How one Egyptian lesbian stood up to homophobia and paid the ultimate price

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06/17/2020

In 2017, Sarah Hegazi was arrested and said she was tortured for waving a rainbow gay pride flag at a concert in Cairo. Last weekend, the 30-year-old died by suicide in Canada. Hegazi’s friends reported her death, circulated a suicide note and shared an outpouring of messages of solidarity, grief and anger. Their mourning was soon hijacked by hateful messages. On social media, posts about Hegazi that ended with the traditional condolences, “May God Have Mercy on her,” were followed by comments saying “she is not worthy of His Mercy,” and a torrent of expletives targeting her sexuality. These bitter exchanges echoed a long-running clash between Egyptian progressives and conservatives that haunted Hegazi’s life. She was a software developer, a “feminist, interested in politics and a queer activist,” fellow LGBTQ activist and friend Malak Elkashif told CNN from Cairo. By waving the flag, Hegazi became an icon for the gay community and a target for state violence.

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