The Khawajas on Valentine’s: Heartbeats of Activism

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A police officer speaks to Zaynab al-Khawaja after she refused to leave after a sit-in in Manama. (Photo: Reuters - Hamad I Mohammed)

By: Preethi Nallu

Published Tuesday, February 14, 2012

While February 14 will be celebrated as Valentine’s Day in many parts of the world, the streets of Manama, capital of the Island Kingdom of Bahrain will witness a “day of rage” to mark the one-year anniversary of pro-democracy protests.

Human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja had hoped to be in the heart of the demonstrations. But, two days prior to the anniversary, al-Khawaja was arrested as she approached the Pearl Roundabout during a protest. On this Valentine’s Day of rage, she will likely remain in detention.

Before her arrest, Zainab al-Khawaja continued to mobilize protesters and fight for the release of political prisoners. Among those she is fighting for is her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence and is currently on a hunger strike. She has become one of the most well-known female dissidents to emerge from the Bahraini uprising

“The protests are the heartbeat of the revolution,” she explained.

When I managed to have a conversation with her, al-Khawaja had just returned from the funeral of a 24-year-old man named Yusuf Muwwali.

My conversation with al-Khawaja started with her account of what happened at Muwwali’s funeral. She went on to explain how the protests have evolved and the importance of mobilising activists across the country. She also noted the numerous cases of people being asphyxiated from tear gas and how torture had continued in Bahraini prisons. Al-Khawaja also shed light on her own struggle, amidst daily crises, to convey the situation in her country to the rest of the world.


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