Human Rights First visited Bahrain this year and collected testimonies from many of those detained during the government crackdown, including from some of the doctors and other medics who have been targeted for helping injured protestors. Here are two accounts – the first from a middle-aged female physician, the other from a medical professional in his 30s – about their arrest and treatment. They are both being prosecuted.
I was taken from the hospital where I was working during the middle of the day. Four masked men came and took me for an interrogation. They blindfolded me and took me to the investigations office. They were verbally abusing me, saying the doctors at the hospital were sectarian, only treating Shiite patients.
Then they moved me to another room – I was blindfolded the whole time and a policewoman pushed me along the corridor for more questioning.
They wanted me to say that doctors took injured people for operations unnecessarily, they had very minor injuries but doctors made these injuries worse and caused death on purpose in two cases.
They said we wanted to make Bahrain look bad, to hurt its international reputation. I said no, patients were really bleeding badly, some from live ammunition wounds, and we didn’t make their wounds worse.
The policewoman started to beat me and she said ‘You have to go to the boss, they know how to get a confession out of you.’ They took me to another office – I was standing the whole time, about three hours. It was so terrifying I was hoping I’d die. You don’t know how long it will continue, what they will do next. You’re blindfolded the whole time – they repeat the same questions over and over and if they don’t get the answer they want they beat you.
So they took me to ‘the boss’ and he was alleging that I took drugs from the hospital to the medical tent at Pearl Roundabout [where there was a makeshift medical center for the injured protestors]. I said I didn’t – he said I was a whore and my mother is a whore and I was beaten very badly by the same lady. I could hear several men laughing and shouting at me not to cry. He gave me back to the policewoman and she continued the interrogation, all night long. They made me sing the national anthem and other songs saying the opposition leaders are crazy – they sang it and forced me to repeat it.
In the early hours of the morning they let me lift my blindfold just enough to sign something, though I wasn’t allowed to see what it was. The next day they took me to the military police and it was the same thing – interrogation and then I had to sign something else I couldn’t read. When I was being interrogated, the man in charge kept giving instructions to the typist – ‘delete that, paste that there, cut that bit and move it,’ and so on.
I was finally moved to jail where the other detainees were. At first we were separated from each other, and put with the common criminals, but then they put us together. They didn’t allow me to call my family. For one week I was begging them to call my children, as they were alone since their father was also detained but they refused and allowed me to call only after a week.
After some weeks they told us one evening about 5 p.m. we all had to go back to the Investigation Office. We were all terrified – we called it the House of Horror. They took us there, more than a dozen of us together, and we were called one by one. I had to sign a document to say I hadn’t been beaten. Then, about midnight, I was released.
A medical professional in his 30s told Human Rights First how he helped take injured protestors from the Pearl Roundabout to the Salmaniya Hospital in mid-February, after the Bahrain authorities made their first attack. In mid-March he was in the hospital when calls started to come through about attacks by security forces in Sitra and other villages.
At about 5pm on March 15 I went in an ambulance with a driver to Sitra – we were getting really desperate phone calls for help. When I got to the health center there it looked like the final scene from Titanic – people everywhere were terrified, crying, praying. We took a guy with bird pellet Bahrain – July 2011 wounds and then went to another house where we picked up some more casualties.
The ambulance was jammed with medics and patients – 11 of us in all. We were trying to take the injured back to the Salmaniya Hospital but then a police helicopter started to follow us, and police jeeps chased us, firing at the ambulance with birdshot. Eventually we were surrounded and had to stop, I got out of the ambulance first. A policeman put a rifle to my face and forced me to kneel down; several policemen started kicking my head. I could hear the others being pulled from the ambulance – patients and medics – and being beaten. The police threatened one of the young women, saying they were going to strip her.
They made us all lie on the floor, handcuffed, and I heard about eight single shots. I thought they were executing us all and I said a final prayer. They left us there for a minute, came back and threatened to shoot me in the genitals. They beat me semi-conscious.
They then went away, and someone let us into their house nearby. My colleague tried to go back to the ambulance for medicine but was shot at by the police so had to come back. He made it at the second attempt.
Locals took us in cars to the hospital where I was examined. I was in a critical condition. Masked men interrogated me for about an hour, then said they had a long list of crimes and would decide later which ones to pin on me. I managed to get out of the hospital and stayed with a relative for a week. Then they called me, and told me to report for interrogation. They showed me pictures of people who weren’t me and said I’d done things I hadn’t. This went on for a week and then they said I could go home. But they were lying.
He says he was kept in detention for over two months, and repeatedly tortured.
“They told me to insult Shi’a leaders. Lots of us had to chant ‘Long Live the King’ together. I was told to strip, was sexually humiliated and abused. I was told I wasn’t allowed to pray. Every time you hear the door opening you get scared, that they’re coming for you. They targeted where I was injured to beat me. I wasn’t allowed to wash or remove my blindfold for four weeks. When they finally said I could take it off I had to open my eyes with my fingers – the wax had gummed my eyelids shut. That was early April, and they started to treat us a little better after that. We think it was because they’d killed four guys during interrogations and were worried that they might have more deaths in custody if they continued to treat us like that.
There was a rumor that we’d be released on June 1, when the State of National Safety ended. The day before, a police guy came and told us to get our things ready, that we had a nice surprise. We were all excited about getting out. But they were just moving us to different cells. A few days later the medics were among the prisoners taken to court. He says they were beaten as they left their cells and in the bus on the journey there. First we thought we were going to be released, but then we walked into the courtroom. I was told I had a lawyer, but I never got to speak to him. They beat us on the way back too.
He was finally released at the end of June after signing three papers that he was not allowed to read.