Egyptian actor’s trans son sued for ‘promoting homosexuality’ with tribute to pioneering activist Sara Hegazy
Two Egyptian lawyers are suing Noor Hesham Selim, the transgender son of film star Hesham Selim, for an Instagram post that supported Egyptian LGBT+ activist Sara Hegazy, who died by suicide earlier this month.
The lawyers accuse Noor Hesham Selim, 26, of “promoting homosexuality” with his post about Sarah Hegazy, who fled the country after being jailed and tortured for waving a rainbow Pride flag at a pop concert.
Hegazy, who sought asylum in Canada in 2018, died by suicide on June 14. She was 30.
She left 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.
Selim – whose famous dad, one of Egypt’s most high-profile actors, revealed his son is transgender in May, defiantly telling bigots that “it’s God’s will” – had posted a video about Hegazy’s death.
He posted a second time a few days later, saying he is in poor mental health and that the online criticism of Hegazy made him feel even lonelier.
“Where is the mercy?” Noor Hesham Selim asked.
The lawsuit against him was filed on June 23, with the two lawyers telling the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “It is a conspiracy against Egypt to give up on our culture and morals and let homosexuality spread among young people.”
Ayman Mahfouz, one of the two lawyers, added that “strict action” should be taken against people who seek to destroy Egyptian values and religious beliefs.
Homosexuality is not illegal in Egypt, but discrimination against LGBT+ people is widespread in the conservative Muslim country.
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Reda Eldanoubki, a lawyer and human rights activist with the Women’s Center for Guidance and Legal Awareness, commented that the lawsuit could actually work in the favour of LGBT+ Egyptians.
“Such lack of tolerance and acceptance usually backfires, and it is not in the interest of the whole society.”
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 the Pride flag is 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.