Editor's Note: On September 22, 2017, Sarah Hegazi attended a concert for Mashrou' Leila whose lead singer, Hamed Sinno, is openly gay. She was arrested along with a group of others for waving a rainbow flag in support of LGBT rights. Her arrest coincided with Egypt's zero-tolerance crackdown response to end public support for LGBT rights in the country. She recalled being jailed, beaten, and abused by inmates.
Sarah (Zarah) was granted asylum in Canada but lived with the PTSD from her experience.
“To my siblings,
I tried to survive and I failed, forgive me.
To my friends,
The experience was cruel and I’m too weak
to resist it, forgive me.
To the world,
You were awfully cruel, but I forgive.”
This is the last note left behind by Zarah Hijazi, an Egyptian LGBTQ rights activist who committed suicide last week in Canada. She was raped and tortured in the prison by the US-backed Sisi government for her activism. After escaping to Canada a year ago, she committed suicide on June 13, 2020.
Zarah’s last words clearly tell the world that this is not yet a happy place to live for people like her. This cannot be merely attributed to the repressive attitude of authorities. She would have survived her battle if she had people around her who accept and support her for who she was. Like her, a large number of LGBTQ people find it hard to live because they don’t have true allies around them. Either they suppress who they are or....
This is inhumane.
Being a true ally doesn’t mean that you have to march and hoist flags for them, it doesn’t mean that you have to be an activist and get involved in politics. It simply means that you are there as a friend. Because it is just the understanding that there are different realms of sexuality existing in this world. And that is neither abnormal nor a sin. Coming out of one’s ignorance and narrow mindedness makes them an ally. But in this world, unfortunately, people are more stubborn than wise.
It is quite a usual thing to see that there are people who ‘accept’ and ‘understand’ queerness but draw a fine line between the outside world and their family. When it comes to their family and their kids, they are no more allies or even humans. These pretentious allies are obviously not genuine to the community. They are just being ‘nice’ in front of society and assume that it is not something that they will have to see within their family.
Then there is this another group of people who accept LGBTQ identities but fear to acknowledge before others. Fear of religious persecution, fear of what others will think, and fear of the homophobic society. They would neither openly embrace one’s queerness nor would lend a hand from the harsh existential crisis.
A true ally is a friend, who is compassionate, who is not ignorant. It is quite a hard labour to change the mind of a grown-up homophobic person. So, let’s start fertilizing the roots, not the shoots. Children should be given proper education about gender and sex from a really young age. They should be taught to respect every human being and to be kind to every living being. They should be taught that there are no sexual barriers to love the people around them.
Thus, in the future, we shouldn’t need allies. The term ‘ally’ itself implies that there is a separate group that seeks support. No. Instead, there should be friends for everyone.
It is important to talk to others in one’s circle about this and make them understand what they were ignorant about. let them know how beautiful it is to help someone survive in this world with a simple gesture of kindness from them.
Let us start making small changes today by educating elders as well as children to stand for each other. Let’s preach for friendship and compassion, not to divide and make this world a better place to live for everyone. Because every life is important.
Author: Gopika Kalarikkal - A Professional Writing student at Humber College and a writing intern at Pride and Joy Foundation. I am an aspiring writer with a keen interest in poetry and spirituality and a homesick Indian girl in Canada who loves to get lost in scribbling down my stream of consciousness.