13 November 2011
As Watani’s correspondent with the Egyptian Health Ministry over some 23 years, I rushed to the ministry headquarters on Monday 10 October, the day following the brutal attack against the Copts at Maspero, Cairo. Watani needed official statistics on the numbers of the injured, the details of their injuries, and the hospitals to which they had been moved; as well as the numbers of the dead and the causes of their deaths. This was standard information that was customarily handed to journalists by the Health Ministry; similar information had been provided in case of the attack against the Copts of Imbaba last May which claimed 15 lives and in which 340 were injured; and the bombing of the church of the Saints in Alexandria on New Year Eve during which some 24 died and some 150 were injured.
This time, however, no report was handed to me; those in charge of the media office at the Heath Ministry said the report was yet in preparation. I was merely given oral information, with a promise that a written document would be telefaxed or emailed to the paper the following day.
I wrote down all the details I was able to obtain, and headed to the hospitals to meet the injured and gain information about the deaths. There, I was told that all the Health Ministry’s hospitals—including the Coptic Hospital, the Nasser Institute, the Qasr al-Aini, the Imbaba and Boulaq public hospitals, the Italian Hospital, three military hospitals, and al-Islah al-Islami Hospital—to which the victims had been moved had indeed sent the relevant information in full to the ministry on Sunday evening.
I waited for the Health Ministry’s official document to arrive, but none came. Media outlets were already reporting on the victims, but I got to know that none of them had obtained official printed information; merely oral. This explained the errors that occurred in the reporting of names and injury details.
On 12 October, I finally received the much-awaited telefax from the Health Ministry. There, in full detail, were four lists of injured who had been moved to 13 hospitals and were, according to the introductory paragraph of the report, receiving excellent care, upon the orders of the Health Minister Omar Hilmy. But, wait a minute! These were not the Maspero victims; the heading cited them as victims who had been injured in Misrata, Libya, and moved to Egypt for medical treatment.
To date, no information on the Maspero victims has been issued by the Egyptian Ministry of Health.
I could not help recalling the furore that erupted against the Media Minister Usama Heikal, and the vociferous calls for his dismissal, because of the instigation against Copts blared by Egyptian State TV on that bloody Sunday evening. I believe the manner in which the Health Ministry tackled the Maspero massacre is no less scandalous. And with the anti-discrimination law now in place, I claim that the ministry ought to be questioned for discriminating, not between Egyptians of different religion, but between Egyptian victims and victims from Misrata, Libya.