Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive):
The night before 14th February I browsed the Internet searching Facebook pages covering the hyped 14th February revolution, named "Day of Rage." Back then Twitter was not widely popular as it is now. I was wondering: Is it going to be like the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions? I was worried, my intuition told me something big and painful was coming to Bahrain, no doubt about that. And my intuition is usually right. I had a premonition: People would gather and a brutal security crackdown would come down on them without expecting it. How would it play out though, I did not know.The Roundabout was Bahrain's pulse
On the 15th of February, the first rally at the roundabout took place. I got there at three in the afternoon, and the protesters were still small in number. I parked my car close to the sidewalk of the roundabout. Moments later I started seeing hordes of people as the masses started coming from every angle. I was amazed and scared from a security assault. I moved my car close to Dana Mall. People of all ages, children, women, young men, the elderly, pregnant women, disabled, and others on wheelchairs. It was a magical ceremony that turned into reality. I could not take it all in, specially that it was happening in Bahrain. The Lulu roundabout monument turned into a magnet that pulled people to it; like the holy Kaaba in Mecca and the people were like the pilgrims that were visiting from all the towns and villages .
The large area around the flyover was filled with people, singing national songs, clapping, holdings hands that were moving like waves, and chanting slogans they had borrowed from countries that went through revolutions "The People want the downfall of the regime." They hung banners bearing the same slogan. I was still overwhelmed by this dream, I didn't expect the people of Bahrain to be in unity to this extent. This is a population that is brought together not by happiness by as much pain and misery, that made it go out and protest, especially after the fall of the first martyr. I decided not to go back home for lunch, but rather to work - to inspect the Resuscitation Room.
The next day my life took a different path. I was teaching in the Health Sciences Faculty, and finished around 7 or 8 in the evening. After that I would change into my jeans trousers and T - shirt and sports shoes, carry my white lab coat along with my dreams and concerns, and go straight to the roundabout. My life at home stopped, just as my social life did. The roundabout became the centre of my life. Where my heart, and hopes, were. There I would smell sweet freedom. The idea came up to set up a medical tent there. Our first concern was people's health and safety. It was the first tent that was erected in the area. It was fitted with equipment under the supervision of medical volunteers. Dr Mariam Al Jalahma allowed the disbursement of medicine (I have a written document of that). We worked on educating people about health, blood sugar and high pressure symptoms, and car accidents. I was walking on air - excited and ecstatic that I would not feel tired. I found myself in my real profession, volunteer work that I am passionate about. I would even call my friends at the hospital, asking them if they needed my assistance I would be available here and there, one foot was here, and the other was there .Thursday's Wound
Medical staff demonstration to Lulu roundabout
On the 17th of February at 6:30 am I arrived at the Faculty of Health Sciences where I taught. I didn't hear about the bloody crackdown yet. On my way to Salmaniya hospital the roads were empty and quiet. I got to the college, and went directly to my office and prepared coffee. Then I went to inspect - the students had not arrived and the classes were empty. I received a call from the Emergency medical team saying "Leave the college and come here, the roundabout has been attacked." I went back to my office, changed into my roundabout gear, and my white coat over it. I got to the emergency unit and saw that the number of staff is enough, so I went to help the paramedics. I called the medical tent "how is the situation?" They replied "Come here and get first aid." I got into the ambulance with the things they asked for. I went there to see a sight that put me in shock; a hurricane of chaos, clouds of tear gas, the sounds of stun grenades, and yelling. I got out of the ambulance to face that flurry, and out of haste I fell on my knees with the equipment. Someone helped me and quickly took me to his car to protect me. He got me in the car but I yelled "let me out! let me go! I want to help the people ."
When I got out of the car I saw Dr Nabeel Tammam, so I pointed him to the car I got out of. The young men helped him. I was worried about him, especially that he had cancer. I ran with the first aid kit and met a young man that volunteered his pickup truck to carry the injured. He said "would you come with me?" I agreed immediately and we moved towards Dana Mall. In front of me was a thick line of riot police. The volunteer was driving, and another young man was sitting next to him, and me and the others were picking the injured from the ground, as we were attacked with tear gas canisters, we would kick them away and lift the injured. The car was full of injured people, I even laid one on my lap. And by the way, a pick-up truck is good for the injured as it offers them fresh air, and it is better than an enclosed ambulance in this case. We continued taking them to the hospital and going back again struggling to get the most we could. (I asked how were you able to go back and forth when the roads were jammed?) She replied: When people saw the white coat, they gave us way because this car was an ambulance .Martyr Abdulredha Bu Hmaid
The roundabout was assassinated. People's hearts were burning with rage as a result of the tragedy. I went to the hospital on Friday the 18th in the afternoon, expecting something to happen, but it did not. I got to the traffic light in Salmaniya, heading to Sehla where my house is, and I heard continuous gunfire that made the car shake. I was in deep fear. That was the first time I heard guns in Bahrain. I heard it in Ghaza, in Lebanon, but not here. I decided to go back to the hospital, but could not get in because of the angry crowds. I changed my direction back home. I called the Emergency Department and asked them "do you need me?" They replied "We have enough medical staff." I went home very sad and started crying. I was eager to get any news, to know that the bullets were used to stop and disperse a march that was heading to the roundabout after the end of Martyr Mushaima's funeral [first martyr in 14 Feb Revolution], and in defiance of the armoured vehicles, it was Abdulredha Abu Hmaid's fate to die by gun fire .The roundabout, the epicenter of freedom
On the 19th of February the Crown Prince ordered all the military forces withdraw from all the roads in Bahrain, and so people went back to flooding the demonstrations at the roundabout. That day the medical team was invited to the stage on the roundabout to be honored for their heroic role during the bloody day. I suggested we go out at night when it was dark in a candle lit march, a silent march that is worthy of our martyrs and their place in our hearts. The march comprised of all levels and specializations: Doctors, consultants, surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, paramedics, and x-ray technicians. Every one of them wore their work dress, and carried a lit candle. We got out of the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) to the roundabout. As we took part in that majestic procession, we heard people happy to greet us say "You made us proud! You lifted our heads high!" The cars would give us way; one of the people got out of his car and bowed to us in grace and respect.. Whenever we passed by a spot where a martyr died, we would stop and recite "Al Fateha" verse of the Quran, kiss the ground where his blood was spilled, and put a candle to light up his memory .
The medical tent was back again, and the young men started building a new stage with a new decor, and life came back along with the tea stands and the political societies' tents, Wefaq, Waad, Amal, the Lawyers society, the Teachers society, and others. We convinced the administrators of the stage to give us this important time. Whenever I would arrive at the roundabout, I would look around the place and inspect it. I would ask the colleagues about the treated cases, such as burns from tea or hot oil, I would note the mistakes and write down the comments, then I would get on the stage, advising women and hookah smokers to stay away from the crowd, and women to stay away from the coal that might catch on to their flammable silk robes. I loved kidding with the crowd, so I would say: Hookah out Hookah out... Hookah what? And they would chant: Out out! People would come to the medical tent seeking treatment from anything like common flu, back pain, infected throat or ear. We would ask them: why wouldn't you go to the Health Centres? They would reply: Why would we go there? Everything is better and more pleasant here
The medical tent became the roundabout's clinic; Bahrain's clinic if you wish. Visitors of Health Centres became less, which decreased the pressure on them. I suggested setting up standing lines between the crowds, and so iron rods were put in place, but then I requested them changed to ropes for safety reasons. I also asked the youth to number the palms so that lost children could easily be located. Then there was a tent specified for lost and found items, and little by little the roundabout got organized with chairs for people that cannot sit on the ground. After the spread of stands with all sorts of sandwiches, rice, local dishes, Bahrainis got excited about cleaning up the place and organizing it. We started an awareness campaign about hygiene that people quickly took part in, since everyone wanted to participate in any service they could provide to the revolution. They were willing to do anything for the revolution .
People started coming to the roundabout to participate in the political debates that took place every night, or they would wander around to the tents with their questions in different fields: Medicine, Law, Academia, etc. I saw a lot of foreigners: Americans, Brits, Indians, and Filipinos. The youth would take extra interest in these visitors, because they know that they will be eye witnesses for how civilized and peaceful the protest was. And indeed it was; we had not witnessed any fights, burglary, or bad behaviour, but rather the gathering became more organised, and tents started popping up as far as the eye could see .
Beautiful days could not be forgotten, even through the painful experiences we have been through, which we are still going through to this moment. The memory of the human chain from the roundabout to Al Fateh mosque was creativity that exceeded imagination; Bahraini creativity has intrigued the world, the peaceful marches with the waving flags that took to the streets in Bahrain, with slogans that demanded reform and changing government, and others .In the midst of the security crisis
Keep in mind the role of the medics was not limited to the roundabout. I volunteered elsewhere; as the president of the Bahrain Nursing Society, I was with all the nurses and nursing volunteers, which were around 70 people. One day I thought of forming a human chain at the emergency entrance to prevent people from going to the ambulance when it arrives, because an ambulance made everyone curious to see what was going on, which would get in the way of the paramedics carrying the injured, as the chain would not open until the ambulance arrived. It was my responsibility to assess and evaluate every case of injury and direct it to the type of treatment .
One time I stood on the stage in the emergency area, and announced over the microphone: "We heard news that a group of thugs (pro government vigilantes) are coming to attack the hospital; this might just be a rumour, but we should be cautious." We made sure the people inside the hospital were ready should it happen. To that end, we prepared a plan based on a drill; when the thugs attack all the women and children are brought quietly in the corridors, not in the wards which might disrupt the patients. They could stay at the second and third floor corridors. The exercise was a success.
That same night at ten I heard yelling and saw with my own eyes a thug running from Arabian Gulf University, carrying a wooden stick with nail sticking out of it. I was standing close to the emergency entrance. A group of youth confronted him, and others ran after them yelling "Down with Hamad." We stopped them from running after them. I pleaded them "Don't chant controversial slogans, now is not the time. We need quietness to cure people. Please chill out." I read out a short prayer and they repeated after me to calm them down .
One time, before the incident above, Ibrahim Al Demestani stood on the stage and said "Please do not call on the death of Al Khalifa; as some of them are decent people. Don't chant political slogans." When I was given the microphone I stressed: "The crown prince allowed us to protest in the roundabout and not here." I did not encourage protesting in the Emergency Department parking space, and I would always bring their attention to allow space for the patients .Emergency Tent
Three days before the second strike on the roundabout, the Ministry of Health issued an order to erect an emergencies tent in the space outside, a big tent that covered twenty medical beds. It took us four hours to set it up. We sacrificed all our time and comfort. When night arrived it was difficult for female medics to go home, we volunteers would sit outside the hospital in order not to disrupt the medics inside. Like guards on the doorsteps of a gate, we shivered in the cold night, but our love for our country and duty provided the warmth that helped us in these thankless tasks. The hospital became the home and refuge from the evils of the security forces that were watching every movement in the streets, the roads were not safe. My husband would call to confirm "You can’t enter Sehla. Stay there it’s safer for you." After that, Peninsula Shield forces would storm in and the whole place would turn into a military barrack .
Under this dire situation we were not able to attend Ali Al Demestani's funeral in 14th March who got run over by a car on the flyover next to the roundabout, that in addition to a more important reason, which was our professional responsibility and humanitarian call of duty, and in preparation for tougher times ahead. Everyone was cooperative and hardworking, attending to every order without hesitation or indignation. We attended to every little detail, keeping in mind that the medics were coming and we provide them with food and water in case they were hungry, and did the same thing in the Emergency Department. Whatever food was available was for the patients first, and we would eat what was left over, that is if any was left over. We gave them all our energy, all of what we owned, our all .Sitra Massacre
We started getting exhausted, as our energy and bodies were worn out. We would have a short nap during day time when it was quiet. In the morning I would go home to shower and change, then quickly went back to the hospital. At night Sitra was being attacked, food supplies were running low. The security situation was terrible, that a sandwich was split in four; every person got a quarter of a sandwich to quell their hunger. If it had not been for the food stand that was set up in the space outside Emergency Department, we would not have gotten any at all .
In the afternoon there was a random killing. The authority has shown its appetite for violence and its disregard for citizens, and so the medical staff were subject to atrocious targeting, as they got beaten without reason. The pharmacist Ahmed Al Mshatat, in prison now, took his private car that day to supply Sitra Health Centre with necessary medicines from Salmaniya Medical Complex. Mr. Mohammed Abdulrahim, ex-head of Ambulance Services at the SMC and Dr. Amin Al Saati were not allowed to enter Sitra and were beaten and humiliated. I remember we gently carried Abdulrahim, worried that his back problem, prolapsed disc, might slip out of place. Unfortunately he testified against the medical staff later on .
One of the ambulances arrived, and Dr. Ibrahim Al Aradi and Dr. Hanin Al Bosta got out. Dr. Hanin ran out crying as she hugged me and said "someone slapped me on my face and abused me." That was a painful day that can never be forgotten. Sitra residents said they saw a white van and the driver was disguised as an ambulance in a white lab coat and was shooting people with a shot gun. After that we made an announcement on Facebook and WhatsApp not to get into an ambulance until they were sure it was genuinely the hospital's ambulance and had the Ministry of Health name .
A normal girl that I didn't know came to me. I was struck with her courage and nobility. She gave me the keys to her brand new car and said "This is my car, at your service, you can do with it what you wish." We took out the back seats so it is easier to lay down the injured, and took off to Sitra. There were also female medics that were residents of Sitra that knew its villages and in-roads. They drove off in their cars guiding the medics to the injured, they performed a heroic job. That day injuries were brought in until 11 at night - they reached 785 cases; suffocation, injuries, and others .Except Ahmed Farhan's head
When they brought in the Martyr Ahmed Farhan, I saw a head wrapped in a white bed sheet not in gauze. I looked at his handsome face. I looked at his half open eyes. It was like he was looking at us, talking to us; we should take note of what his hazel eyes were saying. I placed my hand on his neck to check his pulse. Someone held my hand and whispered "this is a martyr." I never forget that hand that stopped me (her eyes get teary and her voice chokes up) people were crying frantically, yelling "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) because they had seen him before me. Others were knocked unconscious; people were asking me in the corridor "Is he alive or dead?" I would say: "God willing he will live." What can I say when I am asking them to remain calm ?
The injured were flooding the place, in hundreds. People were tired and we could not control their bursts of rage, because we ourselves were not able to see these sights, all that misery. We as medics, have seen a lot of injuries; we have seen ears bleed, noses and heads and from everywhere. But to see an open head completely emptied out - we were never taught that, simply because no one would imagine it .
Farhan was brought in to the Resuscitation Room and I was outside. Someone came to me and showed me a video of the victim; I saw an open head with bits of his head left and right, like an open window in the wind. That moment I don't remember who came to me and said "We have to bring the brain from the petrol station, where he was murdered." I got a phone call from Sitra: Would you come here to collect the brain? We cannot send it with anyone." Someone volunteered and said "I will go get it Madam." I strongly refused - we don't want someone else dead! Enough!" He insisted on going, so I said then let me know once you come back so that I am sure you're safe. I followed a certain method; when I sent someone from the medics, I would write his name, telephone number, where he lived, and asked him to come back personally to me, so that I would be sure they arrived safely. Indeed this brave young volunteer came back with pieces of brain to say "I'm back with the thing." Ouch, I suppressed my pain and terror and said "take it to the morgue ."
The worst case we came across was Ahmed Farhan's case. My limbs would shake when I remember the shattered head. That look full of regret is impossible to forget. I would ponder when I remember looking into his eyes, as if he was talking to me saying "look at what injustice has done to me." At other times it would seem like he was apologizing "Sorry I could not do anything for you, they defeated me and murdered me in cold blood ."
(But Ahmed Farhan was different). When I got out of prison, visiting the martyr’s house was one of on first priorities. I went to his family, hugged his mother and cried a lot. When I shook his father’s hand I also grieved. When I met Abdulmonem Mansoor, the hero who carried Farhan, I was wrenched with pain and I squealed. It was painful not to offer my condolences during the funeral. But we were under a barbaric siege that prevented us from many things. Ahmed Farhan will forever be in my heart, like a son.