“I Kissed the Spot Where I Saw Them Beat Him”: Human Rights Hero Arrested in Bahrain
We’ve been following the continued brutal crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy activists in Bahrain for the past two months. One of the clearest voices in the call for the most basic civil rights for all Bahrainis has been a young woman who writes on Twitter as @angryarabiya. She has been keeping the world informed of the shootings and beatings by the US supported government and about the overnight raids during which crowds of hooded “security” forces storm the homes of human rights workers and bloggers, breaking down doors, threatening their families and dragging away these peaceful activists to detention or worse.
Tonight we’ve learned that her father, husband and brother-in-law have been taken. There are serious fears for all three, particularly her father, one of the leading human rights activists in Bahrain, who was beaten unconscious during the raid – even though he put up no resistance to his “arrest.”
AngryArabiya tells what happened:
THEY JUST CAME! They took my dad, my dads blood is still on the stairs! They hit my dad so much! They beat him and he cudnt breath
they broke the doors, all wearing masks. They took my father and husband and brother in law.
they beat up my other brother in law mohammed almaskati, and then threw him in a room and told him not to come out
we knew they were coming, they had gone to my fathers apartment first and taken my cousin who lives in the same building
we all changed and my father told us to stay calm when they come, he told us not to interfere if they take him so they dont hurt us
we heard door of the building being broken, then the door of the apartment. my father went straight to the door, they started shouting
the one shouting didnt speak arabic, he kept telling my father to get on the floor, my father didn’t get a chance to say anything
they held my father from his neck & started dragging him down the steps. they lay him on the floor between the steps & started beating him
He was covering his face while more than 5 men were beating him at the same time, I heard him say he cant breath
I ran after them & told them to stop beating him, I tried to get to my father. they held me &a kept shouting at me to shutup
I said “he will go with you, you dont need to beat him” that when I saw my husband & brothers in law being dragged down
I started shouting “God will show you on Judgement day” I kept shouting “intooon 7a66ab jahanam”
One of them grabbed me form my shirt and started dragging me up the stairs, my mum was begging him to let me go
another was shouting, if she doesnt shutup bring her down too.
they pushed me, my mum & sisters in a room, n they shouted at us. one of them closed the door and then opened it real quick in my face.
then they locked the doors on us, and took the men to the lower apartment, lay them on the ground and started beating them
they kept referring to my father as “the target” and my husband “the son in law of the target”
my brother in law Mohd Almasqati who they left here saw that my father was unconscious.
When they unlocked the door, I ran down & saw drops of blood on stairs. My fathers blood, my brave heroic fathers blood
I knelt on the stairs and kissed the spot where I saw them beat him as he said he cudnt breath.
I am sitting in the mess, the door is broken and we cant close it. My youngest sister is trying to clean and weeping.
I will go sit with my mum, she keeps saying be prepared for the worse. If any1 can do anything for my dad, husband & brother in law, plz do
Alkhalifa, YOU CANT BREAK US, U CANT BREAK US. WE WILL ALWAYS STAND STRONG AGAINST YOU
My father is Human Rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, my husband is Wafi Almajed, and my brother in law is Hussain Ahmed Hussain.
Abdulhadi Al-khawaja has been a human rights hero over many years:
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is a leading Bahraini human rights activist and was the former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He has taken many roles and positions in regional and international organizations. Currently working as the MENA region Human Rights Activists Defender for Frontline. He is also a member of the International Advisory Network in the Business and Human Rights Resource Center chaired by Mary Robinson, former UN High commissioner for Human Rights.
Alkhawaja is also member of the Advisory board of the “Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies”. He is an expert and member of the coordinating committee of The Arab Group for Monitoring Media Performance which has monitored media in the last election in Bahrain and in six other Arab countries. Mr. Alkhawaja was a part of Amnesty international’s fact finding mission in Iraq. He was assigned as a researcher and project consultant by Amnesty international and other International organizations. His struggle for human rights was acknowledged at the International conference of Human Rights Defenders in Dublin and was chosen by the Arab Program for Human Rights Defenders to be awarded as the activist of the region in 2005.
After a speech describing the corruption and inequality in Bahrain and calling for peaceful activism, he was placed on trial, threatened with ten years in jail and barred from traveling by the country as part of a human right delegation to Iraq. And last year when he tried to leave to attend a human rights conference he was arrested again.
Just how severe the current danger for Mr. Al-khawaja is can been seen in this warning from Front Line Defenders, an NGO which advocates on behalf of threatened human rights leaders worldwide:
It is reported that since 10 March 2011, a number of messages have been circulated via SMS and social networking sites calling for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Mohammed Al-Maskati and Naji Fateel to be killed. One such message reportedly read “These are the instigators of disorder and who have organized the movements of sabotage and leaders who are insisting on going to the Royal Court on Friday. The Heads of agitation and disorder in our beloved Bahrain need to be killed and liquidated. Following is the information of the traitors:…”.
The messages reportedly include personal information about all three human rights defenders normally found on a National Identity Card, including their full name, home address, picture, personal identification number and profession. The defenders’ telephone numbers, car models and registration numbers were also included. Subsequently, Mohammed Al-Maskati has received a number of death threats and personal insults via telephone calls from unknown individuals.
Front Line believes that the death threats issued against Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Mohammed Al-Maskati and Naji Fateel are directly related to their legitimate and peaceful work in defence of human rights, particularly their recent involvement in explicitly peaceful protests calling for democratic and human rights reforms in Bahrain. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Mohammed Al-Maskati and Naji Fateel.
Today, the US State Department’s annual report on human rights was issued and included the following discussion of repression in Bahrain:
In the case of Bahrain, a close ally and home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet, it cited the Bahraini government’s move last September to take over a prominent advocacy group, the Bahrain Human Rights Society, and the arrests a month later of more than 200 Shiites. Those were among a series of repressive measures that led to popular protests that the government violently crushed last month, with the help of troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Those troops remain in the country, amid a broad campaign of arrests, intimidation and violence against protesters, journalists and others.
“There are a range of very real issues that need to be addressed,” Michael H. Posner, the assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, said of the demands of protesters in Bahrain, mostly Shiites who have long bristled under the rule of Bahrain’s Sunni king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. “They’re not going to be addressed only by security measures.”
But, as the New York Times goes on to note:
In contrast with Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, however, the Obama administration has not called for a change of government in Bahrain.
As Ahmedrahdi, a Bahraini commenter here at FDL wrote just a few days ago:
Our stand and our fight today is for Justice, Equality, Freedom and democracy, values that the American will be prouds off, if they help a nation to achieve …. but what is needed to save the human being lives of the peaceful Bahraini, is telephone call from American president will save people lives.
Please join me in calling for the protection and release of Mr. Alkhawaja. He has worked his entire life for peaceful change, for human rights – and now he needs us to speak up for him and for Wafi Almajed, Hussain Ahmed Hussain and the other detainees.
The Bahrain desk of the US State Department can be reached at 202-647-8821.
The US Embassy in Bahrain can be reached at (973)1724-2700 or via email to Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams at ManamaConsular@state.gov.
The Bahrain Embassy to the US can be reached at 202 342 1111 or via email to Ambassador Ms. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: Abdulhadi Alkhawaja standing between the women and the riot police to protect them during the crackdown when riot police attacked and shot up neighborhoods to prevent people from marching to Pearl Roundabout. Mr. Alkhawaja was shot with birdshot hitting his head and arms.