An Egyptian court has sentenced five young women to two years in prison for posting indecent videos on TikTok that have been deemed to violate Egyptian public morals. Haneen Hossam and Mowada El-Adham were arrested in April and May respectively, and were slapped with fines of £14,500 each. Both women were found guilty of promoting immorality and human trafficking by encouraging women to earn money by gaining followers on social media. Three other women who have not yet been identified have also been charged for assisting Hossam and El-Adham in managing their social media accounts.

Hossam, 20 , a student at Cairo University was accused of inciting debauchery by encouraging women to meet men via TikTok while receiving fees based on the number of followers who get a fix watching their live cam chats. Hossam has about 1.2 million followers on the video-sharing app.

22-year-old Mawada El-Adham currently has three million followers on TikTok, 1.6 million on Instagram and 300,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel. She is accused of posting indecent photos and satirical videos on TikTok and Instagram.

This seems to be an ongoing operation to enforce Egypt's conservative social norms. The government has also cracked down on several female singers and dancers who have been posting suggestive and racy content on various social media platforms.

Under Egyptian cyber crime law issued in 2018, the grounds for "inciting debauchery" is a grey line where it can range from a number of offences. It is the prosecutor's office that usually lays down the decision that determines if the charge is against Egyptian society's traditions and morals.

Human rights activists are on a digital campaign demanding the release of these women and calling their arrests as a "violation of freedom of opinion and expression." The petition has about 1,500 signatures to date.

On the other hand, Egyptian parliament has demanded the Government to suspend TikTok in Egypt seeing as it promotes nudity and immorality. The wave of arrests has attracted both condemnation and applause as it reveals a clear conflict between freedom of expression and cultural/religious values deeply rooted in Egyptian society.

Aliaa Magda Elmahdy
20-year-old Egyptian Aliaa Magda Elmahdy became an overnight internet sensation when she posted nude photos of herself on her blog in protest against the censorship of women's bodies by Islamists. (Photo: Facebook) Facebook