Memories of Denshway
The Denshway Museum in the Egyptian Delta commemorates crimes carried out by the British army of occupation a little over a century ago, writes Nagwa El-Ashry
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Denshway incident; Mustafa Kamel; The wife and child of a villager; during his execution; Mock trial; Executing a villager; How the Denshway incident began; British soldier
On 27 June 1906, British soldiers clashed with villagers in the village of Denshway in the Egyptian Delta. The clash led to casualties on both sides, but the trial that followed shocked the nation and turned public opinion against the methods of the British occupation authorities in Egypt.
The incidents at Denshway can be seen in paintings, photographs and documents at a museum in the village today. The museum building is 850 m2 in area, with a garden of over 2,000 m2. The latter has an amphitheatre with 250 seats, and there is a life-size reproduction of the gallows used to hang convicted villagers also on display.
The Denshway Museum, curated by the late professor Yunan Labib Rizq and designed by architect Hani El-Minyawi, is only one of a series of educational museums shedding light on aspects of the country's history. Other museums include the Beit Al-Umma (the house of Saad Zaghloul), the house of Ahmed Shawqi, the house of Taha Hussein, and the house of Ibn Loqman (the Mansoura National Museum).
The Ministry of Culture has put busts of former presidents Gamal Abdel-Nasser and Anwar al-Sadat on display, as well as a bust of Mustafa Kamel. There are some 30 original photographs and 15 paintings on display showing the clashes, the trial scene and the executions. A model of a pigeon tower made of gypsum is also on display.
The Denshway incident began when five British officers went hunting near the village. Their shots set fire to a pigeon tower, and in the scuffles that followed an Egyptian woman and a British officer died. In the trials that followed, four villagers were executed, 12 were flogged, and many others were sentenced to terms of imprisonment. The imprisoned men were released two years later, due to public indignation in Egypt and Europe over the incident.
The Denshway incident also launched the political career of Mustafa Kamel, a young lawyer who mobilised public opinion at home and in Europe against the brutality of the British occupation.
Due to Kamel's contacts with British parliamentarians, the British ruler of Egypt at the time, Evelyn Baring, or Lord Cromer, was eventually dismissed from his job. Kamel, who founded Egypt's National Party, also had close ties with the Khedive Abbas II, known for his fierce opposition to the British occupation.