Violence Against Women in Bahrain
Left to right: Ayat Alqormozi, Zainab Alkhawaja, Dr.Fareeda Aldalal
3rd June, 2011
One of the main concerns for Human Rights organizations is how to take the many cases which contain multiple violations and present them in a way which will have an impact on politicians, diplomats and UN officials who are in a position to take action.
BCHR feels that, though their opposition to the Bahraini government is the most important thing uniting them rather than their gender; the many women who have suffered torture, abuse, detention and threats by the security forces show clearly how little respect the Al-Khalifa monarchy and their security forces have for the female citizens of Bahrain.
The position of women in Islamic states has often been a politically silent one. But Bahrain in particular has marketed itself as a state which is more open to progressive social forces such as democracy and the rights of women. The women of Bahrain have been encouraged in their belief that they can be an equally powerful political force in Bahrain. Yet the guardians of the status quo have shown in the past few months that they are afraid of the advance of democracy, and the confident voices of Bahraini women asserting their rights.
There are other groups who have suffered particularly fierce persecution, such as doctors, journalists and human rights defenders. However, it is the level of violence and intimidation directed at women in particular which shows clearly how much contempt the government has for the rights which it pretends to uphold. Of course, many of these women are also doctors, journalists and human rights activists.
We call on the government of Bahrain to afford women the respect and dignity which they have pledged to show in their ratification of numerous international legal treaties such as the ICCPR and CEDAW. Many women remain under arbitrary detention where they risk being tortured and raped. There are hundreds of cases about which there exist reliable evidence of human rights violations. The most important are listed below.
The case of the Al-Khawaja family is especially important in that it shows the strength of Bahraini women whose husbands and brothers are disappeared by the state. If women have become more prominent in Bahrain’s opposition movement, it is partly because they are often part of politically active families whose menfolk have been detained and tortured, leaving them to speak out in their place.
As human rights defenders, we cannot let these cries in the wilderness go unanswered. We are morally obliged to cry out with them, calling for justice and liberty where we see only injustice and oppression. These women are all of our sisters, mothers and wives, deserving of the respect and dignity we give to our own.
Ayat Al-Qormezi - a 20 year old poet and student at the College of Teachers, was arrested on Wednesday, March 30th 2011. The reason for her arrest was that she recited a poem which criticised government policy in Pearl Square, on February 23rd, 2011. Al-Qormezi had been subjected to harassments, defamation, intimidation and threats of rape and murder, and remains in unlawful police custody. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wo..
Mrs. Fatima Al-Khawaja - wife of activist Mr Salah Al-Khawaja, was sexually assaulted and threatened with rape on March 21. She talked to CBS about her torture and assault:
Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja (activist and brother of Salah Al-Khawaja) has also been subjected to threats and unlawful detention by police. She has been prominent in the protest movement and you can follow her on Twitter @angryarabiya.
Zahra'a Ali Attya - Wife of Yasser Al-Saleh, activist and member of the Islamic work society (AMAL), 7 of May 2011. At around 11:15pm, she was tortured and threatened by security forces.
Dr. Fareeda Aldalal - arrested on 26 April and was released the second day on 27 Apr. She conducted an interview with Al-Jazeera English after her release, the marks of the bruises and beatings were clear on her face. The video of her interview can be watched here:
Teacher at detention - One woman who spoke to AFP said she was threatened with rape if she did not confess to taking part in protests -
A 16-year-old schoolgirl, her name not revealed, who, along with three of her school friends, were taken away by the police from their school and subjected to severe beatings while in custody for three consecutive days. She talked to McClatchy and to Aljazeera about what happened. She told McClatchy that on the drive to police headquarters, police threatened to rape them and insulted them for not being true Muslims. http://english.aljazeera.net/news/middle..
Eman Abdulaziz Alaswami - On 12 May 2011 15 year old Eman was summoned by the security forces after an order letter was sent to her house that request her to attend to the police station of "Nabih Saleh" island. Her father took her there at 11 AM and he was ordered to leave at around 3PM without her. He was forced to leave without getting any information on the charges she is facing or why is she being summoned. She was released after around 11 hours at 10PM and was requested to return back to the police station in the morning of the next day.
A Bahraini male officer interrogated her for the first two hours and after half an hour break, theinterrogation started again, this time by a Saudi male officer. Interrogation was focused on her participation in the Feb14 protest at Pearl Roundabout, marches organized by her school mates, and also her posts on her Facebook page. Her page has become locked to non-Facebook friends since the interrogation started.
Roqaya Jassim Abu Rwais was arrested while pregnant. Originally from the village of Shahrakan (this village is located close to the palace of the king) and living in the village of "Bilad AlQadeem", in a house that belongs to one of the main targeted oppositional leaders, which could be the reason behind her arrest.
She was one of the first women arrested since in the start of the crackdown in March. She was arrested for about a week in late March then she was released on 31 March, but her husband "Fadhel Ali" was taken in her place. On 7 April she was arrested again and she remained in detention until 22 May 2011.She is a mother of another 3 year old boy.
She is among many other detainees listed here:
BCHR List of detainees
H.S, is a teacher who has been suspended from work since 10 April 2011, for her alleged participating in the protest in Feb-Mar 2011. She works in Al-Ahd Al-Zahir secondary girls’ school, which has been targeted with several security raids in the last month (April 2011), teachers and students were arrested. She was tortured and forced to sign the minutes of her interrogation.
Mrs. Fadhila Mubarak Ahmed - On 17 May 2011, 38 year old Fadhila was convicted over charges of offending a public official, calling openly for the hatred of the ruling regime, taking part in illegal protests at the GCC Roundabout “Pearl Roundabout”, and playing audio records that are offensive to the ruling regime, was sentenced by a military court for 4 years imprisonment.
Fadhila, mother of one child, and living with her husband and her son in the area of Aali was arrested on 27 March 2011, a few days after imposing the national safety status (15 March 2011). She was arrested at a checkpoint while going to do some shopping and she remained in detention for weeks before being released and then taken back to court and jail. Her trial was held secretly, no observers attended. http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/0..
Unnamed Female Teacher - A 22-year-old teacher told HRW that police stopped her as she drove to work on April 2 at Roundabout Seven. They dragged her from her car, put a gun to her head, forced her to the ground, stripped her of her headscarf, and demanded she use it to clean their shoes. As she complied, someone kicked her in the back and left her sprawling on the pavement. A uniformed army officer finally stopped at the scene and ordered police to end the abuse. The police pushed her back into her car, tossed in her scarf, and let her go. "I haven't tried to go to work since," she told Human Rights Watch. "I am too afraid."
Unnamed Medical Staff - Physicians for Human Rights - Al Jazeera interview with two doctors -
Unnamed Female Doctor interviewed by PBS- on her torture under interrogation.
Another Anonymous Doctor - claims of torture and being forced to sign false confessions. http://www.npr.org/2011/05/31/1368185..
These cases represent the tip of the iceberg, and there are many more cases which are less well documented. There are around 40 women still being held by police incommunicado. Please publicise this information and think if there is any way you can help to advocate for liberty and justice for the people of Bahrain.
Advocacy Officer, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, London, 3 June, 2011
Check also BCHR last report on the subject: Bahraini women are paying dearly for expressing their views