Bahrain: Travails of a Family of Human Rights Defenders

September 12, 2014

On Tuesday, 16 September, Maryam Al Khawaja, the Bahraini human rights defender will return to court for her second hearing on charges of assaulting a police officer, which she denies. It’s now been nearly two weeks since Maryam was arrested at the airport following her return to Bahrain to visit her father. She was initially detained for seven days, but over the weekend a Bahraini judge ruled to extend her detention by an additional 10 days. This is a good occasion to draw your attention to a long but fascinating piece by Lawrence Weschler on Truthdig of 11 September 2014. Under the title “Terrorizing a Family of Human Rights Champions” he describes in detail what happened to the remarkable al-Khawaja family of democratic non-violent human rights defenders [it is rumored that for the first time a family as such was considered for the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize]. 

The father, Abdulhadi, and his wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, are both long-time Bahraini activists, going back to their college days in the late ’70s, and for their troubles were exiled from the island nation. They went on to raise their family abroad, first in Syria and then in Denmark, where Abdulhadi founded the highly respected Bahrain Human Rights Organization, and two of their daughters in particular, Zainab (born 1983) and Maryam (born 1987), became human rights defenders in their own right (all the family members are now dual Danish-Bahraini citizens). In 2001, when a new emir back in their homeland seemed to usher in something of a democratizing thaw with a general amnesty, the entire family returned to Bahrain and Abdulhadi founded the well-regarded Bahrain Center for Human Rights (2012 MEA Final Nominee ) and began serving as the Middle East and North Africa protection coördinator for Front Line. Soon the hard-liners in the Bahraini regime reasserted their authority, the thaw ended….. I recommend reading the whole piece.

Lawrence Weschler: Terrorizing a Family of Human Rights Champions – Truthdig.

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4 Responses to “Bahrain: Travails of a Family of Human Rights Defenders”

  1. […] [Rajab is one of many Bahrainis who have been victimized by the government’s intensified campaign to silence dissent: On 28 December, Sheikh Ali Salman, General-Secretary of Bahrain’s largest opposition party Al-Wefaq, was arrested for his political and human rights activism. Earlier in December, human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja was sentenced to four years in prison for insulting the king and ripping up his picture, while her sister Maryam al-Khawaja, Director of Advocacy of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to one year in prison for allegedly assaulting a police officer during her arrest in August 2014. –  […]

  2. […] Khawaja’s was one of the first high-profile arrests following the beginning of pro-democracy protests in 2011 that sparked a widespread government crackdown in Bahrain. See also; […]

  3. […] On November 25, 2022 Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain strongly denounced new charges brought against this dual Bahraini-Danish citizen, who is serving a life sentence at Jau Prison for his participation in the 2011 pro-democracy demonstrations. See also:… […]

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