Obituary: Egyptian LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazy

"How can I survive in a society based on hate?"

In 2017, Sarah Hegazy was arrested in Cairo for displaying a rainbow flag, the symbol for homosexuality and queerness, at a concert. The activist recently took her own life in Canada. By Christopher Resch

Seldom in Egypt’s recent history has a death sent greater shockwaves through the exile community as this one. On 14 June, Sarah Hegazy departed willingly from this life, as a final act of self-determination in a struggle against a murderous world. Her fight was not to be won.

Sarah Hegazy, 30 years old, was an Egyptian LGBTIQ activist. She became known as the woman who waved the rainbow flag during a concert given in Cairo in 2017 by Lebanese indie band Mashrou’ Leila.

It was reportedly the first time in Egypt that this queer symbol had been openly displayed in public. But this cannot be the reason for her subsequent incarceration, as homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt.

Why, then, was she thrown into prison, why was she tortured with electric shocks, and why were other imprisoned women encouraged to sexually humiliate her? Why else was she compelled to leave her homeland while suffering severe post-traumatic stress disorder and move to Canada?

Messages of hate and rejection

In the days following the fateful concert, the social media were full of photos. Sarah Hegazy and Ahmed Alaa, who was just 21 at the time, posted the images themselves. In addition to encouragement and support, they were both inundated with messages of hate and rejection.

Those in the media, especially notorious Egyptian talk show hosts, seized on "the story" and whipped up public hysteria. Homosexuals in Egypt have long been exposed to hostility, the most notorious case being the arrest of the "Cairo 52" from the Queen Boat in 2001.

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