In response to peaceful protests demanding greater political freedom and equality that started thee years ago today in Bahrain, the government responded with excessive force, using tear gas as a weapon and targeting activists and health professionals with torture and arbitrary detention.
Earlier this week, South Korea agreed to halt the sale of tear gas to Bahrain following mounting pressure from the Stop the Shipment campaign and human rights organizations. South Korea’s refusal to supply the country with additional tear gas makes a strong statement of support for human rights and other countries should follow its example.
2013 hit a low point, bringing about a new and more ferocious wave of targeted attacks on medical personnel and facilities. In an effort to destroy opposition, hide wounds inflicted by government authorities, and intimidate doctors from treating protesters and fighters, medical care -- and those who take an oath to provide it -- has come under a full assault.
Along with many of my medical colleagues, I have been appalled to read recent news accounts of Turkish doctors being arrested, questioned, and threatened with having their medical licenses revoked merely for treating protesters wounded in clashes with security forces in Istanbul. We have also been encouraged, however, to see the Turkish Medical Association’s (TMA’s) Central Council respond so forcefully to the Ministry of Health’s attempts to discourage physicians from treating protesters engaged in “illegal” activities.
The cancellation of an international medical ethics conference that had been scheduled for April 10-12 in Bahrain is another sign that the country’s rulers continue a systematic pattern of politicizing medical affairs.