When my translator and I arrived at the main morgue in Alexandria on Saturday morning to try and figure out how many people had died the previous day in the violent clashes that engulfed the city, officials held us back. We needed official permission, they said, and couldn't give us any information without that.
As we walked around looking for the hospital director, his colleagues whispered to us that he was hiding, afraid of the consequences of letting a foreigner into the morgue.
But the relatives of the dead had had enough. They shouted at the officials, grabbed us by the arms and pushed us inside.Suddenly we were in the cold room surrounded by corpses. A woman pulled back the bloodstained sheet from her son's body, wailing, "Look at my Mustafa, look at how beautiful he was. My dear Mustafa, show them, let them hear your beautiful voice. Oh my darling, my darling, how you always looked after your mother." Mustafa Shaaban, just 21, we learned, had been shot in the stomach as he came to the assistance of a wounded protester on Friday.
The room was full of corpses, 13 in all, killed, we were told, on the previous day in the clashes. I saw men with massive head wounds from tear-gas canisters we were told had been fired directly at their heads at close range, men with fatal bullet wounds and bodies with marks of brutal beatings. A room filled with grief.