Egypt: the doctors’ strike and the unfinished revolution

This is a translation and adaption of an article by Mohamed Shafiq, member of the Higher Strike Committee of the Doctors’ Strike published a few days before the 17 May doctors’ strike.

Original article here:

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Mohamed Shafiq

This article summarizes the views of hundreds of colleagues on different websites and in different hospitals, as well as discussions of the members of the Higher Strike Committee and of course some personal opinions. I have tried here to crystallize these views into a number of coherent points in order to clarify our future goals and different tactics we may adopt in order to reach them.
What do the doctors want?
This is the main concern of the public opinion of Egypt and of course, the expected answer is  “wage increases”.  Of course, doctors have discovered through their collective experience that the media is not neutral, and even be used as a weapon against us in many cases by our adversaries.  As an old political activist once said, “the ideas which are widespread in society are the ideas of the ruling class”. We have seen ourselves how the regime currently in power has used the media to tarnish our image and alienate Egyptian citizens from us. We were only able to get our real message across after we proved our power on the ground in the massive general assemblies of the Doctors’ Union on 25 March and 1 May, and after the overwhelming success of the strike on 10 May.
We can deduce from this that it is only victories on the ground through a strong mobilisation which will give us access to the media and allow us to use it as a weapon in our struggle.
Our demands are to increase the health budget by 15%,  dismissal of the Minister of Health and corrupt managers and officials, a fair wages structure and security for our hospitals. Their implementation will mean a tremendous social revolution, of far greater importance even than the 25 of January revolution itself. This is because although the 25 of January revolution won important gains in the political sphere, such as overthrowing our corrupt leaders, breaking the repressive police apparatus, and opening the doors to freedoms for political parties, trade unions and the media, its has so far had no impact in the social sphere.
In order for doctors to gain the recognition they deserve by society, we have to fight for a complete social change in the structure of the state by creating a new wages system which will be genuinely fair. But why does it take this huge struggle for doctors to win their rights when we see other professions winning their demands much more easily?
Because doctors serve and express the interests and aspirations of millions of ordinary and poor people and because the current system does not care about the lives, health and aspirations of ordinary and poor people, doctors and their demands are not of interest to the current regime .
Why are we using strikes to win our demands?
Practical reality dictates that we must use whatever weapons are at our disposal from sit-ins and vigils to delegations and negotiations, but we must always bear in mind that the regime does not care about us and our demands. Perhaps if we sat in Tahrir Square our in front of the Cabinet Offices they would come and distribute chocolates and sweets for us.
A strike in a factory is a voluntary suspension of work in order to inflict material losses on the company or the state to force negotiations in order to win better wages and conditions. As doctors our strike is different. The losses will be measured in terms of the lives and health of our patients, and this is why our strike does not extend to A&E or critical care. We know we cannot win this strike without winning the support of our patients, to put pressure on the regime. Our strike must be a way to expose to ordinary people how they are denied one of the most basic rights of all: the right to health and adequate treatment.
We will not beat the system alone. But we will win if we mobilise all of these ordinary people to defend their right to life and treatment as well as our right to a dignified life. We, as educated doctors, will be victorious when we act as one hand with the poor and illiterate of Egypt. Our battle is against those who have destroyed our public hospitals, it is against the remnants of the old regime and not against the people. We will not be afraid if they shoot at us with live bullets, and attack us with knives. We will not fear threats and intimidation  from management, because the lives and the health of the Egyptian people are in our hands.
Mohamed Shafiq, Member of the Higher Strike Committee

One thought on “Egypt: the doctors’ strike and the unfinished revolution

  1. Excellent analysis and correct programme for the way forward. However I suggest that medical staff need to forge alliances and sympathy action with industrial workers.

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