The grandson of Lawrence of Arabia actor Omar Sharif has shed light on the persecution of gay men in Egypt through his coming out earlier this week.
Omar Sharif Jr. –who is also an actor – publicly announced that he is gay via an article for US magazine The Advocate. He states:
“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.”
Sharif Jr. emigrated to the USA last year, leaving behind many of his relatives and friends. In the article, published in the April edition of the magazine, he discusses the freedom and tolerance he has experienced since leaving Egypt. He continues:
“If we pursue a national agenda that does not respect basic human rights, we are no better than the architects of tyranny, contempt, and oppression toppled throughout the Arab Spring.
I want to have a place in the new Egypt.
I write asking for my inclusion.”
In every struggle for human rights, there has to be a voice that speaks out from the dark- even better if it comes from a person of reasonable celebrity status. As a student of Middle Eastern Studies, I watched closely as gay Egyptian bloggers took to the internet to express their views and their hopes since the topple of Mubarak’s regime. However, their voices go unheard by the vast majority of policymakers and international powers. In fact, many of them are silenced by the ongoing persecution, torture and imprisonment of gay men at the hands of the armed forces.
For me, Omar Sharif Jr. is an example of the kind of respected figurehead that is needed to give a voice to LGBT people in Egypt and to raise awareness of the ongoing injustice that could worsen with the rise to power of Islamist parties. Omar Sharif Sr. is one of the most celebrated actors to emerge from the Middle East region. He stole hearts in his performance as Nick Arnstein alongside Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl (1968).