Silent vigil held to commemorate Egyptian activist Shaima al-Sabbagh

Silent vigil held to commemorate Egyptian activist Shaima al-Sabbagh
3 min read
24 January, 2016
On the eve of the anniversary of the January revolution, a silent vigil in Alexandria was held to commemorate Shaima al-Sabbagh, an activist who was shot by an Egyptian policeman.
Shaima al-Sabbagh's death at the hands of the police was captured on camera [Getty]
A silent vigil was held today in Alexandria to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Shaima al-Sabbagh, an activist who was shot a year ago while attempting to place flowers in Talaat Harb square for the occasion of the 25 January revolution

During the last week, calls were initially spread by the Socialist Alliance, the political party to which she belonged, to hold a rally protesting her death.

However, activists and lawyers found a number of what appeared to be security officers had deployed in plainclothes outside the cemetery, and decided to hold a silent vigil dressed in black.

Participants read her poems and placed flowers on her grave, including roses in reference to the flowers she was holding when she was shot by Egyptian security forces a year ago.

"It was an honour to live beside her, the most important thing that happened to me in my life was to be with her in her last moment," Sayyid Abu el-Ela, the friend holding her in the iconic photo showing her death, told VICE News.

"We know that freedom is expensive, but now we ask ourselves if it is as expensive as Shaimaa's blood, and we are not sure about that."

 

 

A literary prize was established in her honuor, as Shaima was a keen poet as well as a singer.

In April, a Cairo Court sentenced a policeman to 15 years in jail over the killing.  The sentencing was unusual, and likely due to the popular outrage that surrounded Shaima’s death.

Yet the sentence, given not for murder, but "assault leading to the death" of Shaima, means that, according to Egyptian law, he would serve only three to seven years for that particular crime.

Thirteen members of the Socialist Alliance Party who had organised the protest during which she was shot were later arrested on charges of violating a protest law. The charges were subsequently dropped.

Many compared the killing to that of Sondos Ridha, a 17 year old who was shot a day before Shaima at an anti-coup rally in Alexandria.

Sondos' death did not elicit the same outrage from the public, however, which many suspected was due to her political support to the Muslim Brotherhood, the fact she was killed in Alexandria and the absence of an iconic photograph of the event.