When you or I make a parody video, it may make millions laugh or just sit there online, waiting to find an audience of fans with similar sensibilities.
When Shezanne Cassim made and posted a video making fun of youth in Dubai, the authorities there not only weren’t laughing, their lack of humor and tolerance prompted them to imprison Cassim, a U.S. citizen. He’s been behind bars there since April, charged with violating a cyber crimes law in the United Arab Emirates. Cassim, 29, is an American citizen, graduating from the University of Minnesota in 2006. His parents still live in Minnesota. He was living and working in Dubai for PricewaterhouseCoopers.
“I just want my son home for Christmas,” said Cassim’s mother, Jean Cassim, in a statement released to the Star Tribune last month. “He’s a good young man with a great career and has never been in trouble. Now he’s being held for no reason. I’ve been praying, going to mass and lighting candles, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing.”
Above: Cassim’s Facebook profile photo from March 2013
The video, posted by Cassim in October 2012, opens with a disclaimer even, reading: “The video is fictional and no offence [sic] was intended to the United Arab Emirates or to the people of Satwa.”
For International Human Rights Day, Funny Or Die rallied its support of famous funny people — including Will Ferrell, Adam McKay, Patton Oswalt, Bob Odenkirk, Tony Hale, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Chris Mintz-Plasse, Horatio Sanz, Wayne Federman and Ally Hord — to raise awareness for Cassim, under the hashtag #FreeShez.
As Funny or Die describes his alleged crime: “It’s equivalent to someone in the U.S. making a parody video of Brooklyn hipsters and getting thrown in jail for months without bail. U.S. diplomatic officials cannot represent Shez in legal proceedings or pay his legal fees or other expenses. Shez’s court date has been continuously been pushed back and his next date has been scheduled for Monday, December 16.”