Dr Ghassan Ahmed Ali Dhaif, aged 46, is an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon. He graduated from King Saud University in 1990 with distinction. He trained in Scotland and Ireland in affiliation with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, obtaining a Fellowship in Oral Surgery in 1994. In 2005 he was promoted to that of Senior Consultant at the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC), and acted as chairman of the department from 2006 – 2010.
Dr Dhaif was a lecturer at the College of Health Sciences and Head of the Committee for the Bahrain Dental Licensure Examination from 1996 – 2006. In 2007 he became the leader of the ambulatory team in the process of accrediting SMC by Accreditation Canada. From 2006 – 2008 he acted as General Secretary of the Bahrain Dental Society.
Dr Ghassan Dhaif is a member of the British Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, the International Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons, and the Pan Arab Association of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeons.
Ghassan is also the founder the Al Kawther Orphan Society and Vice Chairman of the Isa Town Charity Fund. He is married to Dr Zahra Al Sammak who is a Consultant Anaesthetist at SMC who was also arrested and whose story you can read here. He has three children, aged 18, 14 and 10.
Dr Ghassan Dhaif has been charged with the following offences and sentenced to 15 years in prison:
- The attempt of forcefully occupying a public building (Salmaniya Hospital);
- Promotion to bring down and change the regime by illegal means;
- The confiscation of medical equipment;
- Detention (of a policeman) by force;
- Spreading false news about the wounded;
- Inciting hatred against the governing regime;
- Participating and supporting unlicensed protests and rallies;
- Promoting sectarian hate;
- Refraining from carrying out their employment duties, in aims of hindering medical work, consequently endangering people’s health and lives;
- Not informing the authorities of felonies.
Doctors In Chains has received this personal testimony from Dr Ghassan Dhaif regarding what happened to him before and after he was arrested:
“My story started on 17th February 2011 at 4:30 am when I was asked by my junior resident who was on call to come to Accident and Emergency Department at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) to assess casualties brought from the pearl roundabout. I rushed to the hospital and found the situation chaotic and the hospital was full of casualties and relatives. Apparently, the hospital activated the disaster plan. The medical staff were rushing in the hospital corridors to the emergency department. The switchboard announced for all doctors to go to emergency department for help. The Resuscitation Room (RR) was full of seriously injured cases. Emergency cubicles were full of wounded protesters with different injuries. There was large influx of casualties into the emergency brought in by ambulances. I started to search for those with facial injuries. These were seen, stabilized and appropriate investigations were requested. The emergency treatment (suturing of cut wounds, control of bleeding, and management of airway) was carried out at emergency. The scene was absolutely frightening. I was called to see Dr Sadiq Al Ekri who was beaten by police squad and had facial bruises, black eye and fractures of facial bones beside other body injuries. Four protesters died on that day. The ambulance services were stopped around 8:45am. The medical staff were outraged as more wounded protesters were brought by civilian cars and a few by their relatives. Also, paramedics and ambulance drivers were brought in the hospital after being beaten up by riots squad. There were several injuries among them. The ambulances were taken away from the hospital. This resulted in further chaos and staff rushed into hospital administration for further clarifications as there were rumers that ambulance services were stopped by the hospital administration themselves. Further ambulance trips to Pearl Roundabout resumed at 11:45am. No casualties were seen and ambulances returned back. Further rumours spread that the wounded protesters were taken by riots squad to unknown place.
On 18th February 2011, further clashes between protesters and riot squad erupted again which resulted in more casualties among the protesters. The situation was chaotic once again with exaggeration in the use of force. There were more serious cases with grave consequences. The medical staff showed competency and professionalism in dealing with life threatening injuries which requires urgent attention.The hospital activated the disaster plan. Wounded protesters needing urgent surgical attention were rushed to operating rooms. The emergency department was optimally run.
I was arrested at Bahrain International Airport on 19th March 2011 at 3:30pm as i was travelling with my family to London. I was arrested by a group of masked men wearing civilian clothes. I was back handcuffed and my face was covered by black bag tied forcefully at my neck in front of my family. I was taken to a room, beaten on my face, chest and legs without given any charges or reason for arrest. I was screaming from pain and I kept shouting “I will die” but they showed no mercy. This nearly lasted for an hour with 5-6 people in the room. I asked them about reason for detention and they replied you will know after you die.
Thereafter, I was taken by a car in the same condition to anonymous place. After 10 days I realized it is Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID).
At CID, i was beaten badly by a lady from the royal family on every part of my body by kicks, plastic hose and sticks. She slapped me on my face and punched me. I fainted for a while, then they splashed my face with water and I regained consciousness. My face was soaked with blood from my mouth and nose. Then, I was taken into an office where I was tortured physically, verbally and religiously without allowed to talk. I asked for my lawyer and family but I was replied, when you go to graveyard. I was interrogated for 30 minutes, and asked about my family, job duties at the hospital, my income and my involvement with the protesters. I clearly stated that I am a doctor and was doing my duties and responsibilities at the hospital solely. The interrogator forced me under torture and abuses to accept charges such as leading protesters, killing injured protesters by increasing their wounds, utilize media to spread false information, obtain illegal medicines from hospital, inciting the overthrow of the regime, stockpiling weapons and orchestrating scenarios to turn down Bahrain constitution, all which I denied but forced to confess under threat and torture. I was given papers to sign without allowing me to read them. I was kept standing for that night and I was hearing my brother Dr Bassim screaming while was under torture.
Next day, both of us were taken to a solitary confinement for 7 days, not allowed to sleep or go toilet, standing on bare feet while back handcuffed and blindfolded throughout. There, I was tortured by the hour by continuous beatings and kicks using wooden sticks, rubber hose, plastic bottles and electric wires. I was tortured, verbally abused and accused of my religious believes. This took several forms including the us of bad words (rafidi, majoos, son of muta’a “pleasure marriage”). They used bad words (son of a bitch, ass hole) and I was sexually harassed. I started to get exhausted, hallucinate and had suicidal thoughts.
On day 8, i was taken to another place and subjected to same abuses but the intensity of torture was significantly increased. Occasionally, I fainted due to hypoglycemia and torture. One thing peculiar about abuses and torture is the harshness of the guards during night shift which usually lasts 12 hours. They were very aggressive and merciless. Apparently, they were instructed from their superior to intensify torture and use all possible means. Due to amount of torture and exhaustion, I fainted one night and that resulted in pulling me on the floor after I was kicked all over and struck my body on the wall all the way up to toilet. I was thrown on the floor and asked to wash my face. On the way back, the same scenario happened in similar fashion, then I collapsed.
On day 14, I was taken for interrogation again by a person who started the session by intensed torture and abuses. I was hit by his shoes, beaten by his hands, the use of hard objects and electric shocks. There was verbal, religious beliefs, family abuses. He threatened me that he will rape my wife and daughter. I asked for my lawyer and family to attend. In return, I was tortured badly. The interrogation lasted for 6-8 hours and I wasn’t allowed to answer questions comfortably but rather forced to confess in the way he wanted it. No specific charges were given to me. I was asked about my wages and income of my private clinic. He also went oddly further and asked me about financial religious beliefs (khoms). I was shown the keys of my cars (5 cars) and told that these were taken and will never be returned. Later, my wife informed me that the cars were taken on 19th March and my house was illegally broken into and valuable items including cash and electronic items were stolen. Doors were broken and property documents were taken. He made me confess that I am part of a cell with a plot to overthrow the regime, exaggerating the number of protesters, steeling blood from blood bank from Salmaniya Hospital. At the end of interrogation session, I was forced to sign a bunch of papers without being allowed to read them.
The torture continued day and night with further concentration to harm as much as possible and cause permanent deformity and disabilities. I was slapped on the side of my face which resulted in perforation of my ear drum, tinnitus and vertigo. Also, they asked me to sing and dance while they were making fun of me. Also, to sing Bahrain national anthem under abuse and torture. On several occasions I was taken to the office of the interrogation director as a group of medics including Dr Nader Dawani, Dr AK Al Oraibi and Dr Mahmood Asghar. Dr Nader was beaten wildly and tortured fiercely. I could hear him screaming from pain and yelling. They use to call him Iranian, safawi, majoosi and traitor. He was severely and harshly tortured without taking into account his age and his medical condition. I suffered a lot from this situation as I was afraid that we may loose him.
On day 20, I was taken for further interrogation by Military Prosecution. I asked them to have my lawyer present but it was refused. I was asked about my role in 14th February revolution which I have denied any as I am a doctor and doing my job at the hospital by treating wounded casualties. I denied passing false information to the media or helping the protesters. I was forced to confess against my colleagues under threat and torture. After more than 8 hours of standing, I was forced to sign these confession papers without allowing me to read them. There were no specific charges against me except passing false information to the media.
On the same night, I was kicked on my back by a torturer (MF). I was screaming from pain as I felt paralysed and numb on the left side of my back, buttock, leg and foot. I was taken to Al-Qalaa clinic under torture. There, the medical staff were cruel, immoral and virtueless. I was attacked physically by wrapping my face all over with crepe bandage sparing my mouth to breath. I struggled as I am claustrophobic, and I tried to explain that but in return they were more brutal and inhuman. I was pulled like a sheep on the floor after the officer asked to empty the path to radiology from any staff. Although my back injury caused significant pain and suffering, the x-ray table was raised in order to induce more pain. I was treated with atrocity and in a barbaric way in spite of being in a health institute. I had an x-ray and urine test. They refused to give me pain killers instead I had a drip for half an hour. During this time, I was sexually harassed and threatened of rape to me, my wife and my daughter. I was so emotional due to my suffering and being helpless. I wasn’t told about my injury, laboratory and the x-ray result.
In the same night, I was taken back to CID and the lady from the royal family beat me again in the same area. Then, I was transferred to somewhere else which I came to know later is the dry dock temporary detention. The tragedy continued as the magnitude of physical and verbal torture have increased. The people involved have changed to Asian origin which was clear from their Arabic accent. They were ferocious, grimly and difficult to deal.
I remained blindfolded and back handcuffed for another 4 days. Thereafter, this was removed and I was given mattress, pillow and a dirty blanket. My suffering continued due to cruelty of the guards, congestion of the cell and unhygienic place. We were allowed to take a shower once a week only, and allowed to go to toilet in an inhuman fashion. I didn’t have any spare clothes for nearly 6 weeks and they refused to contact my family. The situation was difficult and unbearable due to the crudeness and harshness of the guards and their brutality. We were humiliated and forced to clean the cell. We were deprived from practicing our religious believes and barred from acquiring Quran or even having any book. One of the significant and peculiar fact is our fear from unknown. Every time we are called by the guard we get scared because it involves a torture trip to CID for a day or two. This was done biweekly until 28 May 2011. We weren’t allowed to go out of the cell or to do any exercise.
I was severely physically and verbally abused and tortured even when going to medical clinic at Dry dock, MOI hospital and BDF hospital by medical staff as well as guards. I was taken to the MOI hospital for further assessment of my back injury. There, I was humiliated, verbally abused and exploited by medical staff as well as guards. I was denied access to a specialist for the back injury I sustained during torture at CID although accident and emergency doctor insisted. Routine radiographs for my spine were suspicious of three disc prolapse but the doctor refused to do MRI and asked for physiotherapy.
One day, I fainted at the cell after feeling imbalance due to tinnitus and vertigo, so I was rushed into the medical clinic and transferred immediately by an ambulance to BDF hospital. I was kept back handcuffed and blindfolded and the staff abused me and started to make fun of me. I was tortured on my religious beliefs including mutaa (pleasure marriage), will be sentenced for life and I will not be able to see my family. It was a hard experience to go through this as it is supposedly a humanitarian institute.
One of the most striking observation at the temporary detention dry dock was the staff were exclusively of Asian origin and their improper Arabic accent. They were rude, harsh and emotionless.
One day in April 2011, the medics were taken to CID to record the false confessions by Bahrain TV under threats. We were firmly instructed to exactly recite the same false confessions we gave with military prosecutor in order to avoid torture, and you will get a pardon by the King. We had to confess against each other as directed by group of prosecutors. This session took nearly 10 hours as it involved several repeat of recording to fabricate a story. Few doctors broke in tears and were terrified due to their fear from the consequences. It was a traumatic experience and we were deeply hurt because we had to go through the same tragedy during interrogation, but this time by confessing in front of the camera and our colleagues. Also, we were directed to pledge the King, Prime Minister and Crown Prince to accept our apology and pardon us for committing these crimes.
My physical health deteriorated significantly and i developed muscle waste and started to loose significant amount of weight over a short period of time. My weight dropped from 84kg to 64kg. This was compounded with my back injury with the residual disability and difficulties to lie down. My mental status was affected as well due to fear of the future, lack of family support and the abuses. I had difficulties in going to sleep, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest in social talks and self immersion. I seeked medical advice regarding my psychological status but the doctor denied giving access to psychiatrist.
On 28th May 2011, the detainees in ward 5 transferred to ward 6. The differences were significant, shocking and traumatic to all detainees. It includes a small cell without a window with 10 detainees in each and with a tiny bathroom and shower in the same cell, therefore, we weren’t allowed to go out the cell. We had to clean the cell and bathroom, remove the trash and wash the catering dish. It took us several weeks to adapt to this new environment.
On 5th June 2011, at evening time around 11:00 pm the guards told us to get ready around 4:00am next day without giving further details.
On 6th June 2011, and after standard preparation with blindfold and back handcuff, the medics were insulted and beaten up by the guards which resulted in a broken nasal bones of a doctor. We were taken to another detention site for an hour. Then, we were transferred to anonymous place under physical and verbal insults. We were packed in a small cabinet for nearly an hour, then kept in the sun for couple of hours before finding ourselves in the court hall. The medics were divided into two groups without any further details. Later, we came to know that our group (20) is charged with felonies and the other group (27) charged with misdemeanors. For the first time, I see my wife standing in front of me as a defendant, and my father sitting among attendees. The attendees as well as the judge were shocked by the look of the medics as some were wearing sleeping pajamas and looked exhausted. The court session last 10 minutes only. The judge cited the names of the defendants in number sequence and listed the charges. The judge realized that few of the medics don’t have a lawyer. The session was quick with our lack of concentration, shock and exhaustion, therefore, I didn’t had the chance to absorb the charges. I was allowed for the first time since 19th March 2011 to see my wife, dad, two sisters and my lawyer for just 5 minutes. The hearing was adjourned for 13th June 2011.
The medics were given 2 minutes call to their family for the first time, and followed by family visit at CID. The visit was for 30 minutes and was held in a portable cabinet with plastic shield and tiny holes to speak through. It was an emotional visit after a lengthy time of family separation.
On 13th June 2011, our group which consists 10 male medics in custody were taken to the court without meeting the lawyer and the same procedure was done except no beatings as we complained to the detention director about the previous experience. The session was quick as the defendants were asked guilty or not guilty. For me it was a difficult experience as the judge dismissed my wife as she said: not guilty and these confessions were taken under threat and torture.
On 20th June 2011, the court trial session was for prosecution witnesses. This was lengthy and lasted for nearly 6 hours. The witnesses were mixed staff from SMC and the General Director of CID. The medics were astonished by these hearings which were contradictory and some of these were in our favor. The hospital administrator denied the conspiracy of hospital occupancy. Some of them denied our participation in direct involvement with the protesters. The next hearing was scheduled for 29th June 2011.
On 22nd June 2011, the misdemeanors group of medics were released on bail. There were 5 medics were with me in the same cell. I had a psychological breakdown due to separation of my colleagues and the associated fear. I was transferred to the clinic and given IV drip only. I was transferred to another cell with my brother but this didn’t help much. I asked the doctor at the clinic to refer me for psychiatric assessment. With great difficulties this was arranged and the psychiatrist prescribed for me strong antidepressant medications and sleeping pills. My mental status deteriorated further with frequent suicidal thoughts, and severe depression, therefore, the psychiatrist prescribed further medications.
On 28th June 2011, the guards informed the medics that the military courts have been cancelled and our case will be transferred to civilian court, but we would have to wait for further details. The King issued a decree stating that all cases should be transferred to civilian courts. As majority of the detainees in our cell were released on bail, we were transferred to another cell. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) visited the medics and held lengthy interviews with us. My brother and I were seen by the chief investigator who showed sympathy to our case. Full inquiry about our case was discussed with him and a detailed testimony was given. Further visits of the chief investigator with his group in the temporary detention was carried out.
In mid August 2011, the medics were taken to for an assessment by group of forensic experts nominated by BICI. This took place at MOI hospital, and I was assessed by an American physician expert in torture. She had undertaken a lengthy and detailed history including arrest, torture, abuses, physical and mental assessment. She documented residual marks on my body as a proof of torture although great deal of time lapsed. The most striking finding which was detected by her is perforation of the left ear drum. This explained the frequent attacks of vertigo. There were marks on my back, shin and feet. Comprehensive psychiatric evaluation was done. She recommended Otolaryngologist evaluation, MRI of back and further psychiatric treatment. Unfortunately, nothing was done.
One week later, few of the medics were taken for forensic evaluation by MOI physician. In contradiction to our previous assessment, the whole process took 3 minutes with no details or proper evaluation.
Professor Bassioni visited the medics in the detention center and listened to the medics group for two hours. He was briefed by the medics about the whole process of arrest, interrogation and torture. The medics insisted that he needs to convey this message to HH the King directly to intervene. He promised that he will set recommendations to the government and will discuss this case with the King.
The medics in detention decided to go on hunger strike in response to the deterioration of our case and lack of solutions from the government. The medics started this hunger strike on Eid Al Fitr Day and continued till the last court session on 7th September 2011. The physical condition of the medics started to deteriorate day by day and we were taken to the clinic daily for IV fluids.
On 7th September 2011, the medics were taken to the court for the hearings of defence witnesses. This session started at 11:00am and finished at 5:30pm. There were more than 50 witnesses but the court allowed 26 only. The defense witnesses consisted of senior doctors, hospital staff nurse, paramedics, patients and hospital engineers. All have defeated the charges and the medics were released on bail. The court decided 29th September 2011, for the final verdict.
On 29th September 2011, the court sentenced me for 15 years imprisonment.“
On 14th June 2012 Dr Ghassan had his sentence reduced to one year in prison following appeal. This is totally unacceptable that a doctors he should have to return to prison, having done nothing wrong, and having already been brutally tortured in this way. He should be acquitted, reinstated at work, and fairly compensated for his ordeal. In addition, his torturers need to be brought to justice. His final appeal was turned down on 1st October 2012 and he was arrested and imprisoned once again on 2nd October 2012.
Dr Ghassan it appears is being used as a scapegoat, together with Dr Ali Al Ekri. It is suspected that the following interview with Al Jazeera at the time of the unrest may have something to do with that decision.
This is Dr Ghassan Dhaif with his wife Dr Zahra Al Sammak after they had been convicted in September 2011. Imagine how he feels not that he has heard he will indeed be returning to jail.
You may post Dr Ghassan Dhaif a message of support here using the form below. Please note that all messages will be moderated and abusive or potentially damaging messages will not be posted as this gentleman and his family have suffered enough already.
You may also read Dr Hasan Al Tublani’s testimony here.