Cairo - Egyptian activists took to social media on Thursday to support an online campaign demanding the release of four detained members of a satirical street group whose selfie-style video clips mocked the country's general-turned-president, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
The activists posted phone-wielding selfies on Facebook, entitled “does a mobile phone camera rattle you?” and directed at el-Sissi.
The campaign comes after police on Monday arrested four members of the group Awlad el-Shawarea, or “Street children.” A fifth member was arrested over the weekend but was later released on bail. The performers are facing several charges, including inciting terror attacks and street protests as well as insulting state institutions.
Recent clips by the group were entitled “el-Sissi, my president, made things worse,” and “leave” - a chant that was popular during the 2011 uprising that forced autocrat Hosni Mubarak to step down. There were also ones mocking the president's habit of ending speeches with “Long live Egypt!” and his recent reference to advice by his late mother to “never to covet what belongs to others.”
Beside activists, famous Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef - often described as the Jon Stewart of Egypt - took part in the online campaign. Youssef's show was taken off the air when freedoms significantly diminished after then-military-chief el-Sissi ousted Egypt's first freely elected leader, the Islamist Mohammed Morsi, in July 2013.
“If you truly are not scared of anyone, let them go free,” Youssef posted, referring to the performers and alluding to el-Sissi's recent repeated assertions that no one scares him.
Egyptian actor Amr Waked, who played the rich Arab chieftain in the widely acclaimed 2012 movie “Salmon Fishing in The Yemen” also took part in the campaign.
El-Sissi took office in June 2014, nearly a year after Morsi's ouster. He has since overseen the arrest of thousands of Morsi's supporters as well as scores of pro-democracy activists who fueled the 2011 uprising.
Under his rule, many freedoms won as a result of the uprising have been eroded while a personality cult around el-Sissi has emerged. But the president has been devoting most of his time trying to revive the economy, initiating a series of ambitious infrastructure projects, while also battling a tenuous Islamic militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula.
The Egyptian leader has recently faced a wave of protests over his announcement last month that his government intended to surrender control over two strategic Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia. The protests were met with one of the biggest rounds of arrests in the last two years.