By Aaron Kesel
The crackdown on human rights and freedom of thought and expression is quickening. A Lebanese tourist was recently arrested and sentenced in Egypt to eight years in prison for a Facebook post. Meanwhile, teens in Iran are being detained for posting videos to Instagram.
Mona el-Mazboh was arrested last month in Egypt at the end of her stay for posting a video on Facebook that complained of sexual harassment and conditions in Egypt she had experienced. Mona was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Cairo court after a 10-minute video in which she called Egypt a “son of a bitch country” went viral on social media.
The 24-year-old Mazboh complains in the video of being sexually harassed by taxi drivers and young men in the street, as well as poor restaurant service during the holy month of Ramadan and an incident in which money was stolen from her during a previous stay.
A Cairo court found her guilty of deliberately spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency, judicial sources said, Reuters reported.
An appeal court will now hear the case on July 29th in a few weeks, according to Mazboh’s lawyer, Emad Kamal.
“Of course, God willing, the verdict will change. With all due respect to the judiciary, this is a severe ruling. It is in the context of the law, but the court was applying the maximum penalty,” Kamal said.
This comes amid another crackdown on rights in Iran, State TV broadcast a video on Friday in which Maedeh Hojabri, an 18-year-old gymnast, acknowledged she had broken “moral norms” while insisting that was not her intention. She added that she was only trying to gain more followers using Instagram, Yahoo News reported.
Shabooneh, a local news website, said Hojabri and three other individuals were detained on similar charges in recent weeks before being released publicly on bail.
Hojabri had posted around 300 videos on her account, many of which showed her dancing in both Iranian and Western styles. She also appeared in videos without wearing the obligatory Islamic headscarf. Her performances had thousands of followers on various accounts, consisting of 12,000 to 66,000 followers. None of the accounts were verified.
Iranian police have said they plan to shut down similar accounts on Instagram, and the judiciary is considering blocking access to the site.
Iran has previously already blocked access to numerous social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and even the Telegram messaging app. Millions of Iranians continue to use the sites through proxies and VPNs.
Iran’s judiciary and security forces are dominated by people who launch periodic crackdowns on behavior deemed un-Islamic.