Egypt's doctors win 6-0 against Ministry of Interior

Mohamed Abul Ghar
Tuesday 1 Mar 2016

Doctors gained public sympathy following the Matariya Hospital incident, but the Ministry of Interior's handling of the case tarnished its image and dealt a serious blow to the Egyptian regime

In an extraordinary meeting of the Doctors’ Syndicate General Assembly, an unprecedented 10,000 doctors gathered from all around the country to defend the dignity of medical professionals, which is synonymous with the dignity of Egypt.

Behind them stood masses of Egyptians from different professional syndicates, along with average citizens, to express both their solidarity with the doctors and outrage at the Minister of Interior's hostility.

It is a simple story. A policeman went to Matariya Hospital asking for a fabricated medical report. The doctor refused, so the policeman beat the physician, dragged him across the floor and stomped on him. 

Along with eight other policemen, he grabbed the doctor and another physician, put them in a police car and took them to Matariya Police Station.

The policemen later forced the physician to withdraw the complaint he had filed.

It is an open and shut case, with witnesses and video footage. However, police investigations – which are known to be biased, inaccurate and dishonest – claim it was a quarrel. 

The head of the hospital filed a complaint and the Chairman of the Doctors’ Syndicate filed another with the Prosecutor General. He referred the matter to prosecutors, who decided to release the policemen pending investigation. 

Everyone knows that the prosecution's decisions are based on documents and investigations presented by the police.

All physicians in Egypt were deeply insulted and decided to go to Dar Al-Hikma (the headquarters of their syndicate) on Friday. They captured the sympathy of millions of Egyptians and the syndicate was packed--the balconies, halls and even the courtyard of the neighbouring syndicate.

Mega screens broadcast the event and thousands poured into Qasr Al-Aini Street. The physicians were nevertheless still mindful of their patients.

The syndicate made ten decisions, most notably to treat all patients at state hospitals for free, meaning that fees for x-rays, tests, surgeries, and treatment will not be collected. 

Patients will be happy and doctors will do their job, which is punishment for the state that is negligent in defending its citizens.

Other observations and key decisions include:

1- I have never seen such a massive gathering in 50 years, which demonstrated the anger of all physicians towards the Ministry of Interior and the regime as a whole.

2- I have met many colleagues who are pro-Sisi, but were very angry with him and view him as personally responsible for not holding the policemen accountable. Their explanation is that he does not care about professionals or that he simply cannot confront the Ministry of Interior.

3- The overwhelming attendance and wise decisions by the syndicate led to sympathy of millions of Egyptians on this issue. Social media lit up with the event. On Facebook, the endless support for the police by figures associated with Mubarak’s regime and hated by the people further fanned the flames.

4- I believe the actions of the Ministry of Interior, such as the attempts to cover up the crime and submit false investigations, have delivered a serious blow to the Egyptian regime. It clearly shows that thuggery wins and the police do not protect the people but instead beat them. Simliarly, the Ministry of Interior does not protect the regime, but forces it to defend a lost and outrageous cause.

It is a catastrophe and Egypt is in danger. The cabinet lacks any political platform and fears the Ministry of Interior, which violates everyone and tramples on the laws and constitution.

We want a police force, and we want it to protect us. We sympathise with it greatly because of its sacrifices in the face of terrorist attacks. We want to appreciate and respect it, but it has forced the people once again to chant “the interior ministry are thugs."

There must be a leadership that understands politics and defends Egypt in these difficult circumstances. Egypt must remain standing--strong and united. We will not allow it to fall.

The writer is head of the Egyptian Social Democratic Party.

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