Deaths without dignity

Sherief Gaber writes: “You want to see the bodies? Ok then, here!” the man working at the morgue said, holding me and a friend by the arm and practically pushing us into a humid room filled with bodies, lying on slabs or on the floor and in various states of decay. We had been at the morgue for over an hour, coming from the tear gas and shooting in Mohamed Mahmoud Street to Zeinhom, Cairo’s only morgue, because we had heard that medical examiners were refusing to autopsy the bodies of those shot by the police and military in the clashes.

The man was trying to mock us, to frighten us away, and as the overpowering stench of decay hit us he nearly succeeded. Several days and several further visits to this place later, I would sit in the rubbish-strewn courtyard outside the building listening to the mother of martyr Ahmed Sorour, rocking herself back and forth, saying, “Look at what’s being done to Egypt’s youth, look at what they’re doing to them, the ones thrown in the trash, the ones run over and thrown away, the ones that were crushed by the police trucks.”

Ahmed Sorour’s mother was not the only mother that week of November 2012, as countless other families came in, some having heard of their sons’ fates, others seeking a missing loved one and coming to Zeinhom as a place of grim last resort. It seemed the mothers, the sisters, the aunts, the daughters were always there before the men in the family, disconsolate and powerless not just in the face of death, of murder, but also unable to find any dignity or justice for their lost amid the trash, the bureaucracy, the waste of Zeinhom. All too often, once the men arrived, stern and disapproving fathers or uncles, these women were told to keep quiet, that there would be no autopsy or funeral procession, that they would take their troublemaking sons home and bury them quietly. Like a second death. [Continue reading…]

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