Following Threats, Doctors in Karbala Refuse to Work

Up to 200 doctors in the religious city of Karbala have closed their clinics, the head of the union of Iraqi physicians and dentists in the city says.

Ali Abutaheen said the strike, which has crippled public medical services in the city, comes following threats by tribal leaders to kill some doctors.

The tribal chieftains blame the physicians for the death of their followers in operation rooms.

"If a patient dies while being operated, the tribe he belongs to asks for revenge which could either be under an eye for an eye rule or compensation in the for a massive sum of money," Abutaheen said.

There many specialists among the striking doctors and their decision to stop working has paralyzed performance of some critical surgeries in the city hospital.

"These people do not understand that there are legal procedures in cases like these and that certain operations are so critical that their success might not be guaranteed," he said.

The doctors urged the government to protect them and force the tribes to accept legal arbitration in cases like these.

In a statement, they said, they were determined not to return to work unless the government guarantees their safety.

Last month, the government decided to allow Iraqi doctors to carry guns amid reports that attacks targeting medical experts were increasing.

Many Iraqi doctors now demand relatives to sign documents that they will not be held accountable if things go wrong.

Abutaheen said medical experts in Iraq were working under extremely difficult circumstances.

"Sometimes we lack the basic means to operate but we always do our best given the means we have," he said.

He said two of his doctors were forced to pay huge sums of money to relatives "though our investigations showed that they were not blame for the death of the patients they operated on.

"But the threats have continued despite paying the money," he said.

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