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Remembering the massacre in Mustapha Mahmoud Park

03-17-2006, 06:45 AM
إسماعيل التاج

Registered: 11-26-2004
Total Posts: 2514






Remembering the massacre in Mustapha Mahmoud Park

    This is an eyewitness account of the massacre of Sudanese refugees in Cairo / Remembering the massacre in Mustapha Mahmoud Park

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    COMPOUNDING THE TRAGEDY OF 30 DECEMBER IN CAIRO

    Barbara E. Harrell-Bond

    On Friday 30, December 2005, Egyptian security police brutally broke
    up a three-month sit-in protest being held by Sudanese refugees in
    Cairo, killing 30. As detailed in an October 2005 Pambazuka News
    article (http://www.pambazuka.org/index.php?id=29957) the refugees
    were protesting against their appalling conditions and the constant
    abuse of their rights and had camped out near the Cairo office of the
    UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), demanding protection from
    forced repatriation and protection of vulnerable groups. Three months
    after the massacre, writes Barbara E. Harrell-Bond, families of the
    dead are still waiting to bury their loved ones.


    What is happening with the bodies of those who were killed in the 30
    December 2005 violent expulsion of the three-month peaceful protest
    aimed at the UN High Commission for Refugees in front of their Cairo
    offices at the Mustafa Mahmoud Park? To date, there is no evidence of
    any of the 29 families having lost a loved one, being successful in
    receiving the body from the government morgue authorities to complete
    the burial, either in Cairo or back in Sudan. The bodies are slowly
    decomposing in the central government morgue while distraught family
    members struggle to obtain some sense of closure in order to move
    forward in their grieving process.

    There were understandable delays in identifying bodies and conducting
    autopsies. Then, because of rumours among the refugees of organ
    ‘snatching’, the Sudan government and the SPLM demanded they be
    allowed to conduct their own investigation. But there has been no
    public account of their findings. Still the bodies have not been
    released. For those yet looking for loved ones, they are no longer
    allowed to enter the morgue, but are shown pictures of bodies yet
    unidentified.

    Mr. Phillip Dominic is the maternal uncle and primary relative of one
    of the deceased, Colletta Pashikfofe. Her relatives, a mother and
    brother, want her body to be buried in the Sudan. However, Colletta’s
    body remains in the morgue after a series of grisly experiences.

    Phillip obtained funds from an Egyptian to pay the plane ticket and
    to have an undertaker preserve the body and prepare it for transport
    in a sealed casket. He accessed all the necessary documents:

    - A death certificate (with no cause of death listed).
    - A letter of permission from the Ministry of Health to transport the
    body to Sudan and confirming Phillip’s authorization as the closest
    living relative in Cairo to receive the body.
    - A letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministry sent from Khartoum via
    the Sudanese Embassy in Cairo providing permission for Colletta’s
    body to enter Sudan.
    - A document from the Ministry of Justice to confirm again that
    Phillip is the legal guardian of Colletta’s body and confirming that
    he officially took possession of the body Friday the 3rd of Feb. 2006.

    He was on the way to the airport on that day with the undertaker and
    Colletta’s body when he was contacted by Mohamed Darwish, a 3 star
    police officer/general from the Zenhom station just across from the
    morgue. He was told that he must return immediately with Colletta’s
    body to the Zenhom morgue and that this order had been received “from
    above”. He returned as instructed at which point Mohamed Darwish
    signed the body back into the morgue, essentially putting a “hold” on
    the body, apparently preventing Phillip from receiving it again.

    Phillip at this point went to the Sudanese Embassy requesting
    assistance and eventually went back to Zenhom on the 9th and 10th
    February along with the undertaker. He was told by morgue authorities
    that he had to go to the Interior Ministry in order to obtain a
    letter to have the hold released. He was also told to go to the
    police at Zenhom and discuss the matter directly with Darwish, who
    originally placed the hold.

    He did so, only to find no one available, apparently due to a
    football match. He was told by the airlines that the ticket he
    purchased would expire so he was hoping to resolve the matter. He has
    been told by morgue authorities that he should try to convince the
    airline to extend the ticket until Sunday 12 February and that
    perhaps the matter would be resolved on the Saturday.

    Phillip has been back to the morgue, to the UNHCR, and to the
    Sudanese Embassy on an almost daily basis since mid February. He had
    to change the details on his authorization letter from the Sudanese
    Embassy, which he did successfully, after initially having
    difficulties. He had to obtain a letter from UNHCR which he
    eventually did. However, his tireless efforts to receive Coletta’s
    body for transport back to Sudan, even to bury locally, appear not to
    have yielded any positive results.

    The morgue authorities/police posted at the morgue, reportedly stated
    on 26 February that he could not receive the body for transport back
    to Sudan because they had not received authorization to release the
    bodies “from a higher authority”.

    Phillip decided (as several other family members have now done), that
    he had been through enough and that, despite other family member’s
    wishes to the contrary, he would bury Coletta’s body locally. He
    assumed that morgue authorities would release the body immediately
    once he agreed to this. Instead they reportedly told him that he must
    obtain confirmation from religious figures that he would have a
    ceremony and burial locally. He did so with church officials
    confirming his intent to morgue authorities. Following this the
    authorities again replied that they were sorry but they did not have
    the authorization required to release Coletta’s body to him, even for
    local burial.

    Phillip tried to participate in a prayer gathering at the morgue for
    the deceased, however, they were not allowed to gather, with police
    apparently fearing potential violence. Although the details are
    unique, in many ways it is representative of similar troubles that
    other families have also faced during this difficult process of
    attempting to bury their loved ones since 30th December 2005.

    UPDATE: Per my conversations with a few of the family members, and
    other second hand reports, I understand that funerals did take place
    over at least 2 days last week, starting mid week. Apparently 8
    bodies were buried initially and another 6 the next day. Additional
    funerals may have taken place over the weekend that I am not aware of.

    Apparently representatives from both the Sudanese Embassy and
    Egyptian Government accompanied the bodies from the Zenholm morgue to
    graveside in order to ensure that there were no detours to have
    secondary medical opinions on cause of death (as some family members
    had requested originally). To date, only death certificates with the
    section on cause of death left blank have been issued to the families.

    Some family members asked the Sudanese and Egyptian officials whose
    decision it was to prevent the bodies from returning to Sudan, as the
    government officials from the Sudanese Embassy have been apparently
    telling the family members that it is the decision of the Egyptian
    Government. However the Egyptian Government officials have apparently
    been telling the family members that it was the decision of the
    Sudanese Government. In response to such questions in the presence of
    representatives from both governments, the family members were
    apparently told to stop asking questions least they not be allowed to
    bury their loved ones at all.

    It appears that many of the bodies still have not been buried.
    Phillip has not yet buried Colletta, but plans to try to do so by
    Tuesday of this week. Almost all of the family members whom I am in
    contact with have now collected their 5,700 LE from CARITAS. Average
    local funeral costs are apparently in the range of 300-500, with the
    remaining funds being seen as "compensation" for what the families
    have endured (no matter how grossly inadequate).

    * This article was compiled from reports from AMERA-Egypt, a refugee
    legal aid NGO, operating as a branch of the AMERA UK Charity. Barbara
    E. Harrell-Bond is distinguished Visiting Professor, Forced Migration
    and Refugee Studies Programme, American University in Cairo.

    Source: http://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/comment/32772
                  

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