Members of London’s medical and Western communities rallied, calling for the freedom of Western professor and emergency room physician Dr. Tarek Loubani and York University professor and filmmaker John Greyson, who have been held captive without charges in an Egyptian jail since Aug. 16, when they were arrested on their way to the Gaza Strip.
The rally, organized by colleagues and friends of the men, took place in Victoria Park Tuesday afternoon. Hundreds of supporters filled the area near the park’s band shell, many of them in medical scrubs, coming from London hospitals, as well as the campus and London communities. Another peaceful rally was slotted for the same time at the Egyptian consulate in Montreal.
At the time of the rally, Loubani and Greyson had been held captive for 39 days, and had been on a hunger strike for the last nine days. While Egyptian officials have claimed the pair was arrested because they were armed and planned to storm a police station, those who know the men in Canada have called the accusations ludicrous, citing Loubani’s dedicated peaceful humanitarian efforts and Greyson’s work as a filmmaker to bring controversial issues to light.
“We must be strong. We must be vehement. We must not shy away from our task, but we must do so in a peaceful fashion,” said Dr. Amit Shah at the rally. Shah is Loubani’s friend and colleague, as well as a medical professor at Western.
Loubani, who has tirelessly worked with marginalized communities at home and abroad, is “deeply cognoscent” of the inequalities in this world, Shah continued, and was on his way to Gaza for a medical mission. The only thing Loubani is guilty of, he added, was helping his fellow man, and the only weapon he had was his stethoscope.
Responsible for a project that has brought doctors from Western to Gaza to train physicians in Advanced Cardiac Life Support and Advanced Trauma Life Support, Loubani was on his way to continue the work he started between Western and the main hospital in the Gaza Strip, the al-Shifa hospital.
Loubani and Greyson were visited by consular staff Monday and were in good health, though tired. They were thankful upon hearing of the support they had at home, said Dr. Ben Thomson, a nephrologist at London Health Sciences Centre, and Loubani’s friend who had planned to join him on his medical mission in Gaza at the end of August.
At the rally, Thomson said this news came from Greyson’s sister, Cecilia.
While friends, family and colleagues have taken up the cause, asking the Canadian government to intervene and for the Egyptian government to free Loubani and Greyson, various organizations, unions, medical associations, universities and groups have joined the efforts, expressing their support.
Western President Amit Chakma likewise recently released a statement noting the university was working with local Members of Parliament as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs “to encourage and thank them for their continuing efforts to advocate for the safe and timely release of our academic colleagues.”
At Tuesday’s rally, speakers and supporters called for the Canadian government to take a stand, to urge Egyptian officials to free Loubani and Greyson, asking the government not to continue peaceful relations with Egypt until the pair’s release.
“We need to show, as a nation, that we look after our citizens,” Shah said, noting the world needs the likes of Loubani and Greyson, and right now, they need Canadians’ support.
An online petition demanding the release of the two men has gathered more than 100,000 supporters to date, while celebrities expressed their support at the Toronto International Film Festival, earlier this month.
For updates and more information, visit tarekandjohn.com.