Absorbing, mysterious; of infinite richness, this life - Virginia Woolf

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day 58 - Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

I haven't written here at all recently, the main reason being simply that many other things have arisen and sometimes taken priority in the past few months. I have felt bad about this for many reasons, but mostly because I should have been sharing information and highlighting things happening in one of the only ways I can.  

To get to the point: Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began a hunger strike on 8 February, vowing not to end until he was released from detention. Today is his 58th day without food, and things are looking particularly bleak. He has lost approximately 25% of his body weight, and I've seen a picture which quite upset me. He has been moved to hospital and it is feared that he might die over the weekend. 

At the start of last week, courts in Bahrain deferred a scheduled review of his detention until 23 April. My personal interpretation of these events is that the Bahraini authorities may deliberately want to delay a hearing until it is too late. 

His daughter Zainab, who I have written about previously, was arrested this morning while protesting outside the clinic where he is being treated. She is reportedly still in detention. 

I've written about Abdulhadi's case before, here, here and here. We used to work together at Front Line. He is a kind and gentle soul. More importantly for his country, where unrest continues despite a year of violent oppression, Abdulhadi is described as "the godfather" of human rights in Bahrain. His life and detention, his health and hunger, have become symbols of oppression, defiance and hope. 

Please click here to sign a petition for his release and here for other simple steps you can take to help. 

An editorial piece written by Front Line's Deputy Director, Andrew Anderson, is here.

Today's press release is below. 

PRESS RELEASE: Human Rights Defender and former colleague, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja close to death on 58th day of hunger strike in Bahrain

Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, former colleague and dear friend of Front Line Defenders, is on the 58th day of his hunger strike in Bahrain.
Abdulhadi started his hunger strike on the night of 8th/9th February. He was also part of a group hunger strike for 7 days from January 29th, so he has been on hunger strike for 65 of the last 68 days. His condition has deteriorated and he has been transferred to the BDF hospital.
According to medical experts, he now has an 80% chance of dying and is at risk of organ failure at any time. "We call on the Bahrain government to exercise mercy and immediately allow Abdulhadi to travel to Denmark for medical treatment as requested by the Danish Foreign Minister - Abdulhadi has dual citizenship with Denmark" said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders, "We further call on the UN, the EU, the US and UK to issue public statements to this effect".
Abdulhadi is an internationally renowned human rights defender. He was arrested one year ago, brutally tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment after a grossly unfair trial before a military court on fabricated charges. Abdulhadi has worked non-violently for the human rights of others for many years and went on hunger strike for " Freedom or Death". His daughter Zainab attempted to see him yesterday, on his 51st birthday, and was arrested. She is currently being detained at Alhoora police Station.
If Abdulhadi AlKhawaja dies in the run up to the Grand Prix due to take place in Bahrain on 22nd April, it will increase the instability and unrest. "The Bahraini authorities clearly want to present an image of business as usual but their seeming indifference to the plight of Abdulhadi, risks tragic consequences for Bahrain" said Mary Lawlor "Those involved in Formula 1 must consult with independent journalists, community leaders, human rights groups, to get a good sense of what is going on - to see for themselves the situation in the gulf kingdom. From observing protests last week in Bahrain, it is clear that Bahrain is not safe for Bahrainis".
In a letter to his family a few days ago in the shape of a heart on the inside of a box of tea bags Abdulhadi wrote:
"My dear & beloved family, from behind prison bars, I send to you my love & yearning. From a free man, to a free family. These prison walls don't separate me from you, they bring us closer together. Our connection & determination is stronger than ever. We take our strength, from beautiful memories. Remembering every trip, every meal we ate together, all the conversations, remembering every smile, all the jokes & the laughter. The distance between us disappears, through our love & faith.
It's true: I am in here, & you are out there. But, you are in here with me, and I am out there with you. Our pain is made more bearable when we remember we chose this difficult path & took an oath to remain on it. We must not only remain patient through our suffering, we must never allow the pain to conquer our souls. Let our hearts be filled with joy, and an acceptance of the responsibility we have been given for in the end, this life is about finding a path of truth towards God".

No comments:

Post a Comment