Over 1000 British trade unionists at the Unite the Resistance convention on 19 November pledged to send a message of solidarity to protesters in Tahrir Square and elsewhere in Egypt as they faced brutal attacks by the security forces. The audience heard the following statement from Dr Mohammed Shafiq, president of the Manshiyet al Bakri Hospital Workers Union who had been due to address the convention but was denied a visa by the British Embassy in Cairo.
Dear friends and comrades
I want firstly send greetings to you for your historic strikes on November 30th. The Egyptian revolution is part of the same struggle for democracy and social justice. We know that our victory against Mubarak inspired people around the world but we in turn are inspired by seeing resistance to neoliberalism rising elsewhere. In Egypt since the revolution we’ve seen strikes by doctors, by bus drivers, by teachers, by local government workers, by bus drivers, by textile workers and hundreds of thousands of others demanding decent wages, investment in services like health and education and to get rid of corrupt bosses and politicians from the old regime.
I wanted to be with you today but the British Embassy in Cairo refused my visa application. The letter I received two days ago says that because I didn’t demonstrate that I am “secure in my socio-economic status”, in other words because I don’t have a bank account and payslips showing an income from a well paid job, they are refusing my application.
No I’m not “secure in my socio-economic status”. I’m a doctor in a public hospital and my wages are pitifully low. This is why I helped lead two national doctors’ strikes this year and why I’m building an independent union in my hospital. We signed up 800 hospital workers to the union and forced the corrupt director to quit. Then we organised a democratic election for his successor. Now 7 other hospitals in Cairo are building unions like this.
Our struggles are far from over.
I was on my way home today when I got a phone call from a comrade about a fight in Tahrir Square between protestors who are continuing a sit-in and riot police, so many casualties and tear gas and rubber bullets some comrades were hit badly some comrades have been arrested and clashes are still going on.
I rushed back to Tahrir Square and am now trying my best to respond treating the injured.
The last thing to say is:
By striking we do not ask for better conditions for ourselves only but for our people, patients too. By striking we came to experience one of the most wonderful and deep feelings of our lives that we are free and have control over our lives and destiny in spite of those who always try to blind us from this simple truth and enslave us by our own labour.
Wish us luck in our battle today.
What you can do:
- If you are in London on 20 November come to the MENA Solidarity Conference to hear from Egyptian activists recently returned from Cairo about the campaign against military trials and repression
- Sign the statement against military trials and repression in Egypt.
- Write to Egyptian Prime Minister Essam Sharaf protesting at the repression. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Invite a speaker from MENA Solidarity to your union branch meeting. Contact us at email@example.com for more information.