Monday, 30 April 2012
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.
** Source for dates of martial law: