On January 29, 2012 Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and 13 other opposition figures in Bahrain started a hunger strike protesting against human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests, illegal trials of civilians in military sham trials and torture of detainees.
Prominent names like Ibrahim Sharif leader of the Wa’ad party, Hassan Mushaima of the Haq Movement and founder of Al-Wefaq, and Abduljalil Al-Singace of the Haq Movement too joined this movement. This group has been followed in their protest by an additional 150 other prisoners in Jaw Prison and Dry Dock prison, and by numerous others coming from various NGO’s. Hunger strikes in solidarity with doctors who have been sentenced to long prison terms for ‘obeying’ the Hippocratic Oath have been ongoing for many months.
The events reached out to the world with the news that the Al-Khalifa regime has attacked these men who have been confined in prison for nothing other than their political views, by firing tear gas on them while in confinement.
CS gas used in confined spaces or used against people in weak health states poses a real threat of suffocation. This is just another clear Human Rights violation of this regime which has killed over 12 people, including the elderly, infirm, and children by asphyxiating them with gas. The Bahraini regime has also stopped all ‘privileges’ to these 14 men in a desperate attempt to get them to stop their strike and halt media coverage of the Human Rights atrocities of the Al-Khalifa regime.
Hunger and suffocation from the gas attack have detrimentally affected the health of Mr. Mushaima, who suffers from cancer, Mr. Al-Singace who is challenged with polio, and Mr. Alkhawaja who has most recently been hospitalized with low blood pressure and low blood sugar levels.
Since February 14 last year the Al-Khalifa regime has implemented a brutal crackdown on democracy protests leaving many dead and even more injured.
Those attempting to treatment the wounded in bid to save their lives are charged with Medical crimes. The Physicians have undergone the same persecution as the prisoners of conscience and Human Rights defenders; excessive sentences for bogus crimes, sham trials before military tribunals and torture.
King Hamad Al-Khalifa convened a ‘Bahrain Commission’ to investigate the alleged HR abuses and promised to abide by the findings of this Commission. The BICI report was delivered in late November of 2011 and found systematic abuses of torture, killings, dismissals from work, illegal detention, and sham military trials.
Despite these findings and the King’s promise, he has not honoured his word, he has not implemented any real reforms, and prisoners of conscience are still in prisons in Bahrain.
This is why Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is in prison and is protesting against: a regime that doesn’t tolerate free speech or political dissent, that persecutes citizenry in housing and jobs on the basis of religious belief, and that uses torture and intimidation in its attempt to retain power.
The abuse of Mr. Alkhawaja comes into focus with a brief description of his vast credentials and a recounting of the egregious abuses he has already incurred due to his advocacy for democracy and freedoms for the Bahraini people.
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is a renowned Human Rights advocate. He is the former President and Co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Prior to 2011 he was the MENA region Frontline HR activists defender, he is on the advisory board of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies and has served with Amnesty International on several occasions.
He has been targeted by this regime before and has been beaten, jailed, and compelled to leave the island nation in virtual exile for his own safety and for that of his family.
On April 9, 2011 15 masked men of the regime broke into his daughter’s home and proceeded to arrest Abdulhadi in the most brutal manner. They beat him unconscious and dragged him pulling him by neck. He was then held without word to family or lawyer for several weeks and was subjected to mental and physical tortures.
On May 8, 2011 he was tried before a military tribunal. Despite the categorical lack of any and all evidence against this great man, he was convicted of participating in terrorism to overthrow the government .
On June 22 they sentenced him to life in prison. During his subsequent detention he has been beaten severely resulting in four fractures to his jaw requiring reconstructive surgery and bone grafts.
To further this persecution, the regime imprisoned Abdulhadi’s brother and son-in-law, Wafi Almajed. They have targeted his daughter Zainab, also a prominent HR advocate, and jailed her recently for merely sitting in a roundabout. His wife has been fired from work, and his other Daughter, Maryam is in exile abroad.
Zainab and Maryam, like their father, are well known and respected HR advocates in their own rights.
The powerful credentials of the Alkhawajas, and the credentials of the doctors, engineer, and political movement leaders evidence the political nature of this detention and the attack with CS gas. The BICI findings and the history of physical and mental abuse of Abdulhadi evidence the brutality of the Al-Khalifa regime.
The King’s promise to abide by the Bahrain Inquiry recommendations and the fact that these prisoners of conscience still reside in prison is clearly demonstrative of the dishonesty and treachery of this regime.