A day after the bloody dispersal of two Islamist sit-ins by security forces left hundreds dead, the Al-Iman Mosque in Nasr City had been converted into a makeshift morgue, where ice and fans were used to cool the bodies of the slain protesters.
Amid the chaos, grieving families there and at the Zeinhom morgue had to deal with the logistical nightmare of obtaining burial permits for those killed in the violence.
According to the Health Ministry’s latest report on Thursday evening, at least 638 were killed and more than four thousand injured nationwide on Wednesday when security forces moved to break up the protest camps of deposed President Mohamed Morsi’s supporters at Rabea al-Adaweya Mosque and Nahda Square. Chaos ensued, triggering deadly clashes across the country.
The ministry says at least 288 were in killed in Rabea, ninety in Nahda Square and 260 in other parts of the country.
The Freedom and Justice Party—the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood—and families of the dead who were at Al-Iman Mosque claim that the death toll from the two protest camps was more than two thousand.
Mada Masr could not verify the exact numbers. A quick count of the bodies at the mosque came to around 250, while dozens more were scattered in the streets surrounding Zeinhom. Families of the victims told Mada Masr that there were many more dead inside, but journalists were not allowed to enter.
The scene at the mosque and the morgue were chaotic. Bodies were placed in different sections of the mosque as families and volunteers rushed around putting loads of ice around the corpses. Huge fans were used to lower the temperature and protect against the scorching heat outside.
As hundreds of mourners and devastated families flocked to the mosque, the atmosphere grew increasingly tense.
A volunteer told Mada Masr that they had been working tirelessly through the night to take care of the bodies, since it was difficult to transfer them to the morgue. Fears were mounting over the potentially serious hygiene issues that could be caused by the unsanitary conditions in which the cadavers were kept.
At Zeinhom, the situation was even direr. Families of the victims attempted to swiftly obtain burial permits so they could travel back to their home governorates and bury their relatives.
Dozens of bodies were left in the streets, ice filling their makeshift coffins, creating a stomach-churning stench of melting ice mixed with blood and mud from the street.
Most of the families there said that the prosecution was reluctant to issue burial permits that stated live ammunition as the cause of the death, and instead pressured families to sign permits stating it was suicide.
Taymour Mohamed, a teacher from Monufiya, was waiting as the body of his cousin was examined by morgue officials. He told Mada Masr that he had seen burial permits with suicide listed as the cause of death.
"Most of the families who received these permits were in a rush to leave this horrible place. They did not notice that these reports were false until the bodies were released," he said.
Several witnesses gave the same account, claiming they were pressured to accept these false permits, but refused.
"I would die before accepting something like this. I will not give up the rights of my brother," one woman told Mada Masr.
The family of Ramy Hussein Abdel-Aal, on the other hand, said they did manage to obtain a permit stating that their twenty-eight-year-old son was shot in the head.
"I guess the families were just threatened by these permits. When more pressure was put on morgue officials, it forced them to release correct permits," Mohamed Gabr, Abdel-Aal`s cousin, said.
Mada Masr managed to get a copy of this burial permit, while other permits published online had the cause of death section left blank.
[Photo of the burial permit. Image originally posted to MadaMasr]
[This article originally appeared on Mada Masr.]