Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Egypt’s Media Trial before the official trial: The fall of the Original Tiktok girls “Haneen Hossam and Mawada El-Adhm”

On Monday, a Cairo Criminal Court sentenced prominent TikToker and influencer Haneen Hossam on Monday to three years in prison and a-LE 200,000-fine on charges of human trafficking in the latest episode of her trial along with influencer Mawada El-Adhm.

The Criminal Court had sentenced Hossam in June 2021 from 6 to 10 years in prison and a LE-200,000 fine in absentia along with famous influencer Mawada El-Adham on charges of human trafficking in a trial that made international infamous headlines as usual.

Mawada El-Adhm and Haneen Hossam
Mawada El-Adhm and Haneen Hossam 

For Haneen, this is a first-degree sentence as this is considered a retrial. The sentence is considered a reduction from the 10 years sentence she received in absentia in 2021.

In August, I read that Mawada El-Adham’s lawyer presented an appeal against the 6-years-sentence-in-prison, but I do not know if it was accepted or not. If accepted then, she would receive a retrial.

Now aside from all that is written about the two girls and their trials whether in Egypt or abroad, one must say that those two girls were found guilty already before even being standing an official trial.

Haneen and Mawada or the Tiktok girls’ case was an original Egyptian trial by the media and society even right before their arrest especially Haneen Hossam in the summer of 2020.

Hossam before her arrest was the talk of the social media in Egypt and it is about her flashy makeup “she used a lot of filters” or dancing in skinny jeans while wearing a veil.

Haneen in her famous filter form 

That photo above was too popular or is popular among young girls to use it as their avatar. 

"Here is Haneen sans filters" was a hot topic on social media. 

I once remember that some people found out that she allegedly used photoshop to increase some parts of her body and it was the talk of Facebook for several days.

Haneen Hossam
Haneen in the old Tiktok days.

I think I began to hear about her from her fights with other Tiktokers. 

Her fights with other Tiktok influencers reached the level of publishing once some alleged Instagram chat of a rival youtube competitor to expose him as a pervert harasser and he fired back at her

I watched another young influencer posting a video on her Facebook page attacking and throwing accusations at her including immoral behaviour accusations. 

It was like watching a parallel universe for those young Tiktok and YouTube influencers from the working class having those fights crossing all known legal and moral boundaries from threats to setups over video attacks.

Haneen Hossam

I do not know if those fights were even real or just to keep the show going and the views up because honestly, I do not understand why they were fighting in the first place. 

Needless to say, when you rewatch those videos and watch Haneen speaking, you will realize that you are in front of a young girl who claims to be so powerful and Mrs Know-it-all while she is not. 

Her big moment of infamous notoriety came for real when “Upper class” influencers like Radio Host Marwan Younes mocked her for her bad English and lack of general info. Unfortunately, her videos began to go viral among other “social classes” outside her own Tiktok and Instagram realm for mockery. 

Calling herself Egypt’s Fourth Pyramid and dancing while being a Hijabi wearing tight colourful clothes provoked many conservatives who considered her a bad example spoiling good Egyptian teens.

She was positioned as that bad girl role model for days and weeks on social media and later to the mainstream media before doors of hell were opened widely when her Likee video ad was released.

Social media accused her of running sex chats and online prostitution ring on that infamous Chinese app. I remember some self-appointed feminists and so-called secular figures on Twitter who accused her of running sex chat rings targeting children before suddenly supporting her and her sisters from Tiktok girls against the so-called “Morals of the Egyptian family”.

I do not know if they did it out of guilt or not but I do remember their tweets. 

Then came mainstream media and Pro-regime TV host Nashat El-Deehy showed her Likee ad on TV saying it was an indirect call for prostitution.

It was like the true beginning of the end moment in that chapter as a social media superstar. 

Till this moment, the Chinese app and its office in Mideast and Egypt distanced them from her throwing her in front of the bus in a disgusting sick way

She was then arrested then released then arrested to stand a trial then a retrial to be acquitted earlier in 2021 by the Economic Court. Against all odds, Hossam returned to the social media realm as victorious for a couple of months.

She was back to lip-synching and dancing but this time she took off the veil and tried to be less controversial and less provoking keeping a low profile than in the old days.

Haneen Hossam
Haneen before her arrest in 2021

She really looked so young compared to her previous look.

Yet she did not go online for too long as we know now.

Why did she not stop and took a break considering her first arrest as a warning !? many wondered.

I think because of the glamour of social media as well as more importantly: Money. 

Working-class girl Haneen Hossam was in her second year or third year in the Faculty of Archeology to be graduated as a tour guide while her income from social media was more than the salary of her professor at Cairo University or her salary as a tour guide and it was for less effort.

Mawada or the curse of early adopters

Mawada El-Adhm is older than Haneen and was probably one of the early adopters and stars of TikTok when it was uncharted territory in Egypt.

The girl had 3.1 million followers on TikTok and 1.6 million followers on Instagram when she was still an unfamiliar name to the rest of the social media. Retailers and beauty centres used to hire her for the usual influencer’s marketing policy.

Mawada El-Adhm
17-years-old Mwada El-Adham

The true moment of the Marsa Matrouh girl met the glamour of the social media was when she participated in Miss Eco 2015 Egypt pageant and saw that her photos got likes on Facebook.

According to Youm 7 report on the very less known pageant, Mwada was 17 years old then and she was still in High school during then. El-Adhm stated that her hobby was photography and that she was a model who participated in fashion shows despite her young age. 

She opened her Instagram account in 2014 then her YouTube channel “unverified account thought” followed by TikTok. Her official TikTok account was closed last year but the videos are everywhere.

She appeared on Al-Mahwar TV in 2018 on a talk show with TV host Moatez El-Demderash to speak about her experience to speak a girl living alone away from her family which is not common or accepted easily in the Egyptian society.

Her reasons to be independent of her family and to live alone on air were technically she did not want noise or children or anyone telling her to wake up early.

Mawada caught the public mainstream media as well as the broader social media’s attention when she and her friend made some silly prank in Madinaty Compound in New Cairo during the early days of the coronavirus curfew in March 2020.

It was the beginning of her troubles with the law.

Following that prank, which was intended to be filmed for her account, people began to wonder who that girl was and how she owned an apartment and co-owned a beauty salon along with a C-List Tunisian actress in a gated community compound only from dancing in shorts on that application.

Her Mercedes Car also did not make sense for someone of her age and background. Can you be so rich only from social media like that!? There are some examples of those who became millionaires from YouTube but Tiktok!?

El-Adhm and her once LE 750,000 
Mercedes car 

Needless to say during then, people did not understand that influencers like Mawada El-Adhm can earn millions only from promoting products nor did they notice that she was promoting products in the first place. 

Mawada once in the old good days

News websites began to speak about how El-Adhm escaped from her family in conservative Marsa Matrouh to take off her veil and live alone earning her living from dancing and lip-syncing online. 

Her photos in a bikini with fake tattoos did not help but made more and more ask questions and assume the worse

The young lady says that it is not true and that her father; a retired low-ranking policeman inherited two residential buildings in the governorate and that she did not run away from her family. Checking her videos on YouTube, you will find that Mawada's mother used to appear with her and stay with her in her fancy apartment in Madinty compound from time to time. 

It is also worth mentioning that Mawada's dad Fathy Rashad El-Adham has been defending his daughter in the media reiterating that she was treated unfairly and that she was innocent. In one heart-breaking comment, El-Adham said that Mawada was a virgin. He also denied that she escaped from the house. 

Concerned citizens from lawyers began to file complaints along with the help of concerned citizens that the girl with bleached hair and shorts is a threat to the Egyptian family values.

An arrest warrant on charges of violating the values and principles of the Egyptian family was soon issued but the girl disappeared.

Mawada El-Adhm was arrested in a 6-October-city-gated-compound after a chase in three governorates in May 2020 to start her ordeal in detention.

Her arrest was the true start of the Tiktok girls’ arrests on charges ranging from violating the values and principles of the Egyptian Family to prostitution. Society was being saved from those girls according to older generations and conservative right-wing sectors of the society

Mawada El-Adhm and later Haneen Hossam headed to court when they are already found guilty.

The TikTok saga has not finished yet.

I think it is not over for both girls in front of the court. 

We have this unfinished debate about them and freedom of expression as well as social media policies to women empowerment and freedom of their body and society’s values to the bottomless talks.

Also, the taboo about the class in Egypt. You can have an influencer appearing in a swimsuit dancing on Instagram but for girls from the working class, it is something else.

Ironically, girls are still dancing and lip-synching on Tiktok and the videos of Haneen, as well as Mawada dancing to music, are still shared on the popular social media network to this day.

More people including women from poorer classes have joined Likee and TikTok to spend hours in Live video chats with total strangers for money.

For me, this specific case is another example of the dark face of the moon known as social media.

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