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Bahrain Special: Zainab Omran Tells Her Story of Detention at City Center Mall

Zainab Omran was one of 45 women detained at City Center Mall on 23 September as marchers tried to reach Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic centre of the protests against the Bahraini regime. This is the first part of her story:

We went out on Friday, Sept. 23. We did not know, "Where do we go?" We wanted to join any march  to have a voice in the event.

One of my sisters suggested that we approach the City Centre becuase the route was still open and we arrived there at 2:30 pm.

We went up having only our phones in our hands and we sat waiting. Glimpsing the faces of many protesters, we exchanged smiles and greetings from a distance.

At exactly three o'clock we met and we agreed to get out of each group separately so as not to draw attention to us. I was communicating with one of the  news pages and it told me they would be at the taxi gate.

We went to that point and we had parted from the rest of the groups when we got there. There were many foreigners, we were  talking with foreigners and introducing them to the situation in Bahrain: we said it was not safe, as there are many dead, but we are willing to go out in a peaceful demonstration and that we will be immediately suppressed.

In the meantime, there was a tremendous amount of informers near us. And they knew from our faces that we areintending to demonstrate. Someone was  watching us and brought a Bahrain TV cameraman in a bus to picture us. We saw him and screamed at him. Then one of the television broadcasters, along with a cameraman came to us. My uncle’s wife told him that he must record live  to show the world that the situation in Bahrain is not safe.

And then the young people at 3:30 started  to say, "Oh mighty God" and "Pray on the soul of Prophet Mohammed". We also started to say this. Because were in the middle of foreigners, we weren’t suppressed but once we moved further away from them, we were at risk.  My friend couldn’t breathe so we went to the ground floor of the parking lot [at City Centre Mall] to rest. When mercenaries arrived, the only way out was to climb of the ladder and enter the Mall compound.

as soon as we entered we saw an abnormal situation. People were screaming and people began moving toward the event and we joined the march. We were going all over the ground floor and Al-Khalifa [regime] supporters were on the second floor and third. They were throwing  bottles of water on us, spitting, and shouting "People want Khalifa bin Salman". We continued, ignoring their presence.

One person, about whom I was sceptical, wanted to ignite fighting between us and the regime supporters, But the youth denied his invitation to fight.

All the doors shut. The march was going towards the only open gate.

We went out and the forces  moved at us from every side and we had only the parking lot to go to and even the we were attacked by mercenaries. We were running towards the parking lot and the special forces hunted us. The voices of their shoes were terrifying. They were organized and trained, all of them beating the ground together like a noisy voice of a drum. The officers were shouting with their loudest voices, "Move. Attack them!"

They came to us and began pushing us with their guns and beating us with them. They put their faces close to ours and screamed with their loudest voices, "Out". My sisters did not like that and began arguing  with them. One of them tore the Bahrain] flag from my hand and told me I don’t deserve to have it and I don’t deserve to hold it in my hands!! I was shocked  and did not know what to do. I began to scream, "He took my flag!"

One of my sisters went to bring him to me. Meanwhile, another one came to me and thrust his arms in my face and said to me, ''Shut up and be quiet or I will fill your face with bullets from this shotgun.” He took his weapon and pushed me with it again. While they hit us with their guns, I saw a young man lying on the ground they were kicking him. I went to withdraw him from their hands and told them, "He is with me", and to stop hurting him and then I took him out.

We stood at the exit point. One of the guys took two of my young sisters to the car. Another two sisters were taken by another two [police]women and we stood waiting.

One of the civilians with a whistle pointed at my uncle’s wife so they arrest her. My aunt went to save her, and I saw two girls arrested .. I rushed to them and tried to rescue them but was dragged with them instead.

They seized us roughly and have led us with the sticks in their hands. From the moment, they caught us they started beating and kicking and we received personal insults, swearing, and cursing. They stopped us in a line outside the mall compound and every car that passed us. Passers-by photographs us and spat in our faces and applauded the police for their heroic work.

We couldn’t raise up our faces and look or else we would get a strong slap. They sat us on the ground in the heat of the sun, pictured us using their personal phones, and started making fun of us. They took our names: each time a name was taken, the person received slaps and kicks and beating and insults. We stayed in our situation for nearly three hours. They would fetch water, say, 'Thirsty!", then throw it on the ground before our eyes.

They were happy they caught a huge amount of women,  in their own words "Forty-five sheep and a goat''. They meant by "goat", a child of one of the women who was with us. It was deplorable how he went through the severity of the horror of seeing his mother and us being beaten.

There was a professor with us. The students that she taught and who had now graduated saw her and began to hit her and said to us, "You are nothing." They did not care and respect any of  the teachers, old women, and innocent kids and continued to insult and beat us.  

The special forces were watching the policewomen while they were beating us. The policeman who has withdrawn the flag from my hand was one of them. Seeing us being insulted and beaten, he taunted us by removing the flag and wearing it in different ways.

He laughed.

NEXT: In The Police Station

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