In Victory for Homophobes, Lebanese Band Mashrou’ Leila to Break Up

Lead singer and gay activist Hamed Sinno said bans on band performing led to 'frustration and helplessness among the band members and the fans'

Sheren Falah Saab
Sheren Falah Saab
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A fan of Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou' Leila holds a rainbow flag during their concert at the Ehdeniyat International Festival in Ehden town, Lebanon August, 2017.
A fan of Lebanese alternative rock band Mashrou' Leila holds a rainbow flag during their concert at the Ehdeniyat International Festival in Ehden town, Lebanon August, 2017.Credit: JAMAL SAIDI / REUTERS
Sheren Falah Saab
Sheren Falah Saab

Hamed Sinno, lead singer of the Lebanese indie-rock band Mashrou’ Leila announced Monday that the band will stop playing following harassment its members endured on social media.

The announcement on the Lebanese podcast ‘Sarde After Dinner’ caused a huge stir on Arab media and the band’s fans express their disappointment with the decision.

Sinno, who is openly homosexual and an LGBT activist, established Mashrou’ Leila together with a fellow student while studying at The American University of Beirut. He told the podcast that the decision to break up the band was due to harassment of its members on social media.

"It made us feel very pressured," Sinno said, "we couldn't continue working and creating like that."

Sino said conservative forces in the Arab world had made it very difficult for them to perform in Arab countries and even in the Lebanese capital, Beirut. He noted the prohibition by the Jordanian authorities on the band appearing in the country. “It led to frustration and helplessness among the band members and the fans,” he added.

It wasn’t only the bans that dampened the band's spirits. Sinno spoke in the podcast about the tragic case of a fan who committed suicide. In 2017, LGBT activist Sarah Hegazy raised the pride flag at one of the band’s shows in Egypt. She was arrested by the Egyptian authorities and sentenced to three months in jail, during which time she was tortured. Following the incident, the band was banned from performing in Egypt. Hegazy sought asylum in Canada and took her own life in 2020. “It was very difficult, and I felt guilty for a long time, I felt that I didn’t want to make music,” Sinno said.

After being banned in Jordan and Egypt, the band was pulled from the Byblos festival in Beirut in 2019 following claims that some of the words in the song “ibn el Leil” were offensive to Christianity and encouraged devil worship.

Mashrou’ Leila gained popularity thanks to subversive songs that sought to break down conservative attitudes to the LGBT community and send out a critical message regarding the discourse on sexual matters. The band has released four albums since it was founded in 2008 and in 2016 produced a short film on the Syrian refugee crisis and corruption in Lebanon.

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