Bahrain Hunger Striker At Risk of Death

Imprisoned Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja turned 51 yesterday, April 5. A former protection co-ordinator with Frontline, an NGO which supports human rights defenders, Al-Khawaja has been on a hunger strike for 58 days to protest a sentence of life in prison. After he was arrested last year in April, Al-Khawaja was convicted in June by a special security court for seeking to overthrow Bahrain’s king for his role in the pro-democratic protests last spring. His lawyer, Mohammed Al-Jishi, says that Al-Khawaja’s health deteriorated sharply on Friday; Al-Khawaja has lost 22 pounds and has been moved to a hospital clinic and is being fed intravenously.

On Thursday, his daughter and human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested during a protest for him and transferred to a prison on Friday morning. Police claim that she “attacked a public official,” says Al Jazeera.

Al-Khawaja Tortured In Prison

Al-Khawaja’s family says that he is case number eight in an account of abuse described by detainees in a report released in November by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The Bahraini government formed the commission after international pressure to investigate  the unrest and the abuse of protesters and detainees.  Al-Khawaja was beaten at the time of his arrest on April 8 and underwent surgery on his jaw afterwards. Eight days later, abuse resumed: Al-Khawaja was beaten on the soles of his feet and sodomized with a stick. According to the BICI report, he went on a hunger strike on February 8 at that time to stop the torture and protest his imprisonment.

Amnesty International says that Al-Khawaja was convicted in June “under duress” and that there was no evidence presented to show that he had committed or approved acts of violence.

The BICI report also says that some detainees died while being tortured and the Bahraini government has acknowledged this. A National Commission created by King Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa says that Bahrain has started to retrain its security forces and detention facilities. Activists contend that the National Commission’s report is “self-congratulatory” and that beatings and other brutalities, torture and imprisonment of political prisoners have continued.

Al-Khawaja was one of seven opposition leaders sentenced to life in prison last year for his part in the Shia-led uprising against Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy. Shi’ite Muslims comprise the majority of Bahrain’s population and have long described discrimination for government and military positions.

Bahrain is a U.S. ally and houses the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Almost Daily Protests in Bahrain

Thousands marched in support of al-Khawaja on Friday. Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters who marched carrying Al-Khawaja’s picture while shouting “freedom or martyrdom.” According to Al Jazeera, Sheikh Issa Qassim, Bahrain’s most senior Shia cleric, had said in a speech before the rally that, should Al-Khawaja die in custody, things could “get out of control.”

Bahrainis have also been protesting almost daily against the Formula One Grand Prix race that is to be held on April 20-22. Back in October of 2011, a Formula One Grand Prix race was cancelled due to “opposition from teams.”

Previous Care2 Coverage

Bahrain King Praises Progress As Beatings, Torture Continue

A Tense Bahrain Awaits Anniversary of Uprising (Video)

US Wants Investigation: Bahraini Activist Beaten, Hospitalized


Photo of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on the 57th day of his hunger strike via angry arabiya

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Susan V.
Susan V.3 years ago

Please sign my petition to release Al-Khawaja.

susan V.

Lynn C.
Lynn C.3 years ago

So much pain and suffering in this's inhumanity to man, over and over again.

Jennifer C.
Past Member 3 years ago

Sadly noted. Thanks.

Mari Garcia
Mari Garcia3 years ago

wow...i can not even imagine waht he is going through, it takes true strength to do what he is doing

Gloria H.
Gloria H.3 years ago

slow way to suicide. When he dies (I assume the country will not be fazed by his demise) he will finally be released from physical pain and torture.
I never could understand the use of hunger strikes in attention to causes. Only family, friends and people with a sense of justice care what happens to the person. Outsiders just think it is one less person to confront them. A live protester can come back time and again, to cause them "trouble" a dead one is forgotten in weeks.Do you think the prison guards, and higher ups think of this man as they sit down to gorge themselves over their evening suppers?

John B.
John B.3 years ago

So very said but thanks for the article.

Tom Rose
Thomas Rose3 years ago

A distressing story. I hope that something can be done for him.

Helle H.
Helle H.3 years ago


Sue H.
Sue H.3 years ago

Prayers Up! No to oppression !

Linda L.
Linda L.3 years ago

Such bravery, be strong, you are not forgotten, we all pray for you.