Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Red tape delays burials

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An Egyptian man sits next to the body of a dead relative in the al-Iman mosque amid the bodies of  protesters killed during Wednesday's government crackdown.

AMRU SALAHUDDIEN / MCT Enlarge Image

An Egyptian man sits next to the body of a dead relative in the al-Iman mosque amid the bodies of protesters killed during Wednesday's government crackdown.

CAIRO -- Inside the al-Imam mosque, the aftermath bore the stench of death.

Relatives fought desperately to stall the decay of dead bodies laid in rows. They sprayed air freshener over corpses and hauled crude blocks of ice into the humid space to place on shrouded chests.

This was where supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi had carried many of their dead after the shocking violence of a day that claimed more than 570 civilian lives.

And this was where more than 150 bodies still lay at midday Thursday, the ice melting into the carpeted mosque floor.

In Islam, immediate burial is considered a sign of respect for the dead, and families typically do so as quickly as possible.

But the corpses had become victims again, this time of divisions that only hardened across Egypt after Wednesday's government raid on two sprawling protest camps. Egyptian authorities said the killings came as a matter of national security; Morsi supporters called them horrific crimes.

And grieving relatives said hospital morgues were refusing to accept bodies rapidly decomposing in the Cairo heat. They said police and other officials had added obstacles to an already confusing maze of bureaucratic paperwork that requires government inspectors to sign a pre-burial certificate specifying the cause of death. Some cited claims that authorities wanted the documents falsified to omit mention of gunshot wounds.

"My love,'' Dawlat Said Marzouk said, her eyes creased and wet beneath her black veil as she sat beside the body of her teenage son. She stroked his head, his charred face covered by a white funeral shroud.

If they shot him dead, she wondered, why did they have to burn him, too?

Such numbness suffused Cairo on Thursday as Morsi supporters struggled to come to terms with the deadliest day in the more than 30 months of political struggle that have racked the country since the toppling of president Hosni Mubarak.

 

-- The Washington Post

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 16, 2013 A18

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