A man threatened to detonate a grenade at a hospital in Iraq’s Dhi Qar governorate on Monday unless he was allowed to visit his ill father. The police said the man was drunk and that he claimed he was affiliated with a Popular Mobilization faction.
We have become accustomed to accusing someone of being drunk, taking drugs or suffering from a mental illness to explain abnormal behavior. Whether the man was drunk or not, the most important point is that attacks on healthcare institutions and doctors have increased, reaching a dangerous level that has gone as far as threatening to detonate a grenade. If security forces did not arrest the man on time, he would have carried out his threat leading to a real disaster that would have had dangerous repercussions on the healthcare system that’s already almost collapsed.
Storming healthcare facilities and carrying out armed attacks on healthcare providers has become a phenomenon; it happens on a weekly or monthly basis, and at times, daily. There have been many incidents when doctors and nurses were shot dead or injured or when they were threatened of being expelled from their tribes.
These incidents did not happen throughout Iraq’s modern history, whether during the republican or royal eras. Healthcare facilities had their sanctity while healthcare providers were highly respected by people. Iraq never witnessed such incidents even during the era of Saddam – whom we view as the worst in our history. One of the worst results of these violations is that Iraq lost its best doctors as many of them were killed and others fled.
The drunk man who claimed he belongs to a Popular Mobilization faction could not have done what he did if these attacks did not happen dozens or rather hundreds of time across the country without state institutions doing anything. He would not have made this risk if he hadn’t known that members of armed factions, who later joined the Popular Mobilization, always acted on a whim.
Storming healthcare facilities and carrying out armed attacks on healthcare providers has become a phenomenon; it happens on a weekly or monthly basis, and at times, dailyAdnan Hussein
Four years ago, the Parliament approved a law to protect doctors but it seems it did not limit this phenomenon. And now there is a proposal to amend the law, impose stricter punishment and include those who work in healthcare. The point though is not in a law as in the past we did not have any laws that specifically protected doctors. The point is that there must be a real will to implement the law and punish wrongdoers even if they belong to the Popular Mobilization, police, army, security apparatuses, ruling parties and government officials.
Right after I finished writing this article, news broke out that a government employee led an armed attack against a dentistry clinic in Nasiriyah because the doctor who owns the clinic spoke out about municipality violations!
This article is also available in Arabic.
Adnan Hussein is the executive editor-in-chief of Al-Mada newspaper and head of the National Union of Iraqi journalists. Previously, he has held the position of Managing Editor in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. He tweets under the handle @adnanhussein.