A prominent LGBTQ activist who sought asylum in Canada after being arrested and tortured in her native Egypt has died.
Sarah Hegazi was found dead in her Toronto apartment on Saturday of an apparent suicide.
She was 30.
Hegazi was arrested in the fall of 2017 after waving a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo by the Lebanese band Mashrou’Leila, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay.
Following a storm of public outrage over the rainbow flags whipped up by Egyptian TV talk-show hosts, authorities carried out a three-week anti-gay crackdown.
The sight of the flag associated with LGBTQ liberation being so prominently displayed at the concert outraged many in the Egyptian establishment.
Hegazi was the only woman arrested in the crackdown.
In later interviews, she said she was tortured by the Egyptian government for three months before her release on bail.
She fled to Canada shortly after.
A month after that, her mother died.
In an interview with CBC News in 2018, Hegazi spoke of the unrelenting trauma caused by her imprisonment, which she said included torture by electric shock.
“I want to get over it and I want to forget,” she said at the time. “But no, I’m still stuck in prison.”
Hegazi described her life in Canada not as one marked by relief or a sense of sanctuary, but of nightmares, depression and panic attacks.
The CBC’s Nick Boivert reports Hegazi was also debilitated by severe loneliness after being separated from her mother and younger siblings.
“Home is not land and borders. It’s about people you love,” Hegazi said. “Here in Canada, I haven’t people, I haven’t family, I haven’t friends. So I’m not happy here.”
Boivert reports that Hegazi was grateful for the protection from prosecution provided in Canada, but she dreamed of returning to her homeland to continue her fight against discrimination, Western imperialism and capitalism.
But doing so, she said, would require shaking off the trauma of her imprisonment, which she described as a near-insurmountable task.
“If I get the help and I can feel like I’m finally free from it, I’ll be able to not only help my brother and sister, but hundreds of people who I know need it,” Hegazi said.
With files from CBC News (Nick Boivert)