Mawada al-Adham: Petition to free Egyptian TikToker sentenced to 2 years over dance video gets 100K signatures
Official statements on mass arrests of young female Tik Tokers said the videos had 'potential dangers threatening our youth via digital platforms'
Who would have thought that one would have to pay a huge price for making a simple Tik-Tok video that manifests one’s aspirations and interests? In a spat of ‘morality’ prosecutions of women, the Egyptian authorities since April 2020 have targeted and arrested female social media influencers on charges like violating “public morals'' and “undermining family values.” About 15 people have been arrested as per Human Rights Watch, most of which are women whose videos were deemed as “indecent” on social media platforms like Tik Tok as mentioned in their report on August 17. Reports show that the majority of the videos for which women are being targeted as “indecent” show them as fully dressed at times singing or dancing. They have amassed a huge fan following on Tik Tok and Instagram with millions of followers.
One of the Egyptian women amongst such brigade is Mawada al-Adham, a young ambitious 22-year-old university student who was sentenced to two years of prison last month after being convicted of violating "Egyption family values". She was charged with a fine of nearly $20,000 (£15,300; 17,000 euros). Issuing statements on such mass arrests of young female Tik Tokers, the prosecutor's office holds the belief that their videos had "potential dangers threatening our youth via digital platforms, which are not subject to any sort of supervision".The prosecutors called on parents to stop young people from being “misled into adopting a reckless and licentious lifestyle, in search of worthless fame and success"."They pursued illegal paths to make money, falsely believing this is a form of freedom of speech," it further added.
Who is Mawada al-Adham
Mawada belongs to a popular group of Tik Tokers known as ‘Tik Tok’ girls. Aside from her, the group includes social media sensation Haneen Hossam and three others who have not been named. The Tik-Toker who has 3 million fans on Tiktok and 1.6 million on Instagram was arrested just for publishing videos that show her lip-syncing to famous songs and dancing in trendy clothes which as per the prosecutor was “indecent”. After hearing the news of such a harsh punishment to which she has been subjected, Mawada is totally devastated. Her sister mentions that all she wanted was to become “famous and popular” as she was an aspirational model who was already modeling on social media for many reputed brands until she faced outrage from the prosecutors who took action against her. As per Amnesty International, the prosecutors used 17 pictures of Mawada against her as evidence of “indecency” which she claimed were leaked from her phone after it was stolen last year. As per Mawada’s lawyer Ahmed Bahkiry, Mawada fainted after she heard about the punishment. He stated, "Prison cannot be a solution, even if some of her videos go against our social norms and traditions. Prisons create criminals. The authorities could have resorted to rehabilitation instead” as reported in BBC.
Many vouch for her release
In recent months, there have been mixed feelings in Egypt towards such arrests where the conservative section deems videos as "indecent" while many believe that the girls were just having fun and do not deserve prison. Many from human rights organizations are coming in support of Mawada and others while petitions are also doing rounds on social media for their release. On August 16, a petition to free Egypt's TikTok women have garnered over 138,368 signatures and is still reaching for more International support to make a real difference.
The petitioners believe that the women have done nothing wrong and must be freed immediately. “We are a group of Egyptian women calling on state authorities to stop this crackdown on women on social media. We are also calling for the National Council of Women to provide legal support for all the nine who have been arrested. International support can make a real difference” it reads while bringing attention to such cases.
The petition raises concerns over women being arrested and denied their right to own their bodies which includes dressing freely, and expressing themselves in the name of “ immorality and debauchery”.The petition underscores that the women arrested are ordinary working or middle-class women who want to live freely. It names Haneen Hossam, Mawada El-Adham, Menna AbdelAziz, Sherry Hanem, Nora Hesham, Manar Samy, Reenad Emad, Hadeer Hady, and Bassant Mohamed as victims of such actions and seeks justice for them by pressurizing the government with a petition.
Previously, the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms, a Cairo-based human rights organization’s executive director, Mohamed Lotfy said the case showed clear signs of gender discrimination. "Women are only allowed to express themselves on social media according to the state's dictations," he says. "The girls are accused of breaching Egyptian family values, but no-one has ever defined these values."Human Rights Watch too calls this as an “abusive campaign” aiming female social media influencers on charges that violate their rights to privacy, freedom of expression, and nondiscrimination, Human Rights Watch.