Mohamed Fahmy, the Canadian reporter whose imprisonment in Egypt sparked a global campaign for his release, was in Whitehorse last night to speak to business leaders at their annual awards banquet.
Fahmy spoke to a small group of reporters before giving his keynote speech, explaining that he’d come to Whitehorse to give a message of perseverance.
“We cannot let these people win,” he said, referring to terrorists and extremists.
“There are many examples of how terrorism has destroyed the tourism industry in many countries, and the business sector as well.
“My responsibility comes with raising awareness of how these people think and how we can fight it (terrorism) in a pro-active approach.”
Whitehorse was the latest stop on Fahmy’s busy schedule. Although he now spends most of his time in Vancouver, he was recently in New York City and Paris for different speaking engagements.
It’s been just over a month since he arrived in Canada following his release from an Egyptian prison known as “Scorpion,” where he spent 438 days.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pardoned Fahmy on September 23, after a nearly two-year ordeal in which he was imprisoned, released on bail and imprisoned once more.
A former Cairo bureau chief for Al-Jazeera English, Fahmy and two other colleagues were arrested on terror charges in their hotel room on Dec. 29, 2013.
The trio was charged with helping the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been branded a terrorist organization.
Fahmy said he was a pawn in a dispute between Qatari-owned Al-Jazeera, a staunch Muslim Brotherhood supporter, and the government of Egypt.
He said he received several letters from Whitehorse residents among the thousands of letters of support he read during his time in prison.
“That raised my morale, to know that a stranger on the other side of the world was supporting me,” he said.
Fahmy also chastised former Prime Minister Stephen Harper for not having acted quickly enough to secure his release.
His Australian colleague, Peter Greste, was deported several months before Fahmy was.
“I’m now working with Amnesty (International) in Canada and we’re submitting a protection charter to Mr. Trudeau, probably in January, that contains my ideas on how to protect Canadians abroad,” Fahmy said.
“The important part is leader-to-leader intervention. If Harper had called the Egyptian president during the window before my case had been referred to court, that’s the best possibly opportunity for deportation.”
Fahmy is keeping busy these days in a variety of ways. Beyond speaking engagements he’s also working on a book, teaching at UBC and working with his foundation to fight for press freedoms around the world.
To say he’s enjoying his freedom from prison would be an understatement.
“After spending 438 days in prison it’s hard for me to complain about anything,” he added.
“I walk the streets with my wife and it’s like I’m in Disneyland all the time”
Whitehorse city councillor Jocelyn Curteanu said Fahmy’s speech was both inspirational and educational.
Fahmy talked about various conflicts in the Middle East, as well as the plight of refugees leaving their countries.
“Especially when you’ve never been there, it’s hard to know about the day-to-day struggles and fears,” she said.
Fahmy was asked about his opinion on the fears held by some over Syrian refugees coming into Canada.
“Don’t believe the media,” he said.
Rick Karp, president of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, said he brought Fahmy up for the event because he carries an important message.
“There’s a similarity, I feel, between what’s going on with Mr. Fahmy and others around the world and to a small degree what’s going on here with First Nations,” he said.
“I think he has a lot to say about the role of business, striving, working hard and persevering. His message is that we can’t stop, we’ve got to keep an eye on what’s going on around the world.
“We can’t just sit up here in our protective little community and not be aware.”
Contact Myles Dolphin at