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Eyewitness to the “Arab Spring”: Interview with Ahmed Saada

November 8, 2011

In early 2011 the world was riveted by massive demonstrations throughout the Middle East that came to be known as the Arab Spring. One of the most compelling was the occupation of Tahrir Square in Cairo by thousands of ordinary Egyptians seeking government reforms. Middle East Regional Vice President Dr. Ahmed Sa’ada of Egypt was one of those who held the vigil over many days and nights, and also helped treat wounded protesters who were attacked by government-led forces.

VS: You helped make history as part of the nonviolent revolution in Egypt. Were there any particular moments that stood out for you? How did it feel to be a participant in such dramatic events?

Dr. Ahmed Saada

AS: As an Egyptian young man, I felt that I am putting all my future life on the edge for the sake of my country freedom, to regain our dignity and to have a democracy in our New Egypt.

I stayed in Tahrir Square almost continuously for seven days, sleeping on the ground, walking all the day in protests and raising my voice amongst my Egyptian fellows calling for my country’s freedom.

On the night that has been called the “Camel battle,” we were attacked by more than 4,000 criminals—secret police, members of the dissolved National Democratic Party, and police snipers. I was face-to-face with one of those who were attacking us—throwing rocks at us. I raised my voice and shouted to him, “I am not here because I need food, or money, I have a house, my own car and money. I am here for you and people like you to be able to get those things and to feed your children and raise them as free as they shall be.” For a while I thought that my words hadn’t made any sense to him, but he stopped as he just realized the truth and for almost five minutes he was standing there not doing anything. Then he stopped.

I believe that words can be the antidote to bullets and rocks. I feel proud as an Egyptian who stood up for freedom of mankind and said no for injustice, corruption, and dictatorship.

VS: What role can medical professionals play in the ongoing democracy movement in the Middle East?

AS: Medical professionals need first to fix the health care access system, patient rights, and educational systems.

Physicians need to be united—as we’ve started to be now—to be change agents in all aspects of life in our communities, not only the health issue. As we carry this social responsibility, we have to be advocates for better life.

VS: The Middle East is a region where IPPNW’s goals of nuclear abolition and the prevention of armed violence converge. What are your plans to engage with ICAN and Aiming for Prevention during the next year?

AS: First, regarding ICAN, I believe that raising the awareness of youth in all Middle East countries by conducting medical-oriented campaigns is the best way to engage. People in Middle East—especially youth, who are the majority—need solid information to help them to choose and to be initiators.

This is also the case with Aiming For Prevention. Egypt faced a huge security outage during the revolution time. This resulted in having the feeling that each one had to protect his family, business, and property. Small arms are 10 times more expensive now in Egypt than before revolution, because of the increase in demand. In addition, the war in Libya has had a bad effect, since lots of smuggled small arms have entered upper Egypt regions, which were already suffering from a small arms problem.

As health professionals, we need to be heard in our communities; we must start a large campaign to confront this dangerous problem.

VS: IPPNW will hold a regional meeting in Ankara in December. What do you hope will happen there?

AS: I hope we will reach a common understanding among all members of IPPNW in the Middle East region about our organizational priorities and goals. Meeting in Ankara, with Palestinians and Israelis present, is a great chance to form a solid ground for regional peace initiatives—including a nuclear-weapons-free Middle East.

The inclusion of students in this meeting is important, to help restructure the affiliates and strengthen the upcoming active generation in IPPNW.

This is the right time for ICAN and AFP to become active, high priority projects in the Middle East.

VS: You came into IPPNW as a medical student and have risen quickly to a leadership position within the federation. What drew you to this work and what advice would you give to other students and young doctors about how to integrate social activism into medical practice?

AS: As a young man I believed I had a social responsibility towards a better future for our planet and mankind, and this is what originally drew me to the IPPNW federation. The same conviction has kept me working for a better world for more than eight of my 29 years.

In the old days, physicians used to be called “wise men,” and not only treated people but also provided help or advice to people in their communities. I believe in that. I also believe that youth who do not act from a sense of social responsibility are wasting time, and that with some effort they can change the face of the world.

  1. Abhinav sINGH permalink
    November 16, 2011 5:48 am

    Good work Ahmed !!!!

  2. Apil dev neupane permalink
    November 12, 2011 8:31 am

    Arab Spring was closely followed by tens of thousands of IPPNW advocates from around the Globe. A few months back Ahmed was talking with Powerful Stakeholders, I saw in a Video. Kudos to Ahmed for a long road ahead.

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