Crisis in Egypt: Interview with frontline doctorWritten by Chelby Daigle
The news out of Egypt is coming fast and furious. One of the latest reports came from Human Rights Watch (HRW), which condemned what it sees as the excessive use of force by Egyptian security forces in the dispersal of pro-Morsy protesters.
“The police's persistent record of excessive use of force, leading to dozens of deaths this month, and the density of the sit-ins mean that hundreds of lives could be lost if the sit-in is forcibly dispersed,” according to HRW's Middle East Director Nadim Houry, “To avoid another bloodbath, Egypt's civilian rulers need to ensure the ongoing right of protesters to assemble peacefully, and seek alternatives to a forcible dispersal of the crowds,” he said.
The current political crisis in Egypt has dominated Facebook pages and many conversations among Ottawa's Egyptian community. The Muslim Link connected with a former Ottawa resident, Dr. Nivin Sharaf, currently a practicing physician in Egypt, who treated the injured at the Rab'a al-Adawiya sit-in.
Like many foreign-trained professionals, Dr. Sharaf struggled to pursue her profession here in Canada. Despite obtaining a medical license from the Medical Council of Canada, she was unable to get a medical residency. After living in Ottawa for almost 10 years, she decided to return to Egypt in 2011 to continue her career in medicine.
This month, Dr. Sharaf was called twice to the Rab'a al-Adawiya sit-in to provide medical aid. “I witnessed the injured, killed and the people transported by ambulances under poor conditions, as doctors we had to also comfort the widows of the killed men, mothers of the injured and witness rubber gun shots that are internationally prohibited,” she said.
Dr. Sharaf says that one's political affiliations are becoming a source of tension more and more, even within families. Sales people and even some of her patients ask her what political party she supports. “I tell them that I don't belong to a particular party I love freedom of expression of voices. I hate oppression. I am also against killing of innocent people just because they express their opinion,” she stated.
She worries that there is a lack of respect for differences of opinion in the country. “People don't have to have hatred towards their fellow citizens simply because they don't agree. People don't have to get killed because they are demanding freedom of speech. So many people lost their mutual purpose and mutual respect, started calling names, feeling happy that their opponents are being killed. Moreover, nobody wants to accept the fact that ”˜My opinion is right with a possibility of being wrong, and your opinion is wrong with a possibility of being right',” she explained.
Dr. Sharaf believes that there is hope for democracy in Egypt but “as a medical educator with + 13 years' experience teaching professional skills and communication skills in Canada and Saudi Arabia I feel the solution is an honest unbiased dialogue between the opposing political parties,” she said. She believes that in a democracy, peaceful protest is a necessary right but there needs to be regulations. “People have the right to demonstrate but do not have the right to disturb others. We need a law that regulates demonstrations as it is in Canada. ”˜Who, Where, when, why and how long will it be”'” she explained.
Dr. Sharaf encourages all political parties to be “broad-minded”, “avoid haters” and to “seek the truth” even if it contradicts their own beliefs. “People can know what's true by stepping in, go and witness the real event, or watch different channels, TV/ Radio, etc., that support different parties, “she recommended. She says that there are many Egyptians who are trying to find a middle ground, standing up against hate speech, and encouraging dialogue between the parties so that each can see the advantages and disadvantages of their positions.
She does fear the possibility of a civil war if tensions continue. She also fears that the persecution of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood or anyone seen to have strong religious affiliations will become commonplace and acceptable in the eyes of her fellow Egyptians because these people are being accused of being “terrorists” by the government.
Dr. Sharaf also misses Ottawa. “I miss the open minded people, beautiful nature, my Canadian non- blood relatives, neighbours, my best friends, and the diverse culture that enriches our lives.”
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