Friday, December 16, 2011

Brutal arrest of Zainab al-Khawaja

On Thursday December 15 Bahraini human rights defender Zainab AlKhawaja was violently arrested while she was engaged in a peaceful protest.

Bahraini security forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of opposition supporters attempting to protest alongside a highway leading to the island kingdom’s capital (more details: . Zainab Alkhawaja, 27, participated in this peaceful protest, staging a sit-in on a roundabout with several other women. The riot police responded with firing tear gas canisters at the women, forcing all except Zainab to abandon their protest. The police then fired a tear gas canister directly at Zainab, see video -

Next, the police handcuffed Zainab, slapping her and striking her on the face, see video and the attached photos. They dragged her from the handcuff itself along the ground to the pavement and then to the street, removing her Muslim head scarf from her head. This treatment of a woman is totally alien to the cultural traditions of Bahrain and indeed the Gulf as a whole.

Zainab and another woman, Masooma alSayed were then taken to the police station and referred to the general prosecutor "for taking part & calling for an illegal gathering & for attacking a public security female employee near Busaiba"!/moi_bahrain/status/147361704743936000. No physical assaults by Zainab is seen on the videos of these events.

At the general prosecutor's office, Zainab told the lawyer that the female officer " took my scarf off and tied it around my mouth to stop me from speaking". Lawyer Zahra Masood who was with Zainab at the general prosecution, said that Zainab looked tired & hardly opened her eyes.

Zainab is mother of a 1-year old child. Her husband, father and uncle are all in jail. He father is the prominent Human Rights activist AbdulHadi AlKhawaja, a former Regional Protection coordinator for the Middle East with Front Line and former President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). He has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court for taking part in the February 14 protest and there has been no indication of his release in spite of the King's undertaking to free all political prisoners at the press conference launching the Bassiouni commission's report on the egregious human rights violations in Bahrain. Zainab's husband Wafi, who was arrested along with her father, was sentenced to 4 years in jail, also by a military court.

Zainab was arrested previously, from the Bahrain UN house in June 2011, and before that had been interrogated at the police station.

On this video Zainab talks about her activism, family, human rights, her father, and the difficulties of campaigning for human rights in Bahrain: More information about her below.

More about Zainab AlKhawaja
Zainab was very active on twitter during the Feb-March protests under the name of @angryarabiya, posting news and reports directly from the ground to her twitter page.

She was a witness to the brutal arrest of her family members, and reported to the international media how her father was aggressively beaten: DemocracyNow

She wrote an open letter to President Obama, and launched a ten-day hunger strike that gained international awareness and triggered a series of hunger strikes in support of the Bahraini people.

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