Documenting Bahrain's Attacks on Health

11/23/2012
Medics treat a wounded Bahraini woman at a hospital in Manama on February 18, 2011 after police opened fire on anti-regime protesters (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)

In Bahrain, health workers have been drawn into the conflict that began in February 2011 when protesters called for reform and the government responded with violence. By treating wounded civilians, frontline health workers witnessed the effects of the government crackdown—and quickly became targets themselves.

One health worker recently told news outlet RT of her experience. “As a punishment for not obeying the authorities to abandon these patients, all the doctors who were involved in treating these patients, they were arrested. Myself personally, I was abducted from my house at 3 am in the morning, and I was badly mistreated… I was tortured. Later on, after being jailed for almost two months, I was prosecuted, tried in a military court and was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment,” said Dr. Nada Dhaif. She was later acquitted, but many other health workers were not.

On November 21, 23 health workers were sentenced to three months in prison. Four other health workers whose appeals were denied are currently serving sentences from one to five years in prison.

Physicians for Human Rights has been documenting the systematic attacks on health workers and patients and calling for an end to Bahrain’s violation of the principle of medical neutrality. PHR’s report Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System reveals the devastation caused by the government’s assault on doctors, patients, and the health system. Another PHR report, Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients, documents violations of medical neutrality.

“It’s a black day for Bahrain when it imprisons physicians and other medical professionals whose only ‘crime’ was to carry out their ethical duty to care for sick and wounded people,” said Richard Sollom, PHR’s deputy director.

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Physicians for Human Rights is a member of the Safeguarding Health in Conflict coalition. The coalition promotes respect for international humanitarian and human rights laws that relate to the safety and security of health facilities, workers, ambulances and patients during periods of armed conflict or civil violence.

Photo from RT.com: Medics treat a wounded Bahraini woman at a hospital in Manama on February 18, 2011 after police opened fire on anti-regime protesters (AFP Photo / Joseph Eid)