After ongoing security pursues in Egypt since last March for girls who publish some clips filmed through the application “Tik-Tok”, a case is known as “Tik-Tok Girls”, the Economic Court decided to sentence “Haneen Hosam” and “Mawadah Adham” and 3 Others with imprisonment for two years, with each fined 300,000 EGP.
The court punished the girls after the Egyptian Public Prosecution had accused them of violating family values and principles and spreading debauchery and immorality. The court also assigned to the defendants the charges of prostitution and trafficking in human beings, as a result of publishing interesting or satirical short video clips, which caused widespread controversy due to their audacity and clash with the customs and traditions of society. However, activists considered these accusations unreasonable, saying that there are no law texts to imprison these girls. Some also considered that the Egyptian regime wanted to appear in front of the people as an advocate of values and morals by choosing to punish “Tik-Tok girls.”
Opponents point out that female artists and singers in Egypt publish photos and videos of themselves on a daily basis on the application of Instagram and Tik Tok more bold and vulgar than published by imprisoned girls, but the security authorities turn a blind eye to these practices. Divergence of opinions in this matter on social media appeared to be evident, between the great support for the pursuit of Tik-Tok girls and less sympathy. Despite the wide difference in opinions, there is unanimity in rejecting and denouncing the issue of signing a medical tests for girls to prove their virginity, as human rights defenders considered it a violation of the girls’ rights and bodies in a shocking way.
The verdict issued for the imprisonment of Haneen Hosam and Mawaddah Al-Adham for a period of two years is expected to be followed by similar rulings in the coming days against a number of other Tik-Tok girls who were arrested during the past months. The list of arrested girls includes well-known names during the recent period, such as Manar Sami, Rinad Imad, Menna Abdel Aziz, Cherry Hanem, her daughter Zumurda and Hadeer Al Hadi. In late June, human rights organizations, including the Al-Nadim Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and Torture, condemned the ongoing security campaign against blogs on the Tik Tok platform.
The organization said in a statement that the campaign “claims to protect the values of the Egyptian family, while at the same time ignoring thousands of reports of torture, enforced disappearance, medical negligence in prisons, and direct media incitement to murder and violence.” The statement demanded that the Public Prosecution “not to usurp, in contravention of the law and the constitution, the authority to impose a list of family values, which it imagines can be generalized to diverse societies which inspire their values of different faiths and multiple cultures.”
Rejection and sympathy
Many believe that the phenomenon of spreading girls’ clips through Tik-Tok helps spread vice and moral corruption, as opposed to those who see content makers as victims of the system of state corruption and media and cinematic lawlessness. Those who hold this viewpoint are referring to nudity and harassment scenes in a comic framework, without preventing or denouncing the ruling regime. Others believed that if the state was serious about combating the phenomenon, then it would be first for it to withhold the application of Tik Tok inside Egypt, not to imprison girls.
The researcher at the Editorial Institute for Middle East Policy in Washington Joy Chia included the pursuit of girls as part of the campaign of “repression” by the Egyptian authorities against opposition activists. She explained that this is another attempt to increase the monitoring of digital platforms in the context of what she described as Egyptian law imposing long restrictions on freedom of expression.
In 2018, General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi approved a law that aims to “regulate the press and the media” and allow the Supreme Council for the Regulation of Media, formed by a presidential decree, to monitor some accounts of social media users. While human rights lawyer Tariq Al-Awadi said in press statements: “Accusations of prostitution and incitement to immorality have specific legal definitions and do not apply to the cases of these girls, and the most that can be said is the outrageous act.” He added that there is a problem in the cultural makeup of Egyptian society because those who reject these girls are the same people who watch the videos and pictures they publish.
Away of the refusal or the sympathy with Tik-Tok-girls, lawyer Ahmed Al-Bahqiri, the representative of Mawaddah Al-Adham, revealed that his client refused to carry out virginity tests, which was asked from her in the investigation record. He added that Mawaddah also refused to disclose her accounts and her private property in banks. The prosecution’s request to reveal the virginity of Hanin and Mawaddah has sparked the discontent of the activists.
The Human Rights Defenders recalled what happened in Tahrir Square during the January 25, 2011 revolution when girls accused army officers of making Virginity test for them after their arrest. Lebanese actress Carole Samaha denounced the virginity tests on “Tik Tok girls,” and wrote, through her official account on Twitter, asking: “Virginity test? What is this underdevelopment? What is this insult .. Rejected Rejected Rejected.”