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by Devin R. Heroux

 

When Ahmed Shoker boarded his flight to Egypt he couldn’t have imagined what was about to happen in the coming days. A week later he is still looking for a way back home to Saskatoon.

“I took the opportunity to take 10 days off work to visit my father and extended family and did not believe or expect these things to happen,” said Dr. Shoker. “I’m caught in this fire unexpectedly and unwillingly.”

 Dr. Shoker moved to Canada from Egypt in 1981. He lived in Vancouver and Toronto before settling in Saskatoon in 1991 with his wife and four children. Currently he is the director of the transplant program at the University of Saskatchewan.

Dr. Shoker gets back to Egypt to visit his father and extended family as much as possible. So when he said his goodbyes before heading to Egypt, his daughter Sarah didn’t think twice about it.

“I didn’t even hug him when he left. He was going to visit the family, which he does at least a couple of times a year, so I just waved goodbye from upstairs,” she said. “It was just supposed to be another flight back home for him.”

It turned out to be a life-changing flight. What Dr. Shoker didn’t know was that he was about to embark on a looming countrywide revolution to overthrow a Hosni Mubarak-led Egypt. Mubarak has had an iron fist over the country for 30 years, until now. As news reports from Egypt became more serious, Sarah became uneasy about her father’s whereabouts. At one point all telephone and Internet services were cut off.

“I’m nervous. My dad is the type of guy who would be marching. He told me on the phone the other night from Cairo that sometimes it’s about sacrificing personal safety for things bigger than us,” Shoker said. “I just wish I was with him.”

And Dr. Shoker did march. He found himself in the middle of an estimated eight million impassioned Egyptians. While there were eruptions of violence and outrage, Shoker said he felt the march was productive.

“I am completely proud of my people. I cannot believe what they have done. I’ve talked to so many of them here. What they want, quite simply, is the democratic system we enjoy in the West,” said Dr. Shoker. “They want it now.”

While Sarah anxiously awaits her next update via phone from her father, she is leading her own march of sorts in Saskatoon. On Thursday, Feb. 3 Shoker, along with professors from the political studies department at the U of S, will host a panel discussion on Egypt. Shoker is eager to share her message with the Saskatchewan community.

“While I wish I was with my father in Egypt, I want to let people here know that they can’t forget about Egypt after the novelty of all of this wears off,” said Shoker. “Western pressure and influence is integral in Egypt’s progression.”

Back in Cairo Dr. Shoker is staying with his brother, who lives 15 minutes from the airport, in case he needs to get out immediately. He is scheduled to fly back to Saskatoon on Friday, Feb. 4, but wants one more chance to rally with his people.

“It is hard to leave without speaking loudly of the pain I have seen in the eyes of the people here.”

Back in Saskatoon, his daughter can’t wait for his return.

“I just want to give him that hug I regret not giving him when he left.”
Above:  Dr. Ahmed Shoker
Photo courtesy of Sarah Shoker