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Testimonies from Bahrain: A hospital under siege

By a medical worker from Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama.

Thursday 17 March 2011

The morning after martial law was announced in Bahrain, I went to work at the Salmaniya Medical Complex early, only to find that the hospital had been seized by the military.

After hearing that the protesters had been attacked by the army, I went to the emergency room to try and help, but I saw no patients there.

A few minutes later, the military forces starting throwing tear gas into the car park facing the emergency room, and we started getting a few patients. The military started breaking up the cars in the car park and they destroyed a big tent the hospital administration had set up to accommodate excessive casualties.

Ambulances were prohibited from retrieving the injured people and other health centres started calling to say they had patients with serious injuries but no ambulances to transfer them to Salmaniya.

The Minister of Health Dr Nezar Albaharna met with the head of the military to try and convince them to allow ambulances and doctors out to bring at least the severely injured to hospital. They eventually agreed, but as soon as the doctors reached the hospital gate, the military beat them and humiliated them very badly.

At 12 noon, more patients started to arrive. Two were already dead, and a few cases were taken to the operating theatre or the intensive care unit. Among the cases there were two serious injuries – one with a gunshot wound in the thigh and a man with an abdominal injury who needed a bullet removed from his bowels.

When the military began beating any staff who tried to go home that night, the hospital administration announced that nobody was allowed to leave. We slept in the hospital that night.

Monday 11 April 2011

Around 12 noon, while I was working, the hospital administration called me to their office.

When I got there, four masked men carrying guns told me and four other doctors to accompany them to the CID [Criminal Investigation Directorate] for interrogation. When we reached the CID, they called my name and blindfolded me before taking me away in a car. During the trip an officer in the car pushed my head down out of sight.

We reached our destination; a place that smelled like a hospital.

The officer pushed me inside, where a nurse came and took my temperature and blood pressure. I wasn't allowed to talk or ask what was happening. Then a doctor came and asked me about my health – they discovered that I had a high temperature so they put me on a saline drip and gave me some medicine.

I was blindfolded throughout this whole process, which lasted three hours. The officer, the driver and another man from the clinic were teasing me, saying, “You bloody Shia don't deserve to live, you should go to Iran”. They asked me to sing Bahrain’s national anthem.

The officer threatened to force the bottle of saline solution inside my mouth, saying, “It will be faster”.

This whole time I didn't know what was happening – why they had taken me and what they wanted from me.

They returned me, still blindfolded, to the CID, where I was made to wait for an hour before being brought to another building to be interrogated.

Before I was moved again, the officer started slapping my face with both hands. I felt numb and cried then said, “I will take you to the people who can make you confess”.

I was then taken to a room where I could hear people chatting and laughing. One of them immediately said, “Here …we can interrogate you non-stop for 48 hours until you confess”.

They slapped me twice again very forcefully. They kept me standing, blindfolded while I listened to them mock my family and our religious figures.

Later, they kept me standing in a corridor, blindfolded and facing the wall. I could hear people coming and going, and some of them tried to shout in my ears.

Finally about six hours after my horrific ordeal began, my captor made me sign a bunch of papers without reading them – pointing to where they wanted me to sign, which I could see by lifting the blindfold a little bit.

That night I slept on a chair, still blindfolded.

After two days of continuous interrogation, they transferred me to prison. They banned me from calling my family for a week.

I spent 25 days in jail before being released on bail. They told me the King had pardoned me.

A month later, I was surprised when they called me, telling me to attend a military court the next day. I wasn’t prepared, and even had to look for a lawyer. When I arrived at the court, several of my colleagues were also there.

The judge read out the charges against us and we were asked to plead guilty or innocent. When I said I wasn’t guilty and that my confessions were extracted under torture, the judge kicked me out of the court.

To this day, we’re still facing charges before a military court and in the meantime I've been suspended from work and my salary has been cut in half.

Disclaimer: This testimony was shared with Amnesty International the week before a military trial of medical workers resumed on 7 September 2011.

Read more:
Testimonies from Bahrain: Memories of a jailed activist’s wife (Blog, 6 September 2011)
Bahrain: Health professionals to be tried by a military court in Bahrain: 6th update(Urgent action, 25 August 2011)
Bahrain faces fresh torture claims over health workers’ trial (News, 7 June 2011)
Bahrain: Health professionals held incommunicado (Urgent action, 26 April 2011)