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Bahrain: one step forward, two steps back (video)

Zainab Al Khawaja remains “samood” after being targeted and hit by Bahraini security forces today (photo by #BCCLive correspondent)

There was good and bad news out of Bahrain today.

On the good news end of things, the human rights activist Nabeel Rajab was released from prison today after being detained on June 6 for comments he made on social media.  However, the bad news is he still faces charges on several counts associated with what Americans would consider expressions of free speech.

The government of Bahrain announced it would present compensation in the U.S. equivalent of $2.6 million dollars to the families of 17 victims killed by police, and charged three members of its police force with murder in connection with deaths during the crackdowns.  However, the bad news is that more than 50 people have been killed, and the violence against Bahrain residents continues.  The latest fatality is an 18-month old boy who lost his life after exposure to lethal quantities of tear gas that was fired around his home.

Human rights activist Zainab Al Khawaja, also known as @AngryArabiya on Twitter and the daughter of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, was targeted and shot with a projectile by Bahraini police today and sustained an injury to her leg that required her hospitalization.

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March for Freedom in Bahrain today — slideshow #BCCLive

Hundreds of people joined a “March for Freedom” in A’ali, Bahrain.  Riot police attempted to block the roads, but the demonstration continued.  Participants included Said Yousif and Zainab Al Khawaja, as well as our own #BCCLive witnesses, who took these photographs and videos today.

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Meanwhile, we wait to hear word of the conditions of Ali Al-Mowali, who was seriously injured while peacefully protesting yesterday, after being shot in the head, and who is, we understand, undergoing his second surgical operation, and of Syed Hadi, who was arrested on the scene yesterday and was reportedly taken to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

Bahrain Coordinating Committee Pledges Its Support For Freed Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja

 Bahrain Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja is Freed; Bahrain Coordinating Committee Pledges Its Support

Zainab Al-Khawaja[Washington, DC]   May 29, 2012 — The DC-based Bahrain Coordinating Committee is pleased by today’s reports that Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of renowned human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has been released from prison in Bahrain, after her trial last week and the payment of her bail (BD 200, about $530 US).

The Committee supports Al-Khawaja’s right to free political expression and her commitment to achieving human rights for the people of Bahrain.

Khawaja was sentenced to one month in jail for protesting the Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.  However, since she had already served more than a month in jail — – having been arrested on April 21 — she was freed.

The 29 year-old activist will appear in court again on June 24 to face charges related to organizing demonstrations.

Khawaja is known for her tenacious participation in demonstrations and sit-ins supporting the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain.  She has emerged as a dynamic voice of the opposition, particularly in her use of social media.  Khawaja has more than 42,000 Twitter followers and posts updates on her Twitter profile @angryarabiya.

About the Bahrain Coordinating Committee

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee is a Washington, DC-based grassroots movement that works to obtain U.S. support for democracy and human rights reforms in Bahrain.  For more information, please visit http://www.BahrainCoordinatingCommittee.org

Letter from prison in Bahrain: Zainab al-Khawaja

Posted on Twitter, this is a typed transcript of a handwritten letter ascribed to Zainab al-Khawaja, who is currently imprisoned in Bahrain and awaiting trial after her arrest for protesting.

The judge might think that I will be attending my next trial session. He told my lawyer the last time I was not present that he might have considered releasing me had I gone to court. Not only does that statement carry no weight when spoken by a judge who is ruling in an unfair political trial, but what he should realize is it is not my release from prison that I seek.

Yes, I do dream of my daughter, while I sleep and also when I’m awake, but when I am home with her, I know my mind won’t be at peace. How could it be, while Jaffar Salmans twin daughters are living without their dad for more than a year now. Jaffar, an innocent man, who was shot in the face with birdshot gun, Jaffar who lost both his eyes, Jaffar who was sentenced in a trial that lasted less than 15 minutes, without a lawyer, without any family members, the judge looking at the blind, injured man, and he shouted “Don’t bother sittting; you are sentenced to two years in prison.”

I could hold my daughter in my arms, but I’ll close my eyes and imagine Jaffar hearing his daughters’ voices after months and monts living in prison, in darkness. But as he reaches out to his babies, a guard shouts at him, “You’re not allowed to touch them!”

If I get released, like previous times, the prison guards will hand me a stapled plastic bag with my belongings. Among them, I’ll see a handmade wristband, made by a political prisoner, Hassan Oun, a boy who has been arrested more than 5 times in his young life. Hassan Oun, who is a torture victim who spoke out, he dared to come forward and speak up. But his courage did not save him from the hands of his torturers. Hassan was re-arrested, and we could not save him from being subjected to the same nightmare again.

Though I never met Hassan, I did meet his younger brother. I still remember his smile as he drank warm milk and told me to take a picture of him. “Who knows, I might be the next detainee,” he said. In a call from prison, I was told Ahmed has been injured, when he went to hospital, he was detained for the second time.

In the same prison, the Oun brothers are detained in, there are hundreds of other political prisoners. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are cells kept for specific families, for example, the family of the old martyr Ali Al-Shaikh. Not only was Ali killed, but his family are being punished. Many of his family members have been in and out of jail. Some, the ones who witnessed the killing, have not come out.

I might get released, but young Mansoor won’t be waiting to ask me “What abuses are we documenting today?” Although a high school student, he was determined to become an activist, to help in any way he could. Last time I spoke to him, he did not ask me what he could do to help, but he asked me to please pray for him, to pray that they don’t take him back to the interrogation room.

If I get released, every village I pass through will shout the names of countless prisoners of conscience. All the walls will show me their faces. Around me, I will see their grief-stricken mothers and fathers, their wives, their children. I will see the two boys of the woman who has become my sister in this prison cell, a mother who sits on her bed, crying for her children, as I write.

I am not Zainab only; I am Jaffar and Hassan, I am Ahmed and Abbas, I am Masooma and Mansoor. My case is the case of hundreds of innocent political prisoners in Bahrain; my release, without them, means nothing to me.

I will not be attending the trials, no matter how many they are. Freedom, and not my release, is what I want and dream of.

I will sit in my prison cell, I will listen to its walls reciting the poetry of another political prison, Sadeq Al-Ghasra, reminding me that our struggle for liberty shall continue not only from inside this prison, but even from under the soil.

All my admiration, for my imprisoned brothers and sisters, whose determination and patience give me hope.

Zainab Alkhawaja

Isa Town Prison

May 19, 2012