Egypt mourns its ‘doctor of the poor’

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Mashally led a simple life dedicating his time and knowledge to serve those most in need. (Courtesy: Mohsen Design/Twitter)
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A collage illustration shows Dr. Mashally with wings, symbolizing him as an angel for leading a simple life to serve those most in need. (Courtesy: Mohsen Design/Twitter)
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Updated 29 July 2020

Egypt mourns its ‘doctor of the poor’

  • Mohammed Mashaly, renowned for the low fees he charged his patients, has died at the age of 76

CAIRO: “I pledged to God that I would not take a penny from a poor person and that I would remain in my clinic to help the poor.” This selfless statement sums up the attitude and benevolence of Egyptian doctor Mohammed Mashaly, who died on Tuesday morning at the age of 76.

Thousands of people turned out to pay their respects and say farewell to Mashaly — known simply as “the doctor of the poor” — in his home village of Zahr El-Temsah, in the Beheira governorate of northern Egypt. His body was taken there from the city of Tanta, where he lived and worked.

The crowds that marched in his funeral procession reflected the love, admiration and appreciation for Mashaly. He became renowned in his country as the doctor who would take only 5 Egyptian pounds ($0.30) as payment for a visit to his office. He was featured in a number of TV programs and news reports, and many state institutions honored him for his work and generosity.

Viewers were particularly moved by a TV interview in which he cried as he spoke of an experience he had when he started working at a health center in a poor area.

“A little diabetic child came to me crying from pain and telling his mother to inject him with insulin,” he said. “The mother replied to the child, saying that if she buys the insulin shot she would have no money to buy food for his siblings. I still remember that harsh situation, which made me decide to devote my knowledge to treating the poor.”

He said that he kept his fee low and sometimes he did not take any money at all from the poorest people and provided them with free medications, too.

Commenting on his decision to turn down a donation worth millions from a TV show, he said: “I reject donations and I advise them to offer such donations to the poor and needy.

“I don’t need the donations. Give such donations to homeless children or children with no shelter. Anyone who wishes to give me donations can give them to Gharbeya governorate so it can allocate the money for needy people.”

Mashaly grew up in a poor family and built his career from nothing. He struggled to educate his own children and his brother’s children, yet still he chose to help the poor and those on limited incomes.

His brother, Dr. Osama Mashaly said his sibling was more like father to him, and was his role model. “The doctors in the family shall continue Dr. Mashaly’s approach,” he said. “However, I don’t think that his own clinic will open again, since his three children are engineers.”

Mashaly continued help the patients at his clinic in Tanta until until shortly before his death, said Dr. Hashem Mohammed, who worked as his assistant since the mid-1990s.

“Dr. Mashaly came to the clinic and he was in good health,” he said. “He actively performed his role and was always smiling.”

Mashaly frequently spoke of one final wish, said Mohammed: that he could continue to do his job at the clinic and treat his patients until he died.

“He never wanted to stop offering help and support to the poor,” he added.

Mohammed denied rumors that Mashaly had fallen ill on Monday night and was taken to hospital where he died a few hours later. He said the doctor passed away at his home in Tanta.

Mashaly was born in Beheira governorate in 1944. His father, a teacher, later moved the family to Gharbeya. He graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at Cairo University in 1967, and specialized in epidemiology, internal medicine and pediatrics. He worked at health clinics and centers affiliated with the Ministry of Health in a number of areas.

Eight years after graduating, Mashaly opened a private clinic in Gharbeya governorate, where he became famous for the reduced fees he charged patients. His work day began at 7.30 a.m. and he continued to see patients until the Maghreb prayer. He would then go home to eat before visiting two other clinics in neighboring villages to examine patients.

Many people and organizations posted messages on social media expressing their sadness about the doctor’s death and paying tribute to him and his work.

In a message on Facebook, Ahmed El-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque, wrote: “May God grant mercy to the doctor of the poor, Dr. Mohamed Mashaly.”

He said the doctor was a great example of humanity and added: “He knew that life is mortal. Thus, he preferred to help poor and needy patients even during the last days of his life.”

Egypt’s Doctors Syndicate said it mourned the loss of Mashaly and sent its condolences to his family.

 

 


Fresh allegations about mistreatment of Kurds in Turkey

Updated 29 September 2020

Fresh allegations about mistreatment of Kurds in Turkey

  • Opposition party submits parliamentary question on torture after villagers allegedly thrown from military helicopter

ANKARA: The mistreatment of Kurds in Turkey is under the spotlight again following allegations of torture and food poisoning.

Three politicians from the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) who were recently arrested said they were hospitalized with food poisoning during their detention, while Amnesty International has demanded the government investigate allegations that two Kurds were thrown out of a military helicopter.

The government accuses the HDP of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and thousands of its members have been prosecuted for the same reason, including its leaders. The HDP denies such links. The PKK is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and US.

The HDP politicians, including Ayhan Bilgen who is mayor of Van province, fell ill after eating food served at Ankara police headquarters.

Bilgen was not immediately taken to hospital, nor was he allowed to talk to his legal team until after HDP lawmakers had talked with government officials to have him hospitalized.

The trio are under arrest as part of a probe into violent protests that took place in Kobane in 2014. Their detention period was extended on Monday by another four days.

Amnesty International has urged the government to investigate allegations that two Kurds, aged 55 and 50, were thrown from a military helicopter in Van. The rights group voiced its concerns about the “allegations of torture and mistreatment” which it said were unacceptable under international human rights law and standards that Turkey was obliged to comply with.

The men alleged to have been thrown out of a military helicopter were arrested on Sept. 11 as part of an operation against the PKK. Both were hospitalized and had signs of heavy beatings on their bodies.

One of the men was shown to the media with a bloodied face. He is experiencing memory loss. The other man’s condition remains critical. He is suffering from brain trauma, broken ribs, a punctured lung, and has been in intensive care for more than two weeks.

Relatives of the villagers have demanded justice and the uncovering of the truth through a proper investigation.

Amnesty International wants Turkey to investigate the case impartially, and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has submitted a parliamentary question about the allegations of torture.

HDP lawmaker Ali Kenanoglu said his party would follow up the mistreatment allegations at a domestic and international level.

“Kurds have become the scapegoat of the current regime because they are considered as the easiest target that doesn’t have any strong social support behind it,” he told Arab News. “Currently all policies involving war and violence are conducted by targeting Kurds. The mistreatment regarding this segment of society has not received strong backing so far, which opens more room for such efforts.”

Once the Kurdish lawmakers were arrested they were automatically under state protection, he said. “However, state impunity still prevails when it comes to the implementation of the rights of Kurdish community.”

On Monday, HDP deputies and officials were outside the parliament building to protest against the detention of their colleagues, who are accused of inciting violence in Kobane.

Amnesty International’s Turkey campaigner, Milena Buyum, called for a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the ill-treatment of Kurdish villagers.

“Those found to be responsible should be brought to justice in a fair trial,” she told Arab News. “Turkey is bound by the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture, both of which it is a party to. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture of the Council of Europe is tasked with monitoring places of detention in member states and can ask questions regarding the cases of alleged torture and other ill-treatment. As Amnesty International, we will continue monitoring the developments in this shocking case.”

Buyum said that people in detention must be allowed access to their lawyers once they were deprived of their liberty.

“The delay in speaking to the lawyers is concerning. The HDP representatives have been able to consult their legal representatives after four days. They still don't know the substance of the allegations they face as they have not yet been questioned.”

The rights group said that there was increased concern about detention conditions because of the pandemic, and that authorities should step up their efforts to ensure the health and safety of those in custody.

Separately, a Kurdish singer said on Monday that he had been warned by security and intelligence officials against singing in his mother tongue and to stay away from HDP events.

“You will be in trouble if you sing in Kurdish again,” Cesim Basboga was reportedly told. "You’ve been provoking people with songs.”

Basboga will file a complaint.