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Bahrain: Activist Zaynab Al-Khawaja's letter to President Barack Obama as she began her hunger strike. ( 0) Printer friendly page Print This
By Zainab Alkhawaja. Angry Arabiya.
Angry Arabiya. Axis of Logic.
Thursday, Apr 14, 2011

Zaynab Alkhawaja

Editor's Note: Zaynab Alkhawaja is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist who was arrested and beaten unconscious in his own home by Bahraini police or military forces earlier this month. Her husband, brother-in-law and uncle were also arrested. They were all arrested for taking part in peaceful protests against the Bahraini regime of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and haven't been seen since the time of their arrest. The life and welfare of her family members is especially a matter of great concern because other protestors have died while in Bahraini police custody. Zaynab wrote the following letter to US President Barack Obama and began her hunger strike on April 12, 2011. She said that she will refuse food until the 4 men are released. She is the 27 year old mother of a one year old baby girl.

Photos of the Zaynab's family and an eye witness account of their arrest appear below her letter.

- Les Blough, Editor

April 11, 2011

Letter to President Obama

Mr. President,

I write to you from Bahrain, after living through horrible injustice that I would never wish upon anyone in the world. Security forces attacked my home, broke our doors with sledgehammers, and terrified my family. Without any warning, without an arrest warrant and without giving any reasons; armed, masked men attacked my father. Although they said nothing, we all know that my father's crime is being a human rights activist. My father was grabbed by the neck, dragged down a flight of stairs and then beaten unconscious in front of me. He never raised his hand to resist them, and the only words he said were "I can't breathe". Even after he was unconscious the masked men kept kicking and beating him while cursing and saying that they were going to kill him. This is a very real threat considering that in the past two weeks alone three political prisoners have died in custody. The special forces also beat up and arrested my husband and brother-in-law.

Since their arrest, 3 days ago, we have heard nothing. We do not know where they are and whether they are safe or not. In fact, we still have no news of my uncle who was arrested 3 weeks ago, when troops put guns to the heads of his children and beat his wife severely.

Having studied in America, I have seen how strongly your people believe in freedom and democracy. Even through these horrible times many of the people supporting me are Americans who never thought their government would stand by dictators and against freedom-loving people. To the American people I send my love and gratitude.

I chose to write to you and not to my own government because the Alkhalifa regime has already proven that they do not care about our rights or our lives.

When you were sworn in as president of the United States, I had high hopes. I thought: here is a person who would have never become a president if it were not for the African-American fight for civil liberties; he will understand our fight for freedom. Unfortunately, so far my hopes have been shattered. I might have misunderstood. What was it you meant Mr. president? YES WE CAN… support dictators? YES WE CAN… help oppress pro-democracy protesters? YES WE CAN… turn a blind eye to a people's suffering?

Our wonderful memories have all been replaced by horrible ones. Our staircase still has traces of my father's blood. I sit in my living room and can see where my father and husband were thrown face down and beaten. I see their shoes by the door and remember they were taken barefoot. As a daughter and as a wife I refuse to stay silent while my father and husband are probably being tortured in Bahraini prisons. As a mother of a one-year-old who wants her father and grandfather back, I must take a stand. I will not be helpless. Starting 6pm Bahrain time tonight I will go on a hunger strike. I demand the immediate release of my family members. My father: Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. My husband: Wafi Almajed. My brother-in-law: Hussein Ahmed. My uncle: Salah Alkhawaja.

I am writing this letter to let you know, that if anything happens to my father, my husband, my uncle, my brother-in-law, or to me, I hold you just as responsible as the AlKhalifa regime. Your support for this monarchy makes your government a partner in crime. I still have hope that you will realize that freedom and human rights mean as much to a Bahraini person as it does to an American, Syrian or a Libyan and that regional and political considerations should not be prioritized over liberty and human rights.

I ask of you to look into your beautiful daughters' eyes tonight and think to yourself what you are personally willing to sacrifice in order to make sure they can sleep safe at night, that they can grow up with hope rather than fear and heartache, that they can have their father and grandfathers embrace to run to when they are hurt or in need of support. Last night my one-year-old daughter went knocking on our bedroom door calling for her father, the first word she ever learnt. It tore my heart to pieces. How do you explain to a one-year-old that her father is imprisoned? I need to look into my daughter's eyes tomorrow, next week, in the years to come, and tell her I did all that I could to protect her family and future.

For my daughter's sake, for her future, for my father's life, for the life of my husband, to unite my family again, I will begin my hunger strike.

Zainab Alkhawaja
11th April 2011

Four members of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja family 
arrested by Bahraini Regime.

Abdullhadi Alkhawaja's son in law, Wafi Al-Majed with his one year old daughter

Hussain Ahmed is Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's son in law (Batool Alkhawaja's fiance)

Human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja with a rose of peaceful resistance.

Batool Alkhawaja* cites details on the arrest of her father, human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, her fiance Hussain Ahmed, and brother in-law Al-Majed.

This is what happened according to her, as she was present when the arrest took place:

At around 1 am of the 9th of April, 2011, I was sitting with my fiancé, Hussein Ahmed, at my sister’s apartment when my father, AbdulHadi AlKhawaja, came to us and asked me to check the internet if there’s any news about security forces going to my grandmother’s place. I checked and I saw that my cousin had written that security forces had gone there and to our apartment, too.

I let my dad know and he asked me to wake everyone up so that we’ll be ready when they arrive since they’d probably come here next. We also got Jude, my niece, out of the house and then we all changed and sat in the living room and waited. I don’t know what time it was exactly, around 2 or 2:30 am, when we heard the sound of the building door being broken down. It was a matter of seconds when we heard the same sound coming from the apartment door.

My dad quickly got up to open the living room door and that’s when the security forces got in. The one I saw first was masked and as soon as he was in sight started shouting at my dad, in really bad Arabic, to get down “tahat, tahat”. My dad immediately tried to get down to the ground but the man grabbed him and dragged him outside. My mom and sisters (Zainab and Fatima) followed while I was still inside the living room with Hussein and my brothers-in-law (Wafi AlMajid & Mohammed AlMaskati).

The same masked man looked inside and saw Hussein first. He immediately started shouting and coming towards him so Hussein stepped in front of me so that I wouldn’t be harmed. The man then saw Mohammed and Wafi and shouted at them too. As he pulled them from their clothes toward the door he hit each one of them, hard, on their heads; especially Mohammed who was the last one to leave the living room.

I followed them out and when I reached the staircase I could see my dad on the ground being beaten by the security forces who were all masked and I saw my fiancé and brothers-in-law being shoved and handcuffed. There were other men in civilian clothing all masked and armed. I heard my sister shouting that my father couldn’t breathe and that they shouldn’t beat my father since he wasn’t resisting arrest and the security forces were shouting at her and one of them was saying “who is she?! Take her too!!” One of them grabbed my sister by the shirt, shoved my mother aside, and dragged her up the stairs and pushed her into a room and told her to stay inside or she would be arrested too.

He told us to go inside too and closed the door on us. He then suddenly opened the door again and it hit my sister Zainab in the face. He was telling her that she should better shut up or she would be taken too and my mother stood in front of her and pleaded with him not to take her. We could hear sounds of beating outside but couldn’t get out of the room. One of the masked men in civilian clothing came inside and told us that he would be filming with a video camera and that we should cover our faces. He filmed the place and they searched it then closed the door again and told us not to leave. At that point I couldn’t help crying but my mom and sisters were telling me to be strong and not to cry.

We sat and waited until there was no sound in the building then went downstairs to see what had happened. I saw drops of blood on the stairs where my dad had been beaten. I also saw that the doors to all four apartments in the building had been broken. I went into the downstairs apartment and saw that it was in a complete mess with things thrown all over the floor. That’s when I saw my brother-in-law, Mohammed AlMaskati, who told us how they’d decided to let him go when they realized that he’s a human rights activist.

He told us how they’d thrown all of them on their faces in the downstairs living room and had kicked and beaten my fiancé and
brothers-in-law while insulting them and asking who they were. He said that my father in particular was brutally beaten and that he saw him unconscious while they continued to kick him and swear at him. He said they even took a shaving machine (which had been in the bathroom) and shaved bits of their hair off.

I also noticed that they’d taken Wafi’s computer and three phones belonging to me, my fiancé, and my sister Zainab. They’d also broken the wireless internet reuter (dunno what it’s called). Needless to say, sleep was out of the question at that point so we ended up spending the early morning hours cleaning the place up.

Now, three days later, we still don’t know where they are and have no idea how they’re doing. On the day of his arrest, we’d received a text message from Hussein’s number saying “I’m fine”. It didn’t make us feel any better since they’d taken the phone and could’ve written the message themselves or forced him to write it.

*Thanks to my cousin Batool Alkhawaja for documenting the events and taking the time to write it all down.

Source: Angry Arabiya

US-European backed Bahrain regime tortures, murders critics.
by David Walsh (Article). Les Blough (Photo Essay).
WSWS and Axis of Logic

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