An Egyptian singer has been jailed for two years for “inciting debauchery” after she appeared in her underwear suggestively eating a banana.
Shaimaa Ahmed, a 25-year-old singer commonly known as Shyma, was charged by authorities following the release of the music video for her song “I Have Issues,” which triggered outrage amongst Egypt’s Islamic population for its sexually suggestive content.
In the video, which has over one million views on YouTube, Shyma can be seen dancing in a bra in front of a group of enchanted men suggestively eating a banana and pouring milk over herself. There is also a chalkboard behind her that reads ‘Class 69.’
Egyptian state media outlets confirmed that Ahmed was arrested by authorities on November 18 shortly after the video’s release. She appeared at court on Tuesday wearing a niqab covering her face and was seen reading the Qu’ran before her sentencing.
She was consequently found guilty of inciting debauchery and publishing an indecent film, and sentenced to two years in jail alongside the film’s director, although she now has the option to appeal the verdict to a higher court.
My apologies to all people who watched the video and did not like it because they think it’s inappropriate,” Ahmed wrote in a Facebook post. “I did not expect such a harsh backlash from people. As a singer, I only sung the song and I do not have any knowledge and understanding in direction and many other things.”
The case opens up further questions over the level of freedom and human rights under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who came to office in 2014 through a military coup based on fears that former Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was increasing levels of repression.
According to Amnesty International, Egyptian authorities are currently “shifting” their onslaught against media freedom to the digital sphere,” through the blocking of dozens of news websites overly critical of the government.
Meanwhile, in 2015, a similar case last year saw Egyptian courts sentence two female belly dancers to six months in prison also for “inciting debauchery,” which prosecutors argued harmed the image of Egyptian women and damaged public morality.
Last month, Egyptian authorities also arrested seven people accused of promoting homosexuality after they allegedly raised the LGBT flag at a concert in Cairo by the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila.