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Bahraini Doctors: A Thorn to the Regime - part 1

27/06/2011م - 11:04 ص - 9189 قراءة

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Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive):"The doctors were the fish that the regime wanted to swallow. It swallowed the fish in a bite. But the regime forgot that the fish had a thorn" An observer.

Why have the doctors and medical staff been targeted more than anyone else in Bahrain? What dangers they posed to the regime? How have events unfolded in Salmaniya Hospital from the 14th of February till now? How did the medical staff cope with the difficult and tumultuous times that had shocked them and were unprepared for? How the events escalated outside the hospital, and what impact those events had on the hospital? What humiliation and torture have the doctors been subjected to inside Salmaniya Hospital, in the other health centres, and in the regime cellars?

This report will try to cover those issues in three parts. This report sources are the medical staff testimonies, whose names will not be revealed, the documented incidents and bulletins, and the doctors' and the patients' statements that had been written in the police records and were secretly obtained.

The beginning was on the 14th of February 2011, the first day in the protests when the slogan "The population wants the reform of the regime" was chanted. The security forces brutally dispersed the peaceful rallies that were staged in different parts of Bahrain. Salmaniya Hospital received a number of cases of injuries and suffocations by tear gas. Then the hospital received its first death case. It was Mr. Ali Mushaima'a (21 years) the first victim in the revolt. A crowd of about fifty of Mushaima's relatives assembled immediately at the hospital. The numbers of crowd increased in few hours to 800, as stated in the investigations records by Walid AlManem, (the hospitals CEO). The hospital management was unable to make the crowd leave. The security forces reached the hospital early but were unable to restrain the angry crowd. They entered the ICU where Mushaima'a's body was lying. The foreign media was present and shot some pictures of Mushaima'a's body. Walid AlManea said in his testimony that he informed the Under-secretary for Hospital Affairs at the Ministry of Health, Dr. Ameen AlSsaati, about the situation, who told him that he was not able to do anything. The body was transferred to the morgue. The hospital was chaotic till two parliament members from AlWefaq (the main Shia political society) came and calmed the angry crowd. The crowd left at 1AM, and the security troops had received an order to withdraw. Everyone left.

"The concerned doctors were not involved in that episode. The hospital administration was the only party which managed the event. The administration was unable to control this relatively small crowd, although an emergency plan was drawn days before the event, as the date of the revolution had been declared on the social media networks" One of the female doctors said.

In his statement to the Attorney General, Dr. AlManea affirmed that the previous minister Mr. Faisal AlHamar requested to arrange for a meeting to discuss crisis management plan as a precautionary measure. The meeting was chaired by the under-secretary AlSsaati, and the tasks were assigned to the concerned staff at the hospital to do the necessary when needed. However, from the first day the administration failed to manage the crisis.

February 15, 2011. The funeral of the first victim

In the morning, the mourners crowded at the hospital. The security forces started to fire tear gas and rubber bullets. The funeral proceeded from Salmaniya to Bilad Alqadeem, then turned right to enter Jidhafs to end at the cemetery. But then something happened, "We were at the funeral when we heard that the second martyr had fallen" one of the participants said. The victim was Fadhel AlMatrook (32 years). He was killed by the anit-riot police while he was marching in procession of the first victim's funeral. The crowd returned to Salmaniya Hospital in larger numbers. The chanting furiously got louder "The population wants the downfall of the regime".

In the afternoon, the king was on TV to apologize for the tragic events, "In the light of what happened, yesterday and today, we regret the two deaths of our dear sons. Therefore we offer our warm condolences to their relatives and pray to God the almighty to grant them patience, peace and solace. As all should know, we have assigned his Excellency brother Jawad bin Salem AlOrayidh the deputy prime minister to form a special committee to investigate the reasons that had led to those tragic events"

Before the appearance of the king on TV, a crowd was heading to the Pearl Roundabout. In the evening they started to erect their tents, to start a sit-in intended to continue till their demands had been fulfilled. The formal presence of the doctors started at this point. The previous events led the doctors to agree on the need of the availability of a medical tent in the roundabout as a precaution for any emergency.

There were two medical tents. They were fitted with primary needs. Dr Ali AlEkri is being tried now for stealing medical materials for one of the tents. However, a leaked document from the Ministry of Health revealed the contrary. In that document there was a formal request from Mr. Abdulhay AlAwadi, the under-secretary of the Ministry of Health to Mr. Walid AlManea the Hospitals CEO to supply materials and equipment for the clinic in the Pearl Roundabout, and it was upon a request from Dr. Ali AlEkri.

Some doctors brought medical equipment from their private clinics and put it in the tent "I left it there in the tent to take it later after nobody needs it" One of the doctors said.

The working hours were organized into three shifts and there was a doctor in each shift. The under-secretaries Mariam AlJalahma and Ameen ASsaati suggested paying the doctors a shift allowance, for both the primary and secondary care. The doctors refused the offer, as they considered themselves doing a voluntary job to help the injured. "Their aim was not challenging the regime nor chanting against it. They were apolitical. “They were only doctors who believed that treating the injured was their humanitarian and professional duty" One of the doctors said.
Things went quietly in the remaining hours of 15 February. It went similarly on the next day. Thousands of protesters continued to gather at the Roundabout. They erected more tents and staged protests demanding reforms. Salmaniya Hospital was not the focus of the events anymore once the Roundabout had surfaced.

In the dawn of 17 February, Dr. Ali AlEkri and Dr. Sadeq AlEkri were in their night shift in the doctors' tents with other medical staff. There was something looming. Nobody expected the events that were about to take place, nor the brutality that would accompany them. A sudden attack at 3AM by the security forces while most protesters were asleep. The two doctors were attacked directly and they saw for themselves the brutal force used against the women and children who were sleeping at the roundabout. The troops raided the tent where Dr. Ali AlEkri was working, he told them "please, don't beat us. We are medical staff and we are here for emergency cases". They fired tear gas inside the tent. Dr. Ali AlEkri left with some medical staff and they all went in in his car to Salmaniya Hospital.

Dr. Sadeq AlEkri was in the other tent. He left it, but later remembered that one of the medical staff was still sleeping there. He went back while the troops raided the tent. His white robe did not help him with them. He told them he was a doctor, but neither that could help. They kicked him with their heavy boots and beat him with batons and guns buts. He was severely injured and was later transferred to the operations room.

The security forces proceeded from the roundabout towards the Salmaniya Hospital. They reached the Psychiatry Hospital, where they started to prevent the ambulances from reaching the roundabout. The troops stopped some ambulances and beat the paramedics.
A call for help for the ambulances came immediately after the roundabout had been attacked. They left between 3:30AM and 6:30AM but were not able to come back with the injured. The injured were taken to Salmaniya hospital, mostly in private cars as the hospital was considered a safe haven. The medical staffs were in a shock. Nobody knew the number of the injured, neither the severity of their injuries. The injured started to pour into the hospital in private cars. The crowd started to gather again, in more numbers, with more anger and frenzy. Everybody was shocked. Two victims were killed and dozens of protesters were injured.

After 8AM, many crowds gathered at the hospital. The protesters tried to go back to the roundabout; the security forces confronted them with tear gas, rubber bullets and birds shotguns. They fired at the protesters at close distance. A victim was shot at by placing a gun on his head and his head exploded. The journalist Ms. Nazeeha Saeed witnessed that tragic event and published it to the media. In her verbal testimony to "Bahrain Mirror" she said that she had seen another protester fall down, who would turn out to be another martyr on that day. There were various injuries admitted to the hospital. One of those was inflicted by birds gunshots in the neck, but the gunshots had spread into his lungs. The injured was saved miraculously.

The doctors were perplexed and shocked because of the large number of cases that overwhelmed their capacity. They feared that there were more. The Emergency Department turned into chaos. A large number of the victims' relatives and the protesters were crowding. The doctors decided to go in the ambulances to treat the injured in the roundabout. Suddenly there were no ambulances. When the doctors asked about them, the hospital administration told them that the crowd impeded the ambulances movement so the vehicles where moved to Kanoo Health Center. Some of the doctors went to Kanoo Health Center to ride the ambulances and head to the roundabout, but they found the gates locked. The time was 9AM and the injured were still pouring into the hospital in private cars.
Between 9AM and 11AM, the doctors started to worry. How to reach those injured who were still in the roundabout amid the security forces siege that shut down all the ways to the roundabout? How could they make sure that all the wounded had been evacuated? The ambulances were prevented from reaching the roundabout, and the paramedics were beaten and their vehicles taken away. A group of doctors went to meet with Dr. Walid AlManea (the Hospitals CEO), and consequently the ambulances were allowed to leave as at 11:30AM, permission from the Minister came for the ambulances to fetch the injured. From 6:30AM till 11:30 the ambulances were not allowed to go to the roundabout. "Nobody knew why the ambulances were not allowed to go to the roundabout before that time. The only explanation was that the security forces had a special job that they wanted to perform there in those five hours, and after they had finished their special job, they allowed the ambulances and the medical staff to go" One of the female doctors said.

Before the ambulances were permitted to leave to the roundabout, the medical staff were about to explode in an angry revolt. At the Emergency Department, the doctors divided into two groups, a group wanted to go out and protest against preventing the ambulances from going to the wounded in the roundabout. Dr. Ali AlEkri was with this group. He witnessed the brutal attack against the protesters and whose relative Dr. Sadeq AlEkri was injured in that attack. The other group had Dr. Nabeel Tammam and he was of the opinion that the doctors should have remained in the hospital to treat the injured. The first group went out in a spontaneous demonstration. They were under the effect of the shocking event. It was the first time in Bahrain's history that the medical staff experienced such an event. The second group met after they got the go-ahead from the under-secretary Ameen ASsaati for a meeting. The call for the meeting was declared on the Salmaniya Hospital paging system. Around 50 doctors attended the meeting. The objective was to find a solution for the chaos that reigned in the hospital. In the meeting, they phoned the head of the Doctors Society Dr. Ahmed Jamal and his deputy Dr. Ali Ebrahim. After that a statement of condemnation was issued: "What happened today of using excessive and unjustified force by the security forces that resulted in deaths and severe injuries among groups of the citizens who were gathering in a peaceful sit-in which was allowed by the constitution and international norms is alarming and unaccepted. Preventing the medical staff from performing their mission in rescuing the injured and moving them to the hospital is not sanctioned by the international and humanitarian laws. Therefore the Doctors and the Dentists Societies condemn and deplore such unjustified violence against the peaceful citizens and the medical staff who offered them the necessary treatment and what resulted from the violence of injuring some of the medical staff by severe wounds. We demand the government, especially His Majesty the King to intervene to stop such acts and actions harmful to the citizens and the country and prevent the spread of dispersion and panic in the ranks of the same and safe society".

At half past eleven, while the first group of the doctors was demonstrating, the second group was culminating their meeting by issuing the two societies' statement. At that time the Minister's decision was, finally, released to allow the ambulances to go to the roundabout. The doctors cut off their demonstrations and rode in the ambulances to the roundabout. "We did not find anything there. Why, then, were ambulances prevented from reaching the roundabout for five hours? We surveyed the vicinity of the roundabout may be injured here or there, but have not found any one" explains one of the doctors.

Would what the doctors had witnessed of horrific events stop here? Friday 18 February saw a new and more complicated set of events the doctors had to experience.


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