By Dr. Reema Shaalan
Sheikh Ali Salman’s wife,, prisoner of conscience sentenced to life imprisonment in Bahrain
The majority of Bahraini citizens, who are excluded from decision-making and have long endured injustice and oppression on a sectarian basis, took part in the wave of popular protests in February 2011. Since then, Bahraini authorities have repressed peaceful protests with excessive force and prosecution. Some might believe that these protests have subsided, and that Bahrain has reclaimed its stability. However, streets are often empty because prison remains the fate of any citizen who dares to peacefully demand their freedom and dignity. For instance, Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq Society, Bahrain’s largest opposition bloc, is one of these victims.
Sheikh Ali was arrested on December 28, 2014 and sentenced to four years in prison for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He has tirelessly taken part in calls to tackle Bahraini’s ongoing political crisis, worked to maintain the effective participation of citizens in managing their country’s affairs, and campaigned to halt persecution and discrimination. Nevertheless, the Government of Bahrain saw seen fit to punish him with four years in prison for protesting. Shortly before end of his initial sentence, the State charged him with spying for Qatar in June 2017, which coincided with the onset of the Gulf-Qatari dispute.
Following a trial that lacked fair standards, Sheikh Ali was convicted on November 4, 2018, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Despite facing the death penalty, Sheikh Ali Salman received a lesser sentence due to his well-known calmness, serenity, strength, and stability. The injustice of his unfair trail has only strengthened his principles and values, which he has always faced with dignity.
Everyone in Bahrain bears witness, even in the most severe cases of rivalry, to the fact that Sheikh Ali Salman is and always has been an advocate for reform and peace. All his speeches have called for tolerance and serious dialogue, overcoming differences, and inaugurating national reconciliation. Those goals have always been sought to bring the country out of a state of tension and into a state of stability.
The Government of Bahrain has insisted on completely isolating Sheikh Ali Salman and the rest of the opposition’s figures (also serving life sentences) away from the public arena is evident. That is why it capitalized on the Qatari-Gulf dispute to arrest and convict him, hoping he can be shut away and kept silent.
On December 28, 2021, Sheikh Ali Salman will complete his seventh year in detention for a crime that lacks justification. He is completing his seventh year in detention for being considered a prominent political warrior for freedom, democracy and advocating a brighter future for Bahrain. Despite his prolonged and harsh years of imprisonment, Sheikh Ali Salman’s has always been open to national settlement with the government, which meets the people’s aspirations for democracy, and through which Bahrain will eventually enjoy security and stability.