Two young Egyptian TikTok stars and three associates were jailed for two years Monday, as part of a crackdown on “indecent” social media influencers.
The two jailed influencers — Haneen Hossam, 20, and Mowada al-Adham, 22 — were convicted of violating Egyptian family values, inciting immorality and debauchery. They’re the first to be sentenced from a group of nine young women influencers arrested in recent months over their posts on social media, where their huge followings have drawn the attention of the country’s authoritarian government.
Hossam, a Cairo University student with more than a million followers, was arrested in April after posting a short clip encouraging women to make money by working on a video chat app. Adham, who has about 2 million followers across social media, was arrested the following month, accused of posting indecent videos online.
The sentences, which include fines of 300,000 Egyptian pounds (nearly £15,000), have drawn condemnation from rights groups and supporters, who say the women have done nothing wrong and are being unfairly targeted.
Hussein Baoumi, Egypt researcher for Amnesty International told VICE News that Egypt’s conservative authorities were unnerved by the large followings amassed by the young women, and were using broadly defined morality codes to clamp down on them.
“Authorities are now using the ‘morality discourse’ to attack influencers on social media platforms, particularly targeting women,” he said.
“The women are being prosecuted on spurious and vague charges of violating family values, simply for posting videos of themselves dancing or singing.”
Mozn Hassan, executive director at Nazra, an Egyptian feminist group, told VICE News the charges were an indictment on the patriarchal worldview of Egypt’s conservative rulers.
“It’s about how the authorities and the patriarchal way they deal with women — they’re differentiating between who they think are ‘good’ women and who they think are ‘bad’ women. For them, the bad women are those who don’t dress and act the way they think they should,” she said.
“I say it’s all in their heads — dancing is something common in Egyptian society.”
Last month, an Egyptian court sentenced a belly dancer to three years in jail for inciting "debauchery" on social media by posting a dance video to TikTok.
Supporters of the women have launched an online campaign calling for their release, while their lawyers say they plan to appeal.