In February 2018 Egyptian artist Ramy Essam released a song and music video, Balaha. Lyricist of the song, poet Galal El-Behairy and Ramy's former social media expert Mustafa Gamal have been imprisoned in Egypt since. Director of the music video Shady Habash died in custody after being jailed for almost 800 days.

Shady Habash


After almost 800 days in prison, photographer and music video director Shady Habash died in Tora Prison, Cairo, on May 1st 2020. The death is believed to have been caused by the failure of prison authorities to ensure Shady with timely access to a doctor and suitable healthcare.


Shady was imprisoned since March 2018, because of directing the music video for Egyptian artist Ramy Essam’s song Balaha. Shady didn’t have anything to do with the content of the song. As an award-winning filmmaker Shady was constantly working on Middle Eastern projects, and Balaha was just one of the many music videos that Shady directed in his career. Read more >

Galal El-Behairy

On 31st of July 2018, Galal El-Behairy was sentenced to 3 years on prison and a 10 000 L.E. fine by the Military Court in Cairo, for his unpublished book of poetry, The Finest Women On Earth. Galal also faced charges in a Civilian Court case concerning Balaha, which he has been released from. However, he stays imprisoned, having been sentenced already in the Military Court.

Mustafa Gamal

Mustafa Gamal has nothing to do with Balaha. As a social media expert, he is helping many with their social media platforms. One of his clients in 2015 was Ramy Essam – he only certified Ramy’s fan page on Facebook, and this was the only connection between him and Ramy. When the song was released in 2018, him and Ramy had not been in touch since 2015.

the case

It is a song


We have been dreaming of a better Egypt for seven years. Even in the darkest of times, we haven’t lost hope. We have expressed ourselves peacefully through art, using music as a tool against violence, oppression and corruption.

With this song we wanted to remind everyone of the freedom we once had, granted by the revolution. We wanted to remind everyone of the right to speak, the right to criticize, and the right to dream of change.


We wanted to start a dialogue about where Egypt is now and where it could be. Our art is not created to make people fight. It is music, it is how we feel. It is a song.

Ramy Essam

April 5, 2018






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We demand the immediate and unconditional release of

Galal El-Behairy!

Join Artists at Risk (AR) in solidarity – sign the petition!