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Sara Hegazy, who died by suicide after being tortured for flying a Pride flag, honoured with candlelit vigil at Egyptian embassy

Emma Powys Maurice June 16, 2020
Sara Hegazy

Sara Hegazy took her own life after enduring torture in Egypt (Twitter/@karimshot)

A candlelight vigil is being held in honour of Sara Hegazy, an Egyptian LGBT+ activist who died of suicide after being tortured for raising a Pride flag at a concert.

Hegazy took her own life on Sunday, leaving behind a handwritten note in Arabic asking her loved ones to forgive her. She had struggled with PTSD and depression in the years following her imprisonment.

Her supporters are planning to gather in her memory outside the Egyptian embassy in London at 7pm on Wednesday June 17. Those attending are asked to bring a candle and a face mask, and to keep a safe distance from each other.

The vigil is one of several around the world, from Brooklyn to Beirut and Berlin, as the LGBT+ community honours Hegazy and the struggle she faced.

A fellow Egyptian LGBT+ activist, Shrouk El-Attar, is also collecting donations for Hegazy family and Egyptian LGBT+ initiatives, including the one that was co-run by Hegazy before her death.

Sara Hegazy: ‘Prison killed me. It destroyed me.’

Hegazy caught the attention of Egyptian authorities in October 2017 when she held a rainbow flag at a Mashrou’ Leila concert in Cairo. The band’s lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay and an advocate for LGBT+ rights in Lebanon.

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.”

Although homosexuality and the Pride flag are not technically illegal in Egypt, this rare show of public support for the LGBT+ community sparked a strong backlash in the largely Muslim country.

Hegazy was promptly arrested, the only woman alongside at least 56 others who were detained for raising the flag at the concert.

Sara Hegazy
Sara Hegazy was severely punished for the act of holding an LGBT+ flag (Twitter)

She was charged with “promoting sexual deviancy and debauchery” and jailed for three months. There she suffered horrific beatings and abuse at the hands of other inmates, while prison officials would “violently assault” and torture her with electrocutions.

When Hegazy was finally released on bail she fled to Canada, but continued to struggle with her mental health. “Prison killed me. It destroyed me,” she said after she escaped.

After her death was confirmed on Monday, LGBT+ advocates around the world have paid tribute using the hashtag #RaiseTheFlagForSarah.

Her fate has highlighted the fact that there are no protections for queer Egyptians and no accountability for their aggressors.

If you are in the UK and are having suicidal thoughts, suffering from anxiety or depression, or just want to talk, you can contact Samaritans on 116 123 or email [email protected] 

If you are in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255

More: Egypt, Egyptian embassy, London, Pride, Sara Hegazy, suicide, torture

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