Update (May 18, 2021): Access Now joins human rights organizations in a call on Egyptian authorities to stop trials of TikTok content creators and to guarantee freedom of expression. The Cairo Criminal Court held a session May 18, 2021 to continue hearing a human trafficking case that involves TikTok influencers Haneen Hossam and Mawadda al-Adham. On March 14, 2021, the Public Prosecution referred both defendants to trial on human trafficking charges.
Update (January 12, 2021): Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm’s prison sentences were overturned on appeal. Mawada will still owe a LE 300,000 (USD ~$19,000) fine. This is a victory for freedom of expression in Egypt.
Update (October 14, 2020): Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm’s trials have been postponed to November 8, 2020.
In April, the Egyptian authorities arrested Haneen Hossam, a 20-year-old student and TikTok influencer with more than 1 million followers. Her crime? Dancing, having fun, and making money from her content. She was charged with violating “the values of the Egyptian family and society” under the Cybercrime Law. She was also sentenced to two years in prison, her assets frozen, and fined with a hefty sum of 300,000 LE (nearly USD $19,000).
Several other women have also been sentenced to large fines and 2-6 years in prison. Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm are now fighting for their freedom through appeal trials, and they need your help.
This petition is hosted on Change.org by feminist activists in Egypt. Any data submitted will not be managed by Access Now.
What is happening?
The Egyptian government is policing the internet under the banner of protecting the Egyptian family’s values, targeting women on social media from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. It has detained and prosecuted more than 9 women influencers on TikTok, accusing them of using TikTok to violate Egypt’s “family values.” They include a mother of a 3-year-old (Manar Samy), other students, and a 17-year-old girl (Menna Abdelaziz) who posted about being beaten and raped.
Why is this happening?
In Egypt, citizens are grappling with cybercrime and media regulation laws, and the threats of police surveillance, arrest, and imprisonment. These cybercrime laws use vague terms like “family values,” which give Egyptian authorities the power to monitor and control what any Egyptian can or cannot say or do online. These arrests set a dangerous legal precedent.
It’s also no coincidence that the majority of those arrested are women. The targeting of these women is happening at the same time that more and more Egyptian women are speaking up about misogyny around the country.
What happens now?
At least five women have already been sentenced to jail for their TikTok videos, and now they are fighting their charges on appeal. Manar Samy had her appeal hearing this Saturday, September 19. (Her 3-year prison sentence and fine was upheld.) A woman named Sherifa Refaat and her 25-year-old daughter Nora Hesham have also been recently sentenced to 6 years in prison and a EGP $100,000 (over USD$6,000) fine.
Haneen Hossam and Mawada Eladhm were scheduled for appeal trials on October 13, which have now been adjourned to November 8.
What you can do
We must pressure Egyptian authorities to free these women and revoke their sentences.
According to local activists, one of the best ways to support these women is to make noise. They are requesting international pressure leading up to the trials.
1. Sign and share this petition ASAP demanding justice.
2. Like and share these posts about their cases: Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
3. Tell the world why this matters to you on social. Use the hashtags بعد_اذن_الاسرة_المصرية# and #TikTokWomen.
Everyone deserves the freedom to express themselves — without fear and regardless of their gender.