"I didn't do anything immoral to deserve all this."
A twenty-something-year-old TikTok star has been sentenced to three years in jail in Egypt after she was convicted of human trafficking via social media.
Haneen Hossam used to post fun videos on TikTok of herself dancing to Arabic music, but that all stopped after she was arrested in 2020 for "attacking society's values."
She was arrested for allegedly inviting other young women to signup for Likee, an app where users can make money by broadcasting live videos, reports BBC.
She denied the allegations but the Egyptian courts eventually found her guilty of "violating family values and principles." She won an appeal in early 2021 and had the conviction overturned, but prosecutors came back and hit her with human trafficking charges later that year, and a court ultimately convicted her.
"I didn't do anything immoral to deserve all this," she said in a video before she was detained a second time.
Initially, Hossam was sentenced to 10 years in prison in June of 2021, but on Monday, her sentence was knocked down to three years after a retrial, reports Al Jazeera.
Although her jail time was shortened, Hossam was still fined 200,000 Egyptian pounds, equivalent to about CA$13,500.
Hossam's conviction has many activists up in arms amid fears of a crackdown on female social media influencers in Egypt.
Hossam is not alone — at least 11 other female influencers have faced charges in the country since 2020.
Human rights activists are fighting against such sentencing, claiming that it violates their freedom of expression, bodily autonomy and rights to privacy.
U.S.-based human rights lawyer Mai El-Sadany has been one of Hossam's loudest defenders on social media. Earlier this week she ripped into the Egyptian court for its decision, saying it's unfair to throw Hossam in jail for doing something that influencers worldwide do daily on TikTok.
For the Egyptian state to instrumentalize "human trafficking" charges to exert control over the expression & socioeconomic mobility of young women is deeply disturbing.\n\nThere are real and serious cases of human trafficking that must be prosecuted--these TikTok cases are not it.— Mai El-Sadany (@Mai El-Sadany) 1650285639
"The justice system is criminalizing what influencers globally do every day when they invite others to work with them and monetize TikTok activity," she wrote.
She added that the human trafficking charge is "deeply disturbing," especially when there are "real and serious cases of human trafficking that must be prosecuted."
"These TikTok cases are not it," she wrote.
Amnesty International condemned Egypt's crackdown on influencers like Hossam in a statement after her arrest in 2020.
"Instead of policing women online, the government must prioritize investigating the widespread cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls in Egypt and take real steps to combat gender discrimination in law and practice," Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International's acting regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, said at the time.
"The Egyptian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all the women TikTok influencers and drop the outrageous charges against them."
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