An Egyptian disappears in Moscow under mysterious circumstances. But this is no ordinary suspense story, reports Gamal Nkrumah
There is much the Russian Embassy in Egypt would never be able to do, no matter who occupies its plushest seats. Nor, for that matter the Egyptian Embassy in Moscow, and the two countries’ respective foreign ministries. However, there are a number of other ways to get useful things done these days. A case in point is the ominous disappearance in Moscow of Wassim Salah Hussein, an Egyptian national educated in Russia and married to a Russian. The couple, who have two children, were ostensibly going through a rough patch. The wife was caught packing by her brother-in-law, Nagui, also residing in Moscow a week ago. The following day she fled to her parents in Siberia, taking all the furniture and their belongings along with their children.
The distraught mother of Wassim, Shahinda Maqlad, desperately wants to know the whereabouts of her son. She was frantic and phoned her friends in Moscow and Egypt. Her son was missing for three weeks and she wanted him preferably alive, but she was even ready to contemplate finding him dead. “I managed to get hold of the closest friends of Wassim and of his elder brother Nagui. I was informed that he had problems with his wife before his disappearance. Everyone was so helpful and concerned,” a distressed Maqlad told Al-Ahram Weekly.
In this particular instance the Russian Embassy in Egypt proved remarkably equipped to take the strain. It facilitated a same-day visa that allowed Maqlad to travel to Moscow. “Through friends I contacted the Russian Embassy, and Ambassador Mikhail Bogdanov, himself, was most helpful. His personal intervention meant that I was issued a visa in less than 24 hours and I flew to Moscow on the earliest flight. I shall remain very grateful for the prompt response and the kindness and cooperation of the Russian authorities,” Maqlad said.
“The Egyptian Embassy in Moscow was also extremely helpful,” Maqlad added. “Ambassador Ezzat Saad, his staff and other Egyptian diplomats in Moscow showered me with kindness and have been most considerate,” she noted.
“It is our duty to assist in such matters and especially since Wassim’s mother is such a venerated national figure. This is a very rare case, we hardly come across such cases. We are doing our utmost to find Wassim. The Russian prosecutor-general and Russian security have been informed and we have access to the top officials and authorities in Russia. They are very cooperative,” Ambassador Saad told the Weekly. “We have excellent relations with Russia, after all there are more than one million Russian visitors to Egypt and it is imperative that the two countries have a good working relationship.”
Still, Maqlad is very concerned that her son might have been bumped off by the Russian mafia in some sinister plot. Her eldest son Nagui, Wassim’s brother, has contacted several hospitals and morgues in the Russian capital and Maqlad herself is prepared for the worse. “I just want to know if he is alive or dead. If he is indeed dead, then I want to know the whereabouts of the body so that we can return his mortal remains to Egypt to be buried in his native land.”
Maqlad, a political activist and leading member of the leftist opposition Tagammu Party, is no stranger to political intrigue and subversion. She hails from a political family that has long been embroiled in peasant struggles against the authorities. Her late husband, Salah Hussein, was the leader of the Kamshish peasant rebellion, and was assassinated by landowners resisting the land reforms in the 1960s. Today he is celebrated as an iconic figure.
So Maqlad knows personal loss well. But never in her wildest dreams would she have imagined she would have to face the distinct possibility of losing her son for good. That kind of personal loss, serving no particular political purpose, is alien to her. “This is what makes it especially painful for me. When I lost my husband, I understood that he was martyred for a political cause. But this is utterly incomprehensible,” she broke down in tears.
Maqlad is in a state of shock. She has been through a tortuous three weeks. She still harbours some hope that her son is alive somewhere in Russia, but she has not got a clue how she is going to find him. Investigations by the Russian authorities are currently underway. Whether they will yield results is unknown. She fears that her son’s wife or the dreaded Russian mafias have a hand in his disappearance. Wassim’s first wife, also a Russian, was not available for comment. The sad truth is that Maqlad is still waiting for relief. But for the moment, it appears that she is clutching at straws.
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