Dublin Solidarity Demonstration in Anticipation of Sentencing
Public Notice / Media Advisory
[DUBLIN] Join Witness Bahrain Ireland this Tuesday for a demonstration in support of doctors, nurses, and other medical workers persecuted by the Bahrain regime for doing their jobs.
Following pro-democracy protests in February and March of 2011, doctors, nurses and other medical and health care workers in Bahrain, some of them trained in Ireland, were arrested, tortured and sentenced by a military court for treating injured demonstrators. Following the military court verdict, sentencing some of the doctors and nurses to 15 years in prison, the health professionals were retried in ‘Special Civilian Courts’ for multiple charges against the Regime. They now await their ultimate verdict, which is expected on Thursday 14th June, 2012.
We will hold a vigil outside the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) at 1pm on Tuesday 12th June to highlight the plight of RCSI’s Alumni and Staff, as well as to protest RCSI’s silence in the face of this persecution. We will then proceed to Dail Eireann to lobby public representatives. At 4PM we will hold a Press Conference at Buswells Hotel, where we will be joined via Skype by some medical workers from Bahrain.
Meeting with a Bahraini medic who voluntarily treats injured protesters, mostly in private homes.
The medic who agreed to meet me worked for Bahrain TV as a monitor assistant, before the 14th of February ’11 revolution started. When things got hectic someone from Salmanya Hospital (the main public hospital of Manama) called out in all the Gulf countries for urgent medic volunteers to treat people in need. That’s when his life took a drastic change. He quit his job and chose to become a medic working for the revolution.
He is a very energetic person and very enthusiastic to talk about his work too. When we were introduced to each other by one of my contacts he asked me if I smoked and I replied “ahianan” (“sometimes”; Arabic). “ahhh – today you will smoke with me I think” he assured me. After watching only half of his photos of badly injured people and dead bodies the sometimes indeed was the time for me to smoke a cigarette with him as he had predicted.
He started explaining to me how his work functioned due to the many restrictions to a medic’s work, and due to the great danger in his job of getting put in prison, injured or even killed by the Regime forces. As I have been told many times; patients who need treatment because of accidents as a result protests or anything related to the police can’t go to the hospitals for fear of being targeted by the Regime.
He used to live in a 2 room flat with 11 other medic volunteers from the newly founded “medics community” (the authentic name is anonymous). But since the martial law (15th of March – 31th of May ’11**) they have had to work under more secret circumstances and still must maintain this secrecy despite the fact that matial law is not officially in effect. the dates of the martial law is informed to me by the medic and not confirmed from elsewhere) His house had been raided several times, and when he went to stay at his brother’s house that was raided as well. “The police shot at the house. They came in and took everything. They completely cleared the house – even the fridge and the onions from the kitchen table”.
The community is paying all the medical expenses out of their own money and sometimes donations. When they know that there is going to be a protest in a village they wait in an apartment until the village starts sending the injured people to them. Sometimes the injuries are so bad that they have to choose between letting the patient die or send them to a public hospital from where the patient will almost definitely get sent to the police and thus prison. He always chose saving the live.
He told me that so many doctors and medics have gotten arrested or injured in Bahrain that’s it’s becoming a problem to find qualified people to do complicated operations even for patients who are not injured as a result of police brutality. Eye, brain and nerve surgery is especially a lot more difficult go get in Bahrain now. He told me about a 21 year old man who lost his life in a car accident because the hospital he came to no longer had doctors specialized in the type of brain surgery that he needed (see photo).
The medic had a slideshow of photographs showing injured protesters that we watched at the café where we had our meeting. We made sure to leave the screen of the laptop pointing to the wall in the corner behind us, so that it did not show the other café guests the photos. Regardless, I think my facial expressions gave a clear impression that we were not watching pleasant vacation photos. I’ve worked in war zones and seen injuries before but the cold hearted way these people were injured was brutal. I think I smoked 5-7 cigarettes since he started showing me the photos while explaining how each incident happened, how it was treated and in many cases how the patient was doing today. I felt really uncomfortable. A strong sadness planted itself in my chest. It’s possible to imagine why a government is trying to keep down an uprising, and why police officers, who might be scared, do brutal things in a desperate situation, but the way some of these cases looked, even children, it was rough. The whole time I was writing down the details in my little notebook. When a meeting is in English I normally write my notes in English too to avoid spending time on translation and to get the quotes exact, but I suddenly realized that I had begun writing in my mother tongue. The medic looked at me and smiled “I am used to this now”.
We finally watched all the photos and he burned me a cd for my blog. They invited me for a sandwich or an ice cream somewhere but the thought of eating was not very tempting at that moment and I had a lot to write. I gave my farewell and we arranged for me to go with him on a working day as soon as it was suitable for both of us. As I walked to the place I’m staying the warm breeze of the Bahraini April night sort of cleared my thoughts from all the sadness and I got my mind straight for work again.
As part of an observer delegation in Bahrain with the peace group Code Pink, I visited the village of Bani Jamrah with local Bahraini human rights activists.
In one of the many horrific cases we heard, a 17-year-old boy Hasan, his friend and his 8-year-old brother left their home to go to the grocery store. As they were entering the store they noticed some other youngsters running. Fearing the police would be following them, they decided to wait in the store. The 8 year old hid behind a refrigerator. The police entered the store with face masks on. They grabbed the older boys, pulling them out of the store and into the street.
Once outside the shop the police began to beat them with their sticks and hit them on the head, shouting obscenities and accusations. The police were accusing them of having been involved with throwing Molotov cocktails, asking over and over “Where are the Molotov cocktails?”
The four policemen, all masked and wearing regulation police uniforms, took turns beating the boys while one was instructed to keep watch to make sure no one was video taping. They seemed to be very concerned that there be no witnesses. Quickly, they forced the boys into the waiting police car. Inside the police vehicle was another youth about 18 who appeared to be “Muhabharat,” or plain-clothes police thugs associated with many dictatorships in the Middle East.
As the car sped off, the boys were told to keep their heads down “or we will kill you.” Soon they arrived at an open lot away from possible onlookers. As the two boys were being pulled from the car, the policeman who seemed to be in the charge shouted, “Make them lie down.” Once they were face down on the ground, the policemen took out their knives and stabbed both boys in the left buttock, leaving a gaping wound. The police thugs continued their “questioning”, using profanity to scare their victims. They threatened the boys that they would go to jail for 45 days for “investigation” and that they would never go back to school or get work.
When the thugs realized that they had no choice but to leave these victims, since they had no knowledge of the Molotovs, they searched them to see what they could steal. They took the boys’ mobile phones and asked them to hand over whatever money they had. When they discovered that the boys only had 500fils (about $1.50US), they kicked one of them in the raw wound, laughing as they left them bleeding.
“Who are these masked police and why would they do such things to children?”, you might ask. The boys said they were Syrian immigrants, part of a mostly foreign police force imported by the government and paid to inflict pain on the local people to dissuade them from protesting for their rights.
I asked if the police checked their hands, or smelled their clothes to detect the presence of petrol, since they were accusing the boys of carrying Molotov cocktails. Hussan, laying uncomfortably on his stomach, still in his bloody pants, answered, “No, they made no investigation. These police don’t investigate, they only accuse and punish. We had no contact with petrol, we are students.”
In the corner of the room was Husan’s aunt, holding a little baby that looked very sickly, the red hue of its skin almost burnt looking and its tiny eyes sore and red. I was straining now in my inquiry, like having to push words out my throat. “How old is your child?”, I asked. “Eight months old”, she replied. I knew about the nightly raids in this community, as I happen to be staying less than 200 meters from there and can see the light show each night as hundreds of teargas canisters are shot into this tight grip of middle class houses.
“How do you stop the teargas from getting in the house and affecting your baby?”, I inquired in a pained voice. I, myself, although not in village, feel the effects of the massive clouds of poison that pour over the entire area at night.
“Well, sir, wet towels, we place them each night under the doors,” she answers, as she lights down on the couch near a large flat screen television. “But, sadly, sir, this does not stop the gas. The baby suffers. I try to cover her face with a cloth but she does not like it and cries at the gas and the cloth at the same.”
“One way to stop the gas is to put plastic over the air conditioning unit,” she continued, “but the policemen always cut off the plastic and the gas seeps back inside quickly.”
They showed me a homemade video of those white-helmeted terrorists, using the very same issued knife that they used to cripple the boys, systematically, methodically removing the plastic that was placed to prevent the venomous gas from entering the house. Once removed, they can now shoot the gas, knowing that it will enter the house and poison all inside, especially the kids.
And so it goes in the Kingdom of Bahrain. So it goes in a world so addicted to oil, money and power that children can be stabbed, kidnapped, tortured, terrorized and gassed with nary a word from the outside world.
Are we, in America, so addicted to oil and beholden to powerful Saudis that we will block our ears to the cries of these Bahraini children? Or will we help them grow up in a world where they can know the joy and security that we all want for ourselves? The choice is ours.
Tighe Barry is a member of the peace group CodePink.