El Amiis El Karoo (The Flannel Shirt) is the latest single and video from Egyptian rock artist and human rights activist, Ramy Essam – it was released to mark 1,000 days of imprisonment of Egyptian poet, Galal El-Behairy. Galal has been imprisoned in Egypt since the 2018 release of the song Balaha, which he wrote lyrics for. Subsequently he was sentenced to three years in prison and fined by the Military Court in Cairo, for his unpublished book of poetry, The Finest Women On Earth. Galal wrote the poem El Amiis El Karoo in Tora Prison, Cairo, in 2018.
The video also highlights the #IwantToBreathe campaign in which people are sharing pictures of themselves having plastic bags on their head, that started in Egypt in 2016, to highlight that prisoners in Egypt are slowly dying within the deteriorating conditions of their cells, according to campaigners.
Web designer, Mustafa Gamal, was also imprisoned in Egypt around the same time and director of the music video, Shady Habash, died in custody after being jailed for almost 800 days. During Galal’s imprisonment, he was held incommunicado for a week, before appearing before the High State Security on March 10th, showing signs of severe torture. Galal’s poetry from behind bars has been published in both Egyptian Arabic and English.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has been accused by human rights groups of heavy-handed crackdowns on dissent in Egypt, following his rise to power after the 2013 coup d’état and then officially elected president in 2014. This came after the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in mass protest that forced longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, from office.
El Amiss El Karoo is the first release and the title track of Ramy’s upcoming album. Ya Habayebna (Oh You Loved Ones) is the second single from Ramy’s album. The rock artist and human rights defender is considered to be one of the loudest voices on this violation.
Ya Habayebna is originally a song by Egyptian singer and composer Sheikh Imam (1918–1995), known for his political songs in favour of the poor and the working classes. The lyrics are written by Egyptian poet Bayram El-Tunisi (1893–1961), whose other poem for workers Hela Hela has been previously arranged by Essam in 2011.