News / Middle East

Egypt Clashes Drain Hospital Blood Supplies

Egyptian army armoured personnel carriers (APC) are stationed outside the Aguza Military Hospital in Cairo, August 19, 2013.Egyptian army armoured personnel carriers (APC) are stationed outside the Aguza Military Hospital in Cairo, August 19, 2013.
x
Egyptian army armoured personnel carriers (APC) are stationed outside the Aguza Military Hospital in Cairo, August 19, 2013.
Egyptian army armoured personnel carriers (APC) are stationed outside the Aguza Military Hospital in Cairo, August 19, 2013.
Heather Murdock
Doctors say hospitals in Cairo are strained almost beyond their limits as casualty counts grow from daily clashes on the streets.  Full morgues are also feeding anger, as families wait for their loved-ones' bodies to be released. 
 
A week ago, Egypt’s military-led interim government and protesters in support of ousted president Mohamed Morsi were in a stalemate.  For months, gun and rock battles had been sporadically breaking out in the streets.  The government repeatedly told protesters to abandon sit-in camps in Cairo and protesters had repeatedly said they would rather die first.  
 
Since the military broke up the sit-in camps by force last week, Amnesty International says 900 protesters and other civilians have died, along with nearly 100 soldiers and police.  The Muslim Brotherhood, which organizes the protesters, estimates the number of dead to be far higher.  All agree that thousands of people have been injured.
 
Marches continue, but now frequently descend into deadly clashes.  The violence has taken other forms as well, including direct attacks on both security forces and prisoners.  Neither side has said anything to indicate that it will compromise and locals say this chapter of Egyptian history will not end without more bloodshed.
 
Stretched to limit

In the meantime, hospitals are stretched to their limit and are running out of blood to treat the wounded.  Dr. Motaz Ali Selim is a surgeon at Kasr el Ainy Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University.  He has been treating the wounded and documenting the dead for months. “We have definitely used up our supplement of the blood in the clashes over the past couple of weeks.  So there is definitely a desperate need for blood and blood donors, so everyone who can donate is more than welcome right now,” he stated.
 
Last Friday, at least 150 wounded individuals poured into his emergency room in a span of about two hours, stretching their staff to the limit, even with health workers not on shift turning up to lend a hand.
 
He said many were brought in dead or dying and hospital workers had to write reports and turn over the bodies to forensic scientists.  Most patients, he said, who were carried in or brought on motorcycles during clashes had suffered gunshot wounds.
 
“It’s a very sad situation.  Those are all young guys.  You can see your brother, your best friend, the people working with you.  They all really look alike - sort of like regular Egyptian people,” Selim said.

Cause of death disputes

According to protesters, when friends die from gunshot wounds, tensions are often worsened by disputes over the official cause of death at the morgue before the bodies are released.  A man, who asked to be called only ‘Mohammad’ for security reasons, is a member of the National Committee for Legitimacy, an organization that works with the Muslim Brotherhood to organize their protests.  
 
“They blackmail the families of those people who got shot to sign papers that their relatives died out of natural causes or even at times out of suicide," Mohammad explained. "There is a guy - they forced his dad to sign a paper saying he shot himself three times in the head."
 
Some say this practice is to increase efficiency and get the bodies back to the families for the quick burials called for by Islam.  Others say it is so authorities can avoid taking responsibility.
 
Despite the suffering on all sides, many people in Egypt say the crackdown is justified.
 
Muslim Brotherhood

Mohammad Hisham, spokesperson for the Democratic Revolutionary Alliance, an umbrella organization of several political parties that support the interim government, said attacks on Muslim Brotherhood protests avert what could be even more violence. “What’s going on now is not a kind of peaceful demonstration or protests… but it’s a confrontation with organized terrorist groups,” he explained.

Scores of Muslim Brotherhood members have been arrested in the past week, including leader Mohamed Badie early Tuesday.  Hisham said the group is armed, seeking to incite violence and a direct threat to future democracy in Egypt.
 
The Brotherhood vehemently denied these charges, but admitted that some of their supporters have appeared at protests with weapons.
 
Doctors said regardless of who is responsible for the fighting, people on both sides will continue to die if something does not change drastically.  When asked if he can continue to work through the carnage, Selim said he and other health workers will stay on.  “I don’t really think I have a choice on that.  If it continues, then we need every single hand to help with trying to save all the lives you can,” he  responded.

And lives continue to be lost daily, he said, with the wounded turning up in hospitals days after clashes.  Egyptians are now bracing for more protests, crackdowns and large marches scheduled for August 30.  Both protesters and their opponents said they are fighting for democracy, social justice and freedom.

You May Like

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More