Dr. Ashraf “Our case is like an old Arabic Movie
|Friday, December 11,2009 10:08|
-The application of law in Egypt is random and subject to the wishes of those in power
-Trade unionists are in despair due to the governmental and security restrictions
- Talks about deals are unacceptable and no deals would work for MB
The MB humanitarian and relief work has embarrassed the regime, which in turn has resulted in payback imprisonment and defamation.
Mr. Abdul Monem Salim Gabara, May he rest in peace, consoled “O Ashraf, the way is long, difficult and full of obstacles, arrests and blood. He answered: I know,, and I am ready to sacrifice for the sake of Allah”, with these words Dr. Ashraf, Vice-Secretary-General of Egypt’s Medical Syndicate, Rapporteur of the Human Relief Agency and one of the released detainees in the so-called “ international network of the Muslim Brotherhood” closed recently on the backdrop of the political and security nature of the regime used against honourable citizens.
Dr. Ashraf Abdel Ghaffar, Vice-Secretary-General of Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate and Rapporteur of the Human Relief Agency has lived a life full of research, learning, work and travel. The Security Services arrested him on July 19, while he was heading to Turkey to attend the wedding of his son Abdel Rahman. The wedding took place as scheduled however in an effort to bring joy to the families despite the father's absence.
Born in 1956, he graduated from Al-Kasr Al-Aini Faculty of Medicine, Department of General Surgery; he obtained his Masters in the same specialty with honors and was appointed as advisor of the humanitarian affairs in the Doctors Syndicate during the 90s. He has been widely active in the humanitarians' field in Bosnia, Iraq, Sudan and Somalia.
He is married with seven children, five sons and two daughters. The eldest daughter Asmaa studies law in Britain, Mohamed holds a Masters in Business administration, Salma studies politics and international relations at the University of London, Abdel Rahman is a director working with Al-Hiwar TV satellite channel, Nour El Din studies A-Levels, Salah El Din a secondary school student and Omar a primary school student.
Dr. Ashraf revealed details of his arrest and detention of four months, dimensions of the case, his opinion regarding the rumours on the resignation of the MB Chairman, the role of youths in the social and political work, the weakness of Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate and the reasons behind it.
Your family has experienced moments of grief due to your absence from the wedding of your son Abdel Rahman; describe your feelings about this.
It was very difficult for my wife and children, as this is my first arrest. I was arrested by security forces at Cairo International Airport while I was heading to Turkey to attend my son’s wedding. In addition to this I was badly treated and security police refused to let me speak to my family or give me my medication.
Why did you insist your son go ahead with the wedding as scheduled despite the difficult situation you were in?
I had felt that the Egyptian regime and security services had intended to prolong our detention; therefore, I decided nothing would spoil the happiness of my son, especially since the regime, through the media had blown the case out of proportion. Many people expected the case to be transferred to civil or military courts, as many distinguished brotherhood leaders were included. There was no guessing where the regime was going with the case
Seeing my son get married and starting his life and seeing him and my family happy makes me happy too. I have taught my children that we have chosen a difficult path where obstacles and arrests are expected and that no one knows how the system in Egypt operates or how they think. “Any citizen committing a traffic offense or a moral one or even drug trafficking is dealt with according to the law, but members of the movement get arrested, tortured, transferred, in addition to the confiscation of personal belongings, it seems the regime follows a double standard policy"
As we know, your son and the son of Dr. Gamal Abdel Salam, Rapporteur of al-Quds Committee in the Arab Doctors’ Union, were married while you both detained in the same case. How did the other detainees of MB support you in al-Marg prison during this time?
These were two of the happiest days we spent in prison despite its difficulty, as the MB members celebrated with us and especially on the day of the wedding of Dr. Gamal Abdel Salam’s son since many members of the same governorate were with him on different charges. As for myself, I was in a small group of ten people and my son’s wedding took place at the very early stages of the detention pending investigations; however my detained companions of MB still held a small party for me.
When you heard the decision of your release and the release of your companions and the closure of the case, who was the first person you thought of?
Of course, I had many thoughts at the time, but I mostly thought of my family and children, which I dearly missed. However, the issue that was occupying my mind most was the injustice practiced by the regime against the honourable people without any reasonable justification, while at the same time corruption is spread and forgers, bribers and monopolists are left free without accountability or charges. In addition to this is, of course, the deteriorating situation and suffering of Egyptian citizens, lack of freedom, justice and equality, which will result ultimately with the collapse of Egypt's current situation.
Some leaked security reports if the so-called “international network of MB” was moving in the path of a military tribunal, suddenly the case was closed and all detainees in the case were released. What happened and how did this case end?
The Egyptian regime has an unknown identity and way of thinking and it is impossible to predict its policies which change according to its interests, if oppression and arrests are in its interest then so be it and vice versa. For sure, the regime puts its own interest and the interest of its men and followers above all other interests of the Egyptian citizens. MB members are close to Allah and know that their paths are thorny and full of difficulties. Furthermore, the case was fabricated and baseless; however, the investigation memorandums were contradictory to any real facts.
Tell us about the rumours of a deal between the MB and the ruling system to serve the mutual interests of the two parties.
Of course this is not true. Is receiving your rights considered a deal?
“There are many people still in detention. We are under the rule of a failing regime, which suffers a state of political and moral deterioration where security services very easily re-arrest the leaders of the MB. The oppressive regime, as I mentioned earlier have their own suspicious interests and you never know when they may rocket or plummet a situation. For the record, the MB is not subject to compromising or making deals.
What makes you insist on following this path provided your previous knowledge of its risks and dangers?
In this situation I remember the great leader Mr. Abdel Monem Saleem Gabarah, May he rest in peace, when he once asked me when I wanted to join the Muslim Brotherhood “Ashraf do you know the consequences of following the path of Allah with the MB".
I replied" Yes” so he answered, “As you know now you have to be committed. Of course no one likes to be arrested, insulted or taken away from his wife and children, but this is the path of those who have missions, and if we had left this to the wills of people we wouldn’t have slept or lived and we would be overwhelmed with the feelings of depression and despair and this is how Allah’s will makes it much easier for us".
Does this mean that we have to forgive and forget the wrongdoers who are to be held accountable for what they have done to honourable people?
Definitely not, because the feeling of injustice, especially if it was for the sake of Allah, should have a positive impact in encouraging us to help ending the state of injustice by upholding the word of truth, justice and freedom through legal and constitutional channels such as the press and public media. If injustice becomes the rule then the world will certainly be ruined.
Charged with providing aid and relief!
Some say that the regime resorted to this campaign in response to the appreciated humanitarian work carried out by the MB doctors during the recent attack of the Israeli occupation forces against the Gaza Strip which embarrassed the regime revealing its shortcomings.
Without doubt, I am sure there is no other reason or explanation other than the humanitarian work that could be behind the arrest of the well-known figures in the humanitarian and relief work in the Doctor’s Syndicate and the Arab Doctor’s Union. Because of the suspicious role the regime played and still plays nationally and internationally you may always relief work as a mean of promotion in itself especially through the media.
Is it possible for the regimes animosity to the movement behind the huge security crackdown?
The regime in Egypt follows the system of Cain and Abel, where the work was accepted from one and wasn’t accepted from the other. The regime believes that the work and success of the relief work of the MB all over the world, in Gaza, Somalia, Darfur and places of conflict pose a threat socially and politically. It also believes that the participation of medical figures in the relief convoys of the Arab Doctors Union and the Medical Syndicate and linking it to the MB giving it an illegal framework. This however is untrue since the relief work is the result of cooperation with many organization and this is evident with the European convoys such as; “lifeline”, “Miles of Smiles” and “For Gaza”. The relief work has become a global case; and this refutes the allegations of the regime.
What were you charged with?
I was charged of money laundering and fundraising at an international conference in London. In fact, during the time they said I was abroad for the fundraising for Gaza I was actually in Egypt and did not leave the country; this was later revealed in the official documents proving the absurdity of the charges.
This certainly proves that cases of MB members in Egypt are not being legally dealt with. The failure of both , logic and reason further demonstrates the failure of the system and its contempt to the law and Constitution is pre-meditated with the intentions of arrest and deprivation of basic rights.
What were the some of the amusing moments during your detention?
The Prosecutor-General once asked me about the money laundering charge, and I answered him sarcastically “and how do they wash this money, do they wash it by hand?
What was your reaction to the rumours of the resignation of the MB Chairman and the conflicts within the group?
We saw the news in the government owned newspaper "Al-Ahram", since we were prevented from reading privately owned newspapers and we had ascertained that what was written by Ahmad Mousa exposed the wide crackdown launched against the MB, which made us deal with things cautiously, and we prayed to Allah to help our brothers unite.
The rumours that were spread raised different reactions mostly from youths, some of them belong to the MB group and some are supporters of the MB. This was considered as placing a gap between the younger generation of the MB and their leaders, how do you perceive this?
Of course the youths are the backbone of any nation, and they are the pillars of any group or association hence they cannot be excluded from the decision making whether within the MB. Their participation in the decision making has its mechanisms which are determined by its regulations and rules.
I think that the absence of the youth in leadership positions does not mean that they are totally excluded from consultations, and this became clear in the last case where youths spoke freely with no restrictions. The MB group supports all its youths and ask them to take part in social, political and security roles and to participate in the different activities. Without doubt, the youths may lack experience and insight because of their young age and their opinions may be blurred because of this. What had been spread about their marginalization is reflective of their passionate judgments where they judge emotionally rather than mentally.
A Dark Tunnel
At the professional and trade union level and as a vice-Secretary-General of the Doctors Syndicate, how do you view the current situation in trade unions?
Unfortunately the government has destroyed the work of trade unions once when it assumed law No.100 of Trade Union and again through Guarding or subjecting it to the direct control of the government. With respect to the Doctors Syndicate which I represent, a great number of the members of the Syndicate feel despair and a lost sense of hope in making any progress under the security and government control over the work of the syndicate. We have to admit that the Head of Doctors has red lines that cannot be crossed due to the mutual interests shared with the government. Therefore, many movements have emerged including “Lawyers with no rights”, “the Young Doctors of Egypt” and “Doctors for Change”, and these movements represent a large scale of the doctor’s legal demands in incentives, salaries, social benefits and economic necessities.
A deplorable law
How is it possible to overcome this state of despair, which has negatively affected a number of the Syndicate’s members?
The only solution is to hold elections and to elect a new council where youths play an active part. I am the youngest member in the Syndicate and I have graduated 30 years ago. I was elected for the Syndicate’s Council for the seats representing youths since the early 90s and I am still a part of it. Five members of the council are deceased in addition to members who are always absent due to travelling or illness moreover,
The Council’s legality is currently at risk
I stress that Law No.10 which has hindered and affected the trade unions' work is a “deplorable law” and here I remember a statement made by Dr. Osama El-Baz, political advisor of President Mubarak, when he said “if MB members, under law No.100, won in the elections, we would change this law so that they cannot improve in any upcoming elections".
Do you think that the breakthrough in some trade unions and the chance of holding new elections is actually a trap set by the government to affect the unity of the trade unions during elections?
Nothing good is expected from the government, where it assumes it is above the law. We work on making sure the unity of the unions are not affected by supporting the General Assembly and its resolutions, which serves the masses of doctors.
What are the next projects of the Human Relief Agency in the Doctors Syndicate?
One of the most important projects, especially since Eid Al-Adha is approaching, is the project of distributing the sacrifices to the poor people in Egypt, Gaza and Somalia. Also on the agenda is the project of combating blindness in Darfur and African countries as well as providing hearing aids for those with hearing problems and wheel chairs for the disabled.