Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Dying for Justice
by Stephen Lendman
Bahrain's Al-Khalifa monarchy is one of the world's most ruthless despotic regimes. It's also a valued US ally.
It's one of many other regional ones, notably Saudi Arabia, the worst of the lot.
In summer 2010, sporadic protests began. Last February, major ones erupted. Daily, Bahrainis brave security force violence, arrests, disappearances, torture, and cold-blooded murder, as well as show trial prosecutions, convictions, and imprisonments.
Human rights activist Abdulhadi Abdulla Alkhawaja was out in front for democratic change. His courage cost him dearly.
On April 9, 2011, around 20 Bahraini police stormed his apartment pre-dawn. Brutally beaten unconscious and arrested, he required surgery to implant metal plates to hold his shattered jaw together. He spent days hospitalized, but remains permanently impaired.
Still weak and recovering, he was imprisoned, isolated, tortured, prosecuted, and imprisoned for life on spurious charges of "organizing and managing a terrorist organization, attempting to overthrow the Government by force, and in liaison with a terrorist organization working for a foreign country."
Other charges were also piled on, including "collecting money for a terrorist organization." During trial, no evidence whatever was presented. Throughout the proceedings, prosecutorial irregularities were flagrant.
Abdulhadi was guilty by accusation. On September 28, 2011, Bahrain's National Safety Court of Appeal upheld his life sentence. Justice was nowhere in sight. Police states afford none. Bahrain's one of the worst.
For years, he's been a courageous human rights activist. From 2008 - 2011, he served as Front Line Defenders' Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator. In that capacity, his work involved supporting and protecting regional human rights activists.
He also co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and served as its first president. He worked as a member of the International Advisory Network of the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, headed by former Irish President Mary Robinson.
Previously, he worked for Amnesty International (AI). In 2005, the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists named him "Activist of the Year."
In addition, he was a Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies Advisory Board member. In a similar capacity, he served with The Arab Group for Monitoring Media Performance.
His activism began while attending school in Britain in the late 1970s. As a result, his passport renewal was denied. In summer 1980, he and fellow students were arrested, detained, interrogated, and tortured.
In 1820, Britain was the dominant regional power. Its treaty with the Al Khalifa tribe gave it monarchal rule. Subsequent 19th century agreements established Bahrain as a UK protectorate.
Despite uprisings and rocky relations, Britain maintained close ties, especially after oil was discovered in 1932. Post-WW II, America became the dominant regional power. Nonetheless, close US/UK ties makes Britain an influential Middle East player.
In 1981, UK authorities targeted alleged Bahraini dissidents. Hundreds, mainly students, were arrested and tortured. Until 1989, Abdulhadi served actively with the exiled Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain.
Britain called it an illegal organization. Accused members were severely treated, including Abdulhadi. The group still operates as The Islamic Action Society (AMAL).
Abdulhadi served prominently with the Committee to Defend Political Prisoners in Bahrain (CDPPB). It was also active in London, Paris, Geneva, and Damascus. Its issues included arbitrary arrests, detentions, torture, sham trials, nationality revocations, and forced deportations.
For his activism, Denmark granted him political asylum in 1991. In exile, he established the Bahrain Human Rights Organization (BHRO). From 1992 - 2001, BHRO gained recognition for its significant, professional, non-partisan activities internationally.
In 2001, after a general amnesty, he returned to Bahrain and co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). In June 2002, it was officially registered.
Ever since, he's been targeted, arrested, beaten, tortured, and detained. So have other BCHR members.
Abdulhadi's Close to Death
In early February, he began hunger striking for justice. It's now two months and counting. He's severely deteriorated, hospitalized, and close to death. BCHR, other human rights organizations, family, and supporters hold the Bahrain monarchy responsible.
Protests across the country demand his release. Police thugs attacks them. So do Saudi forces. In March 2011, they entered Bahrain guns blazing. They're still there. They and police commit daily atrocities. Western media scoundrels are silent. So isn't the Obama administration.
On the one hand, it rails against Assad's obligation to confront Western supported insurgents responsibly. On the other, it ignores daily Al Khalifa regime atrocities. The hypocrisy's stark, duplicitous, abhorrent, and typical of what passes for US-style governance.
BCHR said Abdulhadi's family lawyer, Mohamed AlJishi, confirmed that his daughter, Zainab, was arrested in front of the prison hospital. She refused to leave, called out her father's name, and demanded he be released. Other protesters with her were also arrested.
They're currently detained at Alhoora police station, and denied legal counsel and family visits.
On April 4, AlJishi visited Abdulhadi. He described his condition as "emaciated." His pulse is so weak, he risks imminent cardiac arrest and/or coma. He's so frail, he can't move. Even if he survives, he faces possible organ failure. Blood studies indicate kidney damage.
April 8 marks his 60th hunger striking day. On April 2, Bahrain's Court of Cassation refused to release him on health grounds. If he survives, another hearing's scheduled for April 23. It's doubtful he can hang on that long.
BCHR "call(s) on the international community and the United Nations, and all related international and regional human rights mechanisms, to stand up to their responsibility of protecting human rights and freedoms in Bahrain and ensure the immediate release of human rights defender Al Khawaja as recommended by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Sir Nigel Rodley."
"We recommend that he be immediately released to the Danish Authorities on humanitarian grounds, as requested by the Danish Foreign Minister."
A Final Comment
Abdulhadi's daughter Maryam serves as BCHR's Head of Foreign Relations. On April 5, she wrote the following:
"My Father is Dying. 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 so-called Arab spring proved, once again, that we are still living in an age where the UN Human Rights Council has little agency to act on its own accord. It, like all other agencies must bow to the powers that be."
The so-called "Arab Spring" is more winter than rebirth throughout the region, especially in Bahrain, Egypt, post-Gaddafi Libya, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf States, Yemen, and Palestine. Syria's another issue altogether.
"I constantly fear the phone call bearing the message that I will never see my father again. I cannot imagine a life without my father, and I cannot come to terms with a world that would allow my father to die."
“Today, April 5th, is my father's birthday." Born in 1962, he turned 50. "Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the man who dedicated himself to fighting for human rights, who trained tens of other activists, is known as the Godfather of human rights in Bahrain."
"My father, who was beaten unconscious in front of his family, arrested, then severely tortured for months. My father, sentenced to life imprisonment in a military court. My father, on his 57th day of hunger strike as his only way of protesting the daily human rights violations of the Bahraini regime against the people of Bahrain."
"My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja is dying to live. Literally."
"This is what propels my activism. This is why I will continue to fight."
Throughout the Middle East, Western world, and elsewhere, many thousands are wrongfully imprisoned and brutalized under gulag conditions.
US prisons notoriously commit torture and other abuses. They include beatings, dog attacks, cattle prod shocking, tasering, toxic chemical use, painful shackling, middle of the night forced cell and strip searches, rapes, and numerous other types of gratuitous viciousness.
Serious injuries, trauma, and deaths result. Welcome to Guantanamo mainland. America's gulag is the world's largest by far. Again, major media scoundrel say nothing.
International law in Bahrain a dead letter. So are human rights. It's no different in America and Occupied Palestine. Cruel and unusual punishment is policy. Out of sight behind bars, anything goes.
Prisoners like Abdulhadi react the only way they can. They're willing to die for justice. What greater sacrifice than that! What better reason to support them!
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.