24-year-old music director who mocked Egyptian president Sisi, dies in prison

Shady Habash, a 24-year-old Egyptian filmmaker imprisoned without trial for more than two years for making a music video that mocked President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has died at a maximum-security prison complex on Saturday.

“His health had been deteriorating for several days … He was hospitalised, then returned to the prison yesterday evening where he died in the night,” his lawyer Ahmed el-Khwaga told AFP news agency.

Egyptian police arrested Habash in March 2018 after the release of Balaha, a song that indirectly poked fun at Sisi, the former defense minister who came to power after a military coup ousted president Mohamed Morsi in 2013.

The video featured a song that mocked Sisi comparing him to a fruit date and condemning corruption. The song’s lyrics lambast “Balaha” – the name given to el-Sisi by his detractors in reference to a character from a classic Egyptian movie known for being a compulsive liar. The video has had more than five million views on YouTube.

Watch Habash’s music video”

Charges brought against Habash and Gamal include membership of a “terrorist group,” spreading false news, abuse of social media networks, blasphemy, contempt of religion and insulting the military.

Human Rights Watch has estimated that more than 60,000 political prisoners have been languishing in Egyptian jails since Sisi became president in 2014. 

24 year-old photographer and music video director Habash had written an emotional letter from prison in October 2019 in which he spoke of his despair.

Read the letter:

Prison doesn’t kill, loneliness does.

I need your support, to not die.

For the past two years I’ve been trying on my own to resist everything happening to me, so that I can come out of prison the same person you’ve always known, but I can’t go on.

Resistance in prison means resisting yourself – protecting yourself and your humanity from the impact of what you see and live each day. It means preventing yourself from losing your mind or slowly dying, because of having been thrown into a room two years ago, being forgotten, without knowing when or how you will get out.

So I’m still in prison. Every 45 days I go before a judge who gives me another 45 days in jail, without even looking at me nor the papers of the case in which everyone else was released 6 months ago. Anyhow, my next court appearance will be Tuesday November 19th.

I need your support, and I need you to remind them of me being still in prison, and that they’ve forgotten me – and that I’m dying slowly because I know I’m standing alone in front of everything. I know that a lot of friends who love me are afraid to write about me, thinking I will be released anyway without their support.

I need you, and I need your support more than ever.

– Shady Habash, Oct 26th 2019

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