Sarah Hegazy was arrested, tortured and subjected to sexual assault in prison for waving a rainbow flag at a rock concert in Cairo. She regularly discussed how her time in prison affected her mental health.
Egyptian LGBT+ activist Sarah Hegazy took her own life on Sunday, writing in a note that she had "tried to find redemption and failed" after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder for years as a result of her time in prison.
The 30-year-old's death sent shock waves throughout the LGBT+ community and its allies, not only in Egypt and the Middle East but across the globe.
"For those who demand honest existence [in Egypt], the choices are prison, exile or death," wrote Egyptian researcher Timothy Kaldas in a tweet. "Sarah experienced all three because she loved honestly in a place that hated her for it."
"I was declaring myself in a society which hates all that is different from the norm," said Hegazy in an interview with DW after she was released from three months in prison.
Egyptian authorities arrested her and more than 70 others in the wake of the concert in what is largely considered the biggest crackdown on Egypt's LGBT+ community. She was the only woman — or at least one of very few — arrested after the concert, according to press reports.
"It was a whole troop, a large number of armed officers, and all this just to arrest a single woman," Hegazy said at the time. "We never thought that this would provoke such reactions."
Egyptian security forces have been accused of regularly using forced anal exams, an alleged tool to determine homosexual conduct that amounts to "a form of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment that may in some cases amount to torture," according to Human Rights Watch.
Hegazy was open about the trauma she experienced during her time in Egyptian prison, where she was sexually assaulted by inmates and tortured by prison officials for her sexual orientation. She regularly discussed the effect it had on her mental health in social media posts.
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Despite international pressure, Egyptian authorities have rejected recommendations to end the use of law enforcement measures to target people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
Hegazy died in the Canadian city of Toronto, where she lived in self-exile from her native Egypt. "To the world: you were cruel to a great extent, but I forgive," she wrote before her death.
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