Bahrain: Ongoing assaults on the health system

May 22, 2012


Physicians for Human Rights recently launched a report showing the devastation on Bahrain’s health system that has resulted from the government’s continued assault on doctors, patients, and the healthcare system.

In February 2011, protesters in Bahrain took to the streets to demand political reform. The Government of Bahrain responded by attacking protesters with tear gas, bird shot, and other weapons, detaining and torturing perceived opponents, and targeting health professionals who treated protesters.

Medical neutrality

Two PHR investigators, Holly Atkinson, MD, and Richard Sollom, MPH, returned to Bahrain in April 2012 to assess the current human rights situation and to investigate potential ongoing violations of medical neutrality in Bahrain since April 2011. Their team conducted 102 in-depth qualitative interviews, examined medical records and radiographic images, conducted two site visits to Salmaniya Hospital and an ‘underground clinic’, and interviewed patients, doctors, and government officials.

They concluded that part of the health sector in Bahrain has become heavily militarised and politicised. At Salmaniya Medical Complex, the country’s largest hospital, incoming patients and vistors are routinely interrogated by guards about their origin and the reason for their visit. Anyone presenting with physical wounds or suspected teargas-related injury is brought to security forces inside the hospital for further interrogation. 

Bahraini authorities with whom PHR investigators spoke point out that they have a duty to provide security at state-run medical facilities. “But by using this obligation as a pretext for militarizing medical facilities, the Bahraini government is instilling fear among a wide sector of society that is afraid to seek necessary medical care, thus worsening health outcomes.”

Under the Gun: Ongoing Assaults on Bahrain’s Health System, Richard Sollom & Holly Atkinson, PHR-USA, May 2012