Sentence against Armenian belly dancer Safinaz for insulting Egyptian flag upheld

Legal troubles appear to be catching up with Egypt’s most celebrated belly dancer, Safinaz, after a local court upheld a six- month prison term against her on charges of insulting the national flag during a performance, reports.

The Cairo Appeals Misdemeanour Court arrived at its decision on Saturday during a session in which Safinaz was conspicuous by her absence.

Safinaz’s lawyer said she was unable to appear before the court since she was abroad and added that he would appeal afresh against the verdict.

Authorities have placed Safinaz, an Armenian citizen, on a watchlist and plan to arrest her on her arrival in the country, security sources said.

In May, a lower court sentenced Safinaz to six months in jail and imposed a fine of 15,000 Egyptian pounds (Dh7,500). The court also asked her to pay up an extra 10,000 pounds to secure bail.

The 30-year-old dancer has repeatedly said she had meant no offence when she performed wearing a costume fashioned after the Egyptian flag.

The case is related to Safinaz’ performance at a concert at a resort outside Cairo in July 2014.

In TV interviews, Safinaz, who is married to an Egyptian, accused unnamed rivals of seeking to damage her reputation.

“It was a message of love to Egypt and its people,” she said in one interview, referring to her controversial outfit printed with the red, white and black colours of the Egyptian flag.

Last year, Egyptian authorities issued a law that makes showing disrespect to the national flag or the national anthem an offence punishable by up to a year in prison and a maximum fine of 30,000 pounds.

Safinaz has become a dancing sensation in Egypt in recent years.

With a surge in Islamist political spin in Egypt in recent years, most Egyptian belly dancers quit the profession, bringing in a stream of foreigners.

In September last year, a private Egyptian TV station cancelled a belly-dance talent hunt contest after the country’s top Islamic body condemned the show as a “corruption of morals”.

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS