Nurses speak out for Bahraini colleagues

Wednesday 13th February, 2013

When Abdulelah Alhubaishi volunteered to help people injured during Bahrain's anti-government protests, he never expected the violence to spill over into one of the country's biggest hospitals.

The 35-year-old civil engineer, sacked from his government job after taking part in Bahrain's "Arab Spring" democracy protests in February 2011, was helping ambulance workers when the army burst into the hospital in the capital Manama.

"They started targeting everybody inside - medics, injuries [sic], everybody," he told reporters in Canberra.

"They pulled some injured from their white beds and tortured them."

It's two years since his country rose up demanding greater political freedom, and Mr Alhubaishi says many doctors and nurses remain in Bahraini jails.

Now a refugee after fleeing persecution in his homeland, Mr Alhubaishi has joined with the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF) in speaking out about the violent crackdown in the Middle Eastern kingdom.

The ANF, Australia's largest health union, launched a solidarity campaign outside Parliament House on Wednesday calling on the federal government to condemn ongoing abuse of their international colleagues.

"The ANF is appalled that nurses and health professionals remain in prison two years after doing their job treating the sick and injured protesters," ANF federal secretary Lee Thomas said.

The union's members in Australia have written emails and letters to their detained Bahraini counterparts offering support.

Australian Greens leader Christine Milne said her party would move a motion in the Senate urging federal parliament to get behind the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain and call for the release of political prisoners.

NSW Labor MP Laurie Ferguson said there was a general lack of knowledge in the Australian parliament about the political situation in the Middle East.

He said a stronger stance was needed against Bahrain's government and that of its neighbour Saudi Arabia, which has provided military assistance in quashing the country's majority Shia population.

"It's no good talking about human rights here and there, when we start having double standards in regards to Saudi Arabia and its conduct in the region," he said.

"Let's be honest about it, Saudi Arabia is a bulwark of US policy in the region historically, and that's a clear element in all this."

It would be up to Foreign Minister Bob Carr to approve any resolution by the government, he said.