The NSW Parliament passed a motion on April 4 in support of pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.
The motion condemned the Bahrain government's repression of protesters, attacks on doctors, killing of 60 protesters by security forces, destruction of 40 Shi'a mosques, expulsion of journalists, and widespread use of torture.
Bahraini democracy supporters ― including a doctor abducted for treating pro-democracy protesters and a former opposition MP ― were present for the vote. A forum organised by the Bahrain Australian Youth Movement was held in the parliament's theatrette later the same day.
Doctor Nabeel Ali gave a moving account of going from health worker to tortured prisoner.
"When the protests began we received patients flooding the hospital with gun wounds, with horrendous injuries we had never seen before," Ali said. "We did our duty, the doctors tried to save several patients, unfortunately some we could not.
“Because we tried to save them, and tried to voice our concern at what was happening, we were targeted.
"They came to our houses in the middle of the night. Some were jailed, others were persecuted professionally, they were laid off. A total of 500 medical staff were targeted, 200 were stopped from working, more than 80 were thrown in prison.
“Of those, nearly 30 doctors were tortured, also ambulance drivers, paramedics, nurses.
"Torture was humiliation. They make you stand for three or four days without allowing you to sit. A colleague was forced to stand for 13 days, continuously, without sleep.
The faces of the prisoners were full of fear when the cell doors opened. Every time guards opened the door, it's torture time ― time to be insulted, time to be beaten.
"We lived like that for nearly three months. Not just me ― 3000 prisoners suffered the same or worse treatment, and there are still 600 in prisons now."
Former Shia Opposition MP Matar Matar, who was the country’s youngest parliamentarian before resigning early last year to protest the regime’s crackdown on peaceful demonstrators, revealed the repression in Bahrain has increased one year on from the uprising.
"The death rate is higher than before," said Matar, who was jailed and tortured after resigning from parliament. "But the level of violence always depends on the level of international attention. Australians can play a major role in isolating the Bahrain government."
SBS Dateline journalist Yaara Bou Melhem, who compiled a feature investigation on the violent repression of the democracy movement in Bahrain, spoke on the struggle for journalists trying to get the truth out about the uprising.
"Two local journalists died last year in detention...foreign journalists were beaten up, arrested, attacked at protests," Melhem said.
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge, who hosted the forum and sponsored the parliamentary motion, told the forum: "This is a genuinely grassroots movement for democracy in Bahrain, being met by those in power brutally repressing.
“Bahrain has been forgotten, in the Western media, in Australia, and this is a crime of omission ... it is complicity with torture."
The meeting also expressed solidarity with Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, a co-founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who has been on a hunger strike for over 62 days and is reportedly close to death.
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