When the Circus leaves town.
Secret Clinics Tend to Bahrain’s Wounded
By KAREEM FAHIM, The New York Times
Published: May 21, 2012
Friends dragged the men away from the clashes and the riot police, to a safe house nearby. Soon, it was time to go, but not to a hospital: the police were there, too. “No one goes to the hospital,” one protester said.
For the injured protesters, the houses have replaced the country’s largest public hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, which has been a crucial site in the conflict between Bahrain’s ruling monarchy and its opponents since the beginning of a popular uprising in February 2011. Activists say that because of a heavy security presence at the hospital, protesters – or people fearful of being associated with Bahrain’s opposition – have been afraid to venture there for more than a year. That reluctance, officials and activists say, may be responsible for several deaths.
The authorities continue to prosecute Shiite doctors who worked at the hospital on charges including plotting to overthrow the government. Some of the doctors say their arrests represented a purge of Shiites, allowing the government to replace them with Sunni loyalists.
A report released Monday by Physicians for Human Rights says some of the current problems at Salmaniya stem from the conduct of security forces in the hospital and at its gates. People interviewed by the group said guards stopped arriving cars and questioned the passengers. They asked what village they were from, a way of telling whether someone was Shiite or Sunni.
In January, the government sent a directive to private hospitals and clinics that requires them to report not only suspected criminal activity but also “accidents irrespective of causes,” according to the report by Physicians for Human Rights. One doctor told the group that some private hospitals had simply stopped treating protesters and that he had stopped noting the cause of injury in some patients’ medical records.
The law, the report noted, “not only subordinates the needs of the patient to that of the state, it propagates fear among the population.”