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.