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Irish delegation to Bahrain creates further complications

Read more about: Connaught-Ulster, Dublin North East, Foreign Affairs, Health     Print This Post

For the past few days (ending on Friday), an Irish delegation of doctors and politicians was in Bahrain to seek the freedom from detention of doctors imprisoned during the protest crackdown in that country. The link arose because the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland has a long-standing partnership to train Bahraini doctors and some felt that the RCSI was pulling its punches to preserve the institutional relationship at the expense of human rights concerns. The team included Marian Harkin MEP, former minister for foreign affairs David Andrews, and Senator Averil Power.

Anyway things were looking OK when the delegation got a meeting with the Bahrain Minister for Health. However today’s Irish Times report on their return home refers obliquely to “the breaking up by pro-government medics of a press briefing they attended in Bahrain.”

The Bahrain News Agency website has today an equally oblique reference to the event –

Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) strongly condemned the verbal and physical attack on doctors by journalist Rim Khalifa.

This attack is in breach of the precepts of journalism, it stressed in a statement today adding that a letter of complaint by President of Bahrain Medical Society (BMS) Dr. Nabil Al Ansari, in which he claimed that he was verbally assaulted by Rim Khalifa during a press conference held by the Irish delegation at Ramada Palace Hotel, was considered seriously.

The journalist has also attacked verbally and physically Dr. Hind Fayez and Dr. Hanen Harith.

This immoral behaviour can never be accepted under any pretext and does contravene ethical and democratic journalism which respects all opinions, BJA asserted.

A little digging around determines that Rim (Reem) Khalifa is the wife of an opposition leader and she apparently had led the resistance when the government loyalists showed up (with cameras) to disrupt the news conference.

[picture: Averil Power meets the pro-government visitors to the news conference; photo REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed]

Although the Irish delegation of course had little control over what government goons might get up to during their visit, hasn’t it now created a 2nd round effect not just for the imprisoned doctors but also for Ms Khalifa? Maybe the best solution is for the Irish government to take on the cause more formally, but the semi-official approach was open to risk from the start.

UPDATE 17 JULY: There is now an extensive statement from the Bahrain Medical Society which ups the temperature in the accusations made against the Irish delegation and Reem Khalifa. The fact that the delegation was travelling without the formal backing of the Irish government or RSCI is seen as an issue:

The association cast doubts about the true agenda of the Irish delegation which expressed its intention to investigate incidents in Bahrain and come out with recommendations – although their visit did not exceed 48 hours.

The association defended its right to meet the Irish delegation and expose its own narrative of incidents in Bahrain, pointing out that the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland – Medical University of Bahrain had distanced itself from the visit.

The Bahrain Medical Society slammed the haughty attitude of the Irish delegation, whose members announced openly their firm intention to step up the pressure on Bahrain until detained doctors are released – Thus flouting basic diplomatic, legal and human norms. The association released details of journalist Reem Khalifa’s aggression on several Bahraini doctors, accusing them of being traitors and mercenaries. She went even further describing them as being “spinsters looking for men” and “cheap women” – all that happened I presence of Bahrain TV camera. The journalist hysterically assaulted Dr Hend Al-Fayez and aggressed Dr Nabeel Al-Ansari verbally. Her husband, former Al-Wasat editor-in-chief Dr Mansour Al-Jamri, did not ince his words used racist nd sectarian words in addressing doctors telling them, particularly: “I belong to this country. We are staying here. You will leave!”.

2nd UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Ateekster, I’m adding a Twitter hashtag for the visit. It might be best to wait for the delegation’s report before returning to the issue.

FINAL UPDATE: Irish Medical Times article about the visit and response from the Bahraini Minister for Social Development, who they met.

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4 Responses to “Irish delegation to Bahrain creates further complications”

  1. # Comment by ATEEKSTER Jul 17th, 2011 13:07

    I tried in vain to contact the Irish delegation when they reached here 9Bahrain) but to no avail Im hoping anyone of you would be so kind to read this that i have prepared:

    Thank you.


  2. # Comment by ATEEKSTER Jul 17th, 2011 13:07

    I have tried in vain, as a Bahraini citizen, to contact the Irish Delegation when they arrived here. Unfortunately they only spent two days. Not sufficient for a “Fact Finding” mission in my opinion.
    I would really appreciate if anyone could please have the time to read this it would truly give you an insight into a story never seen by many regarding the situation that occurred here in my country. Thank you for your time.


  3. # Comment by EWI Jul 23rd, 2011 14:07

    Ah, the astroturfing of all criticism begins ^^^. I wonder if the Bahrainis use the same sub-contractors as the Israelis?

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  1. Jul 16th, 2011