Durban doctor in Wales leads Gaza protests in UK

Durban-born doctor Kumaran Devindran Pillay, now working in Wales, leads a protest in Swansea in support of doctors trying to help victims of the war in Gaza. | Supplied

Durban-born doctor Kumaran Devindran Pillay, now working in Wales, leads a protest in Swansea in support of doctors trying to help victims of the war in Gaza. | Supplied

Published Feb 18, 2024


Durban — A Durban-born doctor in Wales has been at the forefront of pro-Palestinian marches in the UK, saying that given South Africa’s history of oppression he couldn’t just watch as his colleagues were killed for wanting to save lives.

On Tuesday Dr Kumaran Devindran Pillay and other doctors and civilians in his network, stretching from Cardiff in Wales all the way to Manchester and London in England, held “emergency protests” against the attacks on Palestinian people and the medical staff trying to assist them despite the ongoing violence and lack of medical supplies and food.

Wearing their surgical scrubs splattered with red paint to resemble blood, Pillay and the other doctors took to the streets calling on Israel to stop the violence.

“It was an emergency protest because our actions are normally on a Saturday and Sunday, but we got wind that the Israelis were going to attack Rafah. “We have to show our support for our colleagues, people who dedicated their lives to saving lives, who are being attacked and they can’t do what they were meant to do,” said Pillay.

Pillay featured in the Independent on Saturday last year when he was appointed head of subject in the Department of Allied Health and Chiropractic, a key position at the University of South Wales, one of the largest educational institutions in the UK.

After the protest, Israel said it had carried out a “precise and limited” attack on Nasser Hospital, the biggest functioning medical facility in Gaza.

Medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders) said Israel shelled the hospital despite having told medical staff and patients they could remain.

“Our medical staff have had to flee the hospital, leaving patients behind,” MSF said on X, adding a member of its staff was detained at an Israeli checkpoint set up to screen those leaving the compound.

Pillay said they would continue to be a voice for the voiceless in Palestine through their protests.

“Doctors are still going to Gaza … but you can’t even get in there. Israel is controlling food, water, fuel going through the Rafah border. It’s a tactic: we starve them out, we bleed them out,” said Pillay.

On Friday the Independent on Saturday managed to contact Dr Mahmoud Abujundi, the Palestinian doctor introduced to us by his Durban colleague, Dr Seshni Reddy, who has been raising funds to get him and his family out of Gaza.

Abujundi remained stoic when asked about his and his family’s welfare as they tried to survive the violence in Rafah, now packed with 1.3 million people.

“I’m doing my best, I’m used to it,” he said, adding that the situation in Gaza was “really worse than what everyone thinks”.

“In my opinion you can’t explain the real situation without going through political points, (but) whenever I go through politics I expose my family and myself in danger because both of the fighting groups don’t want the truth to come out,” said Abujundi.

Humanitarian agencies have reported widespread malnutrition, starvation and rampant disease, especially in Rafah where Abujundi and his family sought refuge.

This week Abujundi’s mom and his sister both marked their birthdays but there was nothing to celebrate.

“They didn’t even remember, it was just another day.

“People all the time are asking for food and aid but I’m sure no one ever gets full.”

Despite the food shortages, some products like cheese, oil and flour could still be found in places, but nobody had money to buy anything and they had run out of cooking gas, Abujundi said.

“There is some product here in Gaza but it’s really expensive like hell.

“Oil, cheese, flour, whatever, it’s really expensive, multiplied by four at least.

“Oil for 1 litre is 25 NIS (Israeli new shekels), over R100, but it used to be 6 NIS,” he said.

Independent on Saturday