2:08pm , Tuesday 19th January 2021

SOS Child’s Death Left Without Investigation

22 March 2009

A shriek by Amr, 13 years old, resident of SOS village for orphans, shocked by seeing his brother and his room mate ‘Osama” hanged on the wall. I called his brother and the SOS guests to see Osama whose life came to an end, seen with a chain around his neck hooked to a nail on the wall over his bed by almost two meters, and the distance between his feet and the bed is almost two spans, as noted in the prosecution inquiries on the death accident of the child Osama Nabeel Hassan Risq.

The final scene of the accident after some rescue trials: Osama was wearing a blue squared shirt and  blue jeans, resting on a bed in his room on top of which was the nail that the witnesses said he used to hook the chain to. On a side table there was a chain of about 1.5 meters, with almost 22 loops. This was the end of Osama’s life, and the beginning of the inquiry of his death.

Monday, Ramadan 8, 12 pm
Villa no. 1, that is almost a 7 minute walking distance from the main gate of the SOS village in Alexandria, to the left side of the walkway is a one story building for the village administration– just 15 meters away from villa no. 1. The 7 children in the villa woke up late as they usually did during the summer holidays.A child was patting his older sister’s cat which was almost 11 years– exactly like his age. He asked one of his dearest brothers “how will you react to moving to a hostel?” his brother answered “I don’t know”. Osama, in the other hand, answered with such confidence as if his future was guaranteed “I know that when I go there I’d like the company of an intimate person to have some fun with”.

The SOS village in Alexandria was Osama’s only home since 2001 when he was two and a half years old, before being transferred, along with 13 other children, by Al Abaadya Association For Orphans, on September 8, Ramadan 8, 2008 at 7:30 pm. Osama was about 150 cm height, 35 kg weight, studies at SOS school that is adjacent to the village fence where he lives. One of his teachers mentioned that he was a calm, affectionate child and not at all a troublemaker, he said: “throughout the four years during which I taught in this school, he proved to be a peaceful student, except once when his teacher complained about his attitude as he was trying to follow-suit his brat brother. I warned him and told him that “I usually take you as an ideal student, he cried and never did this again”.

There are three SOS orphanage villages in Egypt; Cairo, Alexandria and Tanta. SOS is a model of international orphanages, with its headquarters located in Austria. Such villages  are comprised of many houses. Every family is given a house where they live with a godmother who takes care of them. The philosophy of orphanages is allowing such children to live in a healthy environment with the warmth of the family, independence and privacy. Alexandria SOS is comprised of 12 villas along the sides of the village. They accommodate 9 families that have between 5 and 7 members. There is a nursery and a patio on the right side of the walkway in the middle of the village. Children are accommodated till the age of 14 after which they are transferred to hostels. SOS accommodates girls in the SOS hostel for girls. SOS is located close to Al Amreya Police Station which is 5 minutes walking distance, and a 5 to 6 minute walk from the government Amreya hospital and 2 to 3 minutes from Sheikh Badawy hospital.

Osama used to pat his sister Nasra’s (34 years old) cat in his room. He was fond of cats “we used to fight together because we all wanted to pat the cat), said Osama’s brother while recalling the memories. One day, Osama left the window of the shared room with his two brothers Amr and Adel (the youngest) open to let the sunlight through By sunset he closed it to avoid being attacked by the numerous mosquitoes. He used to close the windows at 8 pm in the summertime until the sun rose the next day. One of Osama’s brothers went on recalling such memories.

Before it was time for the Ramadan breakfast on September 8, Osama was playing with his friends and brothers in the village. Some said that he was playing in the villa and others said he was riding the SOS bicycle after it was fixed by Amm Gomaa. Osama’s destiny was so close and shorter than he or anyone expected. Osama ate breakfast with his family then went out to play with his brothers as mentioned in the inquiry report conducted by Al Amreya prosecution. This story contradicts with that mentioned in the report conducted by Amreya Police Station when the accident first took place.
Amira Kamel (the god aunt), mentioned that she lived with the children after the death of their mother, which was only three days before she had hit the elder sister, and wounded her by biting her. A report on this incident was about to be conducted but the mother escaped, as mentioned by a villa resident. Nasra, the older sister mentioned that all the children went out to play in the yard, while the prosecution inquiry reports state that only three went to the yard– specifically Osama, his brother and their roommate (Amr and Adel).

“Osama went to the yard before we finished eating and aunt Nasra asked him to go and get the bicycle”. This was said by one of his brothers when he recalled the details of  the day Osama died.  “As soon as we finished eating, Amr also left and we started to watch a cartoon show on TV. Osama was riding the bicycle happily.” His brother who refused to mention his name, said that after a while he went to the yard and saw Osama who had told him that he had fallen off the bicycle. He then denied speaking to him and said “we didn’t speak, I was feeling cold and told him I’m going to the villa”. Osama was waiting for Ramadan in order to fast – according to what his brothers said. A friend of Osama’s said that he took an iron chain from one of his friends; which he apparently exchanged for a lighter, in order to hold the bicycle and protect it from being stolen Strangely enough, the aunt, the older sister and brothers who were all his roommates mentioned in the prosecution inquiry that this chain was brought by the ex-godmother to hold their bicycle, bearing in mind that even the big bicycles don’t need more than  a one meter chain to hold them. It is worth mentioning that the orphanage is surrounded by fences and nobody can enter it except after presenting an ID and checking their bags, therefore there is no need for chaining the bicycle.

Why were the answers altered and then neglected?

The report conducted at the Amreya Police Station on Monday, September 8, 2008 at 9 pm  includes numerous contradictions, as well as the Amreya prosecution report conducted throughout successive sessions. The first inquiry session was held on September 10, where there was a logical call for re-inquiring. In the first report, the older sister and the aunt mentioned that Osama returned after some time and entered his room alone. However, had there been any loud noises, the two ladies sitting in the lobby would have easily overheared any bumping sound in Osama’s room by the partitioning wall. After a while Amr entered the room ti find Osama hanging on the wall with a chain around his neck. Surpriseingly enough, during the prosecution inquiry at 10 am, both witnesses were asked whether they saw Osama entering his room and the answer was “no”. Why then did they change their testimony and why weren’t they confronted with the apparent contradiction?

Even the children’s testimony was contradictory. During his first testimony, Amr mentioned that Osama left the kids and entered the villa but  took a long time. Amr realized that Osama had been in the villa for quite some time, and so he went to check on his brother only to find him hanged. However, in his second testimony, Amr said that he had entered the room to get some clothes before showering and found Osama hanging. As for Adel, there is a clear disparity with his testimonies, as he confirmed seeing Osama hanged on the wall the first time he testified, while in the second testimony said the he “knew” from his brother what had happened only after he heard him screaming and entered the villa. This logically does not make sense, since the period of time it took to unchain Osama, and the time it took them to call their neighbors and the persons in charge is not coherent  There is still an unexplained contradiction,– the witnesses residing in the villa  mentioned that Osama’s brothers were the ones who laid him down and not the persons in charge, and they tried to ‘revive’ him by washing his face given that he was still breathing– unfortunately that was not enough.

The four witnesses who were questioned agreed that Osama was hanged with a chain hooked on to a nail on the wall. One of Osama’s brothers mentioned that this nail used to hold a frame of a Qoraan verse, but it was broken and the nail remained fixed to the wall. One of the SOS staff who refused to mention his name stated that there is no single nail fixed into any SOS wall  that exceeds 5 cm in depth. The longest nail is the one holding the photo of the international SOS founder, and is found in the administration office with a mere depth of 7 cm. Here, one can ask the following question:: can a nail hold a 35 kg child? and for how long?


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