Escaping Sisi: Ramy Essam to live in Sweden

Escaping Sisi: Ramy Essam to live in Sweden
Revolutionary Egyptian musician takes up 'artist-in-residence' offer, and denies he applied for asylum.
2 min read
22 October, 2014
Ramy Essam [al-Araby al-Jadded]
Ramy Essam has reportedly been granted two years' residency by the Swedish city of Malmö. The revolutionary Egyptian musician is understood to have suffered harrassment from Egyptian President Abdul Fatah al-Sisi's security apparatus, and was reportedly tortured in May [Ar] this year.

Essam rose to fame in Tahrir Square during the revolution [Ar] against the Mubarak regime in 2011. He continued his campaign against those in power, first against the Muslim Brotherhood then the Sisi regime. But since Sisi's rise to the top, Essam has been banned from singing and arrested several times.


"Ramy would love to write music and work in Egypt, but this is not currently possible," Ole Reitov, director of Freemuse, a musicians' freedom advocacy group, wrote on the group's website.

Essam's won Freemuse's annual award in 2011 for "personifying the powerful role that music played in the Arab Spring". He was known for his song Erhal ["Leave"], but his song Mahnash min dol wala dol ["We don't belong to either of them"] released a few months ago and targeting both Sisi and the Brotherhood has become a YouTube hit.

"Democracy is about dialogue," Essam said in a statement. "It is not about shutting down ideas or artistic expressions, which is oppositional to the majority or the ruling system. Due to all restrictions and censorship this dialogue is not possible in Egypt now."
The singer missed several concerts outside Europe because of travel restrictions placed upon him. He has also complained of his music being censored by Egyptian officials.

However, a recent performance in Switzerland demonstrated Essam's ability "to make music freely that can go around the world without any harassment", said Freemuse's Reitov.

Essam has not been granted political asylum, and intends to complete a scholarship programme while in Sweden. "I will finish my studies and return," he tweeted. "Down with military rule."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.