Rula Saffar never wanted to be famous, and certainly never imagined she would become a global symbol for Bahrain’s protestors.
Events last year changed all that. When massive pro-democracy protests erupted at the Pearl Roundabout, a major traffic interchange near Manama’s financial district, police responded with bullets and tear gas. Saffar was one of several medical professionals who rushed to the scene to help treat the injured. A heroic act, many would argue. That wasn’t the view of the Bahrain government. Saffar was arrested and charged with helping protestors. She also claims she was tortured in prison. Saffar was one of 20 people convicted last September who received jail sentences of up to twenty years, though was released after an international outcry. Her case is now one of many to be retried in a civil court. Saffar has long been one of Bahrain’s most respected medical figures – as well as heading the College of Medical Science’s emergency department, she is the Chairwoman of the Bahrain Nursing Society and a breast cancer survivor.