25 November 2011

On this International Day to End Violence against Women, Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) condemns the human rights violations committed by the Bahraini regime against women in Bahrain. Women have played an important part of the Bahraini uprising with active participation and fierce activism. For their active role in calling for democracy and political reform, they were violently targeted. Four women were killed by live ammunition, suffocation of tear gas and intimidation. Many women were arrested, detained, tortured and sentenced up to 15 years imprisonment.
Four females died due to excessive use of force by security force
Photo: The car Bahiya Al Aradi, first female martyr, was driving when she was shot

Bahiya Abdulrasool Al Aradi, 51 year old, is the first female martyr in Bahrain’s uprising. She was driving in Budaiya road when she went missing. Her last phone call was to her younger sister, when she heard gunshots near Al Qadam roundabout and tried to get off the road. Her family contacted all hospitals however they could not find her. On 19 March, they received a call from the authorities informing them that Bahiya is in BDF hospital on life support[1]. Her brother was allowed a visit lasting a few minutes. The next day she died due to her serious injuries. The authorities stated in her death certificate that she died of “Brain Injury", however the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report recently published a confirmation that the cause of death was a gunshot from behind from a range of 50 to 75 meters[2]. No one was held accountable Bahiya's death.
Zainab Al Juma and Zainab Al Tajer both died of suffocation due to tear gas that was excessively used by security forces as collective punishment on villages. Zainab Al Juma was disabled so she could not move from her room, while Zainab Al Tajer was walking when riot police attacked a peaceful protest nearby. Aziza, 29 years old, died after riot police broke into her home at midnight. She witnessed them beating one of her relatives, then they threatened her by directing a gun at her. Due to that, her blood sugar level boosted, causing her to faint and resulting to her death[3].
Women arrested, detained and tortured When the state of emergency "National Safety" was declared more than 1000 Bahrainis were arrested, 11% of them were female from all ages and professions. Reportedly, most women arrested were seized from their workplace which included schools and hospitals. The majority of female detainees who documented their cases were subjected to both physical and psychological torture.
Photo: Women handcuffed and thrown to the ground prior to arrest at Bahrain City Center

During an incident on September 23, security forces arrested 38 women who demonstrated peacefully at City Center mall in plans of heading to the former Pearl Roundabout. The women were arrested alongside seven girls and claimed to have been mistreated and tortured during investigation. Prior to arrest the women were handcuffed and inhumanely thrown on the ground in the parking lot. Some of the women were released, but 16 women remain in detention unjustly to this day awaiting their sentence.
Photo: Mrs. Jaleela Al Salman, Deputy Bahrain Teachers Association, was arrested, tortured and sentenced to 3 years in prison

Jaleela Al Salman, deputy president of Bahrain Teachers Association, was first arrested on 29 March after a house raid by more than 40 masked security forces that broke into her house and terrorized her family. She was beaten, threatened with rape and denied access to her family and lawyer. In an interview about her detention Jaleela said “I was in solitary confinement, it was very, very dirty. The walls were covered in dried blood. There was a hook hanging off the ceiling. There were no windows. I was forced to stand for almost all of the time. Every five minutes someone would come inside my cell. I was not allowed to lie down or even to go to the toilet or to have water. Because of that I had to be treated for kidney problems. The food they gave me was full of hairs, sand and dirt. I am on medication for high blood pressure and they only allowed me to take it on the fifth day. By that time I was in a really bad state and I was fainting during questioning. Still, I was never allowed to sit down.”[4] Jaleela was sentenced to 3 year imprisonment in the military court. She was released on 21 August only to be re-arrested the same way on 18 October[5].
Photo: Dr. Fatima Dhaif and Dr. Nada Dhaif in an interview with CNN speaking of what they were subjected to and being sentenced in military court

Dr. Fatima Haji, 33 years old, is one of the doctors that were arrested for treating protesters and witnessing the atrocities of the regime. She was sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment in the military court. Masked men accompanied with a female policewoman broke into her house. In an interrogation center, she was “punched and kicked while blindfolded. Then she was kept standing for several days without food and water, and sexually molested[6]”. Like Dr. Fatima Haji, Dr. Nada Dhaif, 38 years old, was subjected to ill-treatment and torture in detention. Dr. Nada says that ''It was 03:00 a.m. when they broke into my house. I was taken away, blindfolded and handcuffed. I didn't know that they were security forces… They were in civilians clothes. So, I thought I was actually kidnapped… Immediately after I was taken away…I was treated with beating and cursing'', She added that she was also electrified and threatened to be raped. She added in an interview, ''I was crying and I lost consciousness two or three times during this time in the military clinic”[7]. Dr. Nada was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment by a military court.

Fadhila Al Mubarak, 38 years old and mother of an 8 year old boy, was arrested on 27 March. She was driving her car with her son and nephew in the back seat when she was stopped at a checkpoint because of an audio recording of a revolutionary song that was playing in her car. The officer pulled her out of her car and sat in the driver seat. Fearing for the safety of her son and nephew who were in the car, she tried to pull him out. Fadhila was sentenced to 4 years’ imprisonment in the military court to be then reduced to 18 months. She is serving an unfair sentence in jail under bad conditions and concerns are being raised over her health condition.

Female family members of detainees terrified and terrorized
Photo: Marks of torture on Mrs. Fatima, Salah Al Khawaja’s wife

After the announcement of a state of emergency on March 15, security forces launched an aggressive campaign of home raids where they arrested individuals who they thought had participated in protests, went to Pearl Roundabout or were associated with the opposition. Women got assaulted when their homes were raided at dawn in search of wanted family members. Fatima[8], Mr. Sallah Al-Khawaja's wife was beaten, threatened, demeaned and intimidated when her house was raided on March 21 for the arrest of her husband. After arresting Sallah, the security forces went to his wife's bedroom, where she was sleeping with her children, and pointed a gun on her 10 year old daughter's head forcing her to leave the bed. The children were put in a corner of the room while Mr. Khawaja's wife was pulled by hair from room to room, being asked about the whereabouts of her wanted nephew. When she told them she didn't know, they threw her on the floor in a dark room where five men started beating, kicking and slapping her. They insulted her and verbally abused her using obscene words. One of the men put his genitals on her face. She says[9] she was terrified and feared for her children and her honor. Days after the event, the beating marks were still visible on her arm and leg.
The assaults against women have been ongoing until a few days back. Video footages by international media as well as citizen journalists continue to show riot police aiming at women with their weapons. On 23 November, after a man died due to a police car purposely crashing into his car, security forces were seen[10] firing tear gas at a group of women who were relatives of the murdered man. Later the women were carried out of a home, some of them clearly injured. Another recent video[11] from 25 November shows the riot police throwing sound grenades at woman who were walking home.
International Laws violated

States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should refrain from engaging in violence against women and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons” – Article 4: Declarations on the Elimination of Violence against Women

Bahrain’s government has violated many articles in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women as many women in Bahrain have been subjected to violence and mistreatment by security forces. On the International Day to End Violence against Women, we call the international community and human rights organizations to take immediate action to help:

1. Release prisoners of conscience, in particular female prisoners, and immediate put an end to home raids 2. Drop false charges and sentences, put an end to unjust trials as well as ending military trials for civilians 3. Stop physical and psychological torture of women in interrogation rooms and detention centers 4. Investigate into all the incidents of killing and violence that claimed the lives of a number of Bahraini women and hold the perpetrators accountable for their crimes 5. Ensure the Bahraini regime commits to the international pacts and agreements it has signed especially regarding the protection of women's rights and stopping violence against women

[1] HRW: Bahrain: Investigate Deaths Linked to Crackdown [2] BICI report – Page 231 [3] BCHR: List of people killed in Bahrain since 14th February 2011 [4] WVN: One woman’s story of the terror stalking Bahrain [5] BCHR: Jaleela Al Salman, VP Bahrain Teachers Association, re-arrested at 3 AM without a warrant [6] Mail Online: I was blindfolded, then tortured and sexually attacked until I 'confessed': Doctor facing jail after treating Bahrain riot victims tells of her terrifying ordeal [7] Bahraini woman doctor tells of jail abuse [8] Dateline: Bahrain’s Dark Secret [9] Dateline: Bahrain’s Dark Secret [10] AJE exclusive footage of Bahraini security forces [11] Video footage: Security forces attacking women