egypt Independent, MP Mohamed Ismail, secretary of the Housing Committee in the House of Representatives, said he was surprised that Egyptian media celebrated Malek's win.
"I was surprised by the Egyptian media's celebration of Rami Malek, because the role played by Rami Malek in the film is far from his real character. He is trying to [spread] homosexuality among the youth."
LGBTIQ+ rights in Egypt
While homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, police routinely arrest individuals using decades-old prostitution and debauchery laws, according to The Guardian.
According to media reports from 2017, Egyptian police have been targeting gay men through dating apps like Grindr. Some reports suggest that the mere association with the queer community subjects one to prosecution.
In 2017, a number of individuals were arrested for raising a rainbow flag during a Mashrou' Leila concert in Cairo. They were detained under charges of "promoting sexual deviancy" and "inciting immorality."
The country's Musicians syndicate also said at the time it will ban the band - whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay - from performing in the country again.
The situation escalated into what human rights organizations described as a full-fledged LGBTIQ+ crackdown.
According to Amnesty, some arrestees have been subjected to forced anal examinations to determine whether they have had gay sex.
According to a Human Rights Watch report published in April 2018, over 230 LGBTIQ+ individuals are estimated to have been prosecuted on "debauchery" charges under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi's rule. More than 50 individuals have been sentenced to prison for "debauchery."
The report also noted that Coptic Christians, the minority group Malek's family belongs to, have historically been subject to "widespread legal and social discrimination."
"The hunt has never stopped, and the arrest and intimidations continue. Even foreigners are being targeted: Cases have been reported where tourists were arrested for 'debauchery' and deported from the country," Wasik said.
In January 2019, Egyptian TV presenter Mohamed Al-Ghiety was sentenced to one year of hard labour for "promoting homosexuality" after interviewing a gay man.
Social media users didn't hold back on pointing out the irony
In light of Egypt's maltreatment of LGBTIQ+ individuals, many social media users responded to the Egyptian embassy's posts by shedding light on the struggles of the queer community in Egypt: