Bahrain: Urgent Appeal: Zainab Al-Khawaja's life at imminent risk as she and Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja initiate dry hunger strike
// 18 March 2013 UPDATE: The BCHR has received information that Zainab Al-Khawaja's mother received a phone call today from the prison notifying her that Zainab's health had deteriorated, and that she had refused to be taken to the hospital until she is allowed to see her daughter. // The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses urgent concern for the health and well-being for the incarcerated human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and his daughter, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja. Zainab Al-Khawaja began a hunger strike yesterday afternoon after she was denied visitation rights.
Members of her family, including her three year-old daughter, attempted to visit her at the detention center where she is being held, but were denied access. The prison authorities only stated that they were following the orders of Lieutenant Shamma. Zainab has been arrested on several occasions for her peaceful protests, and on this occasion she has been in prison since February 28th, 2013. Yesterday, Zainab was also scheduled to meet with her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, but this visit was denied. To protest the cancellation of this visit, Abdulhadi announced the start of a dry hunger strike, which consists of no foods of fluids. The health consequences for such a strike are much more severe, and the BCHR is seriously concerned for his well-being while holding the prison authorities entirely responsible for his health.
Abdulhadi is a member of the 'Bahraini 13'; he was imprisoned in 2011 and is serving a life sentence for charges relating to freedom of expression. He staged several hunger strikes, the last being on the 2nd of February to protest the restrictions that the prison authorities have placed on their communications with the outside world. (See: http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5639/ for more information.) Since their arrest, the authorities have not required that the Bahraini 13 prisoners to wear a prison uniform, as is normally enforced upon prisoners with criminal charges, but just before Abdulhadi was scheduled to meet with his daughter the guards demanded that he wear a prison uniform. Enforcing the uniform rule appears to be a new tool used to humiliate prisoners of conscience and identify them as criminal prisoners. As punishment for refusing to wear the uniform, the Bahraini 13 and Zainab Al-Khawaja are being denied family and hospital visits. There has been a large increase in recent months in the number of prisoners who have started a hunger strike in protest of human rights violations in prison. Prisoners report that they feel that they have no other recourse, and that their wrongful imprisonment, and the violations against their rights, go unnoticed. The BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately: 1. Release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience from prison and dismiss all trumped-up charges against them. 2. Guarantee visitation rights and medical access for all prisoners. 3. Reform the prison system and hold accountable all officials involved in human rights violations.