Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Doctors Attacked For Their Troubles in Iraq and Israel

In Baghdad dozens of doctors have walked out of one of that city’s busiest hospitals to protest abuse by Iraqi soldiers. According to Reuters the physicians say the troubles stated “when soldiers barged into a woman's wing at Yarmouk Hospital, opened curtains and conducted searches as patients lay in their beds on Monday.”

One physician said, a soldier began intimidating and abusing him. "Before he left he said, 'Why are you looking in disapproval?' Then he came and punched me lightly on my arm before sticking his rifle into my stomach and cocking it. I stayed quiet but relatives of the patients told him to calm down before pulling him out of the room. Just then, four more soldiers came in and pointed a rifle at my head. At that point I became scared and begged them to leave me alone."

Another physician Asaad Hindi commented, “We know the citizens may be a little upset but we have our rights too and we can't operate and provide a service to people if we feel under threat.”

And relatives of many patients were upset with the entire situation.

Khalid al-Girtani said he was angry because his 57-year-old father Mahmoud had been ignored all day.

"My father has a stroke and no doctor is here to see him, just look at him! This is ridiculous," he said as his father lay in bed with breathing tubes in his nostrils.

Some patients sympathized with the doctors, despite their medical needs.

"I'm ill and I haven't seen the doctor all day. All I need is a signature from him so I can get an X-ray that I need to see what's wrong with my neck. I think they have every right to strike though, our doctors shouldn't be abused," said Salman Thahir, a frail old man sitting on his bed.

Ministry of Defense officials were not available for comment on the incident despite repeated requests.

Iraq’s hospitals, needless to say, have been overwhelmed by victims of suicide bombings and shootings. Yarmouk, a run-down, sparsely equipped building, has treated many of Baghdad's worst cases. Overcrowded with patients and staff, it's emergency room hosts a frenzy of activity every day. It doesn’t need soldiers harassing its staff and patients.

While I’m on the subject of doctors lets move the conversation a little to the west. On June 6, Dr. Ahmad Maslamani, Director of the Health Work Committees, was arrested by Israeli security forces in his home in Jerusalem. The Israeli special forces involved in Dr. Maslamani’s arrest seized a number of private possessions from his home, such as family pictures, a camera and a video tape.

Dr. Maslamani was arrested before by the Israeli occupation authority and was imprisoned for 16 months. He was released in March 2003.

Dr. Maslamani is well-known for his involvement in providing medical services to Palestinian children and women in the remote and under siege areas.

The last report I could find on Dr. Maslamani came from the Health Work Committees. It read:

“We want to thank you for your solidarity letters with Dr. Ahmad Maslamani, the general director of the Health Work Committees, who has been arrested by the Israeli Authorities on the 6.6.2005. Dr. Maslamani is since then in prison waiting for trial. Dr. Maslamani was brought in front of several judges on different days but they all postponed the verdict till coming Sunday, the 10.7.2005.

”The charges brought against Dr. Maslamani by the Israeli authorities are of an insignificant value so that the first court was willing to send him home, except for the interference of the secret police, who believe that they are standing higher than the judicial system. (In fact they are!)

”We believe that Dr. Maslamani is being punished because he is a very active member of the civil society, and because of his activism regarding the rights of the people to health and freedom of movement and for his activity against the Apartheid wall. And finally because he is from Jerusalem.

”It is a shame that the Israeli Authorities are keeping Dr. Maslamani in prison since over a month away from his family, home and work. It is to be feared that the Israeli courts are going to keep on postponing the court sessions in order to punish Dr. Maslamani, as they have no substantial material to indict him.

”We are asking you again to stand in solidarity with Dr. Maslamani and to write petitions and protest letters to the Israeli Government and government representatives.

”We demand the release of Dr. Maslamani immediately.”
Sources: Reuters, Dirty Tricks, International Bureau for Humanitarian NGOs, Gush Shalom, Palestinian NGO Network, Health Now, My Way News

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