Fouly, Ahmed al-Afyouni QENA, Egypt (Xinhua) --
“Vendetta is better than shame” is a common saying in Upper
Egypt, the tribal southern part of the country, which indicates
how Upper Egyptian families think of the chronic tradition of
blood feuds as “an honor.”
The phenomenon has been prevailing in
the tribal side of southern Egypt for decades or even
generations, where family revenge killing equals honor, dignity
and manhood, although most of the causes that triggered the
enmity are often trivial, such as a quarrel about fighting kids,
or a dispute over a phone recharge card.
The norm in Upper Egypt is that when a
family member is killed, the family buries the body but never
holds a funeral until they kill the murderer or one of his
dearest family members in revenge, and the blood feuds go on.
In Upper Egypt’s Qena province, Nag
Ma’alla of Hugairat village is referred to as “the village of
widows” for there is almost no home without a widow who has lost
her husband in a blood feud or without bullet holes or traces in
Most of the village men involved in
blood feuds live in the nearby mountains to escape either murder
Widows usually dress only in black for
long years as a sign of mourning and they breastfeed their
babies the desire for blood revenge, said Fathiya al-Essaily, a
70-year-old woman from “the village of widows,” who lost both
her husband and elder son in vendetta feuds.
“A widow here would push her son for
killing in revenge regardless of the consequences and the
possible murder or escape of her son, because only then she
would be no longer living in shame,” the old lady told Xinhua at
her one-storey home in Nag Ma’alla of Hugairat village in Qena.
62-year-old Mohamed Owais, also from
Nag Ma’alla, lost both his brother and his 15-year-old nephew in
a similar feud that represented “the most difficult moments” in
“When my brother saw his boy smeared
with blood and breathing his last, he lost consciousness and
died and we buried them both together,” Owais said while sitting
outside his two-floor raw-brick house.
The blood feud, Owais continued, went
on for several years until the Owais family accepted a
reconciliation brokered by security authorities and popular
reconciliation committees one and a half years ago.
The tradition of reconciliation in a
blood feud is a kind of ceremony watched by all villagers, where
the one whose turn is to be killed walks to the family whose
turn is to take revenge carrying his death shroud, a white
garment, in his arms.
He submissively and apologetically
lies down in front of the man who is supposed to kill him as a
sign of seeking forgiveness. His apology is always accepted
because it is considered in Upper Egypt as shame for him and
honor for the other family.
Lawmaker Hamza Abu Sehli from Qena,
who lost his elder son in a blood feud with a big family, said
that the recently reached reconciliation put an end to a wave of
bloodshed between the two families and restored his inner peace.
“I convinced my family to accept the
reconciliation urged by official and popular efforts to stop the
killing circle between the two families, and my reconciliatory
attitude was respected by everyone,” the parliamentarian told
Xinhua in the Upper Egyptian province.
Mahmoud Abdel-Mo’ez, a 65-year-old
retired employee at the Ministry of Education, recalled the
tragedy of losing his son during his wedding ceremony due to a
vendetta feud and losing his wife who died out of grief over her
son’s death a few months later.
An elementary school student in
Hugairat village, whose parents conditioned not to mention his
name, lamented that most teachers are reluctant to show up at
school due to the many surrounding feuds, noting that most
students drop education at some stage.
“A lot of boys here learn how to carry
guns since childhood,” the boy continued with a sad tone. “I
hope that we all carry pens rather than guns for the best
interest of our village and nation.”
Despite the cancerous tradition, the
authorities, in cooperation with wise people through special
committees, managed to achieve dozens of reconciliations and end
bloodshed between big families over the past few years.
“The security department in Qena, in
cooperation with the governorate and the reconciliation
committees, managed to achieve 100 reconciliations between
feuding families in the past four years,” said Qena’s Deputy
Security Chief Alaa al-Ayyat.
In the last two years, the police also
seized more than 3,000 unlicensed guns with over 20,000 bullets
in Qena province, which is known as “the capital of Upper
For his part, Governor of Qena
Abdel-Hamid al-Haggan said that the political leadership puts
the elimination of blood feuds as one of its priorities in Upper
Egypt, particularly in Qena.
He stressed that such disputes
negatively affect the nation’s struggle for progress and
“The good traits and values of Upper
Egyptians, including forgiveness, contributed to the rising
number of reconciliations that reflects a positive change in
Upper Egyptian cultures and thoughts,” the governor told Xinhua.