UPDATE Sept 28: Tarek and John have now spent 43 days in prison in Egypt. They have been on a hunger strike for two weeks and are in poor health. This morning, we received news of "impending charges." We believe that whatever charges the Egyptian authorities are seeking against Tarek and John have much more to do with the carnage they witnessed and filmed, rather than what the Egyptian authorities claim they did.
Earlier in September, the Egyptian Minister of Tourism released a video pleading with other countries to lift travel advisories on Egypt. Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs appeared before the UN General Assembly this week. Egypt's Deputy Prime Minister visited Canada this week to promote trade between the two countries. As Egypt's new Government seeks favour with the international community, we must hit them where it hurts -- tourism, trade, and their international reputation -- until Tarek and John are free. We have added the Prime Minister of Egypt as well as the Ministers of Tourism, International Trade, and Foreign Affairs as targets on our petition.
We released this statement today from Tarek and John describing the events of August 16, the day they were arrested. Here is an excerpt:
"We decided to check out the Square, five blocks from our hotel, carrying our passports and John's HD camera. The protest was just starting – peaceful chanting, the faint odour of tear gas, a helicopter lazily circling overhead – when suddenly calls of “doctor”. A young man carried by others from God-knows-where, bleeding from a bullet wound. Tarek snapped into doctor mode, and started to work doing emergency response, trying to save lives, while John did video documentation, shooting a record of the carnage that was unfolding. The wounded and dying never stopped coming. Between us, we saw over fifty Egyptians die: students, workers, professionals, professors, all shapes, all ages, unarmed. We later learned the body count for the day was 102.
We left in the evening when it was safe, trying to get back to our hotel on the Nile. We stopped for ice cream. We couldn't find a way through the police cordon though, and finally asked for help at a checkpoint.
That's when we were: arrested, searched, caged, questioned, interrogated, videotaped with a 'Syrian terrorist', slapped, beaten, ridiculed, hot-boxed, refused phone calls, stripped, shaved bald, accused of being foreign mercenaries. Was it our Canadian passports, or the footage of Tarek performing CPR, or our ice cream wrappers that set them off?"
On Friday August 16th, Tarek Loubani, a Canadian emergency physician and John Greyson, a Canadian filmmaker and professor were arrested by Egyptian authorities. Tarek and John were on their way to Gaza -- where Tarek was to work at Al Shifa Hospital, and John to explore the possibility of making a film about the work.
Days later, Tarek and John are still being held in Cairo's Tora prison.Egyptian officials have given no clear reason for their arrest. In fact, a recent press release by a Cairo district prosecution states that 9 foreigners, including John and Tarek, will be detained for 15 days, pending investigations. Egypt is going through a turbulent time, and after hundreds were killed in violent clashes last week, foreigners, particularly journalists are being targeted. We need to get our friends out of there.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Egyptian authorities to "release all evidence" against Tarek and John, but we believe it will take ongoing public outcry in order to force the Canadian and Egyptian Governments to find a resolution and secure their freedom.
Family and friends are worried sick about their safety. Pressure from the Canadian government is our best hope. We must pressure our government to demand their freedom and pressure the Egyptian authorities to let them go. Thank you for your action on this urgent matter!
Here's how you can help:
1. Please sign the petition below. An automatic email will be sent to Prime Minister Harper, Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird and the Egyptian Embassy in Ottawa.
2. Please phone and email your MP by searching your postal code here. We strongly encourage you to include a personal message, especially if you know Tarek or John personally or professionally.
3. If you're on Twitter, please use the hashtag #FreeTarekandJohn and tweet your elected officials.
4. Join this Facebook group or check out http://tarekandjohn.com for updates on their whereabouts and how you can help.
5. Please help us flood the phonelines for the Egyptian embassy in Ottawa, the Egyptian consulate in Montreal as well as John Baird and Stephen Harper.
6. For media inquiries, please contact Justin Podur at 416-407-7795 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Egyptian Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1-613-234-4931, +1-613-234-4935 email@example.com
Egyptian Consulate General, Montreal, Canada: +1-514-8668455; +1-514-8668456; +1-514-8668457; firstname.lastname@example.org
John Baird – Minister of Foreign Affairs Canada, 613-990-7720, email@example.com
@honjohnbaird Department of Foreign Affairs Canada: @DFATDCanada
Stephen Harper – Prime Minister of Canada; Phone: 613-992-4211; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For our US friends: Egyptian Embassy in the US: email@example.com
**Update: Canadian officials have made contact with Tarek and John although it is still unknown why they are being detained. Read a statement from the families here: http://podur.org/node/1023 **
Dr. Loubani is an emergency physician at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) and a member of Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care. He has worked extensively to provide volunteer medical care in conflict situations internationally and for refugees in Canada. Award-winning Toronto filmaker, writer, and educator, John Greyson, is a Professor at York University in the Department of Film.
Dr. Loubani and Professor Greyson were travelling to the Gaza Strip, where they are working on an international academic and medical collaboration between the University of Western Ontario and the main hospital in the Gaza Strip, the al-Shifa hospital. They arrived in Egypt on August 15th, and were held up from crossing into Gaza due to the conflict in Egypt. On the afternoon of Friday, August 16th, their contact in Canada received a call from Dr. Loubani, stating that: "we are being arrested by Egyptian police." Their whereabouts have been unknown since, and colleagues and family are extremely worried for their safety.
Conditions in Egypt are extremely dangerous with accounts of widespread military and police violence. According to Amensty International “unprecedented levels of violence have left more than 600 dead in Egypt”, further Amnesty also notes a “pattern of excessive and unwarranted lethal force used by the Egyptian authorities since the 25 January revolution”. More than 4,000 people have been injured in recent days.
Our thoughts are with the many people in Egypt who have been arrested, beaten and killed.