From Archives of Bloody Thursday Dawn: This is What Doctors Experienced on Feb. 17, 2011

2020-02-26 - 11:14 م

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The shattering and disdainful event can never be erased from memory, despite the coverups and intimidation. Unless addressed, it will be recalled every time differently, and its victims will continue to recharge themselves year after year to come back to the surface.

What we are sharing here is from the archives of the February 2011 events which has been already published in Bahrain Mirror's book "The Thorn of Doctors", i.e. an aspect of the plight of doctors experienced on this day. We are publishing it because this wound and this treachery still pains us to this day. We have not overcome it yet, and we are still suffering from its repercussions, whose severity multiplies every day.

The Moment of Attack

On the dawn of February 17, Dr. Ali Al-Ekri and Dr. Sadeq Al-Ekri were on their night shift in the doctors' tents with other medical staff. There was something looming. Nobody expected the events that were about to take place, nor the brutality that would accompany them. A sudden attack took place at 3AM launched by the security forces while most protesters were asleep. The troops raided the tent where Dr. Ali Al-Ekri was working. He told them: "Please, don't beat us! We are medical staff and we are here for emergency cases." They fired tear gas inside the tent. Dr. Ali Al-Ekri left with some medical staff and they all went in his car to Al-Salmaniya Hospital.

Dr. Sadeq Al-Ekri was in another tent. He left it, but later remembered that one of the medical staff was still sleeping there. He went back to check on his colleague, and was raided by the troops. His white robe and the fact that he is a doctor did not save him from them. They kicked him with their heavy boots and beat him with batons and the backs of their firearms. He was severely injured and later transferred to the operation room.

A distress call for ambulances was made immediately after the roundabout had been attacked. The Ambulances went out between 3:30AM and 6:30AM but disappeared after that.

The injured were taken to Al-Salmaniya Medical Complex, mostly in private cars as the hospital was considered a safe haven. The medical staff were in shock. Nobody knew the number of the injured, nor the severity of their injuries. The injured started to pour into the hospital in private vehicles. The crowds started to gather at the hospital, with increasing numbers, infuriated and distressed. This low blow shocked everyone. Two victims were killed, Mahmoud Maki (21) and Ali Khudair (58) as well as AIi Al-Moemen (22) who died after sustaining a serious injury. Meanwhile, dozens of protesters were injured and admitted to the hospital.

After 8AM, many crowds gathered at the hospital. The protesters tried to go back to the roundabout; the security forces confronted them with tear gas, rubber bullets and birdshots. They fired at the protesters at close distance. A victim, Isa Abdulhasan (61) was shot from a very close distance which caused his head to explode.  There were various injuries admitted to the hospital. One of the injuries was inflicted by birdshots in the neck, but the pellets had spread into his lungs. He was saved miraculously.

The security forces headed from the roundabout towards Al-Salmaniya Complex. They reached the Psychiatry Hospital, where they started to prevent medics from reaching the roundabout. The troops stopped some ambulances and beat the paramedics.

The doctors were perplexed and shocked because of the large number of cases that overwhelmed their capacity. The Emergency Department turned into chaos. A large number of the victims' relatives and the protesters were crowding the place. The doctors decided to go in the ambulances to treat the injured at the roundabout. Suddenly there were no ambulances. When the doctors asked about them, the hospital administration told them that the crowds impeded the ambulances' movement so the vehicles were moved to Kanoo Health Center. Some of the doctors went to Kanoo Health Center to ride the ambulances and head to the roundabout, but they found the gates locked. It was 9AM and the injured were still pouring into the hospital in private cars.

Perplexed Ambulance Staff

Between 9AM and 11AM, the doctors started to worry about how to reach the injured who were still at the roundabout amid the security forces siege that blocked all the ways to the roundabout? How could they make sure that all the wounded had been evacuated? The ambulances were prevented from reaching the roundabout, and the paramedics were beaten and their vehicles taken away. A group of doctors went to meet with Dr. Walid Al-Manea (the Hospitals CEO), and consequently the ambulances were allowed to leave at 11:30AM, permission from the Minister came for the ambulances to fetch the injured. From 6:30AM until 11:30, the ambulances were not allowed to go to the roundabout. "Nobody knew why the ambulances were not allowed to go to the roundabout before that time. The only explanation was that the security forces had a special job that they wanted to perform there in those five hours, and after they had finished their special job, they allowed the ambulances and the medical staff to go," a female doctor said.

Before the ambulances were permitted to leave to the roundabout, the medical staff were about to explode in an angry revolt. At the Emergency Department, the doctors divided into two groups. A group wanted to go out and protest against preventing the ambulances from reaching the wounded at the roundabout. Dr. Ali Al-Ekri was with this group. He witnessed the brutal attack against the protesters and how his relative Dr. Sadeq Al-Ekri was injured in that attack. The other group had Dr. Nabeel Tammam who believed that doctors should remain in the hospital to treat the injured. The first group went out in a spontaneous demonstration. They were under the effect of the shocking event. It was the first time in Bahrain's history that the medical staff experienced such an event. The second group met after they got the go-ahead from the under-secretary Ameen Al-Saati for a meeting. The call for the meeting was declared on the A-Salmaniya Hospital paging system. Around 50 doctors attended the meeting. The objective was to find a solution for the chaos that reigned in the hospital.

In the meeting, they phoned the head of the Doctors Society Dr. Ahmed Jamal and his deputy Dr. Ali Ebrahim. After that, a statement of condemnation was issued: "What happened today; the use of excessive and unjustified force by the security forces that resulted in deaths and severe injuries among groups of citizens who were gathering in a peaceful sit-in which was allowed by the constitution and international norms, is alarming and unacceptable. Preventing the medical staff from performing their duty in treating the injured and moving them to the hospital is not sanctioned by international and humanitarian laws. Therefore the Doctors and the Dentists Societies condemn and deplore such unjustified violence against the peaceful citizens and the medical staff who offered them the necessary treatment and what resulted from the violence of injuring some of the medical staff with severe wounds. We demand the government, especially His Majesty the King, to intervene to stop such acts and actions harmful to the citizens and the country and prevent the spread of dispersion and panic in the ranks of the safe society".

At 11:30, while the first group of doctors was demonstrating, the second group was culminating their meeting by issuing the two societies' statement. At that time the Minister's decision was finally released to allow the ambulances to head to the roundabout. The doctors stopped their demonstrations and rode in the ambulances to the roundabout. "We did not find anything there. Why, then, were ambulances prevented from reaching the roundabout for five hours? We checked the neighborhood around the roundabout to check whether there were any injured here or there, but did not find any one," explains one of the female doctors.

Arabic Version