Free Bahrain's only female political detainee Zakia Al-Barbouri

TEHRAN, Apr. 19 (MNA) – When the Arab Spring made its way to Bahrain in February 2011, the authority rushed to violently suppress the peaceful protestors.

Many opposition leaders and other human rights advocates have suffered consequences for their activism; detained, tortured and murdered merely for exercising their rights to free speech, association and assembly.

Not only men have risen to prominence for speaking out against oppression, marginalization and severe human rights abuses, women also played a crucial role in this movement, faced torture and various forms of degradation, including, but not limited to, harassment, beatings, electric shock, and forced removal of their hijab.

According to an article by Sondoss al-Asaad published on the Herald Tribune, the only female political detainee is Zakia Al-Barbouri, who has been charged into five years in prison on February 6, 2019, also has had her citizenship revoked in politically-motivated case.

The Bahraini authorities claimed that she had been "transporting materials used in explosive devices" to an alleged cell trained in Iraq. The authorities based the grounds of these charges on the defendant's confessions, which had been; however, extracted under duress and torture.

Zakia Al-Barbouri is an unemployed engineer just like thousands of marginalized Bahraini youth and women in particular, who are not only marginalized by the government but also by the so-called the Supreme Council for Women. Zakia has been responsible for her three young orphaned niece and three nephews.

At dawn on 17, 5, 2018, the police forces stormed her family's residence in Nuwaidrat village and held her in solitary confinement along with her eldest niece for more than 20 days. After a month, her eldest niece Fatimah was freed but Zakia remained in custody.

Indeed, women of Bahrain have been subjected to various human rights infringements since the mid-1990s, when there was a widespread crackdown on Shia religious leaders, opposition figures and human rights defenders. The Shia community makes up roughly 60% of the total population and it has long been subject to discrimination, high unemployment and inadequate housing in a country that first grew rich on oil discovered in the 1930s.

The situation dramatically escalated when the current king assumed power in 1999, despite promises that did not match the masses' ambitions and hopes.

The first woman detained in the aftermath of the 2011 unrest was Fadhila Al Mubarak, who was convicted for allegedly inciting hatred towards the regime; she was not provided with legal representation and was sentenced to four years in prison. A 51-year-old woman, Bahiya Al-aaradi was shot in the head by the military while driving her car. While the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) concluded that the security forces caused her death, none were charged for her killing.

The security forces persecuted also female doctors and nurses who provided medical assistance to injured demonstrators in 2011. They were tortured, assaulted and threatened while in custody at Isa Town Women's Detention Center. Besides, it raided schools and universities, and arrested dozens of female teachers and students, on charges of ''inciting hatred and attempting to overthrow the regime''.

Bahrain's women have not only joined men in voicing their collective grievances against the oppressive government but they have also on their own endured a series of systematic reprisal. Like most Persian Gulf states involved in the Arab Spring, Bahrain's influential female participation in the peaceful uprising has not necessarily translated into progress for women's rights as a result of the government's repressive measures. Despite those grievances; however, Bahraini women continue to call for comprehensive and effective reforms.

Recently, activists have launched a Twitter campaign under the hashtag of #اطلقوا_سجناء_البحرين, #Release_Bahraini_Prisoners calling on the authorities to free all of the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

Serious concerns over the Coronavirus outbreak have been raised amidst the poor conditions they already suffer from inside the overcrowded prisons, where there is no chance for medical care and social distancing.

With due regard to the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic and without further delay, Bahrain is meanwhile called for a prompt and decisive action regarding the evacuation of all prisoners; among them Zakia and the most vulnerable and the sick.

This issue must not go unaddressed and silence means complicity particularly with the poor hygiene and dire conditions of the detention centers, which are definitely a recipe for a humanitarian catastrophe. Such an action during this crucial time would represent a highly significant national and humanitarian step towards rapprochement, national reconciliation, promotion and protection of human rights, bridging gaps and ending the political unrest.


News Code 157783


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