By Targeting Us Doctors, Bahrain's State Shows No One Is Beyond Its Grasp

I went to Bahrain's Pearl roundabout out of curiosity – then my nightmare began. For so many others, the nightmare continues

It was curiosity that drew me to the Pearl roundabout in central Manama in February last year. If I'm honest I thought offering medical help to the protesters, set upon by armed government troops and neglected by Bahrain's state medical care, would offer good anecdotes to share with my friends over afternoon tea. It was almost trendy. Then I pitched up, medical supplies in tow, and everything changed.

I tasted the way people suffered, witnessed how genuine their cause was and how outrageous their treatment had been. It was impossible not to be touched and take the movement to heart.

There are no words that can sum up the atmosphere inside those medical tents - everyone was there to help, to wrap a bandage, to comfort a patient, to save a life. It was medicine in its purest form. We doctors were not there to confront, but our presence served a purpose beyond medicine. By being there, we gave the movement an extra legitimacy, backing from a different sphere of life, a sense of safety. While the ministry of health refused to treat wounded protesters, saying that by partaking in these acts they had lost the right to life, we were there, fighting for them.

It was that first day in February I met Ali al-Akri, who has just been sentenced to five years in prison branded, along with eight others, an enemy of the state. As I find out that I and eight other doctors have been acquitted, it is with great pain I hear Akri's news. Far from the terror cell leader he has been branded, he was a passionate man. Always vocal, always the first to express disgust at the neglect inflicted upon those at the Pearl roundabout - to remonstrate with the authorities over a lack of ambulances. A natural leader. Clearly they wanted to single him out, he the troublemaker.

I tasted the way people suffered, witnessed how genuine their cause was and how outrageous their treatment had been. It was impossible not to be touched and take the movement to heart.

In March they came for me. At 3am they broke into my elderly parents' home, taking them hostage at gunpoint. They forced my brother to lead them to my house, entering my bedroom masked and armed. The image has haunted me ever since.

I was led away in the dead of night in an unmarked car. They dumped me in a filthy, wretched cell, 10 days until I knew where I was - the Criminal Investigation Directorate in central Manama - 22 days in solitary, seven weeks in detention. They beat me, electrocuted me, threatened me with rape. I confessed to crimes I had not committed as no one can take torture. I was blindfolded and made to sign documents that incriminated Akri and were used against him at trial. They forced me to appear on national television, to say I was an Iranian stooge, that I took orders from Hezbollah, that Akri was our leader.

Then I was released and told never to speak to the media again.

I'm aware that the authorities are constantly monitoring me, that any slip-up doesn't bear thinking of. My family live every day with the trauma.

By targeting doctors in this way the authorities tell the people of Bahrain, and indeed the people of the Arab world, that no one is beyond their grasp. That they can defeat and humiliate whoever they want should they dare to speak. But this makes me even more determined to bring change, for my voice to be heard and to fight until the end.

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