During a protest against the Bahraini regime on January 18, police violently arrested Zahra Al Shaikh, a member of the opposition. She had allegedly refused to disperse with the rest of the protesters and insulted police officers. According to protesters that were present, she was hit in the face and her veil was forcibly removed. This has angered the regime’s opponents.
This is not the first time that Zahra Al Shaikh has been in the news. Last summer, the authorities arrested her as she was filming a protest against the Bahraini monarchy. After she was released, she claimed to have been forced to undress in front of a policewoman, who she said then insulted and tortured her, and forced her to make a false confession.
During the protest on January 18, her refusal to obey police orders to disperse led to her arrest, as shown in this video. According to her sister, Zainab Al Shaikh, Zahra will be charged with illegal protest and assaulting and insulting the police.
A second video shows the police arresting Zahra Al Shaikh as she struggles to resist, finding herself briefly without her Islamic veil.
The image of the young woman without a veil was shared on Twitter shortly after the protest, before being replaced by a retouched picture where her hair is painted in black. This retouching was done so as not to infringe upon Islamic tradition, which is closely adhered to in Bahrain.
The Bahraini uprising will reach its second anniversary on February 14. The protesters are asking for democratic reforms. As Shiites, the protesters feel overlooked by the Sunni monarchy, which is led by King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa and supported by Saudi Arabia.

“She called the police forces ‘mercenaries’”

Ali (not his real name) is an independent journalist in Manama. He is Shiite and participated in the protest on January 18.
I saw her get arrested last Friday. When the police ordered protesters to disperse, she stayed put and began to yell at them and chant slogans against the king. I also saw three other men get arrested with her. I fear that this time around, she may stay in prison for a long time, as an example for others.
She is also charged with insulting the police because she called them “mercenaries”. This is what we call the riot police, as they are often foreigners. [In 2011, the Bahraini government asked Saudi troops to intervene on Bahraini soil]. To us, they have no legitimacy in monitoring the protests. Most have been in Bahrain for several years, and others were called in after the start of the uprising. For them, it’s a way to make a living, so they act with zeal.
Zahra Al Shaikh’s arrest is a symbol of the significant role women have played in the Bahraini uprising. For these women, beyond being a way to demand equal rights for Shiites, the uprising is also a manner of standing up to men in a society that remains very traditional and does not consider women as being equal to men.