Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, November 2008, page 71
Upcoming Events & Obituaries
—Compiled by Matt Horton
The Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts (ARCPA)/AL-JANA Center will host the touring Palestine Film Festival “Away from Home Again” in Lebanon during the month of November. For more information, call +961-1-819970 or visit <www.al-jana.org>.
The Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) will host both an Autumn Study Tour to Israel, Palestine & Jerusalem and a Clinicians’ Study Tour to Palestine & Israel in Nov. For more information, visit <www.icahd.org>.
The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s Anti-Apartheid Organizing Tour will stop in Atlanta, Boulder, Chicago, Dearborn, Louisville, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City and Washington, DC between Nov. 9 and 23. For more information, call (202) 332-0994 or visit <www.endtheoccupation.org>.
The 7th International Sabeel Conference, entitled “Beyond Remembrance: Facing the Challenges of the Future—60 Years after Nakba,” will be held Nov. 12 to 19 in Nazareth and Jerusalem. For more information, call +972-2-532-7136 or visit <www.sabeel.org>.
Dr. Ayub Khan Ommaya, 78, died July 10 at his home in Islamabad, Pakistan. He had Alzheimer’s disease. Born in Punjab, Pakistan, to a Sufi Pathan father and a French mother, he received his medical degree from King Edward Medical College in Pakistan in 1953 and his master’s degree in 1956 from Balliol College, Oxford University. He came to the U.S. in 1961 as a visiting scientist at the National Institutes of Health, and later served as chief of neurosurgery at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. His invention of a catheter system for delivering chemotherapy to the brain, known as the Ommaya Reservoir, was a significant contribution to the field of neuroscience and is still widely used today. He went on to develop the centripetal theory of traumatic brain injury, explaining how brains are affected by blunt force, and served as chief medical adviser to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and director of its head injury prevention program.
A trained opera tenor, known as the “singing neurosurgeon” for his performances before and after surgery, Ommaya helped found the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA), the largest Pakistani professional organization outside of Pakistan. Over the course of his career, he was the author of more than 200 peer-reviewed scientific articles. He retired to Pakistan in 2001.
Michael Ellis DeBakey, 99, died July 11 of natural causes at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, TX. Born in Lake Charles, LA, to wealthy Lebanese immigrants Raheeja and Shaker Morris DeBakey, a pharmacist, he received his medical degree in 1932 from Tulane University, where he invented his first medical device, a roller pump used in heart-lung machines. A pioneer in the field of cardiovascular surgery, DeBakey was the first to successfully use a partial artificial heart in 1966. He helped create more than 50 surgical instruments and was the first to use interactive telemedicine in 1963. In 2002 NASA named his ventricular assist device, the “Debakey VAD,” Commercial Invention of the Year. During his career he performed an estimated 60,000 operations, and his patients included Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon, the Duke of Windsor, the Shah of Iran, King Hussein of Jordan, Turkish President Turgut Ozal, actress Marlene Dietrich, and Russian President Boris Yeltsin. He was the author of more than 1,000 medical reports, papers, chapters, and books on surgery, medicine, and related topics, including The Living Heart (1977) and The Living Diet (1984). Considered one of the greatest modern surgeons, DeBakey received the Lifetime Achievement Award from United Nations (1999) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2008), was cited as a “Living Legend” by U.S. Library of Congress (2000), and was the first non-Russian named an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (2000).
Yousef Chahine, 82, died July 27 in Cairo. He had suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in June. Born to a Christian family in British-occupied Alexandria, Egypt, his father was a Lebanese lawyer and supporter of the Wafd nationalist party, and his mother was Greek. After studying engineering at Alexandria University for one year, he persuaded his parents to send him to the Pasadena Playhouse in Southern California, where he finished a three-year acting program in two. Returning to Egypt, Chahine began directing films with the help of cinematographer Alevise Orfanelli. He went on to direct more than 40 films, beginning with Baba Amine [Papa Amin, 1950]. His next film, Ibn Al-Nil [Nile Boy, 1951], was the first Egyptian feature to use exterior locations, and earned him his first of many invitations to the Cannes Film Festival. Seraa Fi el-Wadi (Struggle in the Valley, 1953) introduced the world to Omar Sharif, whom Chahine discovered in a Cairo cafe.
As a public figure and social commentator, he had a tumultuous relationship with Egyptian political life. An early supporter of President Gamal Abdul Nasser, Chahine would later criticize the Egyptian leader, and spent a brief period in exile before the two made amends. In the 1990s, Chahine not only was critical of President Hosni Mubarak and of U.S. policy in the Middle East, but walked a fine line with Islamicists, many of whom accused some of his films of disparaging Islam. Throughout his life he remained a staunch but critical supporter of Pan-Arabism and human rights, and as late as 2002, braved police attack and tear gas to stand in solidarity with his Palestinian neighbors.
Among his awards were the Cannes Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1997), the Carthage Film Festival’s Golden Tanit (1970), the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear (1978), and the Dubai International Film Festival’s lifetime achievement award for an Arab filmmaker (2007). He was a juror at the Venice Film Festival (1980) and at Cannes (1983). With his health failing, work on Chahine’s last film, Heya Fawda [This Is Chaos, 2007], was completed by his colleague Khaled Youssef and nominated for the Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival.