Egypt: TikTok girls’ criminal convictions a profound travesty of justice

TikTok app logo on screen and a finger pointing at it. (Source: Shutter Stock/Ascannio)

Egyptian authorities must immediately quash the convictions of Hanin Hossam and Mawadda Al-Adham and immediately and unconditionally release the two “TikTok girls,” the ICJ said today.

هذا البيان الصحفي متوفر باللغة العربية أيضاً

On 20 June 2021, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced 20 year-old Hanin Hossam and 23 year-old Mawadda Al-Adham to 10 and six years in prison, respectively, and a fine of 200.000 Egyptian pounds each (12,778 US Dollars), after convicting them on “human trafficking” charges arising from their social media activities.

“Their convictions must be quashed and Hanin Hossam and Mawadda Al-Adham and others imprisoned must be immediately and unconditionally released,” said Said Benarbia, ICJ’s Middle East and North Africa Director.

“The role of the judiciary is to protect and uphold everyone’s right to freedom of expression, not to crack down on its legitimate exercise in the name of some purported and ill-defined moral or social values.”

The two women, known as the “TikTok girls”, were arrested in April 2020 for violating “public morals” and “undermining family values” after publishing videos, including some in which they were shown dancing or signing, on the social media platform TikTok. In July 2020, a Cairo Court convicted and sentenced Hossam and Al-Adham to two years in prison; their conviction was overturned on appeal in January 2021.

However, prosecutors moved swiftly soon after their successful appeal to charge them in another case with “human trafficking”, and “using girls in acts contrary to the principles and values of Egyptian society with the aim of gaining material benefits.”  The sentences imposed on 20 June by the Cairo Criminal Court on Hossam and Al-Adham arise from their conviction on those charges.

The charges are based on the 2018 cyber-crimes law, which effectively criminalizes the lawful and legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression and association.

“Egypt’s military and government are turning Egypt into an open-air prison in which any and all forms of free expression are crushed,” added Benarbia.

On 12 March 2021, 31 UN Member States delivered a joint declaration at the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council denouncing the human rights situation in Egypt, including restrictions on freedom of expression.


Said Benarbia, Director, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, t: +41-22-979-3817; e: said.benarbia(a)

Asser Khattab, Research and Communications’ Officer, ICJ Middle East and North Africa Programme, e: asser.khattab(a)

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