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Medical Students from around Jordan attend training about torture

Published 06.09.2017
Training about torture victims took place in Amman during the weekend from the 25th till the 27th of August. Doctors, lawyers and physicians were teaching medical students from around Jordan about how to deal with victims of torture as future doctors. In a country like Jordan, surrounded by war and conflict zones, doctors with this certain knowledge are particularly needed.

By Clara Simonsen Tørsleff

It was Friday morning and therefore, the first day of the weekend in Jordan. In spite of this, 20 dedicated medical students showed up at the conference room at Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan. Two days of theoretical training was about to start followed by an optional practical day at the Institute for Family Health (IFH) and the students seemed excited.

The training was organised by Mizan for Law in cooperation with IFH, DIGNITY – Danish Institute against Torture (DIGNITY) and International Federation of Medical Students' Associations (IFMSA) and funded jointly by the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT) and the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Danish Arab Partnership Program.[1]

Two Danish doctors from DIGNITY had arrived in Jordan to take lead in the training and share their experience with the students. The purpose was to train medical students from around Jordan on how to recognize and interview victims of torture and how to document their cases.

A commitment emerged from the very beginning of the training when Dr. Marie Brasholt, DIGNITY´s Senior Medical Officer, asked why the participants had signed up for this training – and the reasons were many.  One stated that it was because of his Syrian roots and the situation in Syria while another mentioned that she believes there is a neglect of torture victims and she wants to be able to recognize victims in the society. “Change starts with one person” a participant said. But what seemed to be a common reason for almost all the students was their shared interest in Human Rights.

The students are at different years in their studies and came from four different universities in Jordan; Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) and Yarmouk University in Irbid, University of Jordan in Amman and The Hashemite University close to Zarqa. Besides the medical students, also two lawyers working with Mizan had joined the training.

 “Is everyone okay?” asks Dr. Jens Modvig, who is the Head of the Health Department in DIGNITY and alongside Chair of the UN Committee against Torture. He was doing the first session of the training and he was talking about the different types of torture which was demonstrated by some very strong and real pictures of torture cases and victims. I looked around in the room and the students’ faces looked serious and they remained in silence. They had just been exposed to a very graphic presentation and though they remained silent they still seemed very interested and encouraged to get to know more.

The training was not only led by doctors, as it was an aim as well to raise awareness on the procedures for dealing with victims of torture and the binding legislation. Therefore, one of the sessions was taught by the Advocate, Eva Abu Halaweh, Mizan for Law Director, who was speaking about the situation in Jordan in the context of international standards and national legislation.

The entire second day was led by Muamar Al Boreni, physiotherapist, and Maha Ghatesheh, training supervisor, from IFH. On this day the purpose was to introduce the students to the management of torture victims’ multi-facetted problems and to the multidisciplinary team caring for the victims. For the students to truly understand this, the two trainers implemented group work and several interactive exercises, such as role-plays. Having practical exercises seemed to make a big impression on the students.

Both of the two Danish doctors seemed very satisfied after the two theoretical days. “Our goal is to get this [training about victims of torture] introduced in the university curriculum – this is the first small step” stated Dr. Brasholt while Dr. Modvig said “It was a good first step – very encouraging”.  Also the students were appreciative of this training; as a third year student from JUST said on the second day: “The training is really informative – everything needed is provided”, while she continued telling how she both as a doctor and a human being can use this training to improve her communication skills and know how to approach people who have survived torture.

When Sunday arrived and the working and studying week had begun in Jordan, eight students had managed to appear at the Institute for Family Health in Sweileh despite studies or other obligations. This chance, to meet real victims of torture and see how the procedures took place at the centre, was the main motive for students to prioritize the third optional training day. Not only would they meet victims, they would also get the practice of actually interviewing as if they were the doctors. Two students even had the chance to observe a real session for a torture victim with a psychologist.

After the last day and the visit to IFH a fifth year student from University of Jordan said that the training was 'amazing' and followed up by saying that she signed up because her “…first goal in life is to change just one person’s life” – therefore the training “lived up to my expectations and more”.

 [1] See box below pictures


The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Danish Arab Partnership Program funds the national anti-torture programme Karama. The programme is inspired by a co-responsibility approach where state institutions, semi state institutions and CSOs cooperate to achieve the common goal; to eliminate the use of torture and other forms of ill-treatment. This training was the first activity under the fourth phase of the anti-torture programme Karama which started on July 1st 2017.

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