Bahrain Raids Offices of Doctors Without Borders (video)
A documentary made by Al Jazeera entitled Bahrain: Shouting in the dark describes the country’s uprising as the “Arab revolution that was abandoned by the Arabs, forsaken by the West and forgotten by the world.” According to the documentary, supporters of the Bahraini government used Facebook to trace anti-government protesters; the social media tool that played a key role in the Egyptian revolution was instead used to track down 20-year-old anti-government protester and poet Ayat Al Qurmezi, says the Telegraph:
Visitors were told “write the traitor’s name and work place” and, according to the film, masked commandos then arrested her and took her to prison.
According to reports, Ms Al Qurmezi’s mother said: “This is the first time something like this has happened. Young girls taken from their homes, arrested and we don’t know where they are.”
The film also alleges that many Bahraini protesters are now wary of using social networking sites due to fears that the government may be monitoring their activities.
One protester who has steadfastly continue to speak up about the abuses in Bahrain is Zainab Al-Khawaja, who writes regularly at Angry Arabiya on Twitter (and who appears in the photo above). Her father, human rights advocate Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has been sentenced to life in prison; Zainab Al-Khawaja’s husband has also been jailed.
You can see Shouting in the Dark on YouTube:
Abuses of the human rights of Bahrain’s citizens are ongoing, with people even denied access to basic medical care. On July 28, the Bahraini government raided the offices of the Doctors Without Borders in the capital of Manama. The international aid organization is now refusing to work there and says that, during the raid, armed security personnel damaged office property, confiscated “all medical and office equipment and supplies” and arrested the group’s Bahraini driver and interpreter, Saeed Mahdi. The group’s efforts to be in contact with Mahdi, and those of his family, were unsuccessful for several days.
Bahrain’s Health Ministry only acknowledged the raid and arrest this Thursday, says the New York Times. Doctors Without Borders was informed that it “lacked legal permission to operate a health facility” and that Mahdi was arrested because he had “lied to the police about the circumstances in which he had helped a wounded patient, and had sought to disguise his own affiliation with Doctors Without Borders.” In a statement distributed by Qorvis Communications, a Washington public relations firm that represents the Bahraini government, the ministry also said:
“The Ministry of Health is disappointed by the serious allegations. While the government of Bahrain routinely welcomes international humanitarian organizations, Bahrain cannot allow any such organization or individuals involved with such an organization to breach Bahraini law.”
Doctors Without Borders said that it will not start working in Bahrain “without guarantees that its premises and personnel would be respected”; a spokesman for the group said that Mahdi had been released.
23 doctors and 24 nurses who treated pro-democracy protesters earlier this year in Bahrain have been charged with “attempting to topple the king’s monarchy”; with, in effect, treason. The doctors, who were arrested in March and who include Dr Ali Al Ekri, an orthopaedic surgeon at Salmaniya Hospital in Manama, have reportedly been tortured and are currently imprisoned.
Many medical workers in Bahrain have become too frightened to treat wounded protesters while those who are injured areoften afraid to seek care in hospitals, for fear of being arrested. For the past six months, Doctors Without Borders had become one of the few remaining providers of medical care for those injured in clashes with security forces. The group indeed notes that it has treated almost 200 “injured and ill patients who did not seek care in health facilities because they feared being arrested.” In addition, its doctors had also “seen patients in villages across the country who have refused urgently needed hospitalization due to the high risk of arrest, and others who were severely beaten in jail.”
Besides the doctors, nurses, human rights advocates and Ayat Al Qurmezi, those arrested and tortured include members of Bahrain’s national soccer team.
Executives of the European Tour have decided not to hold a golfing tournament in 2012 there in the wake of the killing of protesters. But even as the island kingdom continues to deprive its people of basic human rights and medical care, Bahrain remains a US ally and houses the US’s fifth naval fleet.
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Photo of Zainab Al-Khawaja by Conor McCabe