Toronto

'A fighter, a dreamer': Egyptian LGTBTQ activist Sarah Hegazi remembered with love at funeral

Sarah Hegazi, the Egyptian activist who inspired people around the world by defying her country’s strict anti-gay establishment, was remembered as a hero during her funeral in Toronto on Monday.

Hegazi sought asylum in Canada after being arrested, tortured in Egypt

Friends of Sara Hegazi attended the Egyptian LGBTQ activist’s funeral at St. John’s Dixie Cemetery on Monday. One described Hegazi's life as inspiration to 'never stop fighting.' (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Sara Hegazi, the Egyptian activist who inspired people around the world by defying her country's strict anti-gay establishment, was remembered as a hero during her funeral in Toronto on Monday.

"She had such a kind heart," recalled Ziva Gorani.

She described her late friend as "a fighter, a dreamer," and "someone who would make sure everyone around her is happy, even when she's not."

Hegazi was among a group of people arrested in the summer of 2017 after she waved a rainbow flag during an outdoor concert in Cairo, an act that ignited a weeks-long anti-gay crackdown.

She endured three months of torture at the hands of Egyptian authorities before her release. Fearing further prosecution by a government that routinely targets gay citizens, she fled to Canada in 2018.

During her funeral, mourners took turns laying flowers atop her casket, which was marked by the same rainbow colours as the flag she once proudly waved.

Some held up their fists while paying their tributes. One woman fell to the floor in anguish.

A friend captured a photo of Sarah Hegazi hoisting a rainbow flag at a concert in Cairo by the band Mashrou'Leila, whose lead singer Hamed Sinno is openly gay. (Amr Magdi/Twitter)

Hegazi found protection from persecution during her brief life in Canada, but little relief from the trauma caused by her arrest and torture.

"I want to get over it and I want to forget," she said during a 2018 interview with CBC News. "But no, I'm still stuck in prison."

Hegazi was found dead in her Toronto apartment on Saturday, June 13 of an apparent suicide. She was 30.

Valerie Lannon, another of Hegazi's Canadian friends, remembered her as a voracious reader and a lover of the arts.

Lannon recalled memories of strolling through the Art Gallery of Ontario and attending classical music performances during her brief friendship with Hegazi.

She will most remember Hegazi's wide-ranging political interests and fierce activism.

"That's the legacy: to never stop fighting," Lannon said.

A mourner at Monday's funeral for Sarah Hegazi, who was buried in a rainbow-coloured coffin. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Hegazi had hoped to capitalize on her own fame and attention for the sake of others suffering injustice.

"I don't want to focus only on my case, I want to focus on the hundreds of thousands of people that are in jail because they either have a different political standing or sexual orientation," Hegazi said.

She also dreamed of returning to her homeland, to reunite with her younger siblings and continue her political work.

Friends said they will not soon forget her determination and kind heart.

"I really want to believe in an after-life, because it would mean so much to get reunited with her," Gorani added.

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