Egypt jails star belly dancer, 42, for 3 years for 'immorality' over 'sexually suggestive' TikTok posts
Sama el-Masry has denied the allegations and claimed that the pictures and clips were stolen and shared from her phone without her consent.
A high-profile belly dancer from Egypt has been given three-year jail term for inciting debauchery and immorality through her posts on social media platforms, including the popular video-sharing platform TikTok. Sama el-Masry has also been fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds ($18,500).
The sentencing of el-Masry came two months after her arrest in April. The 42-year-old was arrested during a probe into videos and photos posted online that prosecutors described as "sexually suggestive". But Sama denied the allegations and claimed that the pictures and clips were stolen and shared from her phone without her consent.
On Saturday, June 27, Cairo's Misdemeanours Economic Court said that el-Masry had breached family principles and values in Egypt. The court also blamed the woman for creating, managing, and using social media sites through which she committed “immorality", the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported. John Talaat, a member of parliament who asked for legal action against el-Masry and other female TikTok participants, said: “There is a huge difference between freedom and debauchery.”
Talaat also said that along with el-Masry other female participants on social media have also violated family values and traditions through their online activities, which were banned by the law and the constitution of Egypt. Meanwhile, el-Masry said she would appeal against her sentencing.
In the past recent months, a number of female TikTok and Instagram influencers and YouTubers have been arrested in the northeast African country on charges of promoting debauchery and prostitution online. Speaking about them, Talaat said they were expected to be punished in the same way as el-Masry since they all had committed the same crime.
Commenting on the arrests of the female social media influencers, Entessar el-Saeed, a women rights lawyer and head of the Cairo Center for Development and Law, said that the Egyptian authorities were only targeting women under the cybercrime law that was adopted in 2018 in the country. The 2018 law gives full authority to the government to censor the internet and exercise communication surveillance. “Our conservative society is struggling with technological changes which have created a completely different environment and mindsets,” el-Saeed said.
In a similar incident in May, police in Iran arrested a parkour athlete for committing “vulgar” acts after he posted pictures and videos of him kissing a woman on Tehran's rooftops. The man taken into custody was reportedly Alireza Japalaghy, a Tehran-based parkour athlete with 140k followers on Instagram.
“This individual has been arrested by Tehran's cyber police. We are against this individual and his companion's norm-breaking and vulgar behavior and the police and the judiciary will certainly deal with them,” Tehran’s police chief Hossein Rahimi said, adding that the woman in the online post with Japalaghy “will also be arrested soon”.
The arrest of Japalaghy reportedly came after he shared photos and videos on the social media platform where he was seen with an unidentified woman in sportswear hanging off buildings and kissing. In Iran, these kinds of things are not considered appropriate. Besides, under the Islamic dress code, women cannot reveal their bodies in public except their faces, hands, and feet.