Bahrain Letter: Detained Zainab Alkhawaja Accepts Freedom Award "For The People Who Fight Against All Odds"
On Thursday night, activists Abdulhadi, Maryam, and Zainab Alkhawja were honoured by the US organisation Freedom House:
An activist for more than thirty years, Mr. Al-Khawaja has endured numerous physical assaults, arrests, arbitrary detentions, and unjust trials as a result of his work. He was arrested in 2011 following the pro-democracy uprisings, tried and convicted and sentenced to life in prison where he has been subjected to torture. Stating “freedom or death”, he began a hunger strike in February 2012 which lasted 110 days, ending only when he was force fed by authorities.
Maryam and Zainab have emulated their father by assuming his struggle for human rights and becoming influential activists in their own right. Targets of constant threats, harassments, and arrests themselves, they continue to boldly demand reform, condemn government oppression, and tirelessly advocate for their father and the countless others unjustly imprisoned and silenced in Bahrain.
Zainab Alkhawaja, imprisoned this summer, sent a letter of acceptance of the award, read out by her sister Maryam:
My father, my sister and I have expected many things since the start of the pro-democracy revolution in Bahrain. Exile, injury, imprisonment, & torture are amongst those things, but I don't think we ever expected getting an award.
I will take this opportunity not to say what is expected or appropriate, as I'm not even sure what that is but to share what I feel with you.
In a prison cell in Bahrain, I close my eyes & I see image after image from this past year and a half.
I see my father being dragged away by masked men. I look at his face. He is unconscious, his head bangs onto every step As they pull him from his legs.
I see tens of young men, handcuffed to one another, with their backs bent, being taken into a court room for the crime of illegal gathering.
A 13 year old boy stands in front of a judge looking confused, he doesn't understand his crime He doesn't understand what "inciting hatred against the regime" means. An injured political prisoner is asked the specific locations of his injuries, not to get treated but to be used against him in torture sessions.
In a country where 3, 4, sometimes 5 members of one family are imprisoned, I have an image of their empty seats on a dinner table. I see injured protesters, some shot in their eyes, chained to their hospital beds, awaiting an unknown fate. I see a man forced to drink the urine and saliva of his tortures.
I see a 3 year old child, watching the white walls of her room then red as riot police bang her father's and uncle's heads against it A young mother holds her tiny 5 day old baby, trying to protect her from the toxic gases, and fails. A child's body is pulled away by his killers from his father's last embrace.
As these images flash through my head, they are accompanied by one sound. I hear a mother, calling for her 14 year old child. Her voice fills the streets of her village, her voice fills my head, but her son does not come running. He was shot and killed that morning by riot police.
I open my eyes, and I see the crack in the prison wall. we suffer on the path to freedom, so that someday we can live without suffering, with our rights and dignity.
My father, my sister, and I are honored and truly grateful to receive this award. We receive it in the name of every Bahraini who has suffered for liberty. We receive it in the name of the people of Bahrain who fight for their freedom against all odds.