What really happened during the demonstrations in the Salmaniya Medical Complex? It is difficult to get a clear picture with much false propaganda being distributed and medics living in fear for speaking out. But now a Western doctor has stepped forward with her testimony in regards to what really happened:
“My name is Doctor Noor. I am a Swedish doctor specialised in psychotherapy who used to live in Bahrain. I believe I was the only Western doctor working at the Salmaniya Medical Complex at the time of the protests and government clamp down. I called Sayed Marhoon at the A&E Department of the Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) on the 14th February to ask if they needed any help and worked as a volunteer there from 14th February to the 17th March. I was working in different wards, alongside Dr Ghassan Dhaif, Dr Bassim Dhaif, Dr Mahmood Ashghar, Dr Haji, Dr Al Saffer and Dr Ali Ekri. I was there nearly all the time, often sleeping in the corridor instead of going home, so I was witness to many things.
I learnt that the first martyr had been brought to the hospital was on 14th February and the second one was brought on the 15th February, although I did not see them personally.
When I arrived at the hospital initially there were not many wounded but some people suffering from tear gas inhalation. After a few hours I noticed three people standing in the corridor from CID, who I recognised from previous work as my psychotherapy patients were often in difficulty.
On 17th February at 3am the army attacked the protesters on the Pearl Roundabout. I arrived at the hospital at 4am to find it in a state of crisis.
When the protesters arrived they were brought to A&E and then taken to the first ER room on the left side of the corridor. Sayed Marjoon Alwadie and the other medics were giving us the details of the patients. Dr Haji kept on stating that if it continued like that we would run out of blood. Later they were taken to surgery.
Not only had protesters been attacked but also doctors and ambulance drivers who went to help the protesters, and patients in the ambulances.
Within a 24 hour period we treated 1053 wounded. I know it was 1053 because when I returned on 19th February I heard a male Sunni nurse talking to a female Filipino nurse and he told her that he had adjusted the number of patients from 1053 to 350. I asked him how he could do that because we keep a register with their CPR (id card) or temporary CPR, and in reply he asked me whether I was from Syria (a Sunni) or from Sweden (a Christian) .
We ran out of everything: bed sheets, towels, medication and most importantly blood. Doctors as well as male and female nurses were working shifts up to 72 hours and asking why did this happen. It was very difficult to get medication from one head Filipino nurse, such as valium and atropine. She was always with the Sunni doctors.
When the protesters were brought to the hospital as a result of a massive teargas attack, most of them were having seizures and massive cramp. I saw two Sunni medics (a doctor and nurse) in Ward E treating the protesters in an aggressive manner: Sunni doctors and nurses were very violent with them bending up fingers, arms and legs. I was there and was so upset because they could be injured. I would say, “Please be gentle” and they always replied “This is the best way, there is no limit for my anger”.
One doctor came and showed me the live ammunition they had just taken out from a protestor’s back (see photo).
Some of the Sunni doctors from Egypt were treating the protesters in a harmful way. For example, when they took out the birdshots they didn’t use anaesthetic or administer antibiotics. When I asked for antibiotics to be prescribed the doctors smiled and replied that they will soon come back because of the infection from the bullet (lead poisoning). The first time I was told this I thought I had misunderstood something, but realised later that I had actually heard correctly.
One evening when we had many wounded, I was in Ward E where we had 16 patients who were all under a drip. They had been wounded from birdshots, rubber bullets and had inhaled a lot of tear gas. I had to fight for these protesters to get the treatment they needed, to receive more valium than 5mg, to have their blood pressure checked and a drip. I was working with one young Egyptian doctor who was not happy with me at all. After some hours his boss came and told him to discharge all the patients. He looked at me and I saw fear in his eyes and that he did not know what to do, whether to listen to his boss or me. I asked his boss where he was to send them and he replied , “to the street where they belong”. I was angry with him and told him that we couldn’t send them out since they couldn’t walk and we didn’t have wheelchairs for all of them. He replied that they should have thought about that before. I told him that they are under high dosage of valium, however they were all discharged within 15 minutes. I brought them back to the C Ward since their condition was so bad.
I was working all over the hospital and I never saw any doctor do anything bad like hide weapons or sticks. Everyone was so tired after their shifts they just went home and slept. I never saw any weapons in the hospital. The doctors asked me if I had heard the rumours that they had brought weapons into the hospital and I had heard the rumours, but it would have been impossible for them to bring in weapons without anyone seeing them as they came into work wearing just their trousers, a shirt and tie.
I saw the doctors in question helping both Sunni and Shia patients in the same way. They never turned any patient away or treated any patient badly.
What I did see in the hospital was how some other Sunni and Egyptian doctors and nurses mistreated the protesters, even just disappearing from work, leaving me with just Indian nurses who were no help at all.
One day when I arrived at SMC, the medics Sayed Marhoon Alwadie and two other people were invited to a meeting with the Health Minister. He wanted to thank them for what they were doing at SMC and Sayed Marhoon said to me that Dr Nezar Baharna doesn’t have it easy this days, that he is always polite and nice and never has a bad word to say.
On the 13th March the Bahrain University was attacked. Three Sunni patients were brought to the hospital. The young woman was in severe shock. She was bleeding from the head and her friend needed stitches in his forehead. They were so afraid of being attacked in the hospital ward so I told the doctors that we needed security outside of their door. Later their brother came. I was there all the time and they received the best treatment. Later the girl calmed down and started to talk to me. I promised not to leave them and assured them that they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I gave them something to eat and drink. Then the father of the young man came into the room very angry, asking his son why he came to the SMC, and the son replied that it was closer. The father said that you don’t get proper treatment there and that they have to be taken to BDF (Bahrain Defence Force Hospital) instead. This poor man tried to convince his father that everything was fine and that he wanted to stay at SMC, but the father refused. The young students thanked me and apologised for what their father said.
I saw Nada Dhaif most evenings and went with her to the Pearl Roundabout to the emergency tent to treat protesters there. She was tired and crying asking why there were all these injuries, that they were just protesters, and that now she was being accused of colonizing the hospital, but there simply hadn’t been any time for that.
On the 16th March the military came and blocked the entrance to the hospital with their Panzers. It became difficult to enter the hospital because of the army checkpoints. Protesters had to be taken to the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital.
A young Shia man was brought to SMC who had been shot in both his eyes by rubber bullets, size 2 x 3 x 1.5 cms. He was left the whole night without any help to change his clothes, go to the bathroom or anything to drink. The Sunni nurses were chatting on their Blackberries, laughing until 2am in the morning. I went to them and told them to be quiet. I left at 3pm and he was in the same condition with no help at all because the Saudis had taken over the hospital.
We treated all civilian cases in the best way we could, regardless of sect, although a Sunni doctor said we didn’t. I was often assisting the Sunni doctors as well so they could not accuse me of that.
One Shia woman came to SMC with her son whose body had been burnt with hot water from a teapot. Later that woman was taken to the police station and accused of having done that to her son in order to increase the number of injured protesters at the hospital and was forced to sign papers to say that was the truth or else she would be taken to jail.
On the 17th March the major announced by megaphone that all expats had to leave the hospital then, and if they didn’t they would be treated as Shia. My friends at the hospital told me to leave but I didn’t, I waited until my husband came to pick me up. I left at 3pm, after which I learnt that the military became violent, beating patients who were there, both protesters and civilians and calling them bad names. People became afraid to go the SMC hospital for fear of being beaten by the Saudi military. People were afraid to call for ambulances because they would be taken to the Bahrain Defence Hospital.
The doctors, nurses and patients were always very kind to me, always hugging me , giving me flowers, dates and cakes and saying they would be there for me if I ever needed any help. They were always taking me out for tea or coffee and kissing my forehead and thanking me for caring for them. I am very grateful to them. They were so kind in that difficult situation.
On some days, not at the time of crisis, there were demonstrations to protest about the situation, but protests never took place when there were patients in A&E, they were not for very long (20 to 30 minutes) and doctors were always ready at the A&E entrance to assist with any cases that might arrive. There was never a case of doctors missing or refusing to treat patients.
One of the Sunni doctors of Pakistani descent asked me one day why I didn’t become a spy for them since all the Shia trusted me to death and he said that I could earn a lot of money. He later contacted me via Yahoo chat after I had left the country, asking where I was and what I was doing now.
It became difficult of me in Bahrain and I feared for my safety so I had to leave the country. That was a very worrying time for me, especially when I had to leave my passport with the immigration office for 24 hours in order to get it approved to leave. I received no help from the Swedish Embassy. I think maybe the only reason I wasn’t arrested was because my boss was a Saudi prince.
I was asked by two of the lawyers to go back to Bahrain as a witness in the case of Dr Ghassan’s family, but I could not go as I am no longer allowed back into Bahrain.
The mix of tear gas and blood became a normal smell in the end. I have so many memories from that time, and the only thing I have left to do now is speak out about what I saw.”