Detained Bahraini Medics: Brutal Crackdown against Pro-democracy Movement by Finian Cunningham

by Finian Cunningham
Featured Writer
Dandelion Salad
April 21, 2011
Manama, Bahrain

Prestigious college slammed for silence over detained Bahraini medics

The families of medics unlawfully detained in Bahrain have accused the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) of putting financial investment interests above human rights after the college refused to make a public statement concerning the fate of Bahraini members held incommunicado by the regime.

The ongoing brutal crackdown by the Bahraini state against the pro-democracy movement, which began on March 16 after the Saudi-led military forces entered the country, has resulted in more than 30 civilian deaths and nearly 1,000 persons held in secret detention centres. Among the detainees are more than 30 medical staff, including senior doctors, nurses and paramedics whom the US-backed Sunni rulers accuse of supporting anti-government protesters.

Several of the missing medics are members of the RCSI, having conducted their training in Dublin, Ireland. They include senior consultants Ghassan Dhaif, Baser Dhaif and Ali Al Ekri. The latter was arrested on March 17 while performing surgery at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the country’s largest public hospital, when Saudi-led forces commandeered the facility. Colleagues were assaulted and threatened as Dr Al Ekri was forcibly taken into custody. His whereabouts and that of the other medics remain unknown, with legal representation being denied to them. Dr Al Ekri, who trained in Dublin between 2000 and 2002, is an internationally respected surgeon who was awarded a medal of honour in 2009 for life-saving work on Palestinian victims of Israel’s murderous onslaught in Gaza.

Two weeks after the Saudi-led repression in Bahrain, the RCSI sent a fact-finding team from Ireland, led by Professsor Cathal Kelly, to the Persian Gulf island state. It is understood the college’s team spent five days in Bahrain appraising claims of violations against medical personnel. The college has a long-standing association with the oil-rich kingdom, dating over 30 years, for training Bahraini medical staff. In recent years, the RCSI has embarked on an ambitious expansion plan in Bahrain opening a medical university in early 2009 and investing over €100 million ($145m) in other major ongoing developments.

However, the RSCI has pointedly declined to issue a report on its fact-finding mission to Bahrain or a statement concerning the illegal detention of its members. Asked about concern for the safety and well-being of its members, including Dr Al Ekri, the college’s head of communications in Dublin said: “The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland is making no further public statement on the matter.”

The RCSI’s refusal to make a statement is in contrast to several international bodies, such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders and the US-based Physicians for Human Rights, which have condemned the Bahraini government for its maltreatment of medics in the wake of the ruthless repression against the mainly Shia-led pro-democracy movement.

As part of the state of emergency declared by Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on March 14, all public hospitals and medical centres have been taken over by military forces, which resulted in medics and hundreds of injured patients suspected of involvement in anti-government protests being detained.

The whereabouts of the missing medics and patients remain unknown and there are deep concerns for their safety. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights says that detainees held by the state are “routinely subjected to torture”. In the last week, four detainees have died while in custody, their bodies showing signs of severe maltreatment.

During its five-day mission to Bahrain, families of the missing medics said that they were not contacted by the RSCI fact-finding team. A statement by relatives said: “We are bitterly disappointed that the RCSI team did not make contact with the families of the doctors who have been detained. We are also disappointed that the college has not made a public statement protesting the unlawful treatment of its members by the Bahraini state. These doctors did nothing wrong except treat people who were badly injured by Bahraini state forces. The lack of support from the RCSI to the families of these doctors is only adding to our anguish and despair.”

Furthermore, relatives of the detained medics said they believe that the RCSI’s substantial financial investments in the state of Bahrain is the reason why the college is not speaking out on their behalf.

In its annual report for 2010, the RCSI highlights the importance of Bahrain as an overseas investment destination for the college.

College president Frank Keane said: “Bahrain has, for a number of years, consumed a great deal of our overseas energies. The [newly opened] Medical School is continuing to make strides, culminating in our first graduation class this summer. This will mark a significant milestone at many levels, consolidating the school itself as well as its regional credibility and status.” [1]

The RCSI president went on to reveal how ongoing investments in Bahrain are dependent on maintaining good relations with the rulers for realizing several major projects.
“We have for a long time been on the cusp of closing the deal for the development of the Health Oasis on the land donated to us by the King. At the same time, the management contract for the King Hamad Teaching Hospital has proved equally elusive and frustrating to try and reach closure. One of the goals has been to bring these matters to an early conclusion, which must happen soon.”

The RCSI’s $65 million Medical School in Bahrain opened in February 2009 with Ireland’s President Mary McAleese and the Bahraini Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa in attendance.

In January 2010, the RSCI signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Arab Administrative Development Organisation, with the aim of setting up similar medical projects in other Middle East countries, including the Emirate of Dubai. In this regard, the success of its projects in Bahrain is an important platform for the RCSI’s expansion plans across the Middle East and beyond.

The 200-year-old prestigious college, which claims humanitarian concerns to be one of its founding tenets, said in its annual report: “The RCSI continues to explore philanthropic and entrepreneurial opportunities across the globe.”

Evidently from the RCSI’s lack of response over its unlawfully detained members in Bahrain, the college’s over-riding emphasis would seem to be on entrepreneurial opportunities.



Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician


[DS added the videos.]


PressTV – ‘CIA at work in Libya, Bahrain’

Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi’s relationship with the US authorities and the Central Intelligence Agency was active back in the 1990s.

Press TV interviewed Ralph Schoenman, author of The Hidden History of Zionism regarding the US policies on the popular uprisings in Libya and Bahrain.

Press TV: Why is it that the US has called on the Gaddafi regime and Gaddafi himself to step down in Libya, but no such call by the American government on the Bahraini monarchy to step down?

Schoenman: There isn’t a contradiction here as I’ve pointed out before on Press TV. The relationship of the United States authorities and particularly the Central Intelligence Agency with the regime of Muammar Gaddafi goes back to the 1990s with the joint declaration with Condoleezza Rice in 2006 and the role of Richard Pearle, and indeed of Dick Chaney and Mr. Barbara of the CIA providing the special forces for the Gaddafi military apparatus.


Nabeel Rajab has been a voice of enormous courage and clarity and an inspiration to us outside and those inside Bahrain. He and his family including his elderly mother suffering from the effects of suffocation after assailants fired tear gas canisters into his home in Budaiya on the 18th. This is the constant posture of this regime.

Many of the protesters and those who have been engaged in resisting this regime have been treated even worse. They have been tortured and some disappeared. Salman Mahfoodh, Secretary General of the General Federation of Bahraini Trade Unions, launched a general strike, and subsequent to the general strike, literally 1,300 workers in one place, and 1,650 in another, 453 in another who were very often Shia I have to emphasize. They were detained and disappeared from their positions. They were involved with the San Francisco Labor Council, the AFLCIO, and the International Trade Union of Confederations out of Brussels representing over 300 confederations. This is the workers’ efforts in defending their rights.

via PressTV – ‘CIA at work in Libya, Bahrain’


Nabeel Rajab-Press TV, “what is going in Bahrain is a campaign of sectarian cleansing”

on Apr 21, 2011



Take Action

According to reports from Bahrain, doctors are disappearing as part of a systematic attack on medical staff. Many physicians are missing following interrogations by unknown security forces at Salmaniya Medical Complex, Manama.

Although families have tried to contact administration officials, the administration denies any knowledge of their whereabouts. According to family members, the physicians are being held incommunicado in unknown locations.

Tell Crown Prince Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa that Bahrain needs to free all healthcare workers who have been illegally arrested or detained.

via Physicians for Human Rights


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