The grandson of Egyptian actor Omar Sharif has come out as gay and half Jewish in a piece for the Advocate in which he expresses his fears over where Egypt’s precarious political situation might lead in terms of human rights.
The piece, titled “We’re Not in Cairo Anymore” and published in the April print edition of the Advocate, sees Omar Sharif Jr. declare “I am Egyptian, I am half Jewish, and I am gay.”
What prompted this “hesitant” declaration? Sharif cites a growing fear over the direction his country is headed in, saying “Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself.”
I write this article because there are many back home without a voice, without a face, and without an outlet. I write this article because I am not unique in Egypt and because many will suffer if a basic respect for fundamental human rights and equality is not embraced by Egypt’s new government. I write this article because as an Egyptian national newly acquainted with a land of freedom, I feel a certain privilege that I can finally express myself openly as well as artistically. I have a voice, and with it comes a responsibility to share it during this time of social and political change, no matter the risks.
I write this article as a litmus test, calling for a reaction. I challenge each of the parties elected to parliament to speak out, on the record, as to where they stand on respect for the rights of all Egyptians, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or political belief. Do religious parties speak of moderation now only to consolidate power? Show us that your true intent is not to gradually eradicate the few civil liberties and safeguards that we currently have protected by convention, if not constitution.
Sharif goes on to call on foreign governments and NGOs present in Egypt to help ensure that the new Egyptian government is held to account over its commitment to human rights, asking that the rights of gay citizens be included from the outset when it comes to talks on constitutional protections.
Sharif also praises the Egyptian people for what he sees as their progress towards throwing off the shackles of former repression and he asks that they continue to push for yet more progress.
He ends plaintively: “I want to have a place in the new Egypt. I write asking for my inclusion.”
Sharif left Egypt in January 2011. He joins a host of other voices who remain concerned about whether the uprisings will ultimately bring about a freer Egypt or see corruption and another oppressive regime step into the vacuum of power.
Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License with thanks tosierragoddess.