Shady Abu Zeid is a comedian with a “diminutive physical stature and an outsized persona” who uses his platform to explore Egyptian traditions and society with humor. He is charged with “spreading false news” and “joining a banned group.” Despite these catchall charges, it remains relatively unclear as to why Abu Zeid was arrested given his lack of political activism.
The Cairo Criminal Court ordered the conditional release of Egyptian comedian Shady Abu Zeid on January 13, 2019. However, the order was appealed by the prosecution and upheld. Shady is to remain in jail while pending investigation of charges.
Abu Zeid, a satirist and former TV personality, has been detained since May 6, 2018. Abu Zeid was charged with “spreading false news” and “joining a banned group” under Case 621/2018—the same case under which journalist Wael Abbas, women’s rights activist Amal Fathy, and surgeon Shady al-Ghazaly Harb, among others, have been detained. Despite these catchall charges, it remains relatively unclear as to why Abu Zeid was arrested given his lack of political activism.
Reports by his family state that on May 6, around 20 plainclothes state security agents raided their home, confiscating laptops and cellphones and taking Abu Zeid to an undisclosed location. His whereabouts remained unknown until a lawyer familiar with the comedian identified him at the State Security Prosecutor’s office the following day. On January 13, 2019, Abu Zeid was briefly allowed to attend his father’s funeral. Repeated requests made by his lawyers to allow Abu Zeid to see his ailing father in months preceding his death were denied.
As a comedian, Abu Zeid is most well-known for his satirical take on Egyptian society and social structures. Abu Zeid produces a show called The Rich Content. A piece on the blogger notes that his videos “have a way of questioning and probing into Egyptian society, laying bare its most absurd norms in a distinctive style. His work takes on topics like masculinity, classism, religion, tradition, xenophobia, family power structures and gay rights, to name a few.”