Shady Habash, the young Egyptian director of the video for the protest song Balaha has died inside the walls of Cairo’s Tora Prison. Habash was only 24 years old. He had spent 26 months in the prison after being charged with terrorism for taking part in creating said music video that authorities stated used insulting names for the Egyptian president.
The musician and activist in the video, Ramy Essam, paid tribute to his friend on Facebook saying that Habash was “the kindest and bravest of people. He never hurt anyone”. Essam is currently living in exile because of the Balaha video.
Essam finished his post by saying that it wasn’t a song that killed Shady Hasbah.
“What killed Shady was the dictatorship and the horrendous violation of his human rights, and we have to demand for the investigation of his death caused by denial of medical care. We have to stop the same violation happening to Galal El-Behairy and Mustafa Gamal, who are still behind bars because of a song, suffering from human rights violations as thousands of others.”
Essam created the Balaha Case campaign which raises awareness of and fights for the freeing of the rest of his artistic crew that are still in prison in Egypt.
When in 2018 Egyptian musician Ramy Essam published the music video to his single “Balaha”, Egyptian authorities arrested the poet behind the lyrics, the music video director and Essam’s former social media manager.
Essam is well known for his participation in the protests of 2011 after writing the song “Irhal” which became an anthem for the revolution. During the protests he was arrested and tortured by Egyptian authorities.
Currently his creative collaborators remain in prison and Essam himself in exile in Sweden. Essam launched the Balaha Case campaign in order to raise awareness and fight for the release of his friends and collaborators.
Mehdi Rajabian once served two years, of a larger sentence, in prison in Tehran, Iran, for making music. The oppression the government shows artists in the country is immense but some people, like Mehdi, continue to create beauty despite the threat of incarceration.
His latest work needs to be shared by the rest of us who are not facing the same hardship. This beautiful album, which can be streamed below, features artists from 12 middle eastern countries and includes songs recorded during war and during an escape on a boat by a refugee.