Bahrain’s Inconvenient Activist

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When Maryam al-Khawaja tried to visit her sick father Abdulhadi in a Bahraini prison for seemingly trumped up terrorism charges, the officials claimed she wasn’t even a citizen of the country. Her father is serving a life sentence for peacefully protesting during Bahrain’s Arab Spring. A few weeks ago, Abdulhadi started a hunger strike to protest the continued arbitrary arrest and detentions happening in Bahrain. This was the second time that Abdulhadi started something like this. By the time Maryam got to the prison, the authorities were waiting for her. For 12 hours after Maryam tweeted about her own detention, she was unheard from. The Danish consulate, from whom Maryam also has citizenship, informed her lawyer, family and colleagues that she had been apprehended and was facing unknown charges. She was later informed that she was being charged with insulting the king; participating in the “Wanted for Justice in Bahrain Campaign” of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; and assaulting a policewoman. Maryam’s version, which is likely the true version, is that four different police officers tackled her to the ground. She has had no contact with her lawyer for the last seven days. Earlier this summer, the Bahraini government introduced amendments to the vague 2006 anti-terrorism law. The amendments basically grant the Ministry of Interior, in addition to the king, more power in stripping the citizenship of anyone the government deems a terrorist. This flies in the face of Article 32 of the Bahraini constitution which attempts to separate the powers among the legislative, executive and judiciary. Three years following the February 14 Revolution in Bahrain, the country’s prisons are filled with thousands of new political prisoners. Maryam is now among these “terrorists”. The fact of the matter is that Bahrain’s revolution is inconvenient for places like the United States whom stand behind the Bahraini regime. Maryam has been banned because of the obstacle she has made herself to so many regimes. She is banned from traveling to other countries in the Gulf and she has also been denied entry into Egypt. Read more about Bahrain and Maryam at Foreign Policy.

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