A worker from a military-owned company in Arish, Sinai, told Mada Masr on Sunday that his colleague was shot by military personnel, contrary to reports in local media that he was killed by “terrorists.”
Independently owned Al-Masry Al-Youm published an article five days ago claiming unknown assailants had killed a worker and injured three others in Sinai. The article said the workers were attacked while taking a colleague to Arish General Hospital.
The incident was reported by several other news outlets, with no mention of any details other than the gathering of several angry workers outside the hospital after the death of their colleague.
Other details emerged on Saturday, when a video went viral on social media showing a number of workers gathered around a military armored vehicle at a factory site that is said to be affiliated with the military. The video shows military personnel shooting at the workers, causing chaos, and at the end of the short clip, a worker announces that someone has died.
Other videos, shot mostly with mobile phones, appeared on social media, showing workers surrounding an injured colleague and depicting a military officer speaking with workers about an officer and soldiers. A worker is heard demanding a complete forensic report for his deceased colleague, stating the type of bullet used and how deep it penetrated the victim’s body.
Mada Masr spoke to Sayed,* a worker at SIAC, a company providing workers for Arish Cement, owned by the Armed Forces, who claims he witnessed the incident.
Sayed says that on Tuesday at 11 am he noticed commotion among his colleagues and heard screams. It transpired that Khaled Gharib had been severely injured when a 300-ton metal rod fell from a truck onto his foot.
The truck in question was equipped to carry stones from the mountain, Sayed explains, and not metal rods. He adds that the crane operator, who was moving the rods onto the truck, had reported a malfunction several times and that a similar incident had occurred previously at the same site, killing eight workers.
There was, Sayed explains, no way to rescue Gharib unless the rod was cut to free his injured leg, which is what Hesham Ramadan, who he claims was later killed by the military, did.
The workers then took their injured colleague to a clinic on site, but it was ill equipped and the nurse stood by helpless, Sayed recounts, adding that there was no ambulance on site and the nearest water source was two kilometres away.
The ambulance took an hour to arrive, causing tension to build among workers. Military personnel started shooting at them from the top of an armoured vehicle, Sayed claims.
He alleges shots were fired at them directly and not into the air, causing Ramadan’s neck injury and injuries to two other workers in the chest and leg.
“The soldier who shot at us thought we’d be scared, but people started screaming, ‘Why are you doing this? You’re supposed to protect us not shoot at us’,” Sayed recounts.
He adds that the armored vehicle left the site and the workers broke the glass façade of the company. The ambulance arrived later and transported five people to the hospital, one of whom was already dead.
Sayed says he knows nothing about the other injured workers and what happened to them. He explains that he left that day and did not return to the company. Most of his colleagues did the same, except for four or five workers, he adds. “It is enough that we witness humiliation on a daily basis, we cannot die like this.”
Sayed, like many other workers at SIAC, had no contract, no health or social insurance, or any means to prove any employment related injuries. “When we started work, we signed a paper saying the company is not responsible for any injuries or deaths that occur during working hours,” he recalls.
Before leaving, Sayed says they met with the battalion commander located on site, who blamed the incident on a military officer and soldiers, asserting that they would be tried and prosecuted.
The Armed Forces spokesperson and manager of Arish General Hospital were not available for comment.
Sayed says the next day, news started circulating that terrorists had killed his colleague. “They can’t make fools of us, we were there and saw everything with our own eyes,” he asserts, adding, “They told us a third party killed people during the revolution, and not the military, but now we know better.”
*Sayed’s name has been changed for his protection.