In conversation with Azzurra Meringolo, the head of the "Bahrain Center for Human Rights" Maryam al-Khawaja reports on the repression of activists within the Bahrain democracy movement and how the regime is trying to portray the protests as a conflict between ethnic or confessional groups.
This International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, we would like to celebrate the brave women of Bahrain, who combat all social and cultural barriers to defend their equal rights and work to achieve social justice and freedom. Bahraini WHRD impart valuable lessons in determination and resistance to their sisters worldwide.
Where does one begin when talking about Bahrain’s courageous women? It is difficult to decide where to start, and what to tell.
The Women Human Rights Defenders International Coalition (WHRD IC) stands in solidarity with Abdulhadi Al Khawaja and women human rights defenders in Bahrain as they demand democracy, government accountability and an end to the torture and detention of those demanding political change. Al Khawaja is a long opposition and human rights activist who has defended human rights of women for many years. He is in prison serving a life sentence imposed by a military court because of his peaceful anti-government protests and has been on a hunger strike for the past two and a half months.
This is the thought constantly running through my head.
As a human rights defender I have learned to numb my emotions and continue working. I have been working on covering human rights violations in Bahrain for more than two years now, documenting all the arbitrary arrests, systematic torture, rapes, kidnappings, extra-judicial killings; the list goes on.
"The power of women is in their stories. They are not theories, they are real lives that, thanks to social networks, we are able to share and exchange," said Egyptian-American activist Mona el-Tahawey, kicking off a summit that brought more than a hundred of the Middle East's leading female activists together in Cairo.
The enormous role of women in the uprisings in the MENA region is undisputed. They faced verbal and physical abuse, violence, arrest and death just as their male counterparts. The transformation of these countries has been groundbreaking, and their participation is as important as ever. After the dust of the battle settles, will Arab societies remember to include women in the rebuilding of their countries?
For the past 2 1/2 months, Bahrain's government has cracked down brutally on opposition figures who led massive anti-government protests in February and March. Doctors, journalists, human rights workers and even elected officials have been detained and beaten. The government's most recent targets are women.