CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s vice police on Thursday arrested the owner of a belly dancing TV station on suspicion of operating without a license, inciting licentiousness and facilitating prostitution, a security official said.
The station, ElTet, broadcasts videos 24 hours a day of scantily clad belly dancers giving sultry performances to live in-studio music. Available on satellite TV for more than a year, the station has gained a dedicated following, in part because it shows a quintessentially Egyptian art form that has grown increasingly inaccessible for many people in the country, having been largely relegated to expensive clubs and hotels as the country has grown more conservative in recent few decades.
Still, mothers and grandmothers traditionally teach young girls belly dancing at home, particularly by watching old black-and-white movies that made earlier generations of belly dancers household names in Egypt.
Early Thursday, Egyptian vice police raided an apartment in central Cairo where the station’s owner, Baligh Hamdy, had been running the operations and recording most of the videos, the security official said. Police confiscated tapes and video equipment and arrested Hamdy.
The official said Hamdy would record the videos and send them over the Internet to his partners in Bahrain and Jordan, who would in turn broadcast them on the station’s satellite TV, making it accessible in Egypt and elsewhere.
The raid was prompted by complaints from viewers, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media.
Besides the belly dancing, the station also carries advertisements for sexual enhancement products and matchmaking messages.
Hamdy is accused of airing ads that offend public decency, the official said.
While Egypt has grown increasingly conservative over the years, many rights groups fear an Islamist political class growing in influence may push for more censorship and use laws that vaguely define offending public decency to clamp down on the arts and freedom of expression.