Monday, November 21, 2011

Zeinhom Morgue -November 21-

A little before midnight on November 20th @fazerofzanight, @sumayaholdijk and myself (@bamyabombom), during the clashes on BabElouk Street in #tahrir, ran into @baha2saber. He was extremely distressed about a phone call he had received from a family member of a martyr that had just arrived at the morgue. Morgue officials and the prosecution official were convincing families to quickly sign incorrect reports and immediately bury their loved ones. We quickly head there with a few other people.

Once we arrived at the morgue, the families were extremely distressed and did not want any of us anywhere near the morgue. We explained to them why we were there, how it is not uncommon for the prosecutor official to issue fraudulent reports citing different causes of death such as heart attacks rather than gunshot wounds, in some cases they may even insert or remove evidence from the body, especially if the cause of death can implicate one of the state's institutions. We also slowly explained to the families why a State Security Intelligence Prosecutor cannot be present during the forensic examination because the people who were killed were either killed by the Military Police or Central Security Forces, this would clearly be a conflict of interest if they would be supervising the forensic report. Within a few minutes the families had calmed down and informed us that prior to our arrival morgue officials informed the families that foreign agents and money hungry journalists looking for a quick buck would be coming. We reassured them once again that we were activists from #tahrir and we were not gaining anything other than ensuring that their children's death would not be in vain, that those who were responsible for their deaths would be held accountable and we were here to stand in solidarity and honor their loved ones. The family members then agreed to have us advocate on their behalf and we started negotiating with morgue officials.

At first we said that we were there trying to find the body of a relative, they took us into a room with unclaimed and unidentified bodies placed on trays strewn onto the floor. The stench in the room will never leave my memory, some of the bodies in that room were not #tahrir and were unclaimed for over a month. As we looked around for evidence to implicate #SCAF and #CSF for these brutal murders, morgue officials realized that we were not trying to identify a body and they started pushing us out of the fridge, they shut fridge and we were not allowed in again for the rest of the night. Family members of the martyrs who were in the morgue then intervened immediately and said they wanted us there and they wanted us to take pictures. This enraged the morgue officials and started pushing us out of the morgue, while family members of the martyrs were pushing the other way sandwiching between them. Eventually we managed to hold our ground inside the morgue, but then the prosecutor official refused to perform the forensic examination unless we left the morgue. When @fazerofzanight insisted to supervise the forensic examination as the families of the martyrs had requested that she attend, the State Security Intelligence officer issued a warrant to detain @fazerofzanight. The morgue officials then switched off the lights inside the morgue a cheap attempt to scare us out. At some point a man who claimed he was the uncle of martyr started creating a lot of commotion, he was shouting and screaming saying that all he wanted was to bury his nephew, he didn't care about the cause of death, he did not care about holding anyone accountable, "the dead have to be honored and you are making my nephew's soul suffer", the families once again changed their mind about wanting us there and so we told them that we understand and we left, on our way out a young man who was clearly distressed about the death of his brother spoke to the families again and they asked us to stay, at this point other activists and two human rights lawyers had arrived. The families apologized telling us that they were just really confused and upset and they just wanted the day to be over, but they did not want to let their childrens' deaths go unpunished. Interestingly enough, the man who had earlier created this commotion was sitting smugly inside the Morgue official's office.

The families decided that one of the lawyers must be present during the forensic examine before any of them would agree to signing the report, the lawyer was able to attend and observe one examination before the prosecutor official refused to continue working. This back and forth with the morgue officials was ongoing all night, some of the forensic examinations were supervised while others were not.

That night a total of 18 bodies arrived at the morgue and later we would find that there were 7 more bodies due to arrive, but because of our presence there they rerouted the bodies to other locations. Out of the 18 bodies that arrived only 1 had died of asphyxiation, while the rest had died from gunshots mostly targeted to the head region. When riot control and police want to disperse protesters they will shoot at arms and legs, but when they shoot at the head they are shooting to kill not to disperse.

When I reflect back on the events of the morgue, I realize here were families who were experiencing the darkest depths of grief and loss. That night three people had collapsed from grief and shock. Yet, morgue officials had no qualms to further exacerbate their suffering, through pointless emotional manipulation, so that they can cover up and exonerate from blame those who are ordering the killings of protesters in #tahrir. Those who have lost their children stand there pawns in a corrupt government's game. Not a seat for them to sit on, out in the cold standing or sitting on a sidewalk of a parking lot entrance, begging to be let in to see their children behind the iron doors of the morgue. No compassion, no respect, treating people like they are a nuisance, shouting and screaming at them, threatening to not release the bodies for burial unless people sign false forensic reports, forging death certificates, tampering with evidence, protecting those who are killing and murdering people. My heart goes out to the families of our #tahrir martyrs.

Photographs used were taken by @fazerofzanight

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this detailed account. Everything know from the faking reports and collobaration with the regime at Zeinhom is once again confirmed. They are a horrible lot there making the lifes of those who lost loved ones even worse. And the families in their grief don't know what to do being pressured and threatened. You did a great job standing with them and now giving account of the maltreatment. Thank you!