Egypt’s doctors: Hundreds of martyrs and dozens of detainees

November has witnessed an increase in the number of the doctors who died from infection with the new coronavirus (COVID-19) to more than 200 martyrs amid appalling economic conditions and government negligence of preventive measures. This, however, is not the only crime that Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime is committing against the doctors as dozens of them are detained in its prisons.

Hamdy Abdo Mohamed is an Egyptian doctor who was forcibly disappeared since last September inside one of the Egyptian National Security Service’s headquarters. The Egyptian authorities persisted in denying his presence for more than two months before his reappearance at the State Security Prosecution in the middle of November. He was detained pending investigation on account of the charges that have become the Egyptian judiciary’s slogan towards everybody; namely “joining a terrorist group, broadcasting false information that would undermine public security and harm the public interest, and using an online account to disseminate false news.”

Hamdy was the 44th detainee of the list of doctors imprisoned inside Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s prisons that contain more than 60,000 detainees, according to human rights’ estimations. Besides 37 doctors detained for political opposition of the regime, some of them have been in prison for years. Seven doctors were arrested amid the pandemic that overtook the world and their criticism of the Egyptian authorities’ failure in the face of this disaster. Three were released through mediations and communications with the regime, whereas the rest remain in prison.

Dr. Mohamed el-Fawal, a member of the Medical Syndicate in Sharqia Governorate, was one of those released recently, and sources close to the Medical Syndicate told Egypt Watch that Dr. Nagwa el-Shafei, a name well-known in the corridors of the syndicate, was behind the release of el-Fawal.

The sources that spoke with Egypt Watch under the condition that they will not be named said that el-Shafei is one of the major collaborators with the Egyptian security services, one of the security figures inside the board of the council of the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, and one who strenuously refuses to talk about the detained doctors, or even open that file. She assumed the position of the syndicate’s current secretary-general after many pressures and threats that forced the previous Secretary-General, Dr. Ehab Taher, to resign, as well as Dr. Mona Mina before him.

The sources say that Dr. Nagwa was one of those involved in the case of the late Dr. Essam el-Erian’s obituary as Dr. Ehab Taher was compelled to resign after that case so that the members of the Media Commission and others who participated in writing the obituary would not be arrested. Nagwa was one of those who raised the issue and she fiercely expressed her refusal and objection to publishing that obituary. The other surprise was her objection to opening the detained doctors’ file, among whom was her nephew (her sister’s son); Dr. Mohamed el-Fawal. Afterward, she was rewarded by assigning her a member of the Senate Council among the 100 members assigned by Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and releasing el-Fawal and two others.

The syndicate’s sources told Egypt Watch that the majority of the Syndicate Council are among those supporting the regime, but a number of the members are still applying pressure and communication for the release of the detained doctors, on the top of whom are the four who are still in prison because they talked about the pandemic. Those four are Ibrahim Abdel Hameed Bidewy, a pediatric surgery resident at Mataria Teaching Hospital, Mahmoud Hamed Mahmoud, an orthopedic resident at Gamal Abdel Nasser Hospital, Hani Bakr Ali, an ophthalmology specialist, and Ahmed Sabra Ahmed, the obstetrics and gynecology professor at Banha University. These communications have led to the release of two more doctors besides el-Fawal and they are Dr. Ahmed Safwat, a member of the Medical Syndicate’s branch in Cairo, and Dr. Walaa Shaaban Hemida, a resident at el-Shatby Hospital.

A campaign was launched recently on social media sites demanding that the state treats the doctors’ martyrs who die as a result of their sacrifices facing the pandemic the same way it treats their peers in the army and police, for whom a special fund was set, which is the fund for the martyrs and injured because of terror operations.

The campaign demands the equality of these doctors’ families with those families as well. The Medical Syndicate’s plea to the community to donate for the “Support the Families of the Doctor’s Martyrs” initiative drew everyone’s attention. This initiative is a charitable one with no participation whatsoever from the government that never stops criticising the doctors, blaming its failures, shortcomings, and negligence on them, as well giving the relatives of a martyr doctor a pension less than EGP 1,000, whereas that of a martyr of the armed forces is about EGP 25,000, in addition to a big reward for his relatives.