Editorial: Murder in Egypt's suburbia

Rania Al Malky
7 Min Read

CAIRO: Do we ever really get to know the truth when heinous crimes that defy any semblance of logic are committed in Egypt?

I’m not a conspiracy theorist and don’t have any crucial evidence to cast doubt on the super-human ability of the Egyptian police to solve a double homicide in five days. Indeed you can always count on our police to have a perpetrator for every crime; one who’s ready to be sacrificed at the alter of social stability and national security.

That said, it still sounds too good to be true that the mystery murder of 23-year-old students Heba Al-Akkad and Nadine Khaled at the posh gated community of Al-Nada in Sixth of October City which shocked the nation a week ago, is no longer a mystery in such record time.

On Thursday the public prosecutor’s office officially charged 20-year-old Mahmoud El-Sayed Abdel-Hafiz Essawy, a blacksmith from the underprivileged neighborhood of Rod El Farag, with murder in the first degree with intent to commit theft following a seven-hour interrogation without a lawyer.

When he was taken back to the crime scene on Tuesday and asked to reenact the crime, which was aired on most TV channels the next day, viewers I spoke to were mostly shocked and in utter disbelief at his nonchalant recounting of the inhuman multiple stabbing of each victim.

The vicious rumors spreading like a bushfire prior to the arrest didn’t help either. Most people simply didn t buy it.

Irresponsible tabloids whose editors have not only thrown basic ethics down the drain, but have also exposed the hypocrisy of a patriarchal, sexist society ready to believe that two young women alone in an apartment must be up to no good, had heightened the public’s expectations that there was more to the case than meets the eye.

It was nauseating to read the lies infesting column inches with images of intoxicated, heroin-snorting rich kids who “had it coming for leading a life of debauchery, all despite the fact that police reports denied the existence of any drugs or alcohol at the apartment where they were murdered.

Al-Akkad’s mother being Moroccan singer Laila Ghoufran clearly had many so-called journalists believe they were entitled to make up sensational stories with sexy headlines just because she’s a celebrity and her life belongs to the public.

To me Essawy is the story in this grisly case. Whether or not he did it, we will only find out after the court pronounces its verdict, but his profile in itself deserves deeper contemplation.

Essawy has no criminal record. He used to work at the compound five years ago (when he was 15), which means that he must have started working when he was much younger, perhaps at 10 or 11. He was only a child.

I’m not a psychiatrist, but watching crime investigators on TV analyze the way he allegedly slashed and stabbed the two victims haphazardly, which they said was an indication that the murderer was not an experienced criminal, to me could only mean one thing: this was the act of a frightened child confronted with a situation he could not handle except through hysterical wanton violence.

If Essawy did it without being paid to murder the two girls by some interested third party, as some people are now claiming, then it’s paramount to try and examine what could possibly drive a seemingly ordinary person, not a deranged homicidal maniac with a history of criminal behavior, to commit such an atrocity? Even if we interpret the murder as an unpremeditated act which he accidentally committed during the intended theft, we must ask what drove him to steal in the first place and why risk braving a fortified residential compound to do so?

I’m not justifying what he did, but it is impossible to overlook the writing on the wall.

Emotionally this man has not yet surpassed the childhood phase that he never experienced in the first place. His crime, in a way, is the cumulative result of years of repressed needs and desires whose criminal manifestations are constantly being aggravated by the yawning gap between the rich and the poor.

He lives on the bare minimum in a hole in the wall with little to no hope for self-improvement, but all around him kids his age are driving flashy cars, living in mansions and throwing around money like in a game of monopoly.

Again, I’m not justifying what he did, but many others would, and not without reason.

Millions of frustrated youth abandoned by ailing state institutions and pressured by social, cultural and religious norms will try to find a way. This is survival instinct and if they feel they are being treated like animals in captivity, then they will break out and behave like animals in the wild.

There are three, not two, victims in this horrifying case and even though I believe that the culprit – if indeed it is Essawy – should be given a harsh punishment, I do not believe that justice would be served by executing him.

Rania Al Malky is the Chief Editor of Daily News Egypt.

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