On 9 July 2018, Bahrain’s most prominent Shia Muslim religious cleric and spiritual leader of the biggest opposition society, Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Isa Qassim, left Bahrain for the United Kingdom to receive specialized medical treatment based on doctors’ advice. Due to his denaturalization, the Sheikh had to travel using a temporary passport valid for one year issued on the orders of Bahrain’s king. According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), he was transferred upon his arrival in an ambulance to The Royal Marsden Hospital where he is now undergoing tests.
On 24 June 2018, around 10 p.m., the Sheikh was transferred to the hospital for a medical emergency. Preliminary laboratory tests showed that the Sheikh suffered from fractures in the pelvis and bruises after he fell in his house. However, despite the fact that the Sheikh’s health requires consistent monitoring at the hospital, he did not receive immediate treatment. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), police detained Sheikh Qassim’s son and son-in-law, as they attempted to accompany him to the hospital with his medicine, though they were later released.
Three days later, on 27 June, the Sheikh underwent a gastroscopy operation and more tests. He also underwent a joint aspiration procedure to remove water from his knees, and medical follow-up was needed for eye bleeding.
On 10 December 2017, Sheikh Isa Qasim, 76 years old, went back to house arrest after undergoing an urgent surgery at a hospital in Bahrain. Earlier, on 27 November, doctors visited the Sheikh for the first time since he was stripped of his nationality and placed under house arrest in June 2016, diagnosing him with a groin hernia. According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, additional surgical operations for the Sheikh are expected to follow.
In a statement on 7 December, four UN experts urged Bahraini authorities to “…allow Mr. Qassim to receive visitors freely, to ensure that medical staff can treat him without pressure of any kind, and to ensure that he can continue to access the medicines he needs after leaving hospital.” UN experts also urged the government of Bahrain to lift the house arrest imposed upon Sheikh Isa Qassim.
The Bahraini government arbitrarily denaturalized Sheikh Qassim in June 2016 and charged him with alleged money laundering related to khums, a Shia religious practice of tithing.
Defenders for Medical Impartiality echo the calls of the UN experts and calls on the Bahraini government to immediately lift the security siege on Sheikh Qassim’s residence and enable him uninterrupted access to medical treatment, including surgical operations.