TikTok star arrested over video with alleged ‘lesbian undertones’ by Saudi police

An Egyptian TikTok star has been arrested in Saudi Arabia, accused of including lesbian undertones in a video.

Tala Safwan, who has 4.9million followers on TikTok, was arrested by Saudi police in Riyadh over a live stream with another woman that allegedly offended “public morality”.

In a clip of the stream, Safwan is seen talking to a female friend who she invites to her home. She tells her friend “everyone will be asleep” and “no one will hear her scream.”

The clip sparked huge controversy on Saudi Arabia’s social media, with #TalaOffendsSociety trending on Twitter. Later tweets celebrated her arrest and called for a ban on TikTok.

According to Egyptian Streets, police said they had apprehended a woman who “appeared in a broadcast talking to another woman with sexual content and suggestiveness that could have a negative impact on public morality”.

Police didn’t mention Safwan’s name in the announcement, but included a clip of the video in question with the friend’s face blurred out.

Safwan denied the conversation had any lesbian subtext and has said the clip was taken out of context in order to provoke outrage, according to the BBC. The video has since been deleted.

Saudi Arabia is notorious for cracking down on queer content, a reflection of its harsh anti-LGBTQ+ laws.

Same-sex relations are criminalised under Sharia law, with punishments ranging from imprisonment and flogging to death. The gender expression of trans people is also criminalised.

Recently, on 24 July, the Saudi media regulator requested that YouTube remove advertisements that are “contrary to Islamic and societal values and principles”, according to Arab News.

This request came after complaints from members of the public. The regulator asked YouTube “to remove these advertisements and to comply with the [kingdom’s] regulations”, claiming there would be “ongoing follow-up” to ensure they adhered to their request.

The regulator stated that failure to comply to the request would lead to “the necessary legal measures” being taken.

A YouTube spokesperson told Arab News: “The improper ads were immediately removed after review and the malicious actor’s ads accounts were terminated, as they violated YouTube’s strict advertising policies.”

Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in recent months has also seen the confiscation from stores of rainbow toys and clothing, said to promote homosexuality, and the ban of Pixar’s Lightyear, which features a same-sex kiss.