Canadian documentary film maker, John Greyson and emergency physician Tarik Loubani, held in a sordid Egyptian jail for seven weeks, landed at Toronto's Pearson airport last Friday, free at last. The two had been released from a Cairo jail several days before, but were unable to leave the country. Some said it was merely red tape, while at the same time ominous noises were coming from the Egyptian military government about serious charges yet to come.
While the reaction from the film community, from doctors, and from Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, was relentless - petitions were signed, there were constant reports in the media - the real hero was Loubani's father, Muhammad, a Bathhurst New Brunswick physician. An Arabic speaker from Palestine, then Kuwait, Dr. Loubani Senior flew to Cairo and somehow managed to get the attention of high-level ministers. He arrived at the jail just before his son, along with Greyson, were freed.
The two had been in Egpyt on their way to Gaza, where Dr. Loubani had planned to train physicians and Greyson to film. They two had not anticipated the violence and military reaction.. But the protests made it impossible to cross the on-again-off-again Rafah border crossing, and so they booked a hotel and witnessed a demonstration with violent police retaliation.
In the men's first written statement, released Saturday, they said they saw at least 50 demonstrators die. They could not find a way through the police cordon and asked for help at a checkpoint. They were then arrested and "ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries.
"Was it our Canadian passsports of the footage of Tarik performing CPR ....? They screamed 'Canadians' as they kicked and hit us," wrote Greyson.
So much for the much vaunted Canadian passport.
With such brutality, one wonders if any tourist would ever again dare travel to or through the land of the pyramids.