Still Birth

Still Birth ( The Crime)

In 1963  I was in my 3rdyear of medical School in Alexandria University, Egypt when I visited the forensic medicine museum as part of my medical studies in pathology. The Pathology museum actually was part of a big complex connected to the (Amiri Hospital) which was in turn part of the university with lecture theatres, Anatomy, Physiology, Histology departments etc.  

Until recently, even in UK, Pathologists took samples of patients’ bodies without consent. Usually the diseased organ was kept for educational purposes. This practise was wide spread and Egypt was no different. There were many fascinating exhibits. One big jar attracted my attention. It contained a womb. The womb was opened wide with a full grown baby inside. My first thought was that it was a womb of a woman who died in labour. I was shocked to learn of a (horrific crime) behind the exhibit. In short it tells about the wide spread of the so called (Honour Crimes) that was rife particularly in the South of Egypt. As it happened, a young unmarried girl became pregnant and dishonoured her family. Dishonour is regarded as an offence, and a black spot against the whole family and a crime against God that can only be washed by blood. A dishonoured family cannot walk in the streets or even show their faces until their honour is restored and the shameful spot wiped out. The killer to be is usually the closest member of the family, one of those most dishonoured and shamed! In this case her brother stabbed her abdomen repeatedly and killed her.  Then he realised that the child, who was nearly ready to be born, was alive. He opened her abdomen and cut the uterus open and then stabbed the baby and killed him. I was haunted and shocked looking at the child. He had the most beautiful and Sarine face. How did the brother live after looking at that face? And what guilt that innocent baby commit to deserve such punishment?

I kept going again and again just to look at the face of that unborn infant. This stirred huge emotion & sadness in my heart and I felt something had to give. I always painted, since I was a child. I painted to release my emotions, sad or happy. I was not alone as almost everyone in my family painted in my brother Ismat, cousin Mustafa and my sister Huda was particularly outstanding. On occasions I expressed my feeling in poetry, mostly for myself, though published few. So I wrote few words in poetry (in Arabic) describe my anguish and sadness (see translation).  On this occasion poetry alone was not enough to release me of my feelings so then I painted my feeling. That was essential to release me and to enable me to move on. Unfortunately the (honour) crimes still committed, not just in Egypt but all over the world. I moved to England to study psychiatry then I was faced with what I call a mirror image  of the honour crime ( Abortion). Hundred of thousand of abortions performed every year to get rid of unwanted children. This is the result of free sex in a free society. In the west the logic for abortion that allowing unwanted pregnancy is more harmful to the women and society, which can be true. Unfortunately even the church and medical institutions rationalise the killing of foetuses that at that age they have no soul, i.e. not a human being yet. How this can be. As a scientist I say this is not true, if the foetus is not aborted the majority would be viable and complete humans. It is a dilemma of the extremes, in the one hand the honour crime, oppression of women, and on the other killing millions of children to avoid hardships. Both attitudes have its own logic but the result more or less the same!     

 As in most of my paintings All the symbols in the painting drive from the poem.

I translated the poetry from Arabic to English:

  • The foetus curled in his sad silent corner.
  • Not moaning or crying,
  • He never cursed life
  • Never smiled
  • Never said mama
  • Oh for the sad
  • He will never play in the street , like other children
  • He will never grow like the flowers of the valleys
  • Never to see the stars                                                  
  • Or the light of the day
  • He will never travel across time
  • Because he died long time ago
  • The seas has shattered his mast
  • And on the sand scattered
  • The remnant of sympathy feelings
  • To crucify  the living on their consciousness
  • In the museum of life and the theatres of the centuries
  • For tears to fall once from guilt
  • And once more for suffering and pain
  • For life
  • To save man

About myself:

I painted (Still Birth)  3 times. The first in Alexandria and won a Silver medal in the university art exhibition however I lost it after that. I painted the Idea in Kuwait where I was working in Kuwait university Medical School as assistant professor of psychiatry (teaching) and lost the painting again in the 1st gulf war (stolen) by my American Friend Linda, who used to teach English in Kuwait university! She took all my painting and refused to give them back after the war! Obviously she liked them very much? I painted it for the 3rdtime in Canterbury where I live now and I still have it! I finished medical school 1967, worked in many difficult places including war torn South of Sudan. I received a scholarship 1973 from the British council to study Psychiatry and obtained the DPM and MRCPsych.  I now work as consultant psychiatrist look after Dover Area and live in Canterbury, UK with my family.

Dr Taha H Malasi

MBChB, DPM, MRCPSych


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