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Tell Harper: demand the release of Tarek and John

September 28, 2013

For more than a month, the Egyptian military regime has incarcerated Canadian emergency physician Tarek Loubani and filmmaker John Greyson as part of a broader counter-revolution. The Harper government has been characteristically silent and complicit. But Tarek and John are fighting their detention with a hunger strike, and the campaign demanding their release continues to grow.
Tarek and John were on route to Gaza, where Tarek helps with medical training, when they were arbitrarily arrested in Cairo on August 16. They have yet to be charged and have had their unjust detention periodically extended for no reason. A month into their detention they began a hunger strike.
The Harper government has refused to call for their immediate release, and only asked that the evidence against them be made available. This gives legitimacy to the military regime and its crackdown, which has included a French citizen being beaten to death while in prison.
The broader context is counter-revolution. Egyptians overthrew the US-backed dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and in 2012 elected the largest opposition group—the Muslim Brotherhood. While the Brotherhood includes millions of poor and working class members, its leadership is committed to the capitalist state. So once elected, it continued the neoliberal policies of Mubarak, continued getting weapons from the US and supporting Israel, and consolidated power around its leader Mohammed Morsi.
After a year, millions of Egyptians again protested and went on strike, and the military regime attempted to stem the tide of revolt by removing Morsi and launching a counter-revolution. Claiming that “unrest” in Egypt is the result of Islamists, terrorists and foreigners, the military regime has gone from attacking Islamists to arresting socialists and people passing through Egypt.
Canada’s complicity
As an ally of US imperialism, which maintains conditions for Western corporations, the Canadian government supports the imperial architecture in the Arab world. Canada has sold weapons to Saudi Arabia, used to attack people in Bahrain. Harper supported the Iraq War and has a long record of complicity with Israel—from defending their bloody wars, cutting humanitarian aid to Gaza after their democratic election, barring Palestine solidarity speakers from Canada, and cutting funding from Palestine solidarity groups in Canada. Harper supported Egyptian dictator Mubarak right up to his overthrow and has not condemned the military’s recent attacks.
The Canadian government also has a record of restricting civil liberties for Arabs and Muslims at home, and remaining silent on their detention abroad—including Maher Arar and Muayyed Nurrddin tortured in Syria, Abousfian Abdelrazik detained in Sudan, and Suaad Hagi Mohamud detained in Kenya. It was only mass pressure that returned these people, and there is growing support for Tarek and John.
Nearly 150,000 people have signed a petition demanding their release. There have been open letters from the medical community, such as the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, and the arts community—including writers Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy and Michael Ondaatje, filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Sarah Polley, and actors Ben Affleck and Danny Glover. There was a contingent supporting Tarek and John in the Toronto Labour Day parade, and rallies outside the Egyptian consulate in Montreal and in Tarek’s hometown of London, Ontario. We need to continue to pressure the Canadian government to demand the immediate release and safe return of Tarek and John.
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