Packed house for rebel doctor
The book was launched at the Warragul Library last week. In introducing Issam, fellow cardiologist Brett Forge said he had worked hard to encourage Issam to work at West Gippsland Hospital.
He said the community was incredibly lucky to have him working in West Gippsland.
Dr Forge said Issam was an amazing guy and a wonderful doctor. “It is a great story for all of us and we can’t help but learn from it,” he said.
Dr Muteir said he had written the book for his young children so that when they were older they would understand why their father was a refugee from Iraq.
“Being a refugee can be controversial I wanted them to understand why I was here and how I got to be here.
“I wanted them to understand my story,” he said.
Dr Muteir said little was known about the war in Iraq and the effect it had had on everyday people.
He rose from poverty to train as a doctor despite losing three family members – one executed at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s government.
Dr Muteir emphasised the book was a memoir and contained no political agenda.
“I want the reader to come to their own conclusions, I don’t want people to misunderstand the issue of refugees or take it out of context.
“It can be very superficial we are not all terrorists.
“When I was thinking about these issues in relation to my children I thought how can I equip them with that knowledge.
“It seemed quite simple write a book and give it to them,” he said.
Dr Muteir committed to studying medicine after watching his sister die from asthma because they could not get medical assistance.
In a matter of fact way Dr Muteir described his working life in Baghdad where he ran a hospital for two months. He protected the 400-bed hospital, changed it from fee paying to free for the public and was labelled “Leader of Rebel Doctors” in US media. “It was not easy, it put my life in danger. But I managed to keep it running and free to the public.”
He said he survived by not taking sides and remaining calm in all situations.
Fearing for his life, Dr Muteir won a sixmonth Australian Government scholarship and arrived in Australia in 2007. It was his mother who told him not to return because of the situation in Baghdad.
“I had always listened to my mother and in this instance even though it was very difficult I listened to her again.”
His mother, brothers and a sister live in Iraq. Proceeds from the sale of his book were donated to the hospital.