For the past 18 months, Marwa Kenawi has been seeking “legitimate paths” but has so far failed to avenge the death of her son by an errant bullet. “Hence, I decided to go on a hunger strike to shed light on my case,” Kenawi told Al-Ahram Weekly.
Kenawi is the mother of 13-year-old Youssef Al-Arabi who died when a stray bullet struck him in the head two years ago. Al-Arabi was standing with his friends in front of a popular restaurant in 6 October’s Al-Hosari Square when he lost consciousness and fell to the ground.
It was discovered later in the hospital that he had sustained a bullet wound to the head which put him in a coma for almost two weeks before his death on 29 May 2017.
According to the Interior Ministry, an investigation into Al-Arabi’s death showed that some people were firing guns from the rooftop of a nearby building during a wedding celebration at the time of the incident.
A year after Al-Arabi’s death, a Cairo criminal court sentenced four defendants to five years in prison for possessing illegal firearms and sentenced three of them to another two years for manslaughter.
The verdict was in absentia for two of the defendants: a police officer and the son of a parliament member.
“I started my hunger strike on 31 March and I will continue until the arrest of the two murderers, although I was shocked that the suspects were given only two years in jail for killing and five years for possessing unlicensed guns,” Kenawi said.
She said she lodged many complaints to the prosecution-general and the Interior Ministry but to no avail.
She, however, said that her strike had recently born fruit. MP Anissa Hassouna submitted a briefing request to the interior minister, calling for the implementation of the court’s ruling to arrest the two fugitives. Moreover, Kenawi said that her story drew headlines in various media outlets.
“Another purpose of my strike is shedding light on and eliminating this social phenomenon which is randomly shooting firearms at weddings to celebrate,” Kenawi said.
Samia Khedr, a professor of sociology at Ain Shams University, said that the shooting off of guns at weddings “has been in our society for many years but we haven’t succeeded in addressing or eliminating it.
“The reasons why this is still in our society is that there is a lack of discipline in Egyptian streets. There is a lack of law enforcement in such cases in light of the joyous atmosphere in which such acts occur. Consequently, the citizen no longer respects the law which criminalises such acts,” Khedr told the Weekly.
Khedr said there must be media campaigns to raise the awareness of the seriousness of this phenomenon, resulting in popular pressure to reject it. “The most important of all is the enforcement of the law that criminalise such acts to achieve deterrence,” she said.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 18 April, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Seeking justice