Bahrain: Take action for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, on hunger strike in prison

18.11.21

Update: Bahrain: On 18 November 2021, human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja called his family to say his blood sugar level had dropped to a dangerously low level of 2.4. After he refused an IV, the authorities reinstated his call privileges, so he ended his hunger strike.

17-11-2021

On 16 November 2021, leading Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is currently serving his tenth year of a life sentence in prison, started a hunger strike due to long and ongoing harassment by the prison authorities. In the latest reprisal, Al-Khawaja was informed that he will not be allowed to make any calls. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), which Al-Khawaja co-founded, asks supporters to join a twitter campaign to demand that his phone calls be reinstated immediately, and that Al-Khawaja and all prisoners of conscience in Bahrain be unconditionally released.

“My father has not been allowed any visits since the pandemic started, those calls were his only communication with us and the outside world,” said his daughter Zaynab Al-Khawaja. “Prisoners of conscience shouldn’t have to starve themselves to be able to make calls to their families, or get their most basic rights.”

She added, “This isn’t my father’s first hunger strike. His longest was 110 days, during which he was force fed (which itself is considered torture). After his last hunger strike, we were told his body is very weak, and that further hunger strikes would be dangerous to his life.”

Phone calls have been inconsistent, depending on the moods of the prison authorities.  “They give us calls as favours; for months I have been asking for the calls to be given as a right and not a favour,” Al-Khawaja said in a recent call with his family. A prison official interrupted and demanded he not “speak politics”. He protested that talking about prison conditions isn’t “politics”.

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is the co-founder of GCHR and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for his leading role in the pro-democracy protests in 2011, as part of a group of human rights defenders and activists collectively known as the Bahrain 13.

Another member of the Bahrain 13 who is also serving a life sentence, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, has been on hunger strike since 08 July 2021 in protest of degrading treatment in the prison, particularly prolonged medical negligence and the confiscation of a book he wrote about Bahrain’s culture over four years while in prison. GCHR and other rights groups are extremely concerned that he has lost a lot of weight and is suffering a number of health complications after more than four months without solid food.

Take Action Now!

GCHR asks supporters to please tweet in English or Arabic calling on the authorities in Bahrain to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally free Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and all other human rights defenders from prison;
  2. While in prison, guarantee that all prisoners are afforded basic rights according to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules), including to allow all prisoners to have phone calls with their families, and unhindered access to medical care and medical equipment; and to ensure they are not subjected to ill-treatment and abuse;
  3. Return all prisoners’ confiscated writings to them, including giving Dr. Al-Singace’s research to his family as requested;
  4. Hold accountable all those who involved in human rights violations, especially torture and extrajudicial killings; and
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders in Bahrain are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment; and

Please follow and use the hashtags: #FreeBahrainiPrisoners, #FreeAlSingace, #FreeAlKhawaja

Contacts:

1. Minister of Interior: Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al-Khalifa @moi_Bahrain

2. Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs: Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al-Khalifa @Khaled_Bin_Ali

3. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, @bahdiplomatic