On 28 January 2011 (the Friday of Anger), when state security forces and hired thugs violently confronted pro-democracy protestors in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Sohag, 23-year-old Sally Magdy Zahran passed away after thugs beat her on the head with bludgeons.
Zahran grew up in Cairo with her family and only lived in Sohag for four years, where she enrolled in the English department at the Faculty of Arts. Her father, a university professor, was recruited by the university in Sohag and her family still resides there.
Upon completing her studies, Zahran moved back to Cairo and worked as a translator.
Since the protests started on 25 January, she was spending time with her family in Sohag and the Friday of Anger was the first day she took to the streets.
“She felt it would be safe to join the protests at that point. So many others were going out on Friday,” said her friend Aly Sobhy.
Zahran had no political affiliations and friends confirm that she was not an activist. She was a passionate young woman who was critical of living conditions in Egypt.
She had never joined protests before, explained Sobhy, but often joined Facebook groups that called for socio-economic reforms such as raising the minimum wage.
In May 2010, she joined the first Cairo Complaints’ Choir, an artistic project inspired by the work of Finnish artists Tellervo Kalleinen and Oliver Kochta-Kallleinen, who invited people to come and sing their complaints collectively in various cities around the world. In October 2010, she participated in the workshop and the performance of the choir project, in which participants wrote, composed and sang about the inadequacy of public services and state corruption using advertisements.
“Zahran was a pacifist who loved life and wanted things to become better in her home country,” said Sobhy.
Like other young women her age she aspired to have a decent life, family and kids, he added.
“I am not trying to make her seem idealistic, but she was a well educated and cultured person, who was positive and tried to make things betters through small initiatives. She was loved by all those who knew her.”