Family divisions

Bahrain seems to be at the mercy of the Al Khalifa division.  The Prime Minister is the hard-liner into severe punishment and Bedouin retribution.  The King and Prince, who have had little voice, support more democratic means of dealing with the situation. An excellent article describing the””increasing divisions within the Sunni royal family” can be found in the Independent.  Such is the situation with the Bahraini medics, who having been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in a military court last week, have now been told they will be tried again in a civilian court.

According to the New York Times, “The country’s attorney general, Ali Alboainain, told the state news agency that “no doctors or other medical personnel may be punished by reason of the fulfillment of their humanitarian duties or their political views” and that “pending the outcome of the retrials, the accused shall not be detained.”  However, within the hot and cold political climate, medics are a long way from feeling that their care of the injured will be seen for just what it was rather than a protracted game within the Al Khalifas and the international powers.  The following describes the experiences of one of the female medics in the past 5 months.

“Mrs Al Saffar was detained at the police station for a week, during which time she says she was made to stand for hours, blindfolded and handcuffed in extremely cold conditions. At one point she says she was taken to a room full of men who taunted her saying they would “have fun with her” if she did not cooperate.

“I never ever thought that my own blood, my own countrymen could do such things to me,” she said.  Bahraini authorities have maintained they would investigate any allegations of mistreatment in jail.  After a week in detention at the police station, Mrs Al Saffar was moved to a women’s jail, where she spent the next five months. During her time in prison, she believes she came across up to 250 female prisoners jailed in connection with the crackdown who had suffered some form of abuse.

Eventually on August 21, Mrs Al Saffar was released before a verdict had been reached in her case. She stepped out of jail with a shock of white hair, a shadow of her former self, having lost about 20 kilograms.

In the weeks that followed, all of the medics facing similar charges had been released pending their judgments. Then, on September 29, the group of 20 received sentences of between five and 15 years.

“I’m stronger now. My spine is stronger and harder. They will never be able to break it,” Mrs Al Saffar said.  She said the imprisonment has not changed her attitude about helping those in medical need. “Would I do this again? Yes. Again and again and again, to help when there is need.”  Mr. Alboainian said the retrial would be held in civilian court and would include a “full re-evaluation” of the evidence and a “full opportunity to present their defense.”  This is the message, she says, she will repeat during her upcoming retrial.



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