…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Free Zainab AlKhawaja – #Zainab_Trial

December 21, 2013   No Comments

Advancing Freedom – Free The AlKhawaja’s

November 19, 2013   No Comments

An encounter with a human rights defender

My encounter with a human rights defender
By Caroline Sanden – 6 November, 2013


The Rafto price 2013 is awarded to Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). Sunday 3. November Maryam al-Khawaja, acting President for BCHR, accepted the prize on behalf of BCHR at the National Stage in Bergen. On the occasion of the Rafto Prize award ceremony I got the opportunity to interview the young human rights activist.

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m waiting outside an assembly room inside the Radisson Blue Hotel Norway. The tension in the air suggests that it is an important person waiting behind the closed door. I’m a bit nervous, something my fingernails will know.

The door opens, and I get the green light to enter. I am greeted by a warm smile, and we shake hands. Maryam has a clear voice, which fills the room. She has a way of talking that captures the listeners attention immediately.

Bahrain in the future

The mission of BCHR is to encourage and support individuals and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others’ rights, and to struggle to promote democracy and human rights in accordance with international norms. They will document and report on human rights violations in Bahrain, and use this documentation for advocacy to influence international policies according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

How will this award affect your organization (BCHR)? This is doubtfully the first time she has heard this question, and the answer comes quickly and concisely without hesitation.

– First of all it brings much-needed media attention to the situation in Bahrain, which doesn’t even exist, or exist in a very low level. It also gives us a platform to speak from.

Do you think Bahrain will make any progress with fundamental human rights in the close future?

– I think that as long as the local culture of impunity in Bahrain continues, and the international situation of impunity of the Bahraini government continues, then no. If we were able to get international accountability for the Bahraini government, and consequences and reactions, then yes.

Banned from her country

Maryam has been active in participating in protests and volunteering for human rights organizations since she was a young teenager. Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is former president and co-founder for BCHR. He was banned from Bahrain in the mid-1980s, and they got political asylum in Denmark, where they lived until 2001 when they were allowed re-entry into Bahrain. She is currently in exile in Denmark, where she has been since the Bahraini uprising in 2011. …more

November 6, 2013   No Comments

Zanaib AlKhawaja, Message from Prison

September 17, 2013   No Comments

Bahrain: Activism and Society in Revolt

Bahrain’s Spring: Activism and Society in Revolt
Maryam Al Khawaja talks to Azzurra Meringolo – 19 November, 2012 – Reset Dialogues on Civilization

Maryam Al-Khawaja is Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and head of the Gulf Center for Human Rights’ international office (GCHR). Based in Copenhagen, she comes from one of the most prominent dissident Bahraini families .She loves reading, travelling and speaking frankly. Speaking at a Festival on international journalism organized by the weekly magazine Internazionale in Ferrara, Italy, she openly criticized Western support for the Bahraini regime. “The last time I cried was when I read the report about my father torture” said Maryam. “But my family is just one of a long list.”

At the end of September, 13 doctors and nurses who treated anti-government protesters during demonstrations in Bahrain earlier this year were jailed for 15 years for crimes against the state. Seven other medical professionals were given sentences of between 5 and 10 years by a special tribunal set up during the emergency rule imposed following the protests. What is the situation in Bahrain now?

The doctors’ trial has been closely watched and criticized by human rights groups because of Bahrain’s use of “special military tribunals”, which have military prosecutors and both civilian and military judges, to prosecute civilians. Most of the medical staff worked at the Salmaniya Medical Centre in Manama, which was stormed by security forces after on March they drove protesters out of the nearby Pearl Square, the focal point of Bahrain’s protest movement . Since 2011, protests have never stopped and are held almost every day. But something has changed. What has changed is the Bahraini regime’s self-confidence. Now they feel they have international immunity. They feel that, no matter what they do, they will not face consequences for their actions. This allows them to do whatever they want. They are going against the most prominent human rights defenders. They would never have done this last year. Now they feel free to do what they want, because they know that, even if there are international statements, there are no consequences.

Your father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, is one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists. After 12 years in exile, in 1999 he returned to Manama, but he is currently in prison, after the repression of pro-democracy protests. In July, Khawaja’s longtime friend and collaborator, Nabeel Rajab, was arrested and detained for criticizing the country’s leadership on Twitter and eventually charged with organizing illegal protests and sentenced to three years imprisonment. Your sister Zaynab, aka angryarabia, was also detained for participating in protests, and has run significant public risks in an effort to draw attention to the regime’s brutality. What is their situation?

In recent years, my father has been the subject of ongoing harassment, including physical attacks and smear campaigns in the media. He has often been tortured. While in jail he recently decided to start a hunger strike. Rajab was recently sentenced to three years imprisonment. Amnesty International too has asked for the release of opposition activists and prisoners of conscience. But it never happened. I am the only one in the family free who is free to speak out since I am not in Bahrain, but in Denmark. If I were in Bahrain, I would be in their same situation.

Do you think anyone from your organization who tries to lead protests will also be silenced?

They tend not to target everyone in the same way so that attention is not focused on one issue such as, for example, arrests. Said Yousif has already been arrested and released several times, and he’s been beaten on the streets and that is without counting the threats he continues to receive.

Bahrain’s Sunni royal family rules over a Shiite majority. There are those who say that Bahrain’s protesters are taking orders from Iran, and others who argue that the Saudis are the ones who are supporting the regime. What is the role of Shiites and Sunnis in the popular revolt?

Bahrain is not a Shiite country. Bahrain belongs to Bahrainis, it belongs the them all. The protests too are for everyone. What happens in many oppressed country is that the government tries to divide people on religious issues in order to control them. In Egypt, they tried to convince the world that there was a battle between Muslims and Copts (10% of Egyptians are of Christians). In Syria, they are convincing people that the Alawites are against Sunnis, but this is not the case. In Bahrain, we have an oppressive regime against the people, no matter their religion. The regime wants to transform the revolt into a sectarian issue, but this is just for their benefit. It is not the truth. At the end of the day, if you are Sunni and you criticize the regime, you will be sentenced to prison and tortured. If you are a Shiite and you defend the government, you could become a minister. What matters does not depend on whether one is Shiite or Sunni, but whether one criticizes the government or not.

Could you give us a picture of activism in Bahrain?

These protests showed that young people not only are active, but also really well organized. The protests were called for by young people using Facebook. They called for protests on February 14 because this date coincides with the 10th anniversary of the day the king unilaterally changed the constitution appointing himself as the highest authority in the country. In Martyrs’ Square, the name protesters have chosen for the Pearl Roundabout after people were killed there, people do not know one another but have organized themselves in different groups. For instance one group came down to the Square and opened a media centre, another group volunteered to clean the streets during and after protests.

According to recent research by Mastercard, Bahraini women are the most empowered in the Arab region. What role do women play in the uprising?

They play a very important role. Sometimes, western observers think they do not play a leading role just because they stand in a different line from the men. But this is a cultural attitude. I do not think we should consider women as oppressed just because men and women protest in separate groups. Sometimes it is just more comfortable not to be stuck between two men. One of the goals of the Arab Spring is to remove western stereotypes. My favorite Arab Spring video is the one of a Bahraini woman wearing an abaya and writing graffiti on the wall saying: “even if the men stop, the women will continue”. …source

November 21, 2012   No Comments

Maryam al-Khawaja recognized for Human Rights Work while Sister and Father remain in Bahrain’s Prisons

Maryam al-Khawaja awarded human rights prize
Peter Stanners – 16 October, 2012 – The Copenhagen Post

Maryam al-Khawaja – daughter of the jailed Danish-Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – will be awarded the Stieg Larsson Prize on November 8 in recognition of her work to promote democracy and human rights.

25-year-old Maryam al-Khawaja played a vital role in reporting the crackdown on pro-democracy and civil society groups before and during the Arab Spring uprisings.

“With the internet and social media as a tool, and through untiring activism and the power of the word, she turns the spotlight on injustices in her home country. In spite of threats and harassment against herself and her family she continues to work for a tolerant and more democratic state of Bahrain,” a press release from the Stieg Larsson Foundation stated. “Her achievements are entirely in the spirit of Stieg Larsson.”

Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was granted political asylum in Denmark in 1991 and he and his family eventually became Danish citizens. He returned to Bahrain in 1999 and established the pro-democracy organisation Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) in 2002. He was arrested for his work in April 2011 and jailed since June of that year. He protested against his sentence with a high-profile 110-day hunger strike that he called off in May. His life sentence was upheld this September.

Maryam al-Khawaja started working at the BCHR at a young age. At the age of 21, she testified before the US Congressional Human Rights Commission about the suppression of the Shia majority in Bahrain.

After returning from studying in the US, she became BCHR’s international liaison and deputy head. Her base of operations is in Denmark as she risks arrest if she were to remain in Bahrain.

The Stieg Larsson Foundation was established after the author’s death in 2004. Larsson was most famous for the Millennium Trilogy, a set of thrillers following the protagonists Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander as they attempted to unravel a dark conspiracy.

The foundation’s website states that Larsson was as much an activist as he was a writer, who fought “for freedom of expression, against racism and against the oppression of women”. …source

October 16, 2012   No Comments

The al-Saud blacklist transcends MENA borders

Bahrain Rights Activist Denied Entry to Egypt
27 August, 2012 – POMED

Prominent Bahraini opposition activist, Maryam al-Khawaja, was denied entry into Egypt Sunday. Khawaja, daughter of human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja who was sentenced to life in prison for his in role in last year’s uprising, has been an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s government and has accused Arab governments of “continuing repressive security cooperation despite political change in the region,” according to Reuters. An Egyptian airport official said Khawaja’s name was on a list of people who have been denied entry at the airport, and that “The ban is based on a memorandum from the national security authorities.” Khawaja told Reuters, “We’ve been having problems with Bahraini activists getting into Egypt for years. We thought with the revolution it would change, but it hasn’t.”

Additionally, Bahrain’s International Affairs Authority (IAA) denied reports of the resignation of John Yates, Senior Policy Adviser to the Ministry of Interior. While Yates’ initial contract expired in July, the IAA stated that “he remains as an important adviser to the Minister of Interior, overseeing police code of conduct and implementation of reform measures.

Meanwhile, in neighboring Yemen, security forces report that a gunman opened fire on protesters at a sit-in in Taiz Sunday, killing one. Activist Shaher Mohammed Saeed says he heard and saw gunshots from a white pick-up truck driving past protest tents in Taiz at dawn. The protests are calling for reform related to last year’s uprising that outed Yemen’s long-time president.

Elsewhere, Kuwait’s opposition announced plans for a public gathering on Monday evening as it seeks to exert public pressure on the government to reverse its decision to consult the constitutional court on the constitutionality of the controversial electoral law that changes the constituency system and the number of candidates each voter is able to elect. Several political groups and ex-lawmakers said they would take part, hoping to see reforms that include an elected government and the growth of political parties. …source

August 27, 2012   No Comments

Expect Resistance – Bahrain Actvist Zainab AlKhawaja, in unquieted dissent, arrested again

Bahrain disperses protesters, arrests activist’s daughter

ABU DHABI – 3 August, 2012 – Reuters

The daughter of a prominent Bahraini opposition activist and 40 other people were arrested early on Friday, hours after security forces used tear gas and birdshot to disperse hundreds of protesters demanding political reforms, activists said.

At least 45 people were injured in the security forces’ operation to break up the three separate protests across the Gulf Arab island kingdom late on Thursday, they said.

Bahrain crushed an uprising led by majority Shi’ite Muslims last year, after successful popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, but protest marches and rallies continue, leading at times to clashes between police and Shi’ite youths.

Bahraini Shi’ites say they have long been marginalized in political and economic life, which the government denies. Bahrain’s Sunni rulers have rejected the main opposition demand – an elected parliament with full powers to pass laws and form governments.

The head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Mohammed al-Maskati, said activist Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested early on Friday when she tried to hold a solitary protest sit-in at al-Badei street close to the capital Manama.

Zainab is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a leading Shi’ite figure in the uprising who ended a more than three-month-long hunger strike in May after drawing attention to the issue of imprisoned activists.

“She had taken part in the protests and then headed to that street to start a sit-in. That is when she was arrested,” Maskati told Reuters by telephone.

“From the information we have managed to gather from lawyers and the families of protesters, at least 40 others have been arrested as well,” he said, adding that police had used tear gas to disperse the protesters. There were no reports of serious injuries.

“All three protests were heavily crushed as tear gas and birdshot was used with reports of at least 40 to 45 people being injured,” Maskati said, adding that injuries ranged from slight to serious.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The Interior Ministry said in a statement on its website that “riot instigators” threw Molotov cocktails at a ministry vehicle in a road near Bani Jamra, but that its driver and his companion escaped uninjured.

Zainab al-Khawaja was previously arrested on April 21 for trying to stage a protest in Manama during Bahrain’s Formula One Grand Prix. She was sentenced in May to one month in jail and fined 200 dinars ($530) on a separate charge relating to insulting a government employee.

“I still haven’t managed to find out exactly what the charges pressed against her are,” said her lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi. …source

August 3, 2012   No Comments

Testimony of Imprisoned Human Rights Defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

BCHR: Release of Testimony of former BCHR Director Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

26th June, 2012: International Day Against Torture

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s speech before the Supreme Court of Appeal 22/5/2012

Gentlemen, President and members of the honorable Supreme Court of Appeal,

Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you,

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak before your venerable selves, as I have been deprived of this right throughout the previous stages of the litigation. Kindly note that my statement has been excluded during the investigation as a result of me being subjected to torture.

I, the Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, have been subjected since the April 9th 2011 to arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, psychological and physical torture, sexual assault and unfair trial, without having committed any offense for which I deserve legal punishment, in addition to torture and other violations criminalized by international and national laws. Please note that I do not belong to any association or political group, though this is not an offense in itself but rather a natural right of any human being.

These current and previous violations were in fact motivated by the thorny, difficult path which I have chosen, that is to defend human rights, not only as a matter of specialization and career – given that I am a researcher and trainer in this area – but also that I have decided that my duty is to stand with the oppressed and the victims of various abuses to which they are exposed, disregarding the risks and reactions of those who perpetrated such violations. Thus, my activities and practice involved serious issues such as political and financial corruption, arbitrary detention, torture, the privileges of the ruling class, sectarian and ethnic discrimination, as well as other topics including poverty and the right to human dignity, adequate jobs and housing, and the rights of foreign workers.

And if at the beginning back in the eighties

my activity involved volunteering with the “Committee for the Defense of Political Prisoners in Bahrain”, which is considered a wing of one of the opposition political groups, it has, however, been shifted at the beginning of the nineties into working completely independent through founding “The Bahrain Human Rights Organization,” which played a fundamental and decisive role in bringing Bahrain out of the era of security of the State, through its activities in Western capitals in collaboration with the United Nations and international human rights organizations. I am honored to have gained then my second nationality when I became a political refugee in the Kingdom of Denmark, which ensured my freedom, dignity and shelter when I was facing persecution in my country of Bahrain. However, I never hesitated in returning to Bahrain in 2001 when I was allowed to, and there I continued carrying out my duty in education and training on human rights issues in Bahrain and abroad, assisting victims of violations to embark on a peaceful movement to demand their rights, in addition to monitoring and documenting human rights violations. As a result, the price I have been paying throughout the past ten years was facing physical assaults by security forces, arrest, detention, unfair trials, smear campaigns, and travel bans. This was the case even during the period from November 2008 to February 2011, during which I worked as a regional coordinator for Frontline Defenders, a leading international organization – based in Dublin and Brussels – which focuses on the protection of human rights defenders all over the world. The fact that I have resigned from my post as president of “The Bahrain Center for Human Rights” before undertaking my work at the international organization; which was not relevant to the situation of human rights in Bahrain – did not make any difference; for an overwhelming spirit of revenge was motivating those who have been targeted by my previous activity due to their responsibility in relation to the perpetration of violations through their positions as security and political officials, as well as them suspecting that – under cover -I have been using my international work to provide aid to local activists in Bahrain.

Then came the events of February 14th, and the subsequent declaration of a state of national safety to make it the right opportunity for revenge, especially that after I witnessing all those dead and injured in the first few days I decided to resign from my international post and to dedicate myself to full-time voluntary work in Bahrain to contribute to the popular peaceful movement and ensure its effectiveness in attaining rights, in addition to monitoring and documenting violations that occurred during the events. To these ends I took part in seminars, delivered speeches and participated in various meetings that were attended by representatives of political associations and groups, including political and civil rights activists, and jurists; in my capacity as an independent human rights defender. Those meetings were held at the headquarters of political associations and residents of political figures, and they were not secret and did not intend to establish new groups or create working plans, they were merely a platform for consultation and exchange of opinions in the midst of escalating and serious events. …more

June 26, 2012   No Comments

Bahrain’s “freedom or death” Hunger Striker, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja ends strike after 110 days amid persistent “force feeding”

Abdulhadi AlKhawaja’s statement about ending his hunger strike
28 May, 2012 – Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Internationally prominent Human Rights, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, announced today that he is ending his 110 days hunger strike this evening. Alkhawaja informed his family that in spite of not succeeding in achieving the main demand of his hunger strike: “freedom or death”, he was still able to achieve his overall goal of shedding light on the ongoing human rights situation in Bahrain.

Throughout his hunger strike, which began on the 9th of February he was able to assist activists both inside and outside Bahrain to bring attention to the continuous human rights violations and the situation of the political detainees, this was the ultimate goal.

Taking into account the policy of the Bahraini Authorities in force-feeding him which was imposed since the 23rd of April, a blatant violation and torture according to international regulations, and in response to countless requests from those in solidarity with him, and his inmates in the detention center, Al-Khawaja announced today that he will put an end to his hunger strike. Alkhawaja will comply with a medical program set for him by doctors to return to a normal diet. He informed his family of his appreciation for their support, and his gratitude to those in solidarity with him inside and outside the country.

In regards to the appeal in which Al-Khawaja appeared before on the 22nd of May, he informed his family that he reiterates his testimony, which was made before the court hearing. His testimony included denying all charges against him, and testifying about the violations he was subjected to including but not limited to: physical assault during arrest, arbitrary arrest, solitary confinement, unjust trial, mental and physical torture since his arrest 13 months ago (on the 9th of April 2011).

These are the violations that have been documented and endorsed by the report issued by the “Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry”. Al-Khawaja repeated what was mentioned in the BICI report in his testimony before the court adding that he considers his continued arrest and trial a crime that the judiciary is involved in due to lack of independency, and therefore he refuses to appear before the court and demands his immediate release and the dropping of all malicious charges and the sentence issued by the National Safety Military Court. He also demands that after his release he be provided with the necessary guarantees that would enable him to continue his activities in defending human rights in absolute freedom.

Once again, BCHR reiterates its call to the government of Bahrain to end acts of intimidation, arrest and ill-treatment directed at human rights defenders in Bahrain and to release all detained HRDs, beginning with Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, immediately and without any restriction or conditions. The BCHR also calls on the government to grant full freedom to Abdulhadi Alkhawaja to travel to the country of his choice in order to receive the medical treatment that he is in desperate need of at the present time.

Maryam Al-Khawaja
Acting President / Bahrain Center for Human Rights
Head of International Office / Gulf Center for Human Rights


May 29, 2012   No Comments

Alkhawaja retrial in Bahrain adds insult to injury – “freedom or death” strike continues

A new case only prolongs al-Khawaja’s torture – Enough is enough
By Anders Jerichow – 4 May, 2012 – Politikens News

Why is it always the victim that has to be patient with his antagonist?

In the 1980s, a British prisoner in a Saudi prison was visited by his consul. The prisoner had been abused and had lost a third of his weight. His back was ruined and there had been attempts to rape him. But the consul leaned over to the prisoner and said: “Remember, we need them more than they need us”. In other words, endure your violent prison guards.

With that sort of logic, one could argue that the hunger-striking Bahraini-Danish activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja should be happy that his case is to be re-tried.

It was a military court that sentenced al-Khawaja to life – and life in Bahrain means life – in prison on June 22 last year. Now the Court of Cassation – the supreme court of appeal in Bahrain – has ruled that the case was flawed. It has to be tried again, this time in a civil court.

Should al-Khawaja be happy? He was beaten unconscious by hooded agents when he was arrested in the middle of the night. He was abused while he was in police custody. He was tortured, subjected to attempted rape, and for the past few months has only had his life as a weapon. That is why he went on the hunger strike that is close to costing him his life, while Bahrain’s royal Khalifa family has ignored the issue.

King Hamad al-Khalifa will say that the new decision is proof that Bahrain is a constitutional state that respects the rule of law.

But if the Khalifa family was just, it would say enough is enough. It is time to set free al-Khawaja. The ‘crime’ that Al-Khawaja has been sentenced for is simply that he has used his human rights – in particular his freedom of speech, his right to organise an opposition and his right to criticise his country’s establishment. And it is highly worthy of note that he has not been found guilty of violence, or for inciting others to use violence.

On the other hand his court case hitherto has been plagued with scandalous errors, and the Khalifa royals have refrained from prosecuting those of their own agents who have abused al-Khawaja.

As a result, four senior United Nations human rights rapporteurs have insisted that al-Khawaja be set free. Just as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others of the world’s largest and most respected human rights organisations have also done. Denmark, Great Britain and the United States have all urged Bahrain to end this shameful affair by letting al-Khawaja be treated in his second homeland, Denmark. …more

May 2, 2012   No Comments

Reports on Alkhawaja’s health as he reaches day 84 of “freedom or death” hunger strike

Bahrain Live Coverage: The Regime Plays for Time
1 May, 2012 – Scott Lucas – Excerpted EA WorldView

Detained activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, on Day 83 of his hunger strike, with BBC correspondent Frank Gardner (see 1241 GMT)

1441 GMT: BBC correspondent Frank Gardner, in addition to his five-minute visit with detained hunger striker Abdulhadi Alkhawaja (see 1241 GMT), has also reported:

1241 GMT: BBC correspondent Frank Gardner has been allowed a five-minute visit with detained activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, on Day 83 of his hunger strike, in a military hospital today. The BBC posts a photograph (see top of entry) and a rather confused report.

Mr Khawaja said his medical treatment had been good “except for the force-feeding”, something officials deny.

He said he had been walking for three days and appeared thin but alert….He was dressed in overalls and sitting on the edge of his bed, unrestrained.

Our correspondent says the 51 year old was drinking fluids, and hospital staff said he was also drinking regular nutritional supplements. However, Mr Khawaja said he would continue his hunger strike, which began on 8 February….

Hospital staff told our correspondent that Mr Khawaja was getting “VIP treatment” and that they had been frustrated at reports from his supporters that he was being mistreated.

So is Alkhawaja, still mobile despite all three months without food, voluntarily “drinking… nutritional supplements” or is he being force-fed? …more

May 1, 2012   No Comments

Family concerned Al-Khawaja may be being force fed

Family concerned Al-Khawaja may be being force fed
27 April, 2012 – Al-Akhbar

The daughter of Bahraini hunger striker Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja said she fears her father is being force-fed in an undisclosed location, after state media claimed he was taking nutritional supplements.

The state-run newspaper Gulf Daily News on Friday said that human rights leader Abdulhadi, who has been on hunger strike for 79 days, had been drinking a nutritional supplement for the past two days.

The paper also said he was in “high spirits” but Abdulhadi’s daughter Maryam, also a human rights activist, said her father would not be taking the supplements voluntarily.

“They could be just flat-out lying or it could be alluding to something else. I know that my father is not going to willingly drink or eat anything so if they are giving him anything it is by force,” she said.

“If he is awake and he is conscious and they are force-feeding him against his will according to Physicians for Human Rights that is considered torture.”

The Minister of Interior Sheikh Khaled bin Ali Al-Khalifa on Wednesday denied that the regime were not concerned about the prospect of Abdulhadi dying.

“The evidence (against him), the confession among other evidence, is being seen by the highest court in the country. The main issue if you are referring to Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in particular I think that we have a big concern about his health and we hope that he will enjoy his health,” he told the BBC.

“We would like him, as he took a voluntary decision to take a hunger strike, to take a decision to get out of it,” he added.

The opposition Al-Wefaq party on Thursday condemned the government for refusing to reveal the location at which Abdulhadi is being held.

“The (failure) of security agencies to disclose the place of detention of al-Khawaja is considered a shameful behavior that exposes the claims of civilization and humanity by the authorities,” an Al-Wefaq statement said.

“It is also considered as a challenge to all local and international laws and customs that require the announcement of the place of the prisoner and his health status and allowing his family and his lawyer to meet and talk to him freely,” it added. …more

April 27, 2012   No Comments

Asimbonanga uAlkhawaja thina – for Alkhawaja where ever you might be

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uAlkhawaja thina (We have not seen Alkhawaja)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

Oh the sea is cold and the sky is grey
Look across the Island into the Bay
We are all islands till comes the day
We cross the burning water

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uAlkhawaja thina (We have not seen Alkhawaja)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

A seagull wings across the sea
Broken silence is what I dream
Who has the words to close the distance
Between you and me

Asimbonanga (We have not seen him)
Asimbonang’ uAlkhawaja thina (We have not seen Alkhawaja)
Laph’ekhona (In the place where he is)
Laph’ehleli khona (In the place where he is kept)

April 26, 2012   No Comments

Check Points abound in Bahrain – Wife, Lawyer, Danish Ambassador, Denied Access to Alkhawaja

TIMELINE – 26 APRIL, 2012 – Peter Clifford Online

Today, Thursday, would be the 78th day of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja’s “Freedom or Death” hunger strike – if he is still alive. 75 days is normally the limit for surviving without sustenance and AlKhawaja told his family he would even stop drinking water last Sunday.

Where is AlKhawaja?

The Al-Khalifa Government currently has a news blackout on information around AlKhawaja and his family, his lawyer and the Danish Ambassador have all been prevented this week from speaking with him or making visits.

AlKhawaja’s wife says that she phoned the Bahrain Defence Force medical ward where he was being held on Wednesday after he failed to make his regular Tuesday call to her. A nurse is reported to have told her that his room and bed were empty.

Until a few days ago the Ministry of Interior was saying that he is still “in good health” but activists have reported a large increase in police checkpoints around Bahrain in the last 24 hours, which may indicate that some announcement to the contrary is imminent.

There also seems to have been an escalation in night time police raids on houses in the Shia villages and random arrests to “neutralise” those most likely to demonstrate. The village of Duraz was particularly targeted after an explosion there on Tuesday night injured 4 policemen following a fire inside a shop.

Ban Ki Moon, the UN General Secretary, the US State Department and the EU have all once again this week called on the Bahraini Government to use “every available option” to find resolution over the AlKhawaja case. It may be too late or he is in a coma.

Zanaib AlKhawaja Protesting in the Road – byshr.org

Zainab AlKhawaja, his daughter, who was arrested last weekend for staging a protest sit-in in the middle of the road in the Financial Harbour district, has been remanded in custody for another 7 days.

Her sister, Maryam AlKhawaja, who acts as international spokeswoman for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, yesterday addressed the EU Parliament in clear, forthright terms about the poor state of human rights, not just in Bahrain, but throughout the Gulf. …more

April 26, 2012   No Comments

Day 78, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja “freedom or death” hunger strike, disappeared – MOI shuts out family and communication about his condition

Increased Concern for Al-Khawaja Amid Disappearance
26 April, 2012 – POMED

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja entered his 78th day of hunger strike today, but his whereabouts is still unconfirmed. His wife recalled their last phone conversation on Monday, saying, “”Something is very wrong. He was talking about accepting death as the path of freedom, he sounded very weak and tired.” Al-Khawaja’s lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi said he is requesting a court order for visiting rights to his client, whom he has not seen since April 4th. Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa said al-Khawaja can make a voluntary choice to end his hunger strike, and assured the BBC that he is being provided with “optimal health care.” Al-Khawaja’s case and the recent increase in reported cases of violence have prompted an official statement from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, who called for an end to the violence and urged the Bahraini government to find a solution for al-Khawaja’s case. The State Department also issued a travel warning about Bahrain.

Western media has received some criticism for its coverage of Bahrain. Sarah Hildt says the New York Times falsely characterized al-Khawaja’s daughter, Zainab al-Khawaja. “The American media has failed spectacularly in its coverage of Bahrain,” she writes, “Let us at very least not deepen this failure by now slandering and misrepresenting the stance of someone as principled and courageous as his daughter Zainab.” Jihad El-Khazen, writing for Saudi-owned Al Arabiya, attributes poor Western media coverage of Bahrain to “ignorance.” Sara Yasin says the Bahraini government has been given ample time to implement the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations, and given the lack of substantial reform, “This means that [the international community] shouldn’t be doing business with the regime, and most certainly should not be selling them arms or inviting them to lunch.” …source

April 26, 2012   No Comments

al-Khawaja “was talking about accepting death as the path of freedom” in last call to wife, Khadija al-Mousawi

Khawaja’s wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, said her husband had failed to call on Tuesday from the military hospital. “Something is very wrong,” Mousawi said. “He was talking about accepting death as the path of freedom, he sounded very weak and tired,” she added, referring to her last conversation with Khawaja on Monday.

Fears for Bahrain hunger striker, minister defends police
25 April, 2012 – Reuters – Andrew Hammond

DUBAI, April 25 (Reuters) – The wife of a jailed Bahraini activist said on Wednesday she was worried for the health of her husband after more than two months of hunger strike.

Bahrain’s interior minister, speaking after weeks of protests against a Formula One Grand Prix here, described as a terrorist act an explosion in a village near Manama on Tuesday night that wounded four policemen. It said security forces had the right to protect themselves.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men in prison for leading an uprising last year, is serving a life sentence for expressing support last year for Bahrain becoming a republic. He has been fasting for 77 days.

Bahrainis won no major concessions on reducing the powers of the Sunni ruling Al Khalifa family in the protests, but one year later the uprising has not gone away.

In response to queries on Khawaja’s health, the interior ministry said to refer to its Twitter feed. There was no new information on Wednesday.

Khawaja’s wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, said her husband had failed to call on Tuesday from the military hospital where he is being monitored during his hunger strike and she was unable to obtain any information on his health on Wednesday.

“Something is very wrong,” Mousawi said. “He was talking about accepting death as the path of freedom, he sounded very weak and tired,” she added, referring to her last conversation with Khawaja on Monday. …source

April 25, 2012   No Comments

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja missing in detention after 77 days of hunger strike

Fears for Bahrain hunger striker, minister defends police
By Andrew Hammond – 25 April, 2012 – Reuters

DUBAI (Reuters) – The wife of a jailed Bahraini activist said on Wednesday she was worried for the health of her husband after more than two months of hunger strike.

Bahrain’s interior minister, speaking after weeks of protests against a Formula One Grand Prix here, described as a terrorist act an explosion in a village near Manama on Tuesday night that wounded four policemen. It said security forces had the right to protect themselves.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men in prison for leading an uprising last year, is serving a life sentence for expressing support last year for Bahrain becoming a republic. He has been fasting for 77 days.

Bahrainis won no major concessions on reducing the powers of the Sunni ruling Al Khalifa family in the protests, but one year later the uprising has not gone away.

In response to queries on Khawaja’s health, the interior ministry said to refer to its Twitter feed. There was no new information on Wednesday.

Khawaja’s wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, said her husband had failed to call on Tuesday from the military hospital where he is being monitored during his hunger strike and she was unable to obtain any information on his health on Wednesday.

“Something is very wrong,” Mousawi said. “He was talking about accepting death as the path of freedom, he sounded very weak and tired,” she added, referring to her last conversation with Khawaja on Monday.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed concern about the activist, respected by international rights groups as a rights defender but seen by some Bahrainis as a Shi’ite Islamist activist, and called on Bahrain to respect human rights.

“The Secretary-General once again urges the Bahraini authorities to resolve Mr. Al-Khawaja’s case based on due process and humanitarian considerations without any further delay,” Ban Ki-moon’s office said. …more

April 25, 2012   No Comments

Bahrain village of Sitra calls for release of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja on day 76 of “freedom or death” hunger stirke

Statement by the spokesperson of EU High Representative Catherine Ashton on the case of Mr Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

The spokesperson of Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the commission, issued the following statement today:

“The High Representative is very worried by the postponement of the hearing of Mr Abdulhadi Al Khawaja until 30 April. As stated in her Declaration on behalf of the EU on 17 April, she is deeply concerned about the deteriorating health of Mr Al Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike since the beginning of February. She notes that the postponement of Mr Al Khawaja’s judicial case by one week makes these concerns even more serious.

The High Representative once again urges the Bahraini authorities to find a rapid, pragmatic humanitarian solution to Mr. Al Khawaja’s case, as a matter of absolute urgency.” …source

April 24, 2012   No Comments

King Hamad’s court treats life and liberty with contempt, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja denied justice

Bahrain: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja denied justice again as ruling on re-hearing postponed for second time in a month Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on hunger strike for 75 days

PRESS RELEASE – Front Line Defenders – 23 April, 2012

On the 75th Day of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike in Bahrain, the Court of Cassation has postponed ruling on the appeal of Abdulhadi and his 13 co-defendants, for the second time in a month.


On the 75th Day of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s hunger strike in Bahrain, the Court of Cassation has postponed ruling the appeal of Abdulhadi and his 13 co-defendants, for the second time in a month. Despite assurances from the Bahraini Government following the issuing of the Report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in November that all trials conducted by the National Safety Court would be reviewed, Abdulhadi’s case reveals the Government’s strategy to keep delaying this high-profile case.

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja was tried by the National Safety Court of Bahrain, established after the suspension of the Constitution in March 2011. Abdulhadi’s trial was observed by Front Line Defenders and other international legal observers, and was found to be patently unfair and failed to live up to international fair trial standards. This determination was later confirmed by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, which was appointed by the King and which found “[I]t is clear that the National Safety Decree, as implemented by the Military Attorney General, overtook the national system of justice. A pattern of due process violations occurred at the pre-trial and trial levels that denied most defendants elementary fair trial procedures.”

Following the BICI Report, which was accepted in full by the Bahraini Government, the Bahraini Government gave assurances that all recommendations of the BICI report would be implemented, including the review of unfair trials. At the last hearing, the Court of Cassation refused to allow the BICI report to be entered into evidence as part of the appeal by Abdulhadi’s defence lawyer.

Front Line Defenders Director Mary Lawlor, who attended the brief hearing last month, said “Today’s delay exposes the Government’s determination to drag this issue out. Abdulhadi is in dire condition, imprisoned for his legitimate human rights work. We don’t know how much longer he can survive on this hunger strike, and yet the government continues to evade its own commitments.”

“With the Formula One race complete, the Bahraini Government has no more excuses for delaying justice for Abdulhadi. At the very least, his release to Denmark on humanitarian grounds should be expedited, before it is too late” said Ms Lawlor.ENDS …more

April 24, 2012   No Comments

Hunger strikes and political prisoners in Bahrain and the West Bank

Hunger strikes and political prisoners in Bahrain and the West Bank
by Claire Schaeffer-Duffy – 18 April, 2012 – National Catholic Reporter

Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is beginning the 10th week of a hunger strike at a military prison hospital in Bahrain. Family members and his lawyer fear he could be close to death.

Al-Khawaja, 52, was arrested and tortured last spring amid a government crackdown against a popular uprising calling for reform of Bahrain’s Sunni-led monarchy. In June, a military court convicted him of “organizing and managing a terrorist organization” and sentenced him to life imprisonment. He launched his hunger strike — the fourth since his detention — to demand his release and the release of all Bahraini political prisoners of conscience.

Al-Khawaja is a highly regarded human rights leader, and news of his deteriorating health has intensified the international campaign for his release. From 2002 to 2008, he co-founded and served as the first president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and most recently worked as the Middle East and North Africa project’s coordinator for Front Line Defenders. The Irish-based human rights organization has created a video to publicize his case:

Last week, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged Bahrain to release the jailed activist, who has dual citizenship, saying he was in “very critical” condition. The prime minister’s appeal came after a judicial panel refused Denmark’s request for custody.

On Monday, two protesters draped a banner from the roof of the Bahraini Embassy in London that bore an image of al-Khawaja and imprisoned Bahraini Shi’ite opposition leader Hussan Mushaima. “Over 60 days on hunger strike,” the banner read in reference to al-Khawaja. Amnesty International just issued an action alert and petition on his behalf and Wednesday, Germany’s top human rights official, Markus Loening, called on Bahrain to release al-Khawaja and the “few hundred protestors” still imprisoned more than a year after the Arab Spring demonstrations.

All this publicity comes days before Bahrain is scheduled to host the Grand Prix. The royal family is reportedly divided on whether to release the jailed human rights activist. They publicly insist his situation is not grave because he is receiving fluid through IVs, but photos of the emaciated al-Khawaja widely circulated online don’t support that description. …more

April 18, 2012   No Comments

Four independent UN human rights experts call for release of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja

UN experts call for release of imprisoned Bahrain human rights activist
Dan Taglioli – 14 April, 2012 – Jurist

Photo source or description
[JURIST] Four independent UN human rights experts on Friday called for the immediate release [press release] of Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism-related charges after being tried before the Bahrain military National Safety Court in June 2011. Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders Margaret Sekaggya [official profile] expressed concern that Al-Khawaja’s trial and sentence are linked to his legitimate work to promote human rights. Maina Kiai [official profile], the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of assembly and association, provided skepticism about both the proportionality and proper review of Bahrain’s “national security” restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly, noting such restrictions should not be used to suppress human rights activists. Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers Gabriela Knaul [official profile] expressed concern that Al-Khawaja and other civilian human rights defenders have been tried before military courts, particularly since allegations of defendants’ confessions being made under duress reportedly have not been investigated despite the confessions being admitted at trial, constituting a contravention of international law. Special Rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez [official profile] condemned the Bahraini government for failing to adhere to the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners [text] regarding Al-Khawaja’s physical and mental integrity. Al-Khawaja was allegedly physically mistreated and perhaps tortured [JURIST report] while in custody, displaying visible physical signs of abuse at trial. Special rapporteurs [UN News Centre report] hold unpaid honorary positions apart from UN staff, and are appointed by the Human Rights Council [official website] to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme.

Earlier this month Al-Khawaja’s lawyers and members of the Bahrain opposition appealed his conviction [JURIST report] to the Bahrain Court of Cassation, which is expected to issue a verdict on April 23. Al-Khawaja is a Danish citizen, the former protection coordinator with Front Line Defenders [advocacy website] and a leading Bahraini human rights defender. The UN experts’ call for his release came among international concern for his health due to repeated hunger strikes [JURIST report], the most recent of which he has been staging since February 8. Several parties, including Danish diplomats, have confirmed his deteriorating condition, and pictures and reports have surfaced documenting his poor state of health despite contrary assurances by Bahraini authorities. Last month Amnesty International [advocacy website] called for Al-Khawaja’s release when his hunger strike passed 50 days [JURIST report], which came a few weeks after Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] accused Bahrain of convicting hundreds of opposition activists in unfair and politically motivated trials in a 94-page report detailing alleged due process violations [JURIST report] in both civilian and military courts. …more

April 17, 2012   No Comments

Day 69 of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, “freedom or death” strike – will refuse IV feeding at dawn tomorrow,18 April

‘My father has risked his life to defend human rights. He may die an innocent man in prison. Demand his release before it is too late’ – Maryam al-Khawaja

Bahrain: release hunger striking activist

Amnesty International

Unless the Bahrain authorities act quickly prisoner of conscience Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is likely to die in their custody. He is one of 14 prisoners of conscience arrested for their involvement in anti-government protests last year. He has been on hunger strike since 8 February, willing to die for justice in Bahrain.

Demand his release along with six other activists. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was tried before a military court and sentenced to life imprisonment. He is thought to have been severely tortured both before and after this unfair trial.

With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, this is a vital time to call for the release of all prisoners of conscience. Despite attempts by the authorities to portray the country as being on the road to reform, no-one should be under any illusions that the human rights crisis is over.

The people of Bahrain continue to call for change. Abdulhadi al-Khawaja may pay for that goal with his life. Demand his release before it is too late, and call for the release of all 14 prisoners of conscience – imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression and assembly. …more

April 17, 2012   No Comments

Bahraini-Danish citizen nears death in “freedom or death” hunger strike from Kings Dungeon

A Bahraini-Danish citizen nears death
by Lotte Leicht – European Voice – 13 April, 2012

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a long-time human-rights defender and a citizen of Denmark and Bahrain, is on the verge of death in a prison hospital in Bahrain. He has been on a hunger strike since 8 February in protest at the government’s unlawful detention of peaceful activists, like himself, who dared to challenge the al-Khalifa family’s monopoly on political and economic power in Bahrain.

Late last month, Bahrain’s King Hamad said that the government had implemented the recommendations of the independent commission headed by Cherif Bassiouni, a renowned Egyptian law professor, that looked into serious rights violations in the government’s crackdown against pro-democracy protesters last year.

If that were true, al-Khawaja would be free today. The commission said the government should annul all military-court convictions for exercising the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly. The government refuses, in part because it would mean freeing al-Khawaja and others like him.

He is dying alone because powerful international actors such as the United States and the EU are not speaking out against Bahrain’s serious human-rights violations. While Denmark has mounted a very public effort to have its citizen returned on humanitarian grounds, the rest of the international community has remained shamefully silent.

Al-Khawaja lived in Denmark for many years in political exile and became a citizen there before returning to Bahrain in 2001. Bahrain’s Supreme Judicial Council – a body chaired by the king and part of the institutional shell game that passes for rule of law in Bahrain – declared that al-Khawaja’s case did not meet the “specific conditions” required by Bahraini law for fulfilling Denmark’s request to let him leave on humanitarian grounds. It did not say what those conditions were.

Unfair trial

Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison by military-appointed judges in the service of the ruling al-Khalifa family. His grossly unfair trial violated Bahraini law, as well as international standards of due process.

When arrested he was beaten so severely that his jaw and face were fractured in four places. In court, he said he was subjected to additional torture in detention and threats of sexual assault.

Where is the collective outrage when an EU citizen is left to die for peacefully advocating for respect for human rights, democracy, and the rule of law? The EU’s commitment to support human-rights defenders is an established element of the EU’s external relations policy.

It is beginning to look like Bahrain’s ruling family has calculated correctly that its close allies in Washington, London, and Brussels do not care enough about al-Khawaja to risk challenging al-Khalifa hard-liners and their Saudi allies by publicly pushing for his release or by making clear that Bahrain’s continued stonewalling will have a price. …more

April 16, 2012   No Comments

Beirut Solidarity, AlKhawaja, Freedom, Justice

Protest in Beirut in solidarity with ‘Bahrain uprising,’ Khawaja
Dana Khraiche – 13 April, 2012 – The Daily Star

BEIRUT: Around 100 men and women protested Friday in Downtown Beirut in support of the “uprising in Bahrain” and for the release of imprisoned Bahraini activist Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja who has been on hunger strike for 64 days.

A line of women in black held large signs with Khawaja’ picture as tens of army soldiers and riot police surrounded the protesters at Riad Solh square in the capital.

Bahraini activists and religious figures flew in to Lebanon to help organize the demonstration in collaboration with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which was founded by Khawaja.

“Bahraini people complain of the weak coverage from Arab media of their case, which is based on oppressed people who have been ruled by a backward family for decades and now they have reached the tipping point,” Sheikh Jaafar al-Alawi, a leading figure in a Muslim movement in Bahrain, told The Daily Star.

He added that the problem with the uprising against the government in Manama was being misrepresented as a sectarian, Shiite-led movement.

He stressed that the movement was a purely secular and national one.

“We are grateful for the Lebanese people who embrace Arab opposition members and particularly the Bahraini ones,” he added.

In February of last year, protests by Bahrainis calling for reform were crushed by the government. Bahrain accused Iran of fueling the protests. Tehran denied the allegations.

Recent weeks have seen a renewal of large-scale protests. Last month, thousands of Bahrainis demonstrated near Manama to demand democratic reform.

Describing Lebanon as an oasis of freedom in the “Arabian desert,” Alawi expressed hope that the Lebanese would stand against oppressors everywhere and that Lebanon remains a place where people can express their views freely.

A brief scuffle disrupted the protest when a young group of youths carrying posters slamming President Bashar Assad and Bahraini king Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa tried to join in, but the anti-Manama protesters tore their signs and asked the young men to leave. …more

April 13, 2012   No Comments