Bahrain: Women Activists in the face of ongoing violations

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights expresses its deep concern about the increasing attacks against women in Bahrain by being subjected to arbitrary arrests, detention, torture, physical and psychological abuse and denial of basic rights in prison.

More than seven years have passed since the mass arrests began in 2011 and the arrests and attacks on women in particular have been ongoing and continues to happen.

Women activists in the field of human rights and women activists in the field of defending the rights of women, as well female doctors, lawyers, writers, journalists and teachers were all targeted. Women housewives were targeted only for their family ties with males who are allegedly wanted by the authorities for “terrorism-related issues”.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) has documented the targeting of women, such as the arrest of the Vice-President of the Bahraini Teachers Association, Mrs. Jalila Al-Salman, the head of the Bahraini Nursing Association, Mrs. Rulla Al-Saffar, and The infertility doctor Khulood Al-Darazi and dozens others.

According to the documentation and monitoring ofSALAMfor Democracy and Human Rights, the appalling raids, arrests, torture and sexual assaults of women have not stopped yet. Security checkpoints have also been used as a means of continuing humiliation, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and specifically for those who belong to the Shiite community.

On 26 May 2017, human rights defender Mrs. Ebtisam AlSaegh attended the National Security Agency building in Muharraq City on the basis of a summons she received the previous day. According to her, she was beaten all over her body for seven hours and was kicked in the head and the stomach and also was subjected to verbal and sexual abuse by interrogators who threatened to rape her if she did not cease her human rights activities.

As well as the case of women rights activist Ghada Jamsheer, who faced a one-year and eight-month prison term for expressing her opinion through tweets in her social networking account Twitter, which criticized corruption practices at King Hamad Hospital.

 Zainab Al-Khawaja is another example of targeting women. She has also faced numerous and repeated arrests and three-year prison sentences for her views and criticism of Bahrain’s policy of discrimination and marginalization.

The female poet Ayat Al- Quromzi was also severely tortured in the period following the country’s widespread protests to force her to acknowledge acts she did not do in front of the cameras, which were broadcast by the state-run television channel in Bahrain.

At the time of writing this statement, ten women are facing political imprisonment for “harboring wanted men”. We will mention it in the following:

Detainee Tayba Darwish:

She was sentenced to five years in prison for “harboring wanted men” even though she denied the charges during her interrogation in Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and in the Public Prosecutor’s Office. The court convicted her and sentenced her to five years in prison. She is a mother of three children, Zainab (11 years old), Ahmed (10 years old) and Fatima (8 years old). Since their mother was arrested, they have been subjected to numerous psychological pressure. They have witnessed the security forces’ raid on their home on May 14, 2015, when their mother was surrounded by security men who insulted her verbally.

Detainee Hajar Mansoor:

She is (The mother-in-law of a London-based human rights activist, Sayed Ahmed Al-Wedae). She is now sentenced to three years in prison for “harboring wanted men” and was tried under the Terrorism Act. Her 19-year-old son, Sayed Nizar Neama Al-Wedae faces a three-years prison sentence too.

 Hajar Mansoor and the another female prisoner Madina Ali, who is also facing a three-year sentence with the same accusation of “sheltering wanted men,” began a hunger strike to protest the ill-treatment in the Isa Town prison for women.

 Detainee Zainab Makki Abbas Marhoon:

From Karzakan village, detained in Isa Town women’s prison after being arrested in August 2017 with members of her families, two of her brother, Ali and Hasan and her husband Ameen habib Mansi. She was charged with “harboring wanted persons” and was tried under the Community Protection Act for acts of terrorism. Her young children remained without a mother and without a father, both of whom became political prisoners.

Detainee Fawzia Mashallah:

 She is the eldest female detainee aged 56 years and was arrested on charges of “sheltering wanted persons.” She is being tried under the Community Protection Act for terrorist acts. She suffers from chronic diseases, but she has decided not to ask to go to the hospital where the Criminal Investigation Directorate who is responsible for transporting prisoners to the hospital intimidate her when they drive her to the hospital in very fast speed. She claims they do not take into account her old age.

 Amina Al-Qashaami, Faten Hussain, Hamida Al-Khour and Mona Habib also face charges of “sheltering wanted men.” They were tried and convicted under the Community Protection Act of terrorist acts. All were sentenced to five years in prison. In addition to Najah Ahmed Habib who is also detained on charges of “harboring wanted men” and is also tried under the law to protect society from terrorist acts.

We at SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights urge the Bahraini authorities to stop targeting women in Bahrain, stop the escalation of the repressive crackdown, stop the continuation of politically motivated trials, and not use women as a pressure tool against those wanted and fleeing unfairness in Bahrain or fear of retaliation and torture.

Women in Bahrain are in the face of ongoing violations by the Bahraini authorities with the silence of the Supreme Council of Women in Bahrain. Some of these women provided live testimonies of sexual harassment and torture by police in the National Security Agency and claimed they were forced to sign confessions under torture and threats.

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to:

  1. Release all the women who were arrested on politically motivated charges and drop all charges brought against them.
  2. Investigate allegations of torture and abuse against women.
  3. End the use of checkpoints as a tool for sexual harassment and intimidation of women.
  4. Adhere to international law to eliminate all forms of violence against women.