The daughter of the leading Bahraini human rights activist has gone on a hunger strike to protest the detention of family members, including her father, by the state security forces over their anti-government protest activities.
Zainab al-Khawaja. 27, informed the Associated Press (AP) that she will not eat until her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, her husband, brother-in-law and uncle are released.
She announced her hunger strike on her personal blog in which she wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama.
I chose to write to you and not to my own government because the al-Khalifa regime has proven that they do not care about our rights or our lives, she wrote.
I demand the immediate release of my family members. My father: Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. My husband: Wafi Almajed. My brother-in-law: Hussein Ahmed. My uncle: Salah Al-Khawaja.
Three of the men (her father, husband and brother-in-law) were arrested during a raid at Zainab's house in a Shia village outside the capital Manama on Saturday.
Zainab claimed her father was brutally beaten and then taken by armed masked men.
In her blog, she wrote: 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...The special forces also beat up and arrested my husband and brother-in-law.
She added that she does not know where her family members are or what shape they are in.
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.”
She continued: 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.
Bahrain has been engaged in an increasingly brutal crackdown against any and all dissent since emergency law was declared last month.
My father's only crime is that he has documented human rights abuses in Bahrain, Zainab told the AP by phone. I demand he and all men of my family are released, she repeated.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 50, is a former Middle East and North Africa director of Frontline Defenders rights organization. He has also monitored human rights abuses in Bahrain for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
The US State Department said it has asked Bahraini authorities to allow these [detainees] to freely express themselves and uphold their universal rights.
As the host of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, Bahrain is a key strategic ally of Washington.
At least 29 people have been killed since protests erupted in mid-February. The kingdom is ruled by a Sunni Muslim royal family, but the majority of the population are Shia Muslims who are calling for greater political rights and freedoms.
The state has arrested hundreds of activists and opposition figures, almost all of them Shias, during the unrest.
At least four detainees have died while in police custody, including Bahraini businessman and Shia opposition leader Kareem Fakhrawi.
Activists believe detainees are being tortured to death in prison, but the Bahraini government denies these charges.
Mattar Mattar, a member of opposition group Wefaq, told
Either he was sick and didn't receive treatment or was tortured.”