Issue No.
190, February 2014 Latest update 9 2014f August 2014, at 4.39 am
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Mamdouh Aker
By Nabeel Kassis
It won’t be easy to capture in this limited space all that can be said about Dr. Mamdouh Aker: a medical doctor, a patriot and political activist, a human rights advocate, a contributor to many civil society activities, a family man, and a prominent member of society always on the move. This might not look too unusual until one realises that he does all the above full-time; one wonders where he finds the time and energy for it all. Having known him for over 30 years, I see Mamdouh Aker as a man of his generation, not just as a “man of the month.” He goes about everything he does with care, dedication, and unparalleled kindness and friendliness, always engaged and engaging, making him a sought-after member of boards and committees in prominent institutions, and a favourite panellist and speaker at public meetings. He is currently vice-chairman of the board of trustees of Birzeit University, a member of the board of the Welfare Association, a member of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights, and chairman of the board of Muwatin and Masarat (two study centres), amongst others. His past memberships on other civil society boards are too numerous to list. One must add, though, that Dr. Aker takes these associations very seriously, always active and faithfully participating in meetings and activities. As if this were not enough to keep him busy, he is an avid reader who rarely misses a new publication on the Palestinian scene, and he is also a social figure who takes his social obligations to heart and spares no effort to nurture his social relations. As a consultant urologist, he practices and sees patients in Ramallah, Nablus, and Jerusalem, and attends professional conferences abroad at least once a year.

Born and brought up in Nablus, Mamdouh Aker attended An-Najah College. He obtained his high school certificate in 1962 and went to Cairo University Medical School. It was during his Cairo years that he became affiliated with the Arab Nationalist Movement, with whose ideology he was most at home and which stamped his views on political issues for years. It was there also that he met Ohoud Kamal, from Nablus, who was studying pharmacy, and who later became his wife and life-long friend. Graduating in 1969 with an MBBCh degree, he went on to work as a physician in Kuwaiti hospitals, and then to Edinburgh, Scotland, for further training (1976-77), specialising in general surgery (FRCS, Edinburgh). After two more years as a general surgeon in Kuwait, he returned to the UK in 1979 to specialise in urology at King’s College Hospital in London, where he became a member of the British Association of Urologic Surgeons (1981). By then it was time for the Aker family (with two children, Nidal and Muhannad) to return home. He practiced at Al-Maqassed Hospital in Jerusalem for a few years before starting his private practice in Ramallah, in addition to being consultant urologist at St. Luke’s and Al-Ittihad hospitals in Nablus, as well as at St. Joseph and (later) Augusta Victoria hospitals in Jerusalem.

Life under Israeli occupation is not only about practicing one’s profession, however, and there is no “leading a normal life” within such a context. Dr. Aker was arrested by Israel in 1991 and placed in solitary confinement for 45 days for being an Intifada activist. Later that year, he joined the Palestinian delegation to the Peace Conference in Madrid and was a member of the negotiations team in Washington. He was involved in establishing the Medical School at Al-Quds University. Birzeit University honoured him in 2010, awarding him special recognition for his services to the community. Indeed, such a full life cannot be chronicled in a short passage.

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