CAIRO — Waleed Abdel Razzak, a 27-year-old Egyptian, had been in Paris for a week when he decided to attend a soccer game at the Stade de France. He was running late — and was at the entrance to the stadium when a suicide bomber blew himself up as part of a coordinated series of attacks across Paris that killed at least 129 people. Nine pieces of coarse shrapnel pierced Razzak’s stomach, causing a massive internal haemorrhage that required two blood transfusions. He is in critical condition at Beaujon Hospital.
Within 24 hours of the attack, however, Razzak had been identified in media reports as a potential terrorist — his passport having been found at the scene.
“I can’t believe what’s being said about my brother,” Wael Razzak told BuzzFeed News by telephone from Paris. “The man had massive pieces of shrapnel lodged in his body. How can he be a suicide bomber?”
Wael Razzak said he believed his brother’s Egyptian background prompted widespread speculation he had been involved in the attacks, for which ISIS has claimed responsibility.
“He took his passport with him,” said Wael. His brother had been in Paris to help him, as Wael goes through treatment for a recent diagnosis of blood cancer. “He is a tourist who was going to watch a football match and what happened to him is a result of the French authorities’ inability to secure the stadium when the French president himself was there,” Wael added. “Instead of people spreading rumors about him, they should apologize to him.”
Wael, along with his and Waleed’s mother, Nadia Razzak, spent a sleepless night filing police reports and going around hospitals with a photo of Waleed trying to track down him down as he did not initially appear on lists of injured victims in Paris’s hospitals.
Panic-stricken, Wael called a close family friend, Mohamed Gaber, in Alexandria, the Egyptian city from which the family hails, to put a call out through social media. Gaber’s Facebook post written in the early hours of Saturday morning went viral. Gaber’s brother also worked in the Egyptian embassy in Rwanda and he urged him to inform his colleagues in Paris.
“The Egyptian ambassador in Paris did not know at all that Waleed was missing. He knew from me,” Gaber told BuzzFeed News. “The embassy’s staff started messaging me on Facebook to ask which hospitals the family had been to so they would concentrate their efforts and go to other hospitals.”
He was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Egyptians living in Paris helping in the search for Waleed. Eventually the embassy’s staff found Waleed in Beaujon Hospital a few minutes before his family did too, at around midday on Saturday.
“He was wearing a Hamilton watch and Diesel jeans, that’s how we found him because it matched the description from the various police reports we filled out,” Wael said. “He came here to take care of me and my mother, he’s my anchor.”
Even though the embassy staff acted diligently in Gaber’s view, he was critical of the Egyptian foreign affairs ministry’s poor handling of the situation.
“Not one single official here in Egypt came out strongly denying reports that Waleed is a terrorist. I am blaming them for the mixed messages,” he said. “Why isn’t there anyone who cares about the country coming out to explain things to the public, especially that the whole world is looking at you after the Russian plane was downed in your territory?”
Gaber wryly dismissed any false assertions trying to link the young Egyptian to the attacks: “He can’t be a terrorist. It’s ludicrous. He likes football too much to blow up people.”
When Nadia eventually reached her bedridden son on Saturday she broke down hysterically.
“It’s tough to see your son like that,” she told BuzzFeed News. “The doctors have told us that there’s a critical 48 hours ahead of us and after that only God knows.”
Waleed, a business administration graduate who used to work for tobacco giant Philip Morris International, is one of 352 people injured in the attacks. As investigators continue to search for the identities of the attackers, Nadia dismissed any suspicions regarding Waleed.
“I have one thing on my mind – both of my sons have had tragedies hit them in the same week, one with cancer and one with a bomb. I don’t care about anything else besides my sons.”
Farid Farid is a Cairo-based journalist. He has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Quartz and others.
Contact Farid Y. Farid at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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