TikTok Star Arrested in Saudi Arabia Over Video with ‘Lesbian Undertones’

Tala Safwan, who has 4.9 million TikTok followers, had denied that there was any sexual subtext to a livestream she had posted with another woman.
tala safwan saudi arabia
Photo: Tala Safwan / TikTok

An Egyptian influencer with a huge following on TikTok and YouTube has been arrested in Saudi Arabia after being accused of posting “sexually suggestive content.”

Tala Safwan, who has 4.9 million TikTok followers and 866,000 subscribers on YouTube, was arrested in Riyadh, where she lives.

According to Egyptian news site Egyptian Streets, Safwan asked a young Saudi woman during a joint TikTok livestream to visit her house in the Saudi capital, saying that “everyone will be asleep” and that “no one will hear her scream."


The video prompted criticism online in Saudi Arabia, with the hashtag “Tala offends society” trending on Twitter. Safwan responded by denying that there was any lesbian subtext to her comments, and that her video has been misunderstood. 

But police later announced that they had apprehended an unnamed local resident and tweeted a blurred version of Safwan’s video, stating she “appeared in a broadcast talking to another woman with sexual content and suggestiveness that could have a negative impact on public morality.”

Safwan mainly produces videos emulating famous TikTok trends or vlogs on YouTube about daily life, gossip and stories sent to her by her followers. 

The arrest follows a number of prison sentences that have been issued in recent years to Egyptian TikTok stars, including Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm, who were convicted of “violating family values and principles” and sentenced to two years in prison, along with a fine of 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($16,100; £12,400). Amnesty International has called for their release “as they are being punished solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”

In Turkey, content creators deemed to be too sexual have also suffered from clampdowns. In January, VICE World News reported that Merve Taşkin was given a suspended jail term after Instagramming a trip to Amsterdam’s Sex Museum.