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Physicians Urge Obama to Pressure Mideast Ally Bahrain to End Repression of Doctors, Patients

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Peaceful protesters in Bahrain have suffered brutal crackdowns while the White House hopscotches over the dungeons.

The West, and the White House in particular, don't get to pick and choose whom to support once they take on the mantle of standing up for the very principles their constitutions are based on in the world. Gone are the days when they can cherry-pick whom to support in the name of democracy and freedom and whom to throw under the bus without anyone noticing, or worse still for their superficial posturing, without attracting a storm of criticism from the world for being BIG hypocrites.

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Right now, while Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama take measures to advance at least some political and social transformations in authoritarian countries like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and now Syria, they don't get a free pass to turn their backs on egregious human rights violations in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other monarchies, or to act schizophrenically in countries like Yemen. No, America really has to stand for truth, justice and the American Way (as defined by Jefferson, not the Neocons). After all, even Superman is tired of the way these principles been corrupted. He knows that these are universal truths, meant for all of humanity, not just the chosen few for the political expediency of the moment.


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In fact, the most glaring case in point may just be Bahrain right now, where even nurses and physicians, not to mention their patients, are suffering brutal violence, torture and repression totally beyond the pale, as reported in this May 5th, 2011 edition of Democracy Now:



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Below is the publicly released rush transcript of the above video:

JUAN GONZALEZ:
The Gulf nation of Bahrain has announced that 47 medical workers who treated pro-democracy protesters during the nation's uprising will be tried before a military court. Some could face the death penalty for providing medical assistance to protesters. The charges against 23 doctors and 24 nurses include, quote, "promoting efforts to bring down the government" and "harming the public by spreading false news."

Bahrain is a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, hosting the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Among the doctors facing charges is Ali Al Akri, a prominent physician who was arrested during a military raid at his hospital in the capital city of Manama on March 17th. His wife was also arrested and beaten under custody. She recently spoke to Al Jazeera.

FAREEDA AL-DALLAL: Actually, I'm very afraid, because I don't know anything about him. Even his place, I don't know where is he. His lawyers cannot contact him. And this one-day beating that I received, I think he received more and more, because he's there now one-and-a-half months with them. And I don't know what's his--I don't know what's the kind of things that he is faced there with them.

AMY GOODMAN: Human rights groups say the arrests are part of a campaign of intimidation that runs directly counter to the Geneva Convention, which guarantees medical care to people wounded in conflict. The Independent of London reports one doctor, an intensive care specialist, was held after she was photographed weeping over a dead protester. Another was arrested while operating on a patient.

For more, we turn to Richard Sollom of Physicians for Human Rights, who is joining us from Boston. He just came back from Bahrain, where he documented the situation there. He has co-authored a report called "Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients."

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Richard Sollom. Tell us what you found there.

RICHARD SOLLOM: Thank you, Amy.

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Physicians for Human Rights just returned several weeks ago from Bahrain, where we were investigating allegations of violations of human rights, as well as medical neutrality. And what we found was very disturbing. After speaking with nearly 50 eyewitnesses, patients at Salmaniya Hospital, physicians, nurses, medical care personnel, including x-ray technicians, medics, etc., we came to a conclusion that the government authorities are systematically targeting these medical personnel for merely exercising their neutral, ethical responsibility of providing care to civilian protesters who were injured by government authorities during the protests over the past couple of months.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And your report indicates that these are not only cases where people were arrested in hospitals, but where actually security forces went to their homes in the middle of the night and just grabbed them and carted them off to jail?

RICHARD SOLLOM: Correct. It's a disturbing pattern that we found. And the word "arrest" is actually a euphemism, because what the government security forces are doing are actually abducting these physicians and medical personnel from the middle of--in the middle of the night from their homes, in front of their children, literally dragging them from their beds, handcuffing him, blindfolding them, and disappearing them. Dr. Al Akri and his wife, for example, have been interrogated Dr. Al Akri is still missing. He's facing these seemingly bogus charges. He is a highly respected physician, who, in our opinion, has done his ethical duty of treating civilians. And these charges that the government has against these medical personnel are unfathomable.

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