In the hours and days after her death, I kept returning to that picture of Sarah Hegazy which first surfaced in 2017 after she was arrested: A young woman beaming against the backdrop of Cairo’s polluted skies and bright concert lights. She was raised above the crowds, possibly on someone’s shoulders, her arms held high. The rainbow flag she was clutching fell across her back, like a cape.
The look of joy on her face haunted me. Her lightness. Apparently unburdened by the weight of her being. Carelessly draping the flag around her shoulders. The picture was not one of defiance, but of easy presence. In a single, flippant moment, she had let her guard down, and allowed herself to be peaceful in her own skin. Maybe even proud. Against the backdrop of an endless crowd, there was only her, and a moment of intimacy with the camera. She looked free. That is why the photograph was so threatening to her tormentors. Because it captured a fleeting suggestion that happiness and freedom at home might be possible for people like us.