October 12 – A leading nurse from Bahrain is asking nurses around the world for help fighting her jail sentence. Rula Al-Saffar was detained earlier this year during crackdowns on Shiite-led protesters who were demanding greater rights. The charges against her include inciting hatred against the government.
Ms Al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, was released on bail in August after five months in custody during which she says she was physically and psychologically tortured by the police. She and 19 other nurses and doctors will be retried in a civilian court from October.
In an interview with Nursing Standard, she said she denies all the charges, and called on nurses worldwide to support her and her colleagues. They were only helping injured protesters, she says.
“[The police] cut my hair, used electricity on us and I was sexually harassed and verbally abused,” she said. “We were starved for days and had no water. I was not allowed to see my family for three months.
“I do not change into sleeping clothes until 3am or 4am because I am waiting for a knock on the door and for the police to take me away again. In this place anything can happen at any time.
“I would like all nurses to stick together in support of us, whether that is wearing a t-shirt with a message of support or writing letters to their government.”
She also wants the International Council of Nurses to gather support from health ministers across the world.
Peter Carter of the UK’s Royal College of Nursing has written to the King of Bahrain asking for all charges against nursing and health care staff to be dropped and calling for a public, independent investigation into torture allegations.