Hundreds protest detention of satirical videographers via social media

A social media campaign of mobile phone selfies quickly went viral on Wednesday after the members of the group, Street Children, were detained for 15 days on Tuesday.

The six-member group, known as "Atfal al–Shawarei" in Arabic, films mostly satirical, selfie-style videos that tackle different social phenomena. Their last video directly poked fun at the president and his supporters.

Hundreds took to social media as a means to express their support for the group, and objection to their detention. By posting the hashtag 'Does the phone camera shake you?' along with personal selfies, social media users and activists called for freedom for the Street Children.

Popular Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef joined the campaign by posting a picture and a video in support of the group and criticising the arrest of its members. In his video, Youssef said, "You really are not scared” in reference to President Sisi who recently said in a speech, “I don’t get scared".

Abdelrahman Mansour, who is the admin of the well-known Facebook page "We are all Khaled Said" that contributed to the initial spark of the 2011 Uprising which toppled former President Hosni Mubarak, also joined the solidarity campaign.

"They're witty, funny and use an iPhone… but this seemed too threatening for state security," he wrote.

"A hashtag and selfie campaign has been launched … demanding their immediate release but also asking the current regime why it feels so threatened by children with a Camera?" Mansour asked.

Political scientist Amr Hamzawy also commented on the arrest in a tweet saying that in “the republic of fear the citizen is not but a source of noise that deserves gagging”.

Various forms of support have been exhibited over the past months for young detainees who have either been detained during protests, from cafes, from their homes or have already received prison sentences and languish behind bars.  

The Street Children's 'street theatre'

The prosecution accused the members of joining a group that aims to "resist the fundamental principles of the state", incite against authorities, broadcast false news and incite the overthrow of the regime.

Ezzedin Khaled Mohamed, 19, is the youngest in the group and the first to have been arrested. He was ordered to be released on a bail of EGP 10,000 on Monday, but the prosecution appealed the decision. On Tuesday, the release order was upheld.

Defence lawyer Tarek al-Awady said on his Facebook page on Thursday that Ezzedin has yet to be released as he awaits at the police station by "orders of the Homeland Security", although the bail has already been paid.

Street Children described themselves on their now-deactivated Facebook page as “youth who work at the theatre.”

The group members first got together in theatre workshops organised by the Jesuit school. Since then they have developed a passion for performing in what they call the "street theatre", as they use their mobile phones to spontaneously film their art pieces in the streets.

In an interview with ONtv's "The Complete Picture", or al-Sura al-kamla in Arabic, the young men described how they compose their videos, explaining that they first collect the ideas then put them together in sequences. One member added that they always recite songs, or excerpts from movies, from memory.

The TV show host Lilian Dawoud described the group's performances as "a synergy of singing, acting and comedy."

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