Shaimaa Al Sabbagh

On 24 January 2015, Egyptian woman human rights defender Shaimaa Al Sabbagh (32) was shot and killed while marching to Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, to lay flowers at a memorial to commemorate the 100s of demonstrators who were killed during the 2011 Egyptian revolution.

Photographs and video footage recorded before the police moved in show the demonstrators, including Al Sabbagh, to be standing peacefully outside the Air France-KLM office in Talaat Harb Square, near Tahrir Square.

Police then charged at the protesters with their guns drawn and, as shots rang out, Al Sabbagh was injured and fell to the ground. The iconic images documenting her final moments, in the arms of her friend, were shared all around the world and evoked outrage.

Immediately after the event, police denied any responsibility for her death claiming that officers were not carrying the kind of weapons with which she was attacked. However ten more protesters also lost their lives that day when police opened fire on the crowd.

Originally from Alexandria, Al Sabbagh was the mother of a little boy. She was a poet, a social activist and a lover of Egyptian culture.

Source: Instagram: the trial of Spring.

She practised law, specialising in labour rights, was a member of Tha’era, the Arab Women’s Network for Parity and Solidarity as well as a member of Egypt’s Socialist People’s Alliance Party. Her death was a strong catalyst for action by Tha’era members. Women activists, under the label of Tha’era, took action sending letters to the authorities – President, Prime Minister and Attorney General, requesting a transparent and public investigation. They also advocated for Western countries to also put pressure on the Egyptian government.


These actions prompted the Egyptian government to declare Al Sabbagh as a martyr of the Egyptian people. Then Egyptian Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, declared that an investigation would be launched, and the police officer responsible for her death was initially convicted, and given a 15-year prison sentence. However, this sentence was subsequently suspended on appeal.

Two Poems and a Story to Remember Shaimaa al-Sabbagh

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Date of Killing:24/01/2015

Previous Threats:Yes

Type of Work:Lawyer

Organisation:Socialist Popular Alliance Party

Sector or Type of Rights the HRD Worked On:Civil and Political Rights

Sector Detail:Labour/Trade Union

More information:Front Line Defenders

1This database records an individual's chosen gender identity. If they do not self-identify as male or female they can use the option of recording other/neither or use the term NBGI (non binary gender identity).