For Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, we cannot stop marching!


Shaimaa al-Sabbagh

On January 24th, in Cairo, Egypt, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a 32 years old secular socialist activist, was assassinated by the police along with 20 other demonstrators. She was peacefully handing flowers to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the revolution of 2011. Shaimaa had demonstrated against Mubarak, and organized workers to defend their rights. She opposed the dictatorial Morsi (Muslim Brotherhood) government and then was assassinated by the police of the current government of Abdel Fatah al Sisi.

Photos and videos captured her murder as she collapsed in her partner’s arms. Around Egypt and around the world, many have watched in horror. Despite the images that show masked policemen shooting her, the Sisi government has accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being behind this murder. The police obstructed anyone who came to give her medical assistance. Maher Nassar, present at the scene, identified himself as a doctor and was promptly pushed away. Her companions who came to help were arrested and shoved into an armored vehicle. Azza Soliman, who was seated at a café nearby, witnessed the murder. When she went to court to give testimony, she was arrested. She later declared, “The regime has decided to shut up all voices even those who say the truth through a testimony.”

After this tragedy, women in Egypt took the streets chanting, “ Police are thugs” and “Down with every president so long as blood is cheap.” Women in Tunis joined the march. They protested in front the Egyptian embassy against the repressive Egyptian regime in support of freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate peacefully.

In Alexandria, where Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was from, factory workers deployed a banner with her picture to remind people what she stood for.

Women are still marching against the impunity of state violence that also killed a woman from the Muslim Brotherhood days before this tragedy. Women are often the target of these acts of violence and political intimidation.

In this harsh neoliberal order, accents of totalitarianism emerge to “Shut up all voices” and crack down on dissent with no shame. On January 11, over 4 million of people marched against violence and for freedom of expression in France. The leaders of the world came to Paris supposedly to support the same things. The Egyptian Minister of Foreign Affairs along with other representatives of governments known for their forceful way to control the truth were in Paris for the march. They only walked a very short 100 meters/yards. The demonstrators who continued to march tried to show them the power of dignity, but that was not enough, and less than two weeks later, Shaimaa al-Sabbagh was killed.

We can’t stop marching to defend these fragile civil rights to free expression, to speech itself, as states increasingly organize new, and old, discriminatory security apparatuses to suffocate the civil consciousness that has allowed dissent.


(Photo Credit 1: Egypt Independent) (Photo Credit 2: Khaled Elfiqi/EPA)

About Brigitte Marti

Brigitte Marti is an organizer researcher who has worked on reproductive rights and women's health initiatives in France and in the European Union and on women prisoners' issues in the United States. She is a member of Women Included, a new transnational feminist collective, that is part of the Women 7, a coalition that advocates for the inclusion of women's rights in the G7.