Nurses, doctors, pharmacists – arrested, tortured, jailed for giving care
SEND A MESSAGE OF SOLIDARITY TO BAHRAINI MEDICS
In February 2011, inspired by the wave of revolutionary uprisings sweeping the Arab world, tens of thousands took to the streets of Bahrain to demand democracy from the repressive monarchy. Dozens were killed in the brutal crackdown that followed, thousands arrested, and hundreds tortured and sentenced to long jail terms. Healthworkers who went to help the injured were beaten by the police, and on 16 March 2011, the security forces stormed Salmaniyya Hospital, where many of the wounded had been treated.
This campaign highlights the cases of seven Bahraini healthworkers who have all been imprisoned, and many tortured, over the past two years. MENA Solidarity Network is working with activists from the Bahraini Australia Youth Movement who have won the backing of the Australian Nurses Federation (ANF) for a campaign in solidarity with jailed Bahraini healthworkers. Hundreds of ANF members have already sent messages of support to their colleagues in Bahrain (go to http://anf.org.au/campaign/entry/bahrain-solidarity-campaign for more details). Read about how you can get involved below the medics’ stories.
Ibrahim al Demistani is a nurse, Secretary – General of the Bahraini Nursing Society and nursing supervisor at Alba Medical Centre. He was also Chief of Alba Nurses Union from 2002 – 2005. In expectation of the uprising Mr. Al-Demistani trained dozens of people in villages in first aid between 11th and 14th of February 2011. Al Demistani, who lost his son during the uprising, was arrested on 17th March 2011 for “hiding and harboring a fugitive”. The “fugitive” was a protester who was badly injured during a demonstration in the village of Kazakan on 14 March 2011. Al-Demistani was subjected to torture and forced to sign false statements as well as being forced to witness the torture of his colleagues Dr Ali Al-Ekri and Rula Al-Saffar. He is currently serving a sentence of 3 years imprisonment.
Hassan Matooq is an emergency department nurse at the Salmaniya Medical Complex, a volunteer with the Bahrain Nursing Society and a P.h.D student. On March 24 2011, Matooq was arrested from the Emergency Department by twenty masked soldiers. He was unable to contact his wife and six year old son for weeks and was denied access to a lawyer. He has been subjected to ongoing brutal torture, isolation and sleep deprivation. He was convicted of taking unapproved photographs and “fabricating reality”. He has received a three year sentence.
Haleema Al Sabagh is a nurse assistant who transported medical supplies from Salmaniya Medical Complex to treat injured protesters off-site, even though the removal of the supplies violated Bahraini law. The 35-year-old mother of a 2-year-old was arrested in January 2012 and has been sentenced to one year in prison for stealing property.
Dr Ali Al-Ekri is a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon who was trained in Ireland and has worked at Salmaniya Medical Complex for the last 20 years. During the Bahraini uprising he carried out his regular duties as well as treating injured protesters.
On March 17th 2011 he was abducted and subjected to torture, solitary confinement and detention over a six-month period. He was later charged in a military court and sentenced to 15 years in prison. On 14th June 2012 he was retried by a civilian court and his sentence reduced to five years.
Ahmed Ali Almushatat is a pharmacist who worked at North Muharram health center. During the uprisings he transferred medication to health centres treating injured protesters. Between the 20th March and 9th of June 2011 he was arrested, imprisoned, interrogated and tortured on several occasions and his pharmacy vandalized. He was initially sentenced to three years jail for possession of weapons, inciting hatred, overruling the government, and public gathering. On June 9 he appealed to the military court and the charges of weapon possession and overruling the government were dropped and his sentence reduced to two years. He remains imprisoned and is routinely placed in solitary confinement and subjected to torture.
Dr Ghassan Dhaif is married and a father of three. He is a maxillofacial surgeon who trained in Scotland and Ireland and then worked as a Senior Consultant at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. Dhaif treated protesters with facial wounds until he was arrested at Bahrain International Airport on March 19th 2011. Dhaif was beaten, subjected to torture and then abducted before any charges were laid. On the 29th September 2011 he was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. On June 14 2012 he was retried in a civilian court and his sentence reduced to one year. He currently remains imprisoned and subjected to routine torture with only limited visits from his family.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji is a consultant ophthalmologist who worked in the Salmaniya Medical Complex. He was dismissed from his job on the 7th of April and then arrested on the 12th of April 2011 in front of the A&E department of the hospital. His house was also attacked by security forces and his family threatened. Al Samihiji suffered an aneurism while in prison and was diagnosed by a colleague who was also imprisoned. It appears the beatings and torture he was subjected to contributed to this condition. He was convicted and sentenced to ten years imprisonment. He was provided medical treatment and was released until his final appeal where his sentence was reduced to one year. He was arrested and returned to prison on 2nd October to complete his sentence.
What you can do:
- Pass this resolution through your union branch
- This union condemns the imprisonment of Ibrahim al Demistani, Hassan Matooq, Ahmed Ali Almushatat, Haleema Al Sabagh, Dr Ali Al-Ekri, Dr Ghassan Dhaif andDr Saeed Al Samahiji, and resolves to write to the Bahraini authorities calling for their immediate release, and for the release of all other political prisoners in Bahrain.
- This union further condemns the British government’s continued willingness to sell arms to Bahraini authorities despite the ongoing repression there. Since 14 February 2011, the British government has approved at least £16m of export licenses for military equipment to the Bahrain, including small arms ammunition, body armour and training hand grenades. We call on the British government to stop the export of military equipment to Bahrain.
- This union resolves to circulate details of the campaign for the arrested medics to our members and encourages them to take part.
- This union further resolves to send this resolution to our region / annual conference calling on the union to mobilise a national campaign to highlight the repression against healthworkers, other trade unionists and activists in Bahrain since 2011.
- Show your solidarity with the imprisoned medics by sending a message. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or print out one of the signs below and take a photograph of yourself and your colleagues so that we can post on Facebook (www.facebook.com/menasolidarity ) and Twitter (@menasolidarity) to show people in Bahrain support from healthworkers internationally for their struggle.
- Put up leaflets and posters about the campaign around your workplace. If possible, make links with colleagues in the same departments and wards where the arrested Bahraini medics worked. If you aren’t a healthworker yourself, why not take some leaflets and posters to your local hospital and ask to speak to union reps about the campaign? Download a leaflet version of this webpage here.