Egypt cancels prison sentences for 2 women who rose to fame on TikTok

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CAIRO – Egyptian court overturns sentences of two young women who were convicted and jailed last year for “violating family values” and “inciting debauchery” after gaining fame on TikTok, media say of state.

The case garnered widespread attention as Egyptian prosecutors fought a massive legal battle last year over what they saw as public immorality on social media.

The pair were among a handful of social media influencers, including a pop star and a belly dancer, to come under scrutiny for their posts in recent years. As their social media follow-ups and, in some cases, income earned from videos increased, young female influencers have faced a conservative backlash in a country where activist lawyers and prosecutors take it upon themselves to enforce lawsuits. strict social standards for women.

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The women, Haneen Hossam and Mawada el-Adham, were 20 and 22 when they were convicted and sentenced in July to two years in prison. They became stars on TikTok, Instagram, and other social media platforms with playful videos they posted of themselves dancing, lip-syncing and singing.

Egyptians stuck at home during the coronavirus lockdown loved it, and women racked up millions of followers. But compared to other social media posts in Egypt and the West, the videos seemed tame; Ms. Hossam usually appeared with a headscarf.

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But prosecutors accused the women of “indecent” activity, referring to a clip Ms Hossam posted on Instagram in which she encouraged women to try and get into the social media influencer game by posting videos of themselves on the Likee app, which pays creators. depending on the number of views they accumulate.

Prosecutors accused Ms Hossam of instigating young women to sell sex on the app and of human trafficking. The women denied the charges against them.

Women’s advocates, including digital rights activists, said their middle and working-class origins made them more vulnerable to accusations of indecency than more affluent Egyptian women, who are subject to less moral scrutiny. .

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Under the new ruling, the women are supposed to be released from prison, but it was not immediately clear whether they had been released yet.

Although the court overturned prison sentences for the two women, it upheld a fine of around $ 19,000 for Ms. el-Adham.

Three other defendants convicted of helping the women evade arrest and cover up their alleged crimes also won their appeals on Tuesday, according to Al-Ahram, a public outlet.