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"Prison is easier than exile for me," Zainab Al-Khawaja on being forced to flee Bahrain

This statement was originally published on gc4hr.org

On 06 June 2016, human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja and her two children, Jude and Abdulhadi Jr, arrived in Denmark, where she is a dual citizen, after she was forced to leave the country by authorities in Bahrain.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) received news from her family that after Al-Khawaja was released from prison on 31 May 2016, she was threatened that she must leave the country with her children or risk being imprisoned indefinitely. Al-Khawaja was threatened that if she didn't leave immediately then she will face new cases with lengthy sentences that would result in her being separated from both her children.

Due to her wish to do more for the human rights cause of her country, Al-Khawaja decided to leave to Denmark with her children. Al-Khawaja has been imprisoned repeatedly over the last five years, including most recently on 14 March 2016 to begin serving combined sentences of over three years related to free expression charges.

Al-Khawaja expressed on her twitter account @angryarabiya her feelings about being forced to leave Bahrain, saying “I cannot begin to express the pain I feel [about] having to leave my beloved country. Infact I almost didn't. Prison is easier than exile for me.” She added, “It pains me to leave, but I leave carrying our cause on my back, and my love for my country in my chest.”

Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, GCHR Co-Director, said it was “the most difficult decision she's ever made, and I agree. I wouldn't wish exile on anyone.”

Zainab Al-Khawaja also confirmed that she will continue her peaceful human rights work to support freedom in her country, saying, “We Bahrainis will do all that is in our power for our great grandchildren & their children to live free on this land long after they're gone.”

GCHR condemns in the strongest terms the Bahraini government's decision to effectively exile Zainab Al-Khawaja and her children from her homeland. GCHR calls on governments and institutions that have influence in Bahrain, including the United States, Britain and European Union governments, in addition to the United Nations various human rights mechanisms, to take immediate actions in order to stop these inhuman practices carried out by the government of Bahrain that are inconsistent with international human rights law.


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