Friends of the Dead
Organisation: Zat Masr – zenith.me
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 26 Sep 2020
Credit: Ahmed Saied Sayed Hassanien
This investigation report includes audio and video testimonies from Egyptian morgue workers, including forensic doctors, autopsy technicians and other workers responsible for handling and cleaning corpses
These people face stigma and social exclusion within their communities and find themselves more often than not forced to hide the nature of their job even from their loved ones. This is not to mention the health hazards they are exposed to from the corpses, some of which are infected with serious diseases, and the lack of periodic monitoring, safety and prevention measures.
The report sheds light on the lives of morgue workers and showed their humane face to the public reader, their career struggles and the stigma they face. Many readers have and colleagues spoke of the tremendous change of view of these workers and their lives and how they are treated.
Many readers have and colleagues spoke of the tremendous change of view of these workers and their lives and how they are treated. After the report was published in Zenith magazine in German,
it gained wide traction in the German speaking world since it touches on a very mysterious world. The report also shed light on the COVID-19 risks for the morgue workers and stressed the need for them to get the required PPE.
The investigative report had a great role in reconsidering the aid and the foreign grants that the forensic department in Egypt gets.
“Forensic doctors leave Egypt mainly in search for better financial offers. They are usually offered salaries that are 10 times higher than what they get at home, in addition to the modern equipment they can find in other countries.
The report was produced using cross media and included photographic pictures, illustrations and animations that documented the lives of the morgue workers and photocopies of some of their documents. Videos were used to document interviews and a Podcast to tell the stories and the struggle of this segment of the population in addition to audio clips and graphics and info-graphic illustrations and interactive materials like maps that show the morgues in Egypt.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The hardest challenge I faced during my work on the investigative report was to get the morgue workers to talk to the media and open up about their line of work, fearing that they might be identified by their relatives and the secrecy of their job would be blown up and be stigmatized by them and get socially excluded. Some of the people we talked to were already infected with highly infective diseases so I had to take extra precautions while interviewing them. The third challenge was extracting official information and numbers from official institutions in the country, since officials don’t really talk to the media and some of the institutions involved in the forensic work hide information about their workers. After many months of attempts I managed to convince the people I interviewed to get to talk to me and open up about their secret careers, which was the key to write the first investigative report about the morgues in Arabic.
What can others learn from this project?
Believing in the idea and insisting on getting it to fruition no matter what. I struggled for month to get the people to talk to me but never relented and insisted on reaching out to them to take their voice and their struggle to the people. They can learn about the subject of the investigation and build on it, and on a different note they can see how to track down the sources and get them to talk and colect the data.