BRAVO announces the first treatment in Ireland for a Bahraini eye-injury victim

Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organisation (BRAVO) is pleased to announce that Bahraini teenager Mohammed Al Jaziri has received preliminary and successful medical treatment in Ireland, following the loss of his left eye after he was shot in the face by Bahraini police.

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Mohammed was fitted with a prosthetic eye which will help to restore his natural features. His treatment aims to ensure that he will no longer be at risk of losing sight in his right eye as a consequence of his sustained injury. However, he will require continued monitoring and possible further treatment in Ireland over the coming months. BRAVO hopes that Mohammed will be the first of many such victims we are able to help in this manner.

Mohammed was an energetic and keen footballer and is an avid follower of Barcelona. Sadly, this injury will affect his ability to play contact sports in the future. He has proven an able academic in his schooling, achieving very high grades – in the high 90s – but his prospects for college education are now limited specifically due to his being marginalized for attending a democratic protest.

Chair of BRAVO, Dr Nada Dhaif, said “I was fortunate to spend several days with Mohammed and his brother in Ireland during my recent visit there. He is such a precious young man, with an angelic face. It saddens me that he has had to suffer so much. We were determined to try to help him have at least the opportunity to experience a full and happy life. The care given in Ireland to assist in Mohammed’s medical treatment and rehabilitation gives me a little bit of hope in my heart for the future of Bahrain.”

Mohammed, 16, received his injury in February 2012. He was protesting against police in his village of Sitra, when security forces fired a tear gas grenade at his head from approx 15 metres. The impact broke Mohammed’s skull in 5 places and displaced his jaw, and irreparably damaging his left eye. Footage of the incident was captured by a citizen journalist, revealing how close – and potentially deadly – the shot was.(1)

The police left Mohammed bleeding and lying in the street, he was taken to the local clinic. From there, he was transferred to the Salmaniya Medical Complex. After arriving at the hospital, Mohammed was subject to repeated attempts by police to interrogate him, despite the extent of his injuries and the fact that he was barely conscious.

The authorities in Bahrain have often arrested individuals in their hospital bed, taking them into detention and denying them access to essential medical treatment. Fearing such a fate, Mohammed’s family requested that he be discharged from Salmaniya, the administration of which took two days. They took him to a private hospital. Mohammed was operated on his skull and jaw, with orbital reconstruction and cranial bone graft. His eye was cleaned out and sewn shut.

If he had received immediate and complete treatment, rather than the threatening atmosphere of police harassment, it is possible that Mohammed could have had a less traumatic experience and overall impact on his physical health. However, the Irish Consultants mentioned at various times during the treatment that were it not for the tremendous medical professionalism and surgical ability of the Bahraini team who provided that original surgery for Mohammed, the medical task would have been far more challenging in Ireland.

Mohammed arrived in Ireland from Bahrain early in June. His injury was examined at the Mater Hospital in Dublin by Ophthalmologist Professor Michael O’Keeffe. Mohammed was subsequently fitted for a prosthetic eye, which takes approximately four weeks to construct. This was attached to his eye muscles, which are still intact, making the eye fully mobile and cosmetically providing an acceptable physical appearance. Mohammed also underwent minor reconstructive surgery at Temple Street Children’s Hospital, to repair his left eyelid for cosmetic purposes. He will spend further time in Dublin to monitor his progress before returning to Bahrain.

BRAVO is satisfied with the success of the surgery to date, and deeply appreciative of the outstanding work and support provided by Irish staff and specialists. BRAVO intends to help many other individuals like Mohammed who are in need of specialist care, but unable to safely access such treatment in Bahrain.

Mohammed’s case is not unique. Since the start of the uprising in February 2011, an estimated one-hundred Bahrainis have suffered serious eye injuries after being shot by police with tear gas grenades and shotguns loaded with birdshot pellets. Some of these individuals are currently behind bars, held as political prisoners charged with attending illegal demonstrations. BRAVO is seriously concerned for the short and long-term health of all these victims, especially as many have only received basic medical attention. This coupled with the fact that approximately 40% of the injured victims are under 18 years old. The lack of access to good health care often means that even minor eye injuries can quickly become very serious.

The crisis of security forces in Bahrain causing serious eye injuries is persistent and ongoing. The day before Mohammed arrived in Ireland, a four-year old boy, Ahmed Nasser alNaham, was shot and injured by Bahrain police whilst helping his father sell fish. He was moved to Saudi Arabia for treatment a number of times and his welfare is a concern for BRAVO. The Bahrain authorities have also withheld treatment from individuals in detention, as in the recent case of Ahmed Oun who was made to wait over 25 days before finally receiving eye surgery that doctors had deemed urgent.

BRAVO is working at all levels to both document and alleviate the effects of these and multiple other human rights abuses on the ground in Bahrain. However, its work is obstructed by the fact that civil societies are not permitted registration to work legitimately within the community.

(1) Footage of when Mohammed was shot by police: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SE9rcYleHlk

BBC: Bill Laws coverage of Mohammed’s case: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-17141305