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Attacks on Doctors in Bahrain

Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System

In February 2011, the Government of Bahrain began targeting health professionals who treated protesters. In April 2012, PHR's Richard Sollom, Deputy Director, and Holly Atkinson, MD, FACP, past President of PHR's Board and volunteer expert, authored a report showing the devastation on Bahrain's health system that have resulted from the Government of Bahrain’s continued assault on doctors, patients, and the healthcare system.

> Read the Report (pdf)

> TAKE ACTION: Tell Bahrain to Dismiss Charges Against Medical Professionals

Thousands of protesters in the small island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Persian Gulf took to the streets calling for government reform in February and March 2011. The Bahraini government’s response was brutal and systematic: shoot civilian protesters, detain and torture them, and erase all evidence.

On the frontline, treating hundreds of these wounded civilians, doctors had first-hand knowledge of government atrocities. As a result of their efforts to provide unbiased care for wounded protestors, the government initiated systematic and targeted attacks against medical personnel. This assault on healthcare workers and their patients constitutes extreme violations of the principle of medical neutrality and are grave breaches of international law.

PHR went to Bahrain to investigate and document these attacks. Our investigators spoke with eyewitnesses of abducted physicians, some of whom were ripped from their homes in the middle of the night by masked security forces. Our report, Do No Harm, documents other violations of medical neutrality including the beating, abuse, and threatening of Shi’a physicians at Salmaniya Hospital; government security forces stealing ambulances and posing as medics; the militarization of hospitals and clinics, thus obstructing medical care; and rampant fear that prevents patients from seeking urgent medical treatment. Other key findings in the report include the use excessive force against unarmed civilians and violent assaults on civilian detainees by government authorities and security forces.

Medicine and delivery of health care should unite rather than divide a country. There are immeasurable long-term consequences of these atrocities. For each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated. Bahrain’s abuses in the spring of 2011 are the most extreme violations of medical neutrality in the past half century, and history will remember them as such.

Read Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients

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Physicians for Human Rights Welcomes Lifting of Travel Ban for Bahraini Human Rights Activist (October 1, 2014)

PHR today welcomed the decision by a Bahraini court to lift the travel ban on Maryam al-Khawaja, but remained concerned about the spurious charges that remain against her.

On Human Rights Day, PHR Highlights Priorities for the Administration (December 10, 2013)

On Human Rights Day, PHR highlighted the need for the U.S. government to address several pressing issues in order to protect fundamental freedoms and promote the United States’ position as a beacon for human rights.

U.S. Official Misses Opportunity to Address Human Rights Issues in Bahrain (December 9, 2013)

PHR today expressed concern that U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel failed to publicly prioritize human rights in Bahrain during a major event in the kingdom.

PHR Reiterates Call to Release Imprisoned Medics in Bahrain and Stop Shipment of Tear Gas (November 22, 2013)

PHR today reaffirmed its call to the Bahraini government to immediately release medical professionals who have been wrongfully prisoned and stop the ongoing targeting of the medical community.

More Attacks on Doctors in Bahrain News »

The United States and Its Unafraid Ally, Bahrain (September 19, 2014)

The United States, a long-time ally of the al-Khalifa regime currently governing Bahrain, is in a unique position to pressure the country to change its policies. The United States must take concrete action to condemn the Bahraini regime for its ongoing human rights violations.

Impunity and Lack of Transparency Fuel Assault on Medics in Bahrain (March 16, 2014)

Three years ago today, Bahraini security forces entered Salmaniya Medical Complex - the largest public hospital in Bahrain. In a flagrant violation of the right to health, security forces interfered with medical services and refused entry to the injured and sick.

Medical Personnel Targeted in Ukraine (February 21, 2014)

As the dust settles in Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, with an agreement between the government and opposition groups, many questions remain. Will there be an independent investigation into the government’s tactics to put down the protests, including the reported use of snipers, which violate the principles on use of force?

On Three-Year Anniversary of Bahrain’s Protests, Medics Remain Imprisoned (February 14, 2014)

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.

More Attacks on Doctors in Bahrain Posts »

A Message from Behind Bars in Bahrain (November 2013)

Three medics currently jailed in Bahrain, Ibrahim Aldemestani, Dr. Ali Al-Ekri, and Hassan Salman Al-Maatouq, wrote this letter calling on the world to recognize their unjust imprisonment for upholding principles of medical neutrality.

Introduction to Medical Neutrality (November 2013)

This fact sheet provides an overview of medical neutrality, the ethics and laws behind it, and PHR’s reporting on when it’s violated.

Medical Neutrality and the Use of Weaponized Tear Gas in Bahrain (November 2013)

The Bahraini government’s response to the early 2011 pro-democracy protests was brutal, systematic, and violent. This fact sheet provides an overview of Bahrain’s violations of medical neutrality and its weaponized use of tear gas.

US Senators and Representatives Call on Bahrain to Pardon Imprisoned Medics (October 2012)

Two Senators and 22 Representatives jointly signed a letter to the King of Bahrain today, calling on him to pardon eight medical professionals convicted for providing medical care to injured protesters.

More Attacks on Doctors in Bahrain Research »

Featured Report

Do No Harm

PHR's emergency report documents and decries systematic human rights abuses in Bahrain, and persecution of health workers based on their knowledge of those abuses. Read More »

Featured Expert

Nizam Peerwani, MD

Nizam Peerwani, MD

A Chief Medical Examiner in Texas since 1979, Dr. Peerwani was one of two investigators for PHR of attacks on health professionals and their patients in Bahrain in 2011. Read More »