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Torturing Bahraini Doctors

Bahraini DoctorsFor months, courageous Bahrainis protested peacefully against the Al Khalifa monarchy's repressive brutality, corruption, and discrimination, as well as unemployment, poverty, and other unaddressed social justice issues.

The response has been ruthless state terrorism against anyone challenging regime control, no matter how lawless, barbaric, and unresponsive to basic human rights and needs.

Since the mid-February uprising began, America's media largely ignored it, especially extreme repression Washington supports. Complicit in helping a key ally, Bahrain is home to the Navy's Fifth Fleet, strategically located in the heart of the Persian Gulf.

On June 6, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) highlighted the mistreatment of doctors and nurses, explaining their arrests, detentions, torture and upcoming military trials for doing their job.

Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) President Stephen Soldz spoke publicly saying:

"We cannot be silent. Many of our members are health providers. The government of Bahrain arrested nearly 50 doctors and other health providers, many of whom have been tortured. Their 'crime' is refusing to let injured protesters die and informing the world press about the abuses they witnessed."

Scheduled to start on June 6, trials for 47 doctors and other medical providers will begin next week, maliciously charged with:

  • refraining from providing aid;
  • embezzling public funds;
  • physical assault;
  • assault leading to death;
  • possessing unlicensed weapons and ammunition;
  • not performing their employment duties, and thus endangering lives and health;
  • forcefully occupying a public building;
  • promoting regime change illegally;
  • inciting hatred against the regime;
  • promoting sectarian hate;
  • spreading false news and rumors harming the public interest; and
  • participating in unlicensed protests and rallies.

In fact, doctors and nurses are being tried for doing their job. They committed no crimes but are treated like enemies of the state.

Justifying its repression, regime authorities said a military court will try 23 doctors and 24 nurses. "They abused their profession and prevented some people from entering the Salmaniya Hospital (the nation's largest public facility)." In fact, despite extreme repression, they performed heroically, treating sick and wounded patients.

Yet Salmaniya Hospital was falsely called a hotbed of sectarian tension. BCHR said "it is quite clear that it was the presence of military and police inside the hospital which sparked this tension, with security forces interfering with the doctors' work," instigating violence by their actions.

In fact, regime authorities fear medical providers for reflecting the non-sectarian nature of the protests, opposite of what security forces claim.

"Their Hippocratic Oath means they have to treat patients regardless of politics or religion. They are a symbol of the unity of the majority against the oppression of the (fascist) government and its cronies, and therefore they are dangerous."

As long as King Hamad keeps Bahrainis divided and has Western and Gulf Council States backing, he can retain power. It's why he reacted violently against the slogan "No Sunni, No Shia, just Bahraini."

BCHR believes doctors and nurses were especially targeted because they're key witnesses to criminal acts. They've seen dead, wounded and tortured victims and can provide damning evidence if asked. If silenced, however, by intimidation, torture and/or show trials, key witnesses will be lost. "We must not let the government get away with these crimes."

Many other medical providers are afraid to speak publicly about what they've seen or know, fearing retaliation. However, some gave the international media anonymous statements.

On May 29, AFP headlined, "Bahraini female doctors recount detention 'horror,' " saying:

Released from prison, Shiite women doctors explained "abuse and torture by police after being accused of backing pro-democracy protests in the Sunni-led monarchy."

They explained they were tortured and abused to sign confessions, one doctor saying her interrogator said:

"I advise you that we will get you to say whatever we want, either by you saying it willingly, or we will beat you like a donkey and torture you until you say it."

Explaining she treated wounded patients, she was struck in the face, an interrogator saying:

"It seems you don't want to cooperate," accusing her of "stealing blood units to splash on the wounded" to exaggerate injuries for television and other crimes against state authorities.

Blindfolded and handcuffed, she was severely beaten, electro-shocked, thrown to the floor, beaten again with electric cables, especially the soles of her feet. "Even policewomen were shocked when they saw my state as I came out of the interrogation room," she said.

The next day, she was again abused, sexually harassed and threatened with rape, an interrogator saying "I will hang you from your breasts and rape you." She finally signed a confession to end the ordeal. Afterward, she spent 20 more days in prison before released, agreeing not to give interviews or participate in protests.

Other doctors described similar ordeals. Those freed can't travel, remain suspended from work unpaid, and 47 doctors and nurses face trials. AFP asked Bahraini authorities to comment, but got no response.

By politicizing medical care and abusing doctors and nurses, injured protesters are afraid to get treatment, fearing arrests, torture, trials and convictions. As a result, determining precise numbers hurt is compromised, suggesting many more than publicly known.

Nonetheless, for nearly four months, Bahrain's "had the highest per capita arrests and second highest per capita deaths of any Arab country (after Libya)...." America ignored it, Obama urging only dialogue and resolution, quietly going along with criminal viciousness.

As a result, it's up to people of conscience, independent journalists, and international public opinion to explain what can't be ignored, demanding accountability for crimes this great and all political prisoners released and exonerated.

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