Doctors ‘disappeared’ as Bahrain cracks down after protests

Authorities in Bahrain have arrested 32 doctors including surgeons, physicians, paediatricians and obstetricians following its crackdown on Shia-led protests last month.

The UK’s Independent newspaper reported that one doctor was arrested while operating on a patient while another, an intensive care specialist, was detained after a photograph was published of her weeping over a dead protester.

Many of the doctors were ‘disappeared’, with their locations and condition unknown to their families. Four detainees have died in police custody following the riots in February.

One Bahrani doctor indicated to a colleague in the UK that the detentions were in retaliation for treating protesters injured in clashes with security forces.

“Interrogation committees question me about our role in treating the injured protesters, who are considered now criminal for protesting against the government. We said we were there to treat patients and have nothing to do with politics,” the doctor said.

News of the detentions led to a statement issued by the UK’s Royal College of Surgeons, stating that “these reports of harassment of medical staff in the ongoing unrest in Bahrain, including surgeons trained in the UK, are deeply disturbing. The protection and care of people wounded in conflict is a basic right guaranteed by the Geneva Convention and one that every doctor or medical institution should be free to fulfil.”

Bahrani Ambassador to the United States, Houda Nonoo, claimed earlier this month that the Salmaniya Medical Complex had been hijacked by “violent opposition forces” and used as a command centre.

In response to the protests Bahrain declared martial law in the tiny Gulf state and allowed 1000 Saudi Arabian troops from Saudi Arabia into the country to quell the Shia-led uprising. Six protesters were declared dead after troops overran the demonstrators camp.

Bahrain’s opposition Shia Wefaq party subsequently issued a statement condemning the arrival of Saudi troops as an assault on the country’s sovereignty.

“We consider the entry of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf forces into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation,” the party said.

The King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has meanwhile reportedly moved US$42 billion of the country’s wealth into Swiss bank accounts.


Bahrain declares martial law as Saudi troops clash with Shia protesters

The King of Bahrain has declared martial law in the Gulf state after allowing 1000 troops from Saudi Arabia into the country to quell an uprising of Shia demonstrators.

Violent demonstrations in tiny Shia-majority country, ruled by a US-backed Sunni-elite, yesterday saw four shot dead, including two protesters, one Bahrani policemen, and a Saudi soldier.

A further six protesters were declared dead after troops overran the demonstrators camp this morning. Observers also observed an armoured personal carrier on the scene with the flag of the UAE.

A doctor spoken to by the UK’s Guardian newspaper said that Saudi troops were preventing staff from leaving the hospital where he worked.

“They are shooting at us, they are shooting,” he said. “Get help, get the international community to help.”

Media reported protesters outside the hospital as chanting “with our blood and our souls we will fight the mercenaries.”

Bahrain’s opposition Shia Wefaq party yesterday issued a statement condemning the arrival of Saudi troops as an assault on the country’s sovereignty.

“We consider the entry of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf forces into the Kingdom of Bahrain’s air, sea or land territories a blatant occupation,” the party said.

Iran, a majority Shia country, waded into the burgeoning conflict when foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi asked Bahrain not to harm the Shia demonstrators. In response, Bahrain withdrew its ambassador from Tehran in protest.

An Iranian MP, Kazem Jalali, described the Saudi interference as a “criminal” attempt by the US and Saudi Arabia to repress peaceful anti-government protests, pointing to the recent visit of US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to he gulf nation.

There were further signs that the escalating crisis in the 200 year-old monarchy could reignite an ongoing Sunni-Shia feud in the region, after the militant Shia Hezbollah group in Lebanon said that military action against demonstrations would disrupt Bahrain’s already fragile society – 70 percent of the population are Shia, but are largely underrepresented in senior government and political positions.

“Military intervention and the use of violence against a peaceful and popular movement will only complicate matters and eliminate chances of finding a solution,” Hezbollah said.

The UK embassy in the Bahraini capital of Manama closed its doors, while the US – which has substantial military assets in the kingdom, including the US Fifth fleet – ruled out military action.

The UK has closed its embassy in Manama, while the EU and the US have said there is “no military solution” to the crisis. The US maintains its Fifth Fleet in Manama’s port and has significant intelligence interests in the kingdom.

The Formula One grand prix, due to be held in Bahrain this year, has been postponed.


Libyan army guns down demonstrators, UK backs away from Bahrain

Soldiers in Libya and Bahrain have fired on demonstrators as authorities try to quell growing unrest, triggered after protesters toppled 30 year autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.

Troops in Libya reportedly shot and killed at least 12 mourners in the city of Benghazi, after a group tried to storm a military barracks and throw firebombs into the compound on the way to the funeral. Opposition groups claimed up to 60 were killed, while one activist told the BBC that the regime was releasing prisoners from jail to attack the demonstrators.

The BBC reported that troops used mortars and 14.5mm heavy machine guns to repress the civilians, while Al-Jazeera reported that hospitals were running out of blood needed for emergency transfusions.

Al-Jazeera also reported an account from a cleric in Benghazi, who witnessed a tank crushing two people in a car. Libyan President Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi has also imposed a news blackout on the country and banned journalists from entering.

Analysts have further suggested that the human cost of an Egyptian-style uprising in Libya could be far higher, given the military apparent enthusiasm for firing on its own population.

Bahrain’s military meanwhile shot and killed at least one demonstrator and wounded 50 more, during a funeral procession for four people killed in earlier unrest.

Rising tensions and ongoing demonstrations suggest that King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa’s gift of US$3000 on February 12 to every family in the poverty-stricken Gulf nation has failed to satisfy protesters.

The UK, which has previously supported regimes in Bahrain and Libya, announced it was withdrawing licenses authorising the sale on arms to both countries.

The UK’s Ministry of Defence has trained more than 100 Bahraini army officers in the past five years at its military college in Sandhurst, reports the UK’s Guardian newspaper, while the country is also a base for the US fifth fleet.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has meanwhile condemned the shooting of protesters in Algeria, Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and described the entire region as “boiling with anger.”

“At the root of this anger is decades of neglect of people’s aspirations to realise not only civil and political rights, but also economic, social and cultural rights,” Navi said.


President Nasheed returns home after overseas trip

President Nasheed has returned to Male’ after concluding his trip to Abu Dhabi, Bahrain and India.

The president’s first stop was at Abu Dabi to attend the World Future Energy Summit.

In his address the President said that the change needed to combat climate change was radical, “although we do not possess all the technologies” to do so.

Nasheed emphasised that countries and companies who led the change through their capacity for innovation would be the winners of the century.

He claimed countries would need to learn to live within planetary boundaries, and further added that by the end of the century, “the entire world needs to go carbon neutral.”

The president also told the summit that the Copenhagen accord would need to be strengthened, and that in its current form would not prevent catastrophic climate change.

“The vast majority of world leaders are determined to strengthen the Copenhagen Accord,” he said.

When that happened, he said, “market failures” would be corrected and carbon pollution would be properly penalised.

“To my mind, the smart money is green,” said Nasheed.

The summit billed itself as the the world’s platform for sustainable future energy solutions, providing “an ideal networking event for industry leaders, investors, scientists, specialists, policymakers and researchers to discuss the challenges of rising energy demand and actions to achieve a cleaner and more sustainable future for the world.”


In Bahrain, the President held meetings with senior government officials as well as with the banking, investment, and finance sectors in Bahrain.

Nasheed met Talal Al Zain, CEO of Bahrain Sovereign Wealth Fund,Dr Esam Abdulla Yousif Fakhro, Chairman of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and, Mr Easam Yousif Janahi, Chairman of First Energy Bank and Gulf Finance House.

The meetings centred on the business and investment opportunities available in the Maldives. Discussions were also held on forging cooperation between Maldives fishing industry and Bahrain fishing companies.


In Chennai, India, Nasheed attended the Partnership Summit 2010 organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry.

Nasheed addressed the summit and said “the government was looking for investors for public sector investment programmes, particularly in utilities and other infrastructure projects.”

President Nasheed also visited a wind turbine manufacturing facility in Vengal near Chennai, India.

“The evolution of wind turbine technology means it is now easy to generate electricity even at low wind speeds,” he said.

“This opens up significant opportunities to set up wind parks in newer locations,” he added.

The president was also present at the signing ceremony when the Government of Maldives signed an agreement with Apollo Hospitals to manage Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH) in Male’.

“We have immense faith in Apollo Hospitals and the pioneering spirit of the group,” he said.

“Under the able leadership of the visionary Dr Reddy, we are certain that IGMH and the Maldives will emerge as a global healthcare destination,” the president said.