There are often consequences for Facebook posts that go viral — but rarely are they this severe.
A Lebanese woman who posted a Facebook video criticizing Egypt was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Cairo court over the weekend, Reuters reports. In the 10-minute video, Mona el-Mazboh spoke out about the sexual harassment she says two men subjected her to during her visit, called Egypt a “son of a bitch country” and commented on poor service by a taxi driver. She also referenced President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi by telling Egyptians, “You deserve what Sisi is doing to you, I hope God sends you someone more oppressive than Sisi,” according to Reuters, which first reported on the story. Her Facebook video went viral, even though she quickly took it down and also posted an apology video.
Under Egyptian law, “defaming and insulting the Egyptian people” is a crime, according to The New York Times, and Mazboh was arrested in Cairo at the end of her visit.
Mazboh, who is reportedly 24, was found guilty of “deliberately spreading false rumors that would harm society, attacking religion, and public indecency,” according to judicial sources.
Emad Kamal, Mazboh’s lawyer, submitted to the court evidence that his client was suffering from depression and an inability to control anger due to complications following surgery for a blood clot.
The severe ruling will next head to an appeal court at the end of the month, but the maximum punishment signals to activists that the country has traveled a long way in the wrong direction after the Arab Spring revolution in 2011 that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
The Human Rights Watch also reported on an increasing crackdown in the country that is “unjustly [prosecuting] journalists, activists, and critics for their peaceful criticism” through emergency courts under the guise of counterterrorism measures. It’s hard to imagine criticism being conflated with counterterrorism, but then again — the world is watching it happen.
And in Egypt, women are being prosecuted for some of the most mundane things, like joking. Earlier this year, an Egyptian pop singer was sentenced and fined for making a joke about the Nile River while onstage during a performance last November. Sherine Abdel-Wahab jokingly suggested that the Nile is polluted and that people would be better off drinking Evian bottled water. A huge public backlash ensued and in February, the singer was sentenced to six months in prison and fined the equivalent of $560, but an appeals court overturned the conviction in May. Still, the fact that she was prosecuted for making a joke about a river is unsettling.
And last year, a report by Thomson Reuters Foundation found that Cairo, Egypt’s capital, is the most dangerous city in the world for women.
Read the full story at Reuters.