Rula al-Saffar writes: When the Arab Spring swept through Bahrain in 2011, citizens there — just as in other Middle East countries — took to the streets demanding political and economic reforms. Also just as in other Middle East countries, peaceful demonstrations were soon met with a violent crackdown by government forces.
When it began, I knew that it was my duty as a nurse to help. So I made my way to Salmaniya Medical Complex, Bahrain’s only public hospital, to do what I could to aid the overwhelmed staff, even though I did not work there myself. What I witnessed was horrifying: Evidence of the use of live ammunition, bodies battered by tear gas canisters fired at close range, and protesters blinded by the use of bird shot. In the months that closely followed, nearly 50 people were killed as a direct result of the violence against protesters, a number which has risen to over 100 since 2011.
As a healthcare professional, it was my duty to aid the injured. But as a witness to the Bahraini security forces’ violent response to the peaceful protests, I also felt a duty to speak out against the abuses. Many of my colleagues who felt the same way spoke on the record with the media to describe the types of injuries they had seen, shedding light on the nature of the government’s brutality. After authorities barred ambulances from bringing injured protesters to Salmaniya Medical Complex, we joined in protests to demand that the wounded have access to the hospital and care. [Continue reading…]