Dr. Zahra Al Sammak, aged 45, is a senior consultant anesthesiologist as well as an assistant professor at the College of Medicine Arabian Gulf University. Zahra completed her training in Dublin, Ireland, and has been working at the Salmaniya Medical Complex for the last 20 years. She was also the chairwoman of the Department of Anesthesia from 2006 until February 2011 and is head of the examination committee of the Arab Board Council of Anesthesia.
Dr Al Sammak is well known for her dedication and her commitment to carry out her duties as a doctor and anesthetist, as well as for volunteer activity as a medical professional to serve the people.
Since the start of the conflict in Bahrain on the 14th February, Zhara had been working long hours to treat patients, without discrimination, helping to save many lives. On the dawn of February 17th when she saw people being injured at the Pearl Roundabout protests, she went immediately to the hospital to help treat the injured, and she continued to do her work to the best of her ability up until she was arrested on 11th of April by the military forces from within the Salmaniya Medical Complex.
Zahra was charged with offenses that include:
- the inexcusable refrain from aiding people;
- the embezzlement of public funds;
- refraining from carrying out employment duties, in the aim of hindering medical work which consequently endangered people’s health and lives;
- promotion to bring down and change the regime by illegal means;
- inciting hatred against the governing regime;
- participation in unauthorized rallies and meetings.
Following trial in a military court, she was sentenced to 5 year in prison.
Dr Zahra Al Sammak is married to Dr Ghassan Dhaif who also faced similar charges and was sentenced to15 years in prison. Together they have 3 children aged 17,13 and 9. Their daughter, the oldest, is one of the best students in her grade and had been selected for the Crown Prince Scholarship Program, but recently she has received disturbing messages stating that she doesn’t deserve to be in the program. Naturally their children are very upset by what has happened to their parents, as they face what seems like a very bleak future whilst they wait for both parents to be taken away to jail.
Her family are making this plea:
“We appeal to all medical professional associations, humanitarian and international human rights organizations to use all their resources and means to demand that the Bahraini government drop these false charges. We urge you to contact your governments, parliaments, relevant institutions, your embassies in Bahrain, United Nations institutions, and international organizations to act urgently: Dr. Zahra’s life and children are in imminent danger.”
Here is a written testimony that DoctorInChains.org have received directly from Dr Zahra Al Sammak regarding her arrest and subsequent trial in the military court:
“On Wednesday 17th of March a day after the marshal law was announced, I went to Salmaniya early morning to see that the hospital was seized by the military forces. They were surrounding the hospital. After hearing that the protesters were attacked by the army, I went to the emergency room trying to help but I saw no patients.
In few minutes the military forces starting throwing tear gas in the car park facing the emergency room then we started getting few tear gas injuries on people who were in the car park. At the same time the military men started breaking forcefully the cars in the car park and they destroyed a big medical tent kept by hospital administration to accommodate excessive casualties. The ambulances were prohibited from going to bring the injured people while we started getting calls from the peripheral health centers that they have serious injuries but no ambulances to transfer them to Salmaniya.
The minister of health Dr Nezar Albaharna was meeting with the military head trying to convince them to allow ambulances to go with doctors to bring at least the severely injured. After 2 hours of negotiating they agreed but immediately when the doctors reached the hospital gate they were beaten and humiliated very badly by the military. At 12 noon we started to get cases. Two were already dead, few cases were taken to theatre or ICU.
Among the cases which we operated upon were two serious cases, one with gunshot injury in the thigh, another abdominal injury and a bullet was removed from his bowel. That night we couldn’t leave the hospital as any staff who left was beaten very badly by military. It was announced in the hospital that nobody is allowed to leave. We slept in the hospital that night.
On 11th of April 12 noon while I was doing my duty in theatre the administration of the hospital called me. I went to their office to see 4 masked men carrying guns telling me and 4 other doctors to accompany them to the CID for interrogation. We reached there, they called me, blindfolded me, took me with a police woman in a car. During the trip the woman pushed my head down so that nobody can see me from the car window. We reached to a place which smell like a hospital. The woman pushed me inside where a nurse came and took my temperature & blood pressure. I wasn’t allowed to talk or ask what is happening. A doctor came and asked me about my health, they discovered that I have high temperature so they started me on iv drip and gave me some medicine.
During this time which took 3 hours, I was blindfolded all the time, the police woman, the driver and another man from the clinic, were teasing me, telling me you bloody Shia don’t deserve to live, you should go to Iran. They asked me to sing the national anthem, the police woman was telling I will take the bottle of the saline and force it in her mouth, it will be faster. Up till now I didn’t know what’s happening, why they took me and what they want from me?!
They returned me to the CID still blind folded, waited there in the woman police for one hour before they pushed me out of the room, seemingly going to other building. A woman there received me, she started interrogating me about the cases which were taken to theatre on 17th of February when the police attacked the protesters in the roundabout. The lady started shouting at me and telling me that the cases you are talking about were minor cases and we took them to theatre to fabricate that they were seriously injured. She said the surgeons inflected bigger wounds on purpose to show the outside world the brutality of the government. When I said no all the cases which we got were seriously injured and profusely bleeding, she said little bleeding can be stopped by pressure. She started slapping my face with the 2 hands together. I felt numb and cried. She said I will take you to the people who can make you confess.
She took me to a room where I could hear a group of people chatting and laughing !! One of them immediately told me here we don’t differentiate between men & women and we can interrogate you nonstop for 48 hours until you confess. That woman slapped me very forcefully with the 2 hands together twice. I was kept standing and blindfolded listening to them while they were talking about my husband, me and our religious figures in a very sarcastic way while they were laughing at me and calling me the whore and daughter of a whore.
Again they took me down to the same lady who kept me standing in a corridor facing the wall blindfolded. I could hear people coming & going, some of them were trying to shout in my ears, fortunately I had my watch on my hand so I could spot the time. It was around 6pm (6 hours after I was called full of horror, no water, no food despite the fact that I heard the doctor telling them to keep me well hydrated as I had fever).
Finally she let me sign a bunch of papers without reading them, she just put her finger on the place where I should sign which I could see by just lifting the blindfold just a little bit. I was left that night to sleep on a chair blindfolded.
After two days of continuous interrogation the transferred me to the women jail, the banned me from calling my children for one week. I spent 25 days in jail then I was released on bail, but they told me its king pardon. A month later they called me to attend a military court the next day, which was unexpected by me, I wasn’t prepared, I have to look for a lawyer for the next day. I went to the military court to find several of my colleagues with me, several charges were listed on us by the judge and we were asked to say guilty or not. When I said I wasn’t guilty and my confessions were under torture the judge kicked me out of the court.
Up till today we are facing charges in front of military court, while I’m suspended from work & even my salary is cut into half.”
On 14th June 2012 Dr Zahra Al Sammak was acquitted of all charges at appeal, largely due to international pressure and your support for this campaign. She must now be reinstated to her work, fairly compensated for her ordeal, and her torturers must be brought to justice. However her husband, Dr Ghassan Dhaif, was not so fortunate and was rearrested on 2nd October 2012 following an appeal that was turned down on 1st October 2012.
If you would like to post an expression of support to Zahra you may do so below. Please note that all comments will be moderated and we will not publish anything that is offensive – this lady has suffered enough already.
You can also read what happened to Zahra’s husband, Dr Ghassan Dhaif, here.