Jailed Bahraini activist AngryArabiya pens prison plea
Published Wednesday, May 23, 2012
A leading Bahraini rights activist has written an impassioned letter from prison condemning the continued abuses in the country and refusing to accept the country's legal system.
Zainab al-Khawaja, known for her tweets using the pseudonym AngryArabiya, was arrested last month and has been charged with a number of offenses, including assaulting a police officer.
Al-Khawaja denied the charges, which she said were politically motivated, and refused to accept the legitimacy of the country's courts.
In the letter al-Khawaja admitted to longing for freedom so she could see her two-year-old daughter, but said if she cut a deal with the authorities it would undermine the pro-democracy cause in the country.
She also said she would continue to refuse to attend trials in the country, even if it meant her sentence was extended.
"Yes, I do dream of my daughter, while I sleep and also when I’m awake, but when I am home with her, I know my mind won’t be at peace. Jaffar, an innocent man who was shot in the face with birdshot gun, Jaffar who lost both his eyes. Jaffar who was sentenced in a trial that lasted less than 15 minutes, without a lawyer, without any family members," the letter said.
Last year a government commissioned review found widespread use of torture in Bahraini jails, as well as abuses by the security forces.
The country's Western-backed government claims to have conducted a series of reforms, but activists say little has changed on the ground.
The full text of the letter is below:
The judge might think that I will be attending my next trial session. He told my lawyer the last time I was not present that he might have considered releasing me had I gone to court. Not only does that statement carry no weight when spoken by a judge who is ruling in an unfair political trial but what he should release is that it is not my release from prison that I seek.
Yes, I do dream of my daughter, while I sleep and also when I’m awake, but when I am home with her, I know my mind won’t be at peace. Jaffar, an innocent man who was shot in the face with birdshot gun, Jaffar who lost both his eyes. Jaffar who was sentenced in a trial that lasted less than 15 minutes, without a lawyer, without any family members, the judge looked at the blind injured man, and he shouted “Don’t bother sitting, you are sentenced to 2 years in prison.”
I could hold my daughter in my arms, but ill close my eyes and imagine Jafffar hearing his daughters voices after months and months living in prison, in darkness. But as he reaches out to his babies, a guard shouts at him “You’re not allowed to touch them!”
Among them ill see, a handmade wrist band, made by a political prisoner. Hassan Oun, a boy who has been arrested more than 5 times in his young life. Hassan Oun who is a torture victim who spoke out, he dared to come forward and speak up. But his courage did not save him from the hands of his torturers. Hassan was re-arrested, and we could not save him from being subjected to the same nightmare again. Though I never met Hassan, I did meet his younger brother. I still remember his smile as he drank warm milk and told me to take a picture of him “who knows, I might be the next detainee” he said. In a call from prison I was told Ahmed has been injured, when he went to hospital he was detained, for the second time.
In the same prison the Oun brothers are detained in there are hundreds of other political prisoners. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are cells kept for specific families, for example the family of 14yr old martyr Ali Al-Shaikh. Not only was Ali killed, but his family are being punished. Many of his family members have been in and out of jail. Some, the ones who witnessed the killing, have not come out.
I might get released, but young Mansoor won’t be waiting to ask me “what abuses are we documenting today?” Although a high school student he was determined to become an activist, to help in any way he could. Last time I spoke to him he did not ask me what he could do to help, but he asked me to plz pray for him, to pray that they don’t take him back to the interrogation room.
If I get released, every village I pass through will shout the names of countless prisoners of conscience. All the walls will show me their faces. Around me, I will see their grief-stricken mothers and fathers, their wives, their children crying for her children as I write. I am not Zainab only, I am Jaffar and Hassan, I am Ahmed and Abbas, I am Masooma and Mansoor. My case is the case of hundreds of innocent political prisoners in Bahrain, my release, without them, means nothing to me.
I will not be attending my trials, no matter how many they are. Freedom, and not my release, is what I want and dream of. I will sit in my prison cell, I will listen to its walls reciting the poetry of another political prison Sadeq Al-Ghasra, reminding me that our struggle for liberty shall continue not only from inside this prison but even from under the soil.
All my admiration, for my imprisoned brothers and sisters. Whose determination and patience give me hope.
Zainab Alkhawaja Isa Town Prison 19th May 2012