Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Said Yousif AlMuhafdah spoke at the 7th Frontline Defenders Platform for Human Rights Defenders at Risk on 11 October 2013. This is a transcript of his speech:
My name is Said Yousif AlMuhafdah – Acting Vice President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, and a human rights defender from Bahrain. I got arrested several times for doing my work and for cooperating and reporting to the United Nations. Like other defenders in Bahrain, I have been beaten, defamed, threatened and harassed because of my work in human rights. Two days ago, after arriving in Dublin, my family informed me that I have received a summons for interrogation because I spoke about torture.
Human rights defender Naji Fateel, who had previously delivered a speech at Frontline, is now sentenced to 15 years in prison and was subjected to severe torture because of his work in the field of human rights.
Abduljalil AlSingace, another human rights defender, suffers from paralysis, but that did not stop the regime from severely torturing him and sentencing him to life imprisonment.
Today I would like to share with you letters from two imprisoned human rights defenders in Bahrain directed to the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression and Assembly, Frontline, other international organizations and all international human rights defenders.
The first letter is from imprisoned rights defender Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights:
"Dear friends, colleagues and fellow human rights defenders at the 7th Frontline Defenders Platform for Human Rights Defenders,
I am addressing you from a cell in Bahrain, where I have been imprisoned since July 9th, 2012. The Bahraini regime decided to silence my voice from defending freedom of speech and from defending the rights of all Bahrainis for freedom, democracy and social justice.
I ask you, my friends and colleagues, to help the long-suffering people of Bahrain to regain their rights from a tyrant regime. There was international condemnation of the widespread human rights violations which included extrajudicial killings, systematic torture, arbitrary arrests and the list is long; but the regime refuses to change.
Several human rights defenders, including myself, were put in prison just for speaking out. I ask you to stand in solidarity with the imprisoned human rights defenders in Bahrain.
Thank you so much for listening to the voice of Bahrainis and I look forward to your kind and heartfelt actions."
The second letter I will share with you today is from imprisoned human rights defender Zainab Alkhawaja, whose father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja worked at Frontline before he was imprisoned, tortured and sentenced to life in prison in Bahrain:
"In a nutshell, the idea is that by defending human rights activists you're also defending their communities. Defend one activist and you'll be protecting tens or even hundreds of other people. A few years back, my father described to me what Frontline does, and I could see the passion that he has for his work.
But it's more than just work for him, defending others is not what my father does, it's who my father is.
Never was this more clear to me than when my father told me about his experience in military prison.
He calmly told me about two months in isolation, about not being allowed to speak, about never seeing a human face. He described the torture sessions and the masked torturers.
But the calm disappeared, and I saw pain in my father's eyes when he told me: "The worst thing was never when I was being tortured. The worst thing was when I could hear the others being tortured and I couldn't do anything."
He tried. My father's first hunger strike during this imprisonment was while he was in solitary confinement and being tortured routinely. His only demand was that they stop torturing the head of the teachers' union Mahdi abu Dheeb in the cell next to him, and whose screams he could hear.
My father was tortured severely until he ended that strike.
My father and other defenders have dedicated their lives to defending victims, educating people about their rights, and exposing the regime's crimes.
The regime in Bahrain fears international pressure more than they care about people's rights. Their solution is to commit their crimes in darkness, far away from the eyes of the international community, the media, and human rights organizations.
The best way to achieve this is by silencing those who shed light on the human rights abuses being committed against the people of Bahrain.
In a nutshell, the Bahraini regime has realized that by arresting and silencing one human rights activist, you can more easily oppress tens and hundreds of other people.
The Bahraini regime is therefore shamelessly targeting human rights activists through arrests and torture, detention and beatings, threats and interrogations, and defamation campaigns. And as more activists are silenced simultaneously we see a rise in the human rights abuses, violations, and crimes towards the general Bahraini population."