Dr Saeed Mudhaher Habib Al Samahiji, age 57 and a father of two, is a Consultant Ophthalmologist who was working in the Samlaniya Medical Complex (SMC). He graduated in medicine in 1980, then specialised in Ophthalmology in 1982, and in 1983 he completed a subspecialty course in sclera plasty surgery for myopia.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji is a member of the following:
- the Bahrain Medical Society.
- the Pan Arab African Council of Ophthalmology (PAACO).
- the Pan Arab Societies of Ophthalmology (PASO).
- the British Royal College of Ophthalmology.
- the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
- the Cataract and Refractive Society of European Surgeons.
- the Council Board of Is Town Consumer Co-Operative Society.
He has also served on the following boards and committees:
- the Bahrain Ophthalmology Association in the Council Board of PASO.
- the Council Board of the Bahrain Shamil Center of Hearing, Vision and Speech.
- the Drug Committee in the Ministry of Health and BDF Hospital.
- the disaster committee in the Ministry of Health and the Ophthalmology Department.
- founder and member of the Council Board of the Bahrain Ophthalmology Association.
He has published reseach on many occasions to the Bahrain Medical Bulletin including “The reason of postponed cataract cases and its solutions” in 1994, “Vitreous Surgery for complication of diabetic retinopathy” in 1999 and “The reason of postponed cataract cases and its solutions” in 1999, and he has contributed in writing educational brochures for the public in the ophthalmology department and writing articles in local news papers as well as other publications for The Arabian Gulf since 1985.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji contributed on the committees of two campaigns for Hypertension which was conducted by Bahrain Medical Society in 2010, and for Diabetes Mellitus which was conducted by Manama Charity Fund in 2010, which achieved recognitions in the international Guinness World Records. He has also been involved in the Bahrain’s national glaucoma campaign, for glaucoma screening in Bahrain, with the Bahrain Ophthalmology Association in 2003, 2004, 2007 and 2009.
He was nominated for a certificate and shield of appreciation from the Bahrain Medical Society for his diligence and dedication in medicine during 30 years of his work. Furthermore he was nominated for a certificate and shield of appreciation and gratitude from the Bahrain Ophthalmology Association as one of the ophthalmology pioneers who has contributed to the development of Ophthalmology Department in the Ministry of Health.
Dr Saeed Al Samahiji has contributed to the work of many ophthalmologist training workshops on new microsurgery using the latest technology in the SMC hospital. During the demonstrations early 2011 he conducted most of the eye surgeries that were presented at the hospital.
He was notified of by letter of suspension from work on 7th April, and was subsequently arrest on 12th April 2011 in front of the A&E department at the SMC hospital. His house was also attacked in the evening by a large number of secuirty forces.
Doctors In Chains have received this testimony from Dr Saeed Al Samahiji:
“I was interrogated a number of times between 20th and 30th of March 2011, by masked security officers. There were two rooms located opposite to the Accident and Emergency Department at the SMC, which were allocated for the occupied security forces including the Bahrain Defense Force and the Ministry of Interior. I was also interrogated twice at the SMC’s parking slot that was specifically allocated to me. My car had been inspected and damaged, and all my belongings were scattered. My car was moved away and transported to an unknown location. There was also another car located near mine that belonged to my friend, which I also used, which was also taken away by the Ministry of Interior.
On 5th April 2011, myself and the other medical staff were interrogated in the room that is located at the administration of SMC, by “Bahaa Eddin Fatiha” Legal Adviser of Bahrain Defense Force, “Yahia Ayoub Mohammed” legal adviser of Ministry of Health at that period of time, by one officer of the security apparatus of the Ministry of Interior and by one employee of the Public Prosecution.
On 7th April a letter of suspension was given to me at the administration of SMC, for the benefit of the investigation.
I was interrogated on questions regarding my role and participation in the demonstrations, sit-ins and protests, that swept Bahrain from February 14 until 16 March 2011. I confirmed about my positive participation in the emergency department during the that period, due to that fact that I was a member of the Committee of the disaster at SMC and working in the Department of Ophthalmology. During this critical period I was completely dedicated to my patients, working day and night in the operating theatres. I treated all the patients regardless of their citizenship, nationalities, religion, beliefs, doctrines, creed, occupation or employer. I conducted 20 eye surgeries and supervised 10 other eye surgeries as well.
One evidence that I was not acting in a racist manner is the operation that I conducted on 17th February on the injured eye of a policeman who was a Pakistani national and had been wounded at the Pearl roundabout, when the shovel of the tractor which was being used for clearing the roundabout had fallen on him, during the evacuation of the protesters by the Bahrain Defense Force and Ministry of Interior. I managed to save the policeman’s injured eye, rather than enucleate it. The patient had signed the consent form and accepted. I believe I made the right decision for saving the patient’s eye, without which he would have lost his eye. I performed my duty professionally on a humanitarian basis and with the fear of God, whilst I could have enucleated the eye without being accountable for it legally or administratively by anyone. Moreover, I did not divulge the patient’s secret to anybody that he was a policeman or the cause of injury and where it had happened.
I also operated on a group of foreign citizens from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and also members of the riot police. They were transferred by the SMC ambulance to the emergency department. These foreign citizens had been stoning, throwing bricks and wood pieces from building roofs in Manama City on Bahraini citizens who were sitting below the building. When the Bahraini citizens found that they were throwing bricks from the roof of the building, a group of Bahraini people followed them. There after these foreign citizens were brought to me in the emergency department. I treated them and helped them to be removed from SMC to BDF in secret in order to protect them.
I also protected a Jordanian student who was injured at The University of Bahrain, at Al – Sakhir location, along with his family. I treated the student in the emergency department and then successfully got him and his family to the ambulance to safely transfer them to their accommodation. The Jordanian student was the same individual who had participated in the attack on the Shia and Sunni students at The University of Bahrain.
I was arrested at SMC on 12th April 2011, by masked security officers of the Ministry of Interior, and was beaten up brutally and punched in the head. I was blindfolded with a cloth tightly wrapped on my eyes, thrown into a police car and taken to a Qalaa’ clinic for medical screening, where it was revealed that I had hypertension and that my BP (Blood Pressure) was on the high danger level of 230/120mm. All the attempts of the doctors to reduce my BP to normal (120/80mm) failed and then it was decided to transfer me to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital (BDF) in Western Riffaa’ area, where they could only manage to reduce my BP to190/110 – 180/100mm. They then transferred me to the Drug Section of the Department of Criminal Investigation Division at the Ministry of Interior which is located in Al-A’dlyia area, where a room had been allocated for the purpose of the interrogation of the prisoners by the military prosecution on behalf of the military. Here we were subjected to physical torture using all different torturing methods and means and tools (including electric shocks). I was beaten up on my face, head, hands, legs, back and coccyx, because of which I lost the sensation in the fingers of my left hand. They threatened me with sexual assault, hurled insults at me and on my family and relatives, cursed and swore at me and spat on my face. They even insulted my religious and spiritual beliefs.
Only after two months of requesting the officers daily for the Holy Quran and the books of Du’aa (supplications and prayers) did I receive one. One of the officers informed my that although they had these Holy Books, they were prohibited from distributing them to the prisoners. The officers hurled the most unsightly insults and ridicules against the supreme religious leaders, doctrinal locals, international leaders, political figures, medical staff of doctors and nurses, and paramedics and administrators, in order to destroy us psychologically and to weaken and break our morale (which was very strong), which they were unsuccessful in breaking.
They used all manner of dirty tactics and force against me in order to extract confessions according to the scenarios which were prepared in advance by the local and regional political leaders.
I was tortured and interrogated day and night at the Criminal (Drug) Department, and I was forced to stand for long hours, deprived of sleep for 5 days and starved of food and drink for two days. I was forced to live in unhygienic and unhealthy places and in rooms which were very cold. I was made to sit on the exposed floor, while my eyes were blindfolded and hands tied behind my back. This caused me a very severe headache and physical trembling and pain in my fingers and toes. On the sixth day I was interrogated more than 7 hours continuously in a room of the military prosecution.
I was then transferred at night to the Dry Dock prison in the”5th” Ambergris, where other doctors and detainees were also held. They continued to direct the same series of severe insults that occurred in Al-A’dlyia interrogation department as well as torture and ill-treatment but the intensity reduced and it was getting better by the day because of the doctors’ daily demands and protests for better prison conditions. During my stay at the Dry Dock prison I was taken several times to Al-A’dlyia interrogation department for interrogation whenever new matters were found. In the process I was continuously tortured. They also tortured me when I was taken alone to the Qalaa’ clinic or BDF hospital for treatment of hypertension, examination of heart problems or psychological problems.
On the evening of the 31st May, myself along with the prisoners of “5th” ambergris (which had become comfortable, because of the opening of windows and the cell doors were made of bars through which air would enter and the prisoners could see through) were shifted to the “6th” ambergris, where the living conditions were worse in terms of psychological conditions and lack of oxygen because the windows were closed, and the tight iron door made the atmosphere suffocating as if we were trapped in a safe. Because of our continuous complaints about the suffocating atmosphere, the windows were opened and the small opening in the iron door which was used for exchange of food and medicines to the prisoners inside the cell was opened. The uncomfortable conditions of the 6th Ambergris cell caused me unstable BP and affected my psychological state. My BP decreased to a score of 110/60mm, which caused further complicated medical problems. My BP would sometimes rise at night because of harassment by the ambergris officers while they were on their night visits, or while the blankets and mattresses were changed in the middle of the nights most instances at 2am.
On 8th July when a senior official of the Ministry of Interior visited the”6th” ambergris (the officer who had previously earned us several demands to improve the prison conditions for detainees at “5th” ambergris and also at “6th” ambergris), I requested him to visit the “4″cell where I was held at the “6th”ambergris along with the officer in-charge of the Dry Dock prison. On their visit to my cell, joined along with them were some doctors and detainees from neighboring cells. I welcomed the officer and they started discussing the situation of the prison. Everyone in my cell was anxious. I started questioning him as to why we were held for this long period. What were the reasons for our arrest and as long would these tragedies would continue? The officer was very understanding and patient to the our emotional questioning and my upset state of mind and emotion.
The officer consoled me and told me that he had no answer or solution to our problems. I was very upset and I requested the officer to convey our concerns, questions and demands to the political leaders to arrive at a decision for sorting out our problem, which the officer accepted and promised that he would do his best to do so.
Then the officer left the ambergris. After a short period, I had a severe intolerable headache which I had never felt before, followed by nausea and continued vomiting and I lost consciousness for few hours. When I regained consciousness I had double vision and had lost my awareness of urination and bowel movements and was on the bed for a period of two consecutive days. When I was taken to the clinic of the Dry Dock prison, the foreign doctors in the clinic accused me of lying. The same night I was taken to the clinic of the Ministry of Interior where I was given sedative and analgesic injections only without diagnosis. Being an Ophthalmologist I was aware that I was suffering from something more serious in my brain because of the double vision. On the third day Dr. Hassan Al-Toublani (consultant who was also a detainee in the same Ambergris) head of intensive care unit at SMC examined me. He revealed that I was suffering from the sixth nerve palsy in the left eye, causing double vision, paralysis in the third nerve, causing the expansion of the pupil, and was also suffering from cranial hypertension, causing continued vomiting. Dr.Toublani also found that I was suffering from bleeding of the brain; hence he immediately went to the prison officers and informed them of my critical situation. Dr. Toublani warned them that if I was not immediately transferred to a hospital I would die in the prison and that the Government would be responsible for my life. Knowing this the administration of prison acted quickly out of fear and called for the ambulance to transport me to the BDF hospital immediately.
An urgent CT scan of the my brain was done in the BDF Hospital. The result revealed aneurysm of the basel artery in occipital area and brain bleeding. I was immediately transferred to the Emergency Dept. of SMC and the CT scan was repeated. The same result was revealed.
In SMC the CT scan was conducted by the Radiologist Consultant who is also an administrator and who had been sent to take care of me especially under instructions from high level authorized officials. The radiologist informed me that 93% of patients involved in brain bleeding pass away before reaching the hospital and that only 7% reach the hospital alive. While I was admitted in Intensive Care Unit (ICU), four other patients involved with brain bleeding had passed away about one week after their admission in SMC.
Two days after my admission in ICU I underwent bypass surgery of the brain arteries under general anesthesia, by a famous Lebanese doctor, with a good international reputation. The doctor was brought to Bahrain on the request of Bahraini doctors who knew about him and his reputation.
Unfortunately the surgery was unsuccessful, because of intensive brain bleeding. I remained in ICU for 2 weeks and was send to Amman – Jordan for further surgical and psychological treatment and physiotherapy. I stayed in Amman for 3 weeks. On my return to Bahrain, I was admitted to SMC where I remained under treatment for one month.”
Through Dr. Al Samahiji’s professional expertise and experience as an ophthalmologist,he considers the following factors being the reason for the bleeding to his brain:
- He has had hypertension for10 years. The Ministry of Interior neglected his unhealthy state and did not consider or respect his disease during his interrogation and torture.
- The torturers were focusing on his head and face during the interrogating period (the first 5-6 days) at Al-A’dlyia Office, which was the main cause of contusion and tearing of the brain arteries. He was also exposed to the same methods of torture when he was being taken several times to the Al-A’dlyia prison from the Dry Dock prison, and whenever they were interested in updating information about him.
- Dr.Samahiji was exposed to very bad psychological conditions, ill-treatment, insults and trauma in the prison, which had caused sudden brain bleeding. He was put through the most difficult period in his life during this time.
On 14th September he returned back to Bahrain, directly to the SMC to continue with physiotherapy and psychological treatment up until the date of 13th October. On 29th September 2011, whilst he was still being treated in hospital, the military court sentenced to him to 10 years in prison, on the following charges:
- inciting hatred against the governing regime;
- promoting sectarian hate;
- participating and supporting unlicensed protests and rallies;
- refraining from carrying out employment duties, in aim of hindering medical work and consequently endangering people’s health and lives;
- not informing the authorities of felonies;
- detention (of policeman) by force.
Dr. Al Samahiji’s appeal delivered its verdict on 14th June and his sentence was reduced to one year. Dr Al Samahiji is sick and is not fit to return to jail. His final appeal was rejected on 1st October 2012 and he was rearrested and imprisoned once again on 2nd October to complete his sentence.
You may wish to post a message of support here for Dr. Saeed Al-Samahiji using the form below. Note that all messages will be moderated and any that are abusive or damaging will not be published, as this gentleman has suffered enough already.
You can also read Dr Zahra Al Sammak’s personal testimony here.
(note to press: please everyone feel free to reprint any part of this testimony including photos)