Health workers face military trial for helping Bahrain protesters
THEY MOSTLY come at night. In the early hours of the morning, groups of soldiers and security officials arrive in a convoy of vehicles. They break down the door of a house and smash their way in. Often, they are hooded or masked to keep their identities secret.
There are no arrest warrants. They simply grab who they like, assault them and haul them away into the night. For many families in Bahrain, that is the last they have seen or heard of their relatives, and it has become an increasingly common experience since a “state of national safety” was declared in March.
Protests had been taking place in Bahrain since the middle of February, with demonstrators calling for a new constitution, a democratically elected government, and economic and social reforms.
Seven protesters died during February as a result of excessive force by the security forces as they cleared the Pearl roundabout, a focus point for demonstrations, in the centre of the capital.
On March 15th the government declared a state of national safety and sent in the army to clear the roundabout for a second time.
They also attacked the nearby Salmaniya medical complex, where many injured protesters were receiving medical attention, and which the authorities believed was being used as a base for protests.
Hundreds of people have been arrested in the two months since the state of national safety was declared. Most are denied access to their families or lawyers. In many cases there are real fears they may be tortured.
Hamid Sayyid (not his real name) is a 31-year-old man who was detained during the clashes at the Salmaniya medical complex at the end of March.
“They put me in the middle of a room, blindfolded, and several men, I don’t know how many, beat me and applied electric shocks on both legs,” he said after his release.
“It hurt so much that after they applied the first shock I fell on the floor because I could not feel my legs.
“They beat me so hard that I still cannot see from one of my eyes.” At least four detainees have died in custody in suspicious circumstances.
Scores of doctors, nurses and medical workers have been arrested. A number of these doctors were trained here in Ireland, at the Royal College of Surgeons, among them Dr Ghassan Dhaif, Dr Basim Dhaif and Dr Ali al-Ekri.
At the start of May, it was announced that 47 of these health workers, all from the majority Shia population, faced military trials on a range of charges connected to the protests.
The authorities have refused to release the names of the 47 but Amnesty International is concerned that many of these doctors and nurses have been detained because they treated injured protesters and spoke out against the government crackdown.
The doctors, nurses and medical workers in Bahrain need your help.
So do the hundreds of others whose whereabouts are unknown and who may be subject to secret military trials.
Please write immediately, calling on Bahrain’s government to disclose the whereabouts of everyone arrested since March 15th and to release those who are in prison solely for participating in peaceful protest or for providing medical attention to injured protesters.
You can write to, His Excellency, Shaikh Khalifa bin Ali bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 30 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QB, England.
Or log on to amnesty.ie and take action online.