Belfast Telegraph

Trapped family now out of mosque

Four Irish citizens who were among hundreds of people trapped in a Cairo mosque have now left the building.

It is understood two of the women, Omaima Malawa, 21, and her sister Fatima, 23, have been detained by the Egyptian authorities who cleared the Al Fateh mosque earlier today.

The whereabouts of their other sister, Somaia, 27, and 17-year-old brother Ibrihim are not known.

The four siblings are children of Hussein Halawa, imam of Ireland's biggest mosque in Dublin, and were in Egypt on holiday with their mother.

They took refuge in the mosque yesterday as violent clashes between supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi and the security forces killed around 80 people in the Egyptian capital yesterday.

Earlier, Omaima Halawa, a final-year student at Blanchardstown Institute of Technology, described the scene in the city as frightening.

"We are surrounded in the mosque both inside and outside," she told Irish national broadcaster RTE.

"The security forces broke in and threw tear gas at us."

She said they were warned they could b e shot if they tried to leave and requested an escort from the Irish Embassy in Cairo.

Ms Malawa also said "thugs" outside the mosque threatened to kill her if she left the building.

"We want a safe passage out for the four of us. I do not trust (security forces) or the thugs.

"They have personally threatened to slaughter me when they see me."

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs said they are continuing to liaise with authorities in Egypt.

"We are in ongoing contact with the Egyptian authorities in relation to the safety and well-being of all Irish citizens involved. We are also involved with the family in Dublin," he said.

The four siblings flew out to Egypt earlier this summer and were joined by their mother two weeks ago. Their father is still in Dublin.

From the family home at Firhouse, another sister, Nasaybi, said they are enduring a terrible ordeal.

"We are really worried. We do not know how to help them. We are just trying to support them by calling and giving them some hope that they will get home safely," she said.

Earlier dozens of people took part in a solidarity protest outside the Egyptian embassy in Dublin.

The rally, hosted by the Irish Anti-War Movement, was designed to put pressure on the Irish Government to condemn the massacre of civilians in Cairo.

Nasaybi Malawa said the family were struggling to cope.

"The last time I talked to my sister was about 1pm this afternoon. They had taken her mobile phone but she managed to borrow one. All the while they (security forces) were harrassing her and she was screaming and crying.

"We are trying to cope. We are trying to be strong so we can do something for them. We have a hope that everything will be fine."

The family, who moved to Dublin 18 years ago, travel to Egypt for the summer every year to visit relatives.

Ms Malawa's mother and uncles in Cairo have been in contact with a lawyer and are beginning a search for the missing two siblings.

She said: "We do not know anything about them. We do not know where they have been taken. We do not know if they are in one of the police stations in Cairo or somewhere else. We don't even know where to start looking."

Ms Halawa said her sister had described conditions inside the mosque as austere and traumatic.

She added: "They were inside for 18 hours without food and water. They had to drink from a fountain which was not meant for drinking. My brother, who is under 18 years of age was in the same place as dead bodies.

"They had been running from gunfire and the mosque, as a holy place should be respected. Is that a crime now?"


From Belfast Telegraph