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Families Of Egyptians Slain In Protests Seek Justice

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Families Of Egyptians Slain In Protests Seek Justice


Families Of Egyptians Slain In Protests Seek Justice

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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During the weeks the protesters occupied Tahrir Square, chanting often echoed through the streets of downtown Cairo. Many of those chants were dedicated to the nearly 400 people killed during the Egyptian revolution. Protesters credit the dead for inspiring them to force Hosni Mubarak from power. They vow to keep fighting for democratic reforms and to give meaning to so much sacrifice.

But NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports that many victims' relatives are starting to question whether the price their loved ones paid was worth it.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Officials here often talk about martyrs of the revolution when trying to connect with protesters.

(Soundbite of crowd)

Mr. ESSAM SHARAF (Prime Minister, Egypt): (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: Recently, Egypt's new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, assured the crowd during a visit to Tahrir Square that the blood of those killed was not spilled in vain.

But in a tiny walk-up apartment several miles away, Ahmed Mutwalli Awad isn't so sure. He feels all the flowery words are not being followed up with action.

Mr. AHMED MUTWALLI AWAD (Shoe Salesman): (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: The shoe salesman says his younger brother, Mohammed, is a hero. The 34-year-old protester was shot in the head January 28th near Tahrir Square. He died six days later. A poster of the dead man with his face superimposed on a crowd of demonstrators hangs on Awad's otherwise bare walls.

Mr. AWAD: (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: Awad says his brother will have died in vain if all that comes out of Egypt's revolution is a reshuffling of the cabinet and continued economic hardship.

At the Cairo office of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, other relatives of people killed during the revolution express similar doubts. One is Mahmoud Abdul Rahim, whose 18-year-old brother, Ahmed, was one of roughly two dozen people fatally shot in downtown Cairo two weeks before Hosni Mubarak resigned.

Mr. MAHMOUD ABDUL RAHIM: What happened after Hosni Mubarak? What did it change? Where is Egypt now? Where is the government, no government? Where is the rights of the martyrs for my brother, Ahmed, I ask?"

NELSON: The right he refers to is justice. It's something the families say they seek. They say their main frustration is that there are no investigations, let alone arrests of those responsible for the killings. Even families of victims who were not involved in the protests say they are getting no help from Egyptian officials.

Mr. MOHAMMED ABDUL AZIZ: (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: Like Mohammed Abdul Aziz, whose 28-year-old wife was fatally shot in the face while she was hanging laundry on her balcony in a district where there weren't even protests going on.

Mr. AHMED EZZ EL DEEN: (Speaking foreign language)

NELSON: Ahmed Ezz el Deen, whose son was shot while they stood on a balcony in the same district, believes the police were shooting to try and keep people from going outside and joining the protesters.

Most of the families say they haven't received compensation promised by the government, although shoe salesman Awad says his family did receive a check for about $500. Former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq had pledged a monthly pension of $280 to the relatives.

Rights groups like Amnesty International are reporting government reprisals and intimidation toward victims' families to get them to stop trying to find out what happened. None of the relatives interviewed by NPR say they felt pressured, other than one man who said a Ministry of Interior investigator told him he could face problems after he sent information on his brother's death to Human Rights Watch.

Lawyer Heba Mohamed at the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights says they have filed complaints on behalf of 200 of the families to bring pressure on the government. She believes the pressure is working.

Ms. HEBA MOHAMED (Lawyer, Egyptian Organization for Human Rights): (Through translator) It's promising because the prosecution is working with us to collect material and evidence against the security forces.

NELSON: She adds, that evidence will help in the trial of former Interior Minister Habib el-Adly, on charges that he ordered the fatal violence.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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