Human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja was arrested while peacefully protesting on December 15 and dragged by two police women into a police van. She and other activists were taking part in a protest called “Occupy Budaiya Street,” as she reported on her AngryArabiya Twitter feed shortly before her arrest. This video shows Alkhawaja being handcuffed and arrested.
Another activist, Masooma al-Sayed (pictured here), was arrested at another protest on the same highway in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. The Minister of the Interior said on Twitter that “2 ladies were arrested for taking part & calling for illegal gathering& one of them attacked public security female employee near Busaiba.”
Al Jazeera notes that the highway “leads to a junction that is roughly half a kilometre south of Manama’s Pearl Roundabout,” which was the focal point of anti-government protests that arose in Bahrain in February. The monument at the roundabout was destroyed and protesters evicted in March. Over 35 have died in clashes between protesters and security forces and hundreds, including doctors and nurses treating injured protesters, have been imprisoned.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) says that Alkhawaja will be detained for seven days and demanded that action be taken to ”guarantee her release and protection from further physical violence.” The BCHR also says that Alkhawaja told her lawyer Zahra Masood that a female officer ”took my (Muslim head) scarf off and tied it around my mouth to stop me from speaking,”according to Al Jazeera.
Some hours before Alkhawaja’s arrest, the New York Times released a video in which columnist Nicholas Kristof spoke of his recent visit to Bahrain; while attending a protest, Kristof was tear gassed and detained by police. Kristof also met and interviewed Alkhawaja, who “argues passionately that our ally Bahrain is repressive and an embarrassment to American values.” In an interview with the New York Times’ Lede blog two weeks earlier, Alkhawaja was similarly outspoken.
Alkhawaja is the mother of a young daughter, Jude. Both her husband, Wafi al-Majed, and her father, prominent human rights activist Addulhadi Alkhawaja, are in prison, where they have been beaten and tortured. The Bahraini government has sentenced Addulhadi Alkhawaja to life in prison.
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Photo of Zainab Alkhawaja by Conor McCabe