On jailed activist’s birthday, daughter screams outside his prison – and is arrested
Protesters calling for the release of jailed human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain's capital Manama on April 5. Screen grab from video at bottom of story.
Zainab Al-Khawaja, well known on Twitter as @angryarabiya, was arrested Thursday night in Manama as she screamed outside the prison where her father is incarcerated, her lawyer reported. Her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, was on day 57 of a hunger strike; it was also his birthday.
Zainab, who is standing in front of the prison, can be briefly heard screaming at the very start and 11 seconds into this video.
Zainab’s tweets reveal that she – like many other human rights activists in Bahrain – had been extremely worried about her father’s deteriorating health. Thursday afternoon, she posted a photo of her emaciated father, which she wrote was taken that day.
According to her lawyer, Zainab was taken to prison after her arrest. Her sister told FRANCE 24 that Zainab has been charged with assaulting a prison employee.
Their father recently wrote a letter to his family, which was widely circulated online and interpreted by many as a sign that he was resigned to the idea of dying. He 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 pain is made more bearable when we remember we chose this difficult path & took an oath to remain on it.”
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is one of the founders of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. He was arrested at his home on April 9, 2011. The Bahraini government accused him of inciting unrest and trying to divide the country’s majority Shiite population - to which he belongs - and the minority Sunni population. In the past, Al-Khawaja has called for the overthrow of Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy. He is now serving a life sentence.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's predicament has galvanised protests against the country’s rulers. The video below shows demonstrators marching through the streets of the capital Manama on Thursday evening with posters showing his face. Anti-government protests - which often turn into violent clashes between protesters and police - have been ongoing in Bahrain for more than a year.