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Outright Mourns in Solidarity With the LGBTIQ Movement in Egypt After the Passing of Sarah Hegazi

Outright International was saddened to hear the news of Sarah Hegazi, a fearless, pioneering queer and feminist Egyptian activist, taking her life on Saturday, 13 June 2020. 

Sarah became the target of severe government persecution after exercising her basic right of freedom of expression - she raised the rainbow flag in Cairo during the Mashrou’ Leila concert in 2017. This expression of existence and solidarity resulted in Sarah being imprisoned for three months, including in solitary confinement. Due to the severity of the psychological and physical abuse which Sarah experienced in detention, and the ongoing hate speech against her from the government, in the media, and from the general public, Sarah fled Egypt to seek asylum in Canada. 

But the effects of the persecution she experienced were grave and continuous, and she continued to receive hate speech until her last day.

Nazeeha Saeed, Arabic Media Coordinator at Outright International, said:

“People underestimate the harm of hate speech that they carelessly throw out in mainstream and social media. The depths to which it can affect the wellbeing of already vulnerable groups, which already suffer repression and frustration, can not be overstated. The ongoing stream of death-threats, abuse and virtual bullying led to Sarah’s untimely death. I hope that individuals, social and traditional media outlets will learn from this, and take more care to combat hate speech.”

Hamed Sinno, lead singer of Mashrou' Leila, wrote:

“Mental illness does not exist in a void. It is a product of structural violence. “Minorities” show higher death rates in every kind of “natural” death. We have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, respiratory failure, cancer, anything. You name it. That is what trauma does to the body. That is what hate does to the body. The thought that someone can leave a society that keeps trying to kill them, and still carry that society inside them, still be moved to taking their own lives, chills me to the bone, as I reflect on my own exile, and the exile of the people I love. We spend the first part of our lives demanding air in our homelands, and then we leave to countries where we are promised air, only to find out we were robbed of lungs. I honestly believed music could change the world. I honestly believed that if people saw that I loved, and cried, and suffered, and laughed, and danced, and fought, I thought they’d understand that I was human. That we were human. The truth is, they’ve always known we’re human. That’s why they pretend to be doing god’s bidding when they kill us. I leave you with Sarah’s last words: The sky is sweeter than the earth, and I need the sky not the earth.”

Sarah spent her last year and a half in Canada. She continued to be close to the queer community in her home country. Activists in the region have been grieving her loss and honoring her her life.

Ahmed El Hady, Neuroscientist at Princeton University and US based LGBTQ activist, said: 

“We lost a luminary that dreamt of a just world. We will continue to realize your dream, that you left unfinished. In your suicide, we are reminded that we were not meant to survive, that we were not meant to thrive, and that the psychological toll will kill us but may be there is a glimpse of hope very far in the horizon. I refuse to see you as a victim my dear Sarah. You are a hero, you are a fighter, and I promise you that we will continue your fight.”

Terek E. Zeidan, Executive Director of Helem, said: 

“Sarah Hegazi and the brave Egyptian activists who joined her in raising the rainbow flag on Egyptian soil did the impossible - they made sure LGBTQ rights became a topic of discussion in every single Egyptian household and media outlet and asserted their presence despite the unimaginable pain and violence that resulted. She was one of the precious few activists who spoke about the intersection of queer and class struggles, and losing her intelligence and impact is a devastating blow. Despite the fact that her death is one of far too many our communities have had to endure over the years, I have never seen the queer community and its allies in the MENA region converge in such astonishing communal sorrow and solidarity since we learned of her passing. Even in death the hate speech against her continues to roil and intensify, but with it so has our resolve to support our siblings in Egypt in this fight till the end and no matter what comes.”

Bedayaa, an organization that works in the Nile Valley area (Egypy & Sudan) wrote:

“It is with a sad and heavy heart that Bedayaa Organization mourns the loss of the Egyptian activist, Sarah Hegazi. May her soul rest in peace, and we hope that her family, friends, and loved ones will have the strength and fortitude to bear this tragic loss.”

Outright stands in solidarity with the LGBTIQ movement in Egypt - a country in which our identities are actively persecuted, and effectively criminalized. Her untimely death is a great loss to the movement, and a reminder of the vulnerability of LGBTIQ people, even if we manage to find physical safety in a country that is not our own.

Read the statement in Arabic here.

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