Why Does Satire Hurt Dictators? Egyptians Mourn 22-Year Old Filmmaker Who Died in Jail

Published May 3rd, 2020 - 07:16 GMT
Why Does Satire Hurt Dictators? Egyptians Mourn 25-Year Old Filmmaker Who Died in Jail
In a letter he wrote to his family last October, Habash asked for support "to not die in prison". (Twitter: @3yyash)

Saturday morning, Egyptian activists reported news of the sudden death of 22-years old filmmaker and photographer Shadi Habash, who has been in Tora Prison since March 2018 following a viral music clip he directed.

Working with singer Ramy Essam on a song called "Balaha" (Arabic for dates), the young director was arrested and charged with "joining a terrorist group, spreading false news, abuse of social media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military."

In a letter he wrote to his family last October, Habash asked for support "to not die in prison," saying that he's "overwhelmed every time he's taken to court only for the judge to ignore all the files and renew his arrest for another 45 days."

News of Shadi Habash's passing flood social media in Egypt, with many users warning that other artists and journalists, who have been in jail for years as early as 2013 when President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi assumed power in what's been labeled as a "military coup," might face the same fate.

Singer Ramy Essam, who sought refuge in Sweden after Egyptian authorities revoked his passport in January 2019, released a statement mourning Habash and highlighting that he "didn’t have anything to do with the content of the song."

"As an acknowledged photographer and director, Shady was constantly working on Middle Eastern projects, and Balaha was just one of the many music videos that Shady directed in his career, " Ramy Essam added.

Social media users noted that Habash isn't the first young man to lose his life in Egyptian prisons for his work, and warned that many other satirists could face the same fate if no action is being taken.

Translation: "Mohannad Ehab: 20-years old - died in 2016 with cancer after being denied treatment, while in prison.

17-years old Kareem Medhat - died in 2017, while handcuffed to his hospital bed.

25-years old Omar Adel - died in 2019 while in prison after being denied visits.

22-years old Shadi Habash - died today."

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