On April 29, Bassem Sabry, the noted blogger, analyst and political activist, died at age 31. The Associated Press reported his death as the result of an accidental fall from an apartment building balcony.
The news brought forth an outpouring of grief and remembrances, especially on Twitter where many described Sabry as someone who embodied Egypt's best qualities.
Sabry, a columnist for Al-Monitor, wrote on the politics and culture of his beloved country and of his hope that Egyptians could find consensus and turn away from the politics of violence.
In April, Sabry traveled to Cape Town, South Africa, for the International Press Institute’s (IPI) World Congress, along with several of his colleagues, where Al-Monitor received the Free Media Pioneer Award.
Here they share remembrances of their friend and colleague, whose absence will be felt in Egypt and beyond:
Mohannad Sabry, Egypt Pulse
If anything blossomed during the short-lived Egyptian spring of January 2011, it is Bassem Sabry and little other genuine youth that remain brutally oppressed. … Over the past three and a half years, as Egypt's spring turned into a gray, long autumn contaminated by polarization, strife and injustice, Sabry remained an untiring voice of humanity that rose high above the loudness of hatred.
I knew Sabry long before I met him, as did hundreds of people from across the world. His unchallenged writings were the must-reads of Egypt and will remain so for long, and when Egypt changes to what he persistently worked for, he will be remembered for his efforts in making the dream of millions come true.
Arash Karami, Iran Pulse
I admired Bassem Sabry's natural gift of connection; a talent, I sensed, he nurtured throughout his life. He made friends feel special. Throughout his travels he made sure that the people who were lucky enough to know him were at the receiving end of this talent. I just spent nearly a week with him in South Africa. I felt as if I had made a lifelong friend. I’m certain everyone who met Bassem felt the same after spending time with him.
Bassem’s passing is a loss — a loss for those of us who knew him personally, a loss for Egypt and its future and a loss for the region. I was certain Bassem would go on to do great things. Become an ambassador, a minister or even president of Egypt. I felt this way not because he came across as ambitious or driven. Bassem was, in fact, quite unassuming. Rather, I felt this way because he was needed. Because he had the intelligence, the sensitivity and the foresight that many leaders in our region are desperately lacking. I have never felt this way about anybody else.
When I arrived in South Africa, Bassem paid for me the first day — I hadn't bothered exchanging my money and he had arrived earlier with currency exchanged — taking me along to meet his friend from Egypt. He talked about Egypt. He talked about what he loved about Egypt and what needed to change about Egypt. He seemed to be thinking ahead all of the time. He taught me tricks to learn new languages. I still don’t know how many languages he spoke. In his backpack he had a “Learn Portuguese” booklet. “Who learns Portuguese?” I thought to myself. Bassem did. Bassem wanted to learn about the world. And he wanted the world to learn about Egypt.
On our last night in South Africa we went to dinner. I insisted on paying to make up for the first day he paid for me. Sensing my genuine intent to pay, he smiled and relented. Then in his soft voice, half-joking, said, “See, we’re a model for the future on how Persians and Egyptians can get along.”
Akiva Eldar, Israel Pulse
Being a fan of Bassem Sabry's courageous and brilliant columns, it was a great pleasure to get to know him in person. We met recently in Cape Town, when we attended the ceremony to receive the IPI award for Al-Monitor. It gave us the opportunity to discuss the future of the relationship between our two countries and the problematic peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Unlike most Egyptian and other Arab colleagues, who are reluctant to conduct an open dialogue with Israelis, Bassem was extremely warm and friendly. He spoke openly about what he described in his last column as the "turbulent conditions facing journalism in Egypt." … I am so sorry we will not be able to meet in Cairo or in Tel Aviv, as we promised each other, before going back home.
Kadri Gursel, Turkey Pulse
Bassem Sabry was a journalist and analyst of a rare breed: pleasantly readable and easy to understand … because he adhered to international professional standards when he reached out to the international audience to convey his perspectives, instilled perfectly by his outstanding ability to grasp and analyze thoroughly, objectively and in-depth.
Bassem was a young talent who removed barriers between the local and the global, building bridges that transmitted comprehensive perspectives.
With every journalist’s death a perspective fades away. But Bassem’s demise at such a young age is a universal loss. My grief cuts even deeper as I think not only of what he achieved in his brief existence but also what he would have achieved had he lived longer.
Mazal Mualem, Israel Pulse
A young energetic man joined our breakfast table at the Cape Town hotel were we stayed. He was introduced to us as Bassem Sabry, from Egypt Pulse.
I was acquainted with Sabry, of course, through his impressively sharp and clear-sighted writing at Al-Monitor and through his tweeting activity. And so, even though we had never really spoken before, we started conversing easily and immediately, as if we have known each other for years. I clearly recall how impressed I was with him and captivated by what he said, from his very first sentences. It was not only due to his wise and challenging words, presenting ideas and points of view which were new to me and of great interest. It was mostly because of that spark in his eyes, this combination of an inner burning and of kindness. It was clear to me that I was talking to a special person — a man who, despite his young age, had set precise life goals, all revolving around his desire to bring about a change and turn Egypt into a better place for his generation, as for generations to come.
Sabry was a social activist in his country. And as such, he was fascinated by the power of social media to push forward change. He told me that with such tools, ideas can no longer be buried.
In subsequent conversations, Bassem kept radiating the same pleasant energy and the same sense of kindness, intelligence and wisdom. He told me about his varied activities, which included social activism, journalistic writing and keeping up a Twitter account with more than 100,000 followers. He was well-versed in arts and literature — a contemporary personification of a renaissance man. … He was a man of peace. He wanted to build a better world. In my eyes he was one of the symbols of the Arab Spring: an activist and a man of ideals. He was the voice of change.