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Activist tortured for raising rainbow flag in Egypt commits suicide

LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi [Twitter]
LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi [Twitter]

Tributes have poured in over social media for the LGBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi who has committed suicide in Canada where she was living in exile.

“To my siblings – I tried to find redemption and failed, forgive me. To my friends ­– the experience was harsh and I am too weak to resist it, forgive me. To the world – you were cruel to a great extent, but I forgive,” she wrote in her final letter.

Sarah was arrested in 2017 in Egypt, one week after she raised the rainbow flag at a concert for the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou Leila. The lead singer of Mashrou Leila, Hamed Sinno, is gay.

It was “an act of support and solidarity… for everyone who is oppressed,” she later said in an interview with NPR.

“We were proud to hold the flag. We wouldn’t have imagined the reaction of society and the Egyptian state. For them, I was a criminal – someone who was seeking to destroy the moral structure of society.”

“I was declaring myself in a society which hates all that is different from the norm,” she told Deutsche Welle in a separate interview.

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Sarah was the only woman among some 56 others who were arrested in what was considered the largest crackdown against the country’s LGBTQ community in recent history.

Ahmed Alaa, who was also arrested in the same sweep, was condemned publicly by the university where he was a student at the time, his sister was bullied at school and his father shunned in his home village.

Ahmed also tried to kill himself.

Egypt has a history of persecuting its LGBTQ community including arresting people arbitrarily.

Sarah was electrocuted in prison, forced to leave her job and eventually the country. She was accused of joining an illegal group and of promoting sexual deviancy and debauchery.

When she was released, she had severe post-traumatic stress disorder: “Prison killed me,” she said. “It destroyed me.” She had already attempted suicide once with an overdose and during her interview with NPR said she would try it again.

Many social media users have praised Sarah for standing for LGTBQ rights despite public resistance.

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