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Egypt: Grief of Muslim Brotherhood leader’s family at death of teenage daughter

August 22, 2013 by  


Seventeen-year-old Asma el-Beltagi was loved as the daughter of one of Egypt’s first ever democratically elected leaders. 

By Ruth Sherlock and Magdy Samaan, Cairo

All of this must have been running through the mind of her father, Mohammed al-Beltagi, the secretary general of the country’s ousted Muslim Brotherhood party, as he learned the news of his daughter’s death on Wednesday.

Standing in the makeshift field hospital, his protest camp of Rabaa al-Adawiya burning around him, he had stared down, frozen, his eyes brimming with tears, at the lifeless body of his daughter, one eyewitness recalled.

Asma el-Beltagi was one of at least 525 people who were killed on Wednesday when Egyptian security forces stormed two Muslim Brotherhood protest camps that, for the past six weeks, had been calling for a reversal of the military coup that ousted Mohammed Morsi and Mr Beltagi, among others, from power.

Her death certificate, seen by The Telegraph, said that Asma had been shot in the chest, that her skull was crushed and her left leg broken.

Speaking for the first time, her brother Anas el-Beltagi, described how she had been on her to way to help at a field hospital when she was caught up in the violence.

“She was shot on her way there,” he said. “I was with her just after. We took her to hospital. She needed a blood transfer, but we couldn’t operate. She died at 1pm.”

Anas and another brother Malik el-Beltagi said they had been tasked with organising her funeral as their father Mohammed has been forced to go into hiding.

In the space of a few short weeks, the leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood went from being the country’s rulers to being vilified and persecuted as criminals. The new army-installed government has declared them “wanted”, and vowed to arrest them.

It is unclear whether Mohammed Beltagi will risk attending his daughter’s funeral. One of his brothers, Asma’s uncle, said Mr Beltagi had gone into hiding and that he had been unable to reach him.
Other relatives gathered on Thursday outside Al-Hussein morgue, where her body was being kept, to mourn her death.

“She was the best in school. She was calm, and had a good manner and a kind heart,” said Hoda Mohammed, one of Asma’s aunts. “She always participated in Muslim Brotherhood activities. Her father was her role model.”

Her relatives said Asma completed the task of learning to recite the entire Koran, word for word, a month ago. She was popular in school, and had a good sense of humour.

As a young, modern woman, she also had many interests. Her Facebook page showed The Pianist as one of her favorite films and Woody Allen as a favourite actor.

When her father was ousted from power in June Asma had participated enthusiastically in the opposition sit-ins. She would stay overnight regularly, sleeping in makeshift tents alongside other women protestors.

On the night of the attack protest leaders started calling for demonstrators to come to the exposed main street and show their defiance against the security forces, said Hoda, who was with Asma at the time.

“We started chanting and praying to God because we felt we were going to be martyrs,” said Hoda.

Minutes later she lost Asma in a volley of teargas.

“I found her later bleeding on the ground,” she said.

“Every minute someone died around us. The floors of the hospital were covered in the dead and the wounded. We couldn’t find a space for her.

“Then the army started shooting teargas into the hospital and we had to flee.

“After an officer stood in front of the hospital door gripping his gun, and allowed us back, only briefly enough to take our corpses.” As Hoda spoke, another aunty of Asma broke down into tears. Her whole body shook as she sobbed in realization of everything that her family and Mohammed Beltagi had lost: first the country, and now their most precious relative. “She was an angel,” she whispered through the tears.

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