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Thousands of Egyptian doctors protest, vote against police violence Open in fullscreen

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Thousands of Egyptian doctors protest, vote against police violence

Medical workers gathered around the union building in protest [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 12 February, 2016

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The streets of Cairo were again filled with thousands of protesters on Friday following an assault on two doctors in the capital's Matariya hospital last month.
Thousands of Egyptian doctors staged a rare protest against police abuse after accusations two doctors were beaten up by police officers in a Cairo hospital.

The doctors' union also voted to offer free services in public hospitals and to call a partial strike in two weeks unless the officers involved are held accountable, measures are taken to protect medics from police intimidation and the health minister submits his resignation.

At the headquarters of the doctors' union, known as the Egyptian Medical Syndicate, medics chanted "strike" and raised banners that read: "Dignity for doctors."

"I am the doctor, who is going to stitch my injury?" read one banner raised by a young female doctor.

Next to her a medic raised a sign that depicted a rifle shooting at a white doctor's coat together with the caption "police are thugs".

Such public protests are rare under Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's regime.
Such public protests rare under Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi's regime


The 28 January assault on two doctors in Cairo's Matariya hospital led to outcry across the country.

According to online and televised testimonies of the doctors, the attack took place after one of the doctors described the cut on the officer's forehead as "simple" and said it didn't require stitches.

The officer then attacked the doctors, before a colleague joined him, pulled out a gun and began to threaten the hospital staff.

     
      Doctors voted to offer free services in public hospitals
and to call a partial strike
in two weeks [AFP]

The two police officers were joined by others from a nearby police station, who dragged the two doctors into a microbus to take them into custody. 

On the way to the vehicle, one officer is said to have stamped on a doctor's head with his boots.

One of the medics, Dr Moamen Abdel-Azzem, filed an official complaint at the police station, but later withdrew it for fear of arrest after the police officers filed a counter-complaint accusing the medics of beating them up.

The withdrawal of the doctors' official complaint over fears of repercussions added fuel to the syndicate's anger.

Egypt's prosecutor-general has ordered an investigation into the incident and on Wednesday, 13 days after the assault, nine policemen were questioned and two were detained.

All were released on Thursday pending further investigation.

"This is a turning point in our union's history," said Hussein Khairy, the chairman of the syndicate, addressing a cheering crowd of doctors, who filled all three floors and the rooftop of the union building.

"We want the rule of law. Assaulters, whether they are a doctor or a policeman, must be punished."

We want the rule of law. Assaulters, whether they are a doctor or a policeman, must be punished

-Egyptian Medical Syndicate


Later on Friday, the union's general assembly voted on nine decisions, including offering free-of-charge services to all citizens as a first step.

After two weeks, if their demands are not met, they will also hold a partial strike across the country.

The union said that any hospital in which doctors are assaulted will be closed.

They also demanded the resignation of the health minister and that parliament accelerate the introduction of new laws to punish those who assault hospital staff, including police.

The beatings stoked the anger of many Egyptians, and on Friday the Arabic hashtag #SupportTheDoctorsSyndicate was trending in Egypt.

The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, a prominent rights group, condemned the violence against doctors, saying that it was "a reflection of the level of police abuse of authority these days".

President Sisi often portrays the security forces as national heroes battling Islamic insurgency and terrorism, but in November he offered an apology following a series of deaths in police custody, including that of a lawyer, which sparked a lawyers' strike.

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