Egyptian Model and TikToker Faces Jail Time on Morality Charges

KEY TAKEAWAYS
Salma Elshimy, a popular Egyptian TikTok influencer, was arrested at Cairo International Airport on charges of inciting "debauchery" and "violating family values" through her social media posts.
Her arrest is part of a larger trend of Egyptian authorities targeting female social media influencers since 2020, using cybercrime laws to detain them on vague charges.
More than a dozen female influencers have been arrested under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's administration for violating "public morals."
Egyptian authorities have been using the 2018 cybercrime law to curtail women's freedom of expression on social media platforms, a practice that human rights groups have criticized as discriminatory and a violation of free expression.
Elshimy's arrest sends a chilling signal about the state of women's rights in Egypt, as authorities seem to be focusing on persecuting women and girls for their online appearance and speech instead of addressing more pressing issues like domestic violence and sexual harassment.

 

Popular Egyptian TikTok influencer and model, Salma Elshimy, was arrested on April 3 at Cairo International Airport on charges of inciting “debauchery” and “violating family values” through her social media posts.

With an audience of 3.3 million TikTok followers, Elshimy’s arrest is part of a larger pattern of Egyptian authorities targeting female social media influencers since 2020, using cybercrime laws to detain them on vague charges.

Crackdown on Female Influencers

Elshimy’s arrest marks another instance of a growing trend in President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s Egypt.

Rights groups have reported that arrests of women on “morality” charges have skyrocketed under al-Sisi’s administration.

More than a dozen female influencers have been arrested since 2020, including TikTok celebrities Haneen Hossam and Mawada al-Adham, who were first arrested in 2020 for social media posts deemed to violate “public morals.”

Egyptian authorities have been using the 2018 cybercrime law, which targets online content deemed to undermine public morals or family values, to curtail women’s freedom of expression on social media platforms.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has warned that this practice is discriminatory and directly violates their right to free expression.

Previous Legal Issues for Elshimy

This arrest is not Elshimy’s first encounter with the judiciary. In December 2020, she was jailed for a month and later released on bail after participating in a photoshoot outside the Saqqara necropolis.

Elshimy faced backlash for posing in ancient Egyptian dress in front of the Pyramid of Djoser, accused of exploiting the cultural value of the antiquities.

More than a dozen female influencers have been arrested since 2020, including TikTok celebrities Haneen Hossam and Mawada al-Adham, who were first arrested in 2020 for social media posts deemed to violate “public morals.”

Ambiguity in the Law

Lawyer Hany Sameh, a member of the Lawyers Syndicate’s committee on freedoms who has worked on similar cases, has criticized the law’s vagueness.

He questioned which social norms should be upheld and pointed out that Elshimy’s attire is no different from clothing worn by other artists and actresses on television and in the media.

Chilling Signal for Women’s Rights in Egypt

Elshimy faces up to five years in prison and 8,000 euros (8,700 dollars) in fines for “violating public morality” and an additional six months in jail and up to 3,000 euros for “infringing on family principles and values in Egyptian society.”

Rothna Begum, a senior women’s rights researcher at HRW, stated that these serial arrests of women send a chilling signal about the state of women’s rights in Egypt.

Instead of addressing domestic violence, sexual harassment, and violence, Egyptian authorities seem intent on persecuting women and girls for their online appearance and speech.

Craig Miller

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