In Egypt, you get to make your moves with a little bit of superfluous caution. The authorities in Egypt are infamous for not tolerating anything that does not bode well with their interests. In essence, talk of nuanced forms of repression.
Sherine Abdel-Wahab, one of Egypt's most famous singers, has been sentenced to six months in prison for making a joke about the cleanliness of the Nile River. She joked that drinking from the Nile leads to a parasitic illness. Apart from being one of the country's most famous singers, Sherine is also a judge on the Arabic version of The Voice TV show.
She told a fan that drinking water from the Nile might give them parasites. "Drink Evian instead," she joked. She was sentenced to prison for six months in absentia for offending Egypt. At a concert a fan asked her to play the song, "Have You Drunk from The Nile?" Abdel-Wahab responded: "No, you'd get Bilharzia. Drink Evian, it's better!" Sherine has been accused of spreading "false news" but she still has the option to appeal.
Her remarks drew criticism as she was accused of disparaging Egypt ad hurting the county's tourism sector. In a Facebook post, she later apologized for her statements. Bilharzia, or Schistosomiasis, is a disease caused by parasitic worms. It can be transmitted by drinking or being exposed to contaminated water. The Egyptian government has developed plans with the World Health Organization to eventually eliminate Bilharzia from its waters, including through medication programs.
She made the remarks last year, and the lawsuit against her was opened in November. The controversy surrounding Sherine's case was followed by the arrest in January of Laila Amer, over a video for her song Bos Omak (Look At Your Mother)Its name is an apparent pun on an Arabic profanity. The video showed Amer dancing and making suggestive gestures - something the lawyer who filed the complaint called a "great risk" to Egypt and "an attack on society". News agency EFE reported that Amer's defence in court was that she had simply followed instructions from the director and producer.
Being an artist in Egypt now requires some extra caution.