NAAMA Decries Violence in Arab Countries Against Volunteer Human Rights Workers and Medical Professionals

| Source: National Arab American Medical Association

BIRMINGHAM, Mich., Oct. 19, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- As an organization of Arab American physicians and health professionals dedicated to healing and to the preservation of life, the National Arab American Medical Association (NAAMA) strongly condemns the killing, targeting and mistreatment of volunteer workers and health professionals in Arab countries. NAAMA is disturbed by the growing number of reported violations of physicians' and health workers' human rights and safety.

In Syria, as reported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Red Crescent Volunteer Hakam Dara al-Sebai was killed in the city of Homs on September 15th while volunteering to transport a wounded civilian. Two other Red Crescent volunteers were injured in the same incident, while the wounded civilian was hit by additional bullets. Other reports of detaining physicians at airports, controlling access to hospitals and targeting doctors and injured civilians have been established as well.

In Yemen on September 19, security forces occupied Jumhuri Hospital and threatened doctors who protested the occupation. The hospital closed, forcing many physicians and medical staff as well as patients to leave. 

In Bahrain on September 29, 13 physicians received 15-year sentences, two 10-year sentences, and five received five years on charges that possessed weapons, occupied a hospital or incited hatred of the regime. Some had been imprisoned for a few weeks, others up to five months. They claimed to have been tortured and forced to confess to crimes they say they didn't commit. According to a report by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the Bahraini imprisonment and prosecution of physicians who were caring for the sick and injured is the first such.

NAAMA calls on all forces in the Arab region to immediately halt violence against innocent citizens as well as the medical professionals whose job it is to heal the sick and injured. As physicians and as Americans of Arab descent, we continue to feel deep sympathy and concern for the Arab people living through senseless violence in countries of our origin. We call upon those perpetrating such violence to honor the neutrality of human rights organizations and exercise compassionate restraint and stop the killings and reprisals.

Founded in 1975, NAAMA is a non-profit professional, educational and humanitarian organization for Arab American physicians, dentists, pharmacists and other licensed healthcare professionals. NAAMA's nearly 1,500 members across the United States in 27 chapters represent multiple medical specialties and Arab ethnicities.

Renee Ahee, Executive Director,