On Sunday June 14, Egyptian socialist and LGBTQ activist Sara Hegazy was found dead in her apartment in Toronto. After a brutal experience in prison, Sara took her own life, asking forgiveness for her “weakness” and forgiving the world for its cruelty. Hegazy was also a member of the Bread and Freedom socialist party in Egypt.
In 2017, Sara Hegazy, along with others, raised the rainbow flag at a concert of the Lebanese indie rock band Mashrou’ Leila. Hamed Sinno, the band’s lead singer, is an openly gay advocate for LGBTQ rights. Much of the band’s music tackles themes of police brutality, corrupt politicians, religion, and sexuality.
Hegazy was arrested a week later, in the middle of the night, for this act in support of LGBTQ rights, charged with “habitual debauchery,” “inciting indecency and sexual deviancy,” and “joining a banned group.” Her 21-year-old comrade, Ahmed Alaa, was also arrested from his home in the middle of the night. More than 100 people are believed to have been arrested after the concert and charged with misdemeanors, with dozens given sentences from six months to six years in prison.
While homosexuality is not technically illegal in Egypt, discrimination is common and gay people are often arrested and accused of blasphemy and immorality. Dalia Abdel Hameed, an advocate at the Egyptian human rights organization, explains that “the law is ambiguous enough to allow the judges to punish people for their sexual orientations and sexual practices, and sometimes even for their perceived orientations.”
Sara and others who participated were proud to hold the flag, stating, “It was an act of support and solidarity…for everyone who is oppressed.” She said she couldn’t imagine the response from the state and society: “For them, I was a criminal—someone who was seeking to destroy the moral structure of society.”
Ahmed echoed this sentiment of solidarity and pride: “It was a great moment for feeling free, for helping people to practice their rights. It makes me happy. It makes me feel human. I can speak. I can share my opinion in public. It was the best moment of my life.”
However, Ahmed’s time in jail was harsh, and in 2018 he tried to kill himself with an overdose of sedatives. Sara, too, left jail with severe depression and PTSD. She also had experienced a failed attempt at suicide by overdose after her three months in prison awaiting trial. “Prison killed me. It destroyed me.”
In her final note, Sara both asks for and gives forgiveness:
“To my siblings—I tried to find redemption and failed, forgive me.
“To my friends—the experience [journey] 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.”
But we will not forgive this cruel world for Sara’s cruel death—this world that lives off the oppression and exploitation of the majority of humanity. In our current epoch, the cause of this oppression—the capitalist system—is becoming more and more clear. Just as Malcom X explained that you cannot have a capitalist society without racism, we also understand that you cannot have capitalism without homophobia (or any other kind of oppression). Racism, sexism, homophobia and other backward ideologies are exploited by the ruling class, as they benefit from these divisions. When some sections of the working class are more oppressed than others, this brings down the conditions of all workers, and provides scapegoats to blame for societal problems.
Right now, the current anti-racism movement against police brutality sweeping the U.S. and other countries around the world is one such example of the fightback against the barbarism of capitalism. With tens of thousands of victims of policing and prisons each year, people are coming to the conclusion that it is capitalism that will need to be buried next.
A comrade in our struggle for a better world has been taken from us; but for each injustice we face, we will gain more and more fighters, until we can finally bury this sick capitalist system in the ground. We will mourn the dead, and fight like hell for the living, continuing to fight for a socialist future—a future with dignity—where we will all have the potential to live up to our full humanity. We will fight for a future where the unnecessary suffering and pain of people like Sara Hegazy and Ahmed Alaa, George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, based on sexuality or skin colour, will be consigned to the history books.
As Leon Trotsky famously said: “Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.” The best way to honour Sara’s memory, and thousands like her, is for our generation to do exactly that. The only way to do this is through socialist revolution.
Read more about the link between the LGBTQ struggle, capitalism, and socialism: https://www.marxist.com/lgbt.htm