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Film Review: stories from Arab women during the Spring Revolutions

17 Jun, 16 | by cquigley

 

‘Our oath’ short film, 2015, directed by Laura Finney

I was intrigued and moved by ‘The trials of Spring’, a documentary film depicting the fight of Arab women during the Spring Revolutions in 2010 (http://www.trialsofspring.com/). The film portrays heart-felt human stories of women from Syria, Yemen, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, and Egypt.  Filming took place over three years focusing on the stories of nine women from these six countries fighting for peace in a time of war.

One of the most thought-provoking shorts in the film was ‘Our oath’. Through recorded interviews with Dr Nada Dhaif, a practicing dentist, we follow her fight with the ruling regime in Bahrain in 2011. When the demonstrations broke from the Diamond ‘Lolouah’ Square in central Bahrain, the government launched a brutal military response, resulting in several dead and injured casualties. Dr Nada along with doctor colleagues set up field-hospitals to provide essential basic life-aid support to the casualties. Dr Dhaif states ‘I could not believe what was happening, it was so unexpected. I could not process it mentally. What happened was against our religious, social, and cultural traditions. The sole motivation behind our action was our professional medical duty in practicing the Hippocratic Oath that urges doctors to uphold certain ethical standards:

‘I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism’ and

‘I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm’
Dr Nada was soon confronted by accusations of ‘plotting to overthrow the ruling regime’ and duly arrested.

Dr Nada: how did you react to this unexpected turn of events?

‘During my detention, it all felt unreal, a nightmare that I will wake up from. I did not stop to think or question my course of action. I was isolated and did not know what was happening outside. There were other women there too from various professional backgrounds’
After two months in jail, Dr Nada was sentenced to 15 years in prison in a military trial.

Following her sentence, international Human Rights and professional medical organizations from Ireland and elsewhere lobbied for her release. There was significant pressure from the British and American embassies in Bahrain. The news reached international press, after which Dr Dhaif and other doctors were released from prison.

The harsh jail experience proved to be a wake-up call for the doctor, wife and mother. Dr Dhaif continues: ‘By that time, I realized that my professional and humanitarian duties should extend to provide aid to political prisoners and their families as many of them suffer from mental illness and in dire need for care and mental rehabilitation. I set up an organization- BRAVO– Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti Violence Organization- for treating citizens who were subject to torture and violence’.

In addition, she founded her own You-tube channel aimed at increasing awareness amongst the Bahraini and Arab communities about mental illness resulting from oppression in various forms and shapes.

Dr Nada: can you tell us more about the current state of your BRAVO organization, and you-tube channel?

‘BRAVO was founded in January 2012, and our work focused on providing physical, mental, and psychological care for victims. In the first few years we were able to provide various types of rehabilitation programs for up to 400 victims per year. But since the end of 2015 up till now, due to escalating risks, we shifted our efforts in providing rehabilitation care programs to the on-line channel. The idea of my YouTube channel “Nada Time” helped us reach out to over 20,000 people viewing the channel, with remarkable feedback’.

Dr Nada’s convictions are apparent in her opinion that change takes a long time, and that she herself might not live to see its impact in the near future.

Credit goes to the film director, Laura Finney in exploring the ideology of ‘peaceful resistance’ in a focused narrative from an Arab doctor’s perspective in as little time as 5 minutes. The film explores candidly the doctor’s role in their community particularly in relation to ‘Human rights’. The doctor is no longer a passive professional caring for a few patients, but indeed a formidable ‘power for change’.
To view the film, you can access the following link

http://www.trialsofspring.com/stories/bahrain
Dr Khalid Ali, Screening room editor

Address for correspondence: Khalid.ali@bush.nhs.uk

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