In January 2015, Egyptian human rights defender Shaimaa Al Sabbagh, 32 years old, was killed at Tharir Square during a protest paying tribute to the victims of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, as she was putting flowers on the memorial of those who had died four years before.
Along with approximately 40 other members of a leftist political party, she had taken part in the gathering to celebrate the 4th anniversary of the uprising against Mubarak. It has been reported that authorities prevented people from saving her right after the incident. At first, the police denied any responsibility for her death claiming that officers did not carry 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, Shaimaa was the mother of a little boy. She was a poet, a political militant and a lover of Egyptian culture. The iconic images of Shaimaa in the arms of her friend in the immediate aftermath of the shooting have been shared all around the world.
Shaimaa was a lawyer specialising in labour rights. She 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 has acted as a strong catalyst for action by Tha’era members. Women activists, under the label of Tha’era, took action by sending letters to the authorities- President, Prime Minister and Attorney General, requesting a transparent and public investigation. They also contacted organisations in Western countries to help them pressure the Egyptian government. Further protests were organised by Tha’era in different member states.
These actions prompted a response from the Egyptian government which declared her a martyr of the Egyptian people. Egyptian Prime Minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, declared that an investigation would be launched. The police officer responsible for her death was convicted but the15-year prison sentence was subsequentlysuspended on appeal.