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Number of detained women in Bahrain increases as crackdown worsens

An anti-government protester (C) is carried by her fellow protesters after she was pepper-sprayed by riot police during a rally in Manama on 7 April 2012
An anti-government protester (C) is carried by her fellow protesters after she was pepper-sprayed by riot police during a rally in Manama on 7 April 2012

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is gravely concerned about the escalation of attacks on women as they are subjected to arbitrary arrests, detention, torture and deprived of their basic rights in prison; including but not limited to visitation rights and adequate medical care. The number of female detainees and those sentenced to imprisonment has considerably increased in recent months.
More than two years have passed since the mass arrests were conducted in 2011, as documented by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), and the confirmed use of torture to extract confessions from detainees. It is with great dismay that BCHR continues to document the same illegal practices employed by the government and the fact that the judiciary system and public prosecution continue to use those confessions to sentence political detainees.

It is important to note that the public prosecution is the same institution that is charged with investigating torture claims, and in a clear conflict of interest, uses confessions extracted under torture in court against political prisoners.



Khadeeja Saeed
Khadeeja Saeed

BCHR

Khadija Saeed, a 51-year-old recently retired teacher and mother of four, was arrested from her workplace at the Yathrib Girls Intermediate School along with several of her colleagues on 19 April 2011 for political reasons. She was called to the administration office and was taken from there to the police station. She was tortured and humiliated, handcuffed with her hands behind her back, blindfolded, severely beaten, insulted, and forced into confessing to “crimes” she did not commit. She was detained for some time and then released.
Khadija was tried in a military court in 2011 and sentenced to 3 years' imprisonment for illegal gathering and inciting hatred towards the regime. Her case was then transferred to civil court where she received a sentence of 6 months' imprisonment. On 3 June 2013, her sentence was upheld and she is now facing detention again. Khadija is still suffering from the torture she endured when she was arrested in 2011 which includes partial loss of hearing and vascular damage to one of her legs.

Ashwaq Al Maqabi, 19-years-old, was one of seven minors and 38 adult women arrested from the City Center shopping mall following a peaceful protest on the 23 September, 2011. She suffers from sickle cell disease with frequent severe attacks of vascular occlusive crisis that requires constant hospitalization and specialist medical care. Her health condition worsened due to prison conditions and ill-treatment and she was admitted to Salmaniya hospital more than once. On 10 November 2011, she was re-arrested from the hospital after the court sentenced her to six months' imprisonment. Ashwaq served two months before she was released awaiting the Court of Cassation's ruling. On 23 June 2013, the court upheld her sentence of six months' imprisonment. Ashwaq is facing detention once more and concerns regarding her health have been raised. Political prisoners in Bahrain have been systematically denied adequate medical care.

Siddiqa Al-Basri, 25-years-old, is a mother of two who is currently serving a six month prison sentence she received on 28 January, 2013, for allegedly insulting a police officer and disobeying orders at a checkpoint during the National Safety status in April 2011. As per information received by BCHR, on 5 June 2013, Al-Basri had severe toothache and was taken to the Ministry of Interior's prisoners' clinic. She was in handcuffs for four hours, even during the doctor's examination. After the examination, she did not received any treatment. The doctor merely told the guards to bring her back in two weeks.

During Al-Basri's trial, she was never presented with the opportunity to defend herself at any stage of the trial and appeal process and she received the final verdict before her lawyer had a chance to present an appeal.


Rayhanna Al-Mosawi and Nafeesa Al-Asfoor
Rayhanna Al-Mosawi and Nafeesa Al-Asfoor

BCHR

Rayhanna Al-Mosawi and Nafeesa Al-Asfoor were arrested at the Bahrain International Circuit during the Bahrain Formula 1 event on 20 April 2013. They informed their families in phone calls that they were subjected to torture during interrogations at the Criminal Investigation Directorate (CID) building and were threatened with electric shocks to force them into signing confessions.
The public prosecution issued an order of 60 days' detention under investigation citing the internationally condemned terrorism law. Although both women have been detained for more than 40 days now and are expected to be presented to the public prosecution again on 20 June 2013, they have yet to be allowed to meet and consult with their lawyers. Nafeesa's family expressed concerns over the wellbeing of their daughter as she is suffering from several illnesses and has not been provided with adequate health care.

They informed BCHR that Nafeesa lost consciousness several times in prison and was taken to the hospital. Nafeesa was also forced to sign papers to state that she refuses medical care.

Security checkpoints are used as a tool to continuously humiliate, sexually harass, mistreat and abuse people; specifically Bahrainis belonging to the Shia sect. Women are no exception.


Nadia Ali
Nadia Ali

BCHR

According to her family, Nadia Ali, who is four months pregnant, was reportedly stopped at a checkpoint in Bani Jamra and was insulted by a member of the security forces who then took her identification card. She went to Budaiya police station to collect her ID card where she reportedly quarreled with the police, was handcuffed, beaten and insulted by two policewomen.
The Ministry of Interior (MOI) released a statement claiming that Nadia Ali assaulted a policewoman. The MOI in Bahrain lacks any kind of credibility, but even if true, excessive force by the police against any person is considered a violation of human rights. She was taken to the public prosecution on Thursday, 6 June, and ordered to ten days of detention following further investigation. She is currently detained in Isa Town women's prison.

Other women are also in detention as a result of the escalating crackdown and the continued politically motivated trials in Bahrain. These cases include:

  • Zainab Al Khawaja: Human rights activist, serving nine months and 22 days, has at least one active case against her in court, and has been denied visitation rights with her family (including her three-year-old daughter), meetings with her lawyer, hospital visits, consular visits, and prevented from going outside since the beginning of March 2013.
  • Haleema Al Sabbagh: Dental assistant is serving one year in prison and is denied access to adequate medical care.
  • Sherifa Al Sayed: Cleaning lady at the Salmaniya Medical Complex has been detained since February 2013, and is currently serving a six month prison sentence for allegedly attempting to set the hospital on fire.
  • Rabab Zainaldeen: Teacher detained since 30 May 2013 after she was sentenced to two months in prison for insulting a police officer at the women’s detention center. Rabab was previously arrested in August 2011 and at that time she was kept in detention for one month on charges of “illegal gathering”.

Women in Bahrain have been victims of countless human rights violations by the authorities. BCHR appeals to the international community and women rights' groups to immediately demand that the government of Bahrain:

  • Release prisoners who are detained for charges related to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression;
  • Guarantee fair trials for all prisoners and put an end to the politically motivated trials;
  • Investigate torture cases against women;
  • Grant women their rights to medical care and visitation;
  • Stop the violence and collective punishment practiced by the security forces;
  • End the use of checkpoints as a tool to sexually harass and intimidate women driving through;
  • Abide by international human rights laws to eliminate violence against women.

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