Amidst violence and escalating tensions in Egypt in the aftermath of the recent military coup, visiting queer filmmaker John Greyson and emergency room doctor Tarek Loubani were arrested in Cairo on Saturday.
Tarek Loubani, an emergency room doctor and Assistant Professor at the University of Western Ontario (UWO), is one of the initiators of an academic collaboration that brings doctors from UWO to Gaza to train local physicians in emergency life saving techniques including advanced cardiac life support and advanced trauma life support. Loubani, who is Palestinian himself, has been to Gaza on several previous occasions as part of the same program and has also been outspoken in the need to continue Canadian programs that provide healthcare for refugees.
John Greyson meanwhile is a filmmaker and a Professor in the Department of Film at Canada’s York University. He is also a queer activist and has been previously active in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign in support of the Palestinian struggle against occupation and colonization (you can see one of his videos related to that campaign here).
In the present situation, Loubani was planning to travel to Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza and Greyson was accompanying him to do exploratory filming for an upcoming film. The pair traveled to Cairo initially intending to transfer directly to Gaza, however their travel plans were delayed due to the worsening conditions in Egypt. In a case of simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, they were apparently detained when they asked for directions to their hotel at a police station that had been attacked earlier.
Since learning of their arrest, a wide group of friends, allies and supporters have called for their release, sending letters to the Egyptian consulates in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as petitioning the Canadian government on their behalf. In the days since being arrested, Greyson and Loubani have been in touch with Canadian consular services and now have legal counsel in Egypt. There has also been support from the Cinematic Syndicate, representing Egypt’s professional film industry.
At present, we know that Greyson and Loubani have not been formally charged but are being held during a seemingly arbitrary 15-day detention period. While they have not been charged, there have been some non-sensical accusations circulating in the Egyptian media vaguely referring to foreigners from several countries who have recently been detained.
Friends and supporters are presently requesting that we continue contacting Egyptian consular services abroad as well as the Canadian government to apply pressure on the Egyptian government for the immediate release of Greyson and Loubani. Please sign this petition for their release here, which will automatically generate emails to Canadian government officials as well as the Egyptian Consulate in Ottawa.
In an unrelated event, another Toronto man, Amr Kassem, was recently killed by a sniper after peacefully joining a protest in Alexandria while vacationing in Egypt.