Popular Egyptian cartoonist arrested over anti-Sisi doodles

Popular Egyptian cartoonist arrested over anti-Sisi doodles
Islam Gawish, a well known Egyptian cartoonist has been arrested for allegedly drawing cartoons deemed critical of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regime.
2 min read
31 Jan, 2016
Al-Warka has received more than 1.6 million likes since its creation in 2014 [al-Warka/Facebook]

Egyptian cartoonist Islam Gawish has been arrested from his Cairo office on charges of "drawing anti-regime cartoons", according to his official Facebook page.

On Sunday afternoon, al-Warka [The Paper] announced the suspension of its activities due to Gawish's arrest.

Local media reports cited unnamed sources in the interior ministry saying that the young cartoonist was arrested for allegedly moderating a Facebook page and news website without a permit, as well as possessing pirated computer software.

Gawish's colleague Mohamed al-Ziyat told Egyptian website Mada Masr that his drawings were critical of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his regime.

According to Ziyat, a police force stormed the social media marketing company where Gawish works and arrested him, confiscating his laptop and other computers owned by the organisation.

In response, Mada Masr cartoonist Mohamed Andeel posted a cartoon depicting a "shy Sisi" to show solidarity with Gawish.

Since Gawish's arrest, social media users have been criticising and condemning the authorities and the regime, citing a crackdown on freedom of expression.

Since its creation in January 2014, al-Warka has received more than 1.6 million likes, with thousands of doodle cartoons depicting everyday issues in a distinctive humourous style.

Following online success, collections of al-Warka cartoons have been published in two volumes of comic books.

Egypt does not impose legal restrictions on creating and moderating Facebook pages. However, several page admins and moderators have been arrested recently on charges of inciting anti-regime protests, particularly prior to the fifth anniversary of the 25 January revolution.

Preemptive measures also included raiding and searching thousands of downtown Cairo flats.

Last week, London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International warned that Egypt was in the midst of a human rights crisis of "huge proportions".

"Five years after euphoric crowds celebrated the fall of President Hosni Mubarak, the hopes that the '25 January Revolution' would herald a new era of reforms and respect for human rights have been truly shattered. Egyptians have been made to watch as their country reverts back to a police state," said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International's Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director.

"Peaceful protesters, politicians and journalists have borne the brunt of a ruthless campaign against legitimate dissent by the government and state security forces. Tens of thousands have been arrested and the country's prisons are now overflowing, with widespread reports of torture and hundreds held without charge or trial."