Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Bahrain Update: the case of Ali Al Ekri

From Angry Arab's chief Bahrain correspondent:  "He has a reputation for being one of the best doctors in Bahrain. He like many of the consultants in Salmaniya hospital could be making double had they gone to private practice but they didn't, because as a group they believed in strengthening the public health system (although the govt is slowly trying to privatize it - advice from their best friends the Americans). The charges leveled by the government against the doctors are ridiculous - one charge is that they refused to treat sunnis. This is ludacris. Bahrain is a mixed society. The doctors treated everyone. They did not treat people based on sect. Now this story about dr Al Ekri volunteering in Gaza just shows you how crazy these charges are. I mean, I hate to even point this out, but the Palestinians are sunni after all. Its like the government is sectarianizing everything and we are forced to respond. According to his wife, the concept of dividing people by sect never even crossed his mind, and now that's what the government is accusing him of.
The mission to Gaza was Dr Al Ekri's idea. He took the lead in organizing it. It was completely humanitarian. When he came back he became a decorated hero. The King gave a speech about him - now all is forgotten.
Of course Dr Al Ekri's problem was that he was doing his job and he was doing it well. Bahraini doctors are not used to seeing this many injuries. Many of them were traumatized. I mean, we don't live in a war zone. The amount of injuries went beyond the hospitals capacity. But he, and the other consultants did a good job calming everyone and making sure they could do everything to save lives. I am speculating here but I assume that Al Ekri was one of the most experienced because of his experience in Gaza. On top of the injuries a lot of crazy things were happening in the hospital. I am fuzzy about the exact sequence of events but here it goes: The minister of health (at that time it was AlHamar) was preventing injured from getting treated in the hospital. Ambulances were disappearing. All of what I just told you was BEFORE the Saudi invasion and the official military takeover of the hospital. So some of the doctors started protesting against AlHamar in front of the hospital because he was not allowing them to do their job. The King responded by sacking Al Hamar and putting Nezar Al Baharna in his place (also sacked three other ministers including Fahmi Al Jowdar one of Bahrains most competent ministers thinking that replacing 4 sunni ministers - none of them heading particularly powerful ministries - with shia would solve the problem). During that time, the propaganda machine had already began and Bahrain state television was accusing the doctors of only treating shia. So Nezar AlBaharna personally called state TV and told them this was not true. In addition he stood at the gate of the hospital making sure everyone could go in (due to the problems before of the previous minister not letting the injured come in). A few days later for obvious reasons Nezar AlBaharna quit.
Now why target Al Ekri?? Well he talked a lot to the media. I believe he was the first doctor who spoke to the media. Of course later the saudi forces came in and the hospital was taken over by the military, and even more unimaginable things started happening which I'm sure you heard about. The doctors who appeared on camera or spoke to the media were arrested - and I really just mean appeared on camera such as the doctor who was arrested after a picture of her surfaced where she was hugging another doctor and crying right next to an injured protester. The other doctors were completely silenced and scared to talk after what happened to their colleagues.
Now these doctors are being sentenced to 15 years in prison for simply doing their job. The head of Physicians for Human Rights called this the worse violation of medical neutrality he had seen in the past 20 years. They worked all their lives in a government hospital treating patients and trying to make our health care system strong and this is how they get rewarded.
Imagine the physcological trauma they have to go through. They were arrested for no reason whatsoever, imprisoned, tortured, they went on a hunger strike, they were released, only to be convicted and to be sent back to prison where they will probably be tortured again.
Of course the Obama administration is supposedly troubled by the sentences (forgot the exact word they used). Well if they really have a problem with the sentences then why did they just sign an arms deal with Bahrain? Oh I know - the economy sucks so they need to sell some crappy old weapons to the Khaleeji puppets that can only be used against their own population."