News / Middle East

Daughter of Prominent Bahraini Activist Challenges Obama

A screen shot of Zainab Alkhawaja's Twitter feed the night of her father's and other relatives' arrests. On Twitter and in the blogosphere Zainab is known as AngryArabiya.
A screen shot of Zainab Alkhawaja's Twitter feed the night of her father's and other relatives' arrests. On Twitter and in the blogosphere Zainab is known as AngryArabiya.

Multimedia

Audio
Cecily Hilleary

Zainab Alkhawaja, the daughter of a prominent Bahraini human rights activist, has written a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama calling upon him to stand up for freedom and speak up on behalf of her father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. He, along with other relatives, was arrested Saturday by security forces.

Listen to Cecily Hilleary’s conversation with Zainab Alkhawaja:

Zainab, who has been sharing her story on her blog and via Twitter, where she is known as “AngryArabiya,” has also started a hunger strike to draw attention to her cause.

Contacted by phone, Zainab read for us some passages from her letter to Obama.

“Mr. President,… when you were sworn in as President of the United States, I had high hopes.  I thought, ‘Here is a person who would never have become president if it were not for the African-American fight for civil liberties. He will understand our fight for freedom.’

Zainab Alkhawaja
Zainab Alkhawaja

What was it you meant, Mr. President? YES WE CAN…support dictators? YES WE CAN…help oppress pro-democracy protesters? YES WE CAN…turn a blind eye to a people suffering?”

Zinaib also recounted for us in her own words the events surrounding the arrest of her father and other relatives Saturday.

“I have a one-year-old daughter. When I heard that they were going to come for my father, I took her out and left her with some friends. Just in case something would happen, I didn’t want her to be part of this, I didn’t want her to get scared.

At about 2 a.m., they did arrive. The first thing that we heard, knowing that they had arrived, was the banging with a sledgehammer on the building door. They were breaking it. Then we heard them running up to the apartment, and in about 30 seconds, they broke the door to the apartment as well.

Five minutes before they had arrived, my father was telling all of us to be calm and to be patient, and if they do come, he did not want to see anyone crying or shouting. He said he would go with them voluntarily, and he said, “Let’s keep our dignity and respect.”  And just as he was going to speak with them, and I expected he was going to say, “Calm down, I will come with you, please don’t hurt my family,” just as he opened his mouth to speak, the man started saying, “Down on the ground” in very broken Arabic - he was not an Arab - and then he held my father from his neck, from his throat. And he started pulling him away. He pulled him on the stairs, he was dragging him on the stairs while other security forces were hitting him and kicking him and punching him.

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja

They were all wearing black uniforms and they were all masked and they were all armed. And they were beating him. And I heard him gasping for air and saying, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”

And that’s when I decided that was enough. I wasn’t just going to stand and watch this happen. I ran down the stairs and I was telling them, “Please don’t hurt him, don’t beat him, he’s willing to go with you voluntarily, why are you hitting him?”

One of them started saying, “Beat her up too and arrest her, we’ll take her as well.”

But instead of that, one of the masked men, he grabbed me from my shirt and he started dragging me up the stairs… I saw my father fallen on the stairs as they were dragging him, but he wasn’t moving at all.

And then I saw them take my husband and my two brothers-in-law. They were taking them away like they were two prisoners of war, with their heads forced down. And I saw drops of blood on the stairs. And I knew that my father had been really hurt. Even though my father was unconscious, they were still beating him and kicking him and cursing him and saying that they were going to kill him.

We have no idea where they are. We haven’t even gotten a phone call from them saying that they’re okay.  

And that’s why the last thing that I could think of doing is to just go on hunger strike. I don’t like the feeling of being helpless, of sitting here wondering how they are torturing my father, my husband, my brother-in-law and my uncle. This is my way of trying to do something, of trying to help them, of trying to get the world to realize what’s happening here and what’s happening to my people, what’s happening to my family.”

After sharing her story, Zinaib ended with another passage to her letter to President Obama.

“I ask of you to look into your beautiful daughters' eyes tonight and think to yourself what you are personally willing to sacrifice in order to make sure they can sleep safe at night, that they can grow up with hope rather than fear and heartache, that they can have their father and grandfather's embrace to run to when they are hurt or in need of support. Last night my one-year-old daughter went knocking on our bedroom door calling for her father, the first word she ever learnt. It tore my heart to pieces. How do you explain to a one-year-old that her father is imprisoned? I need to look into my daughter's eyes tomorrow, next week, in the years to come, and tell her I did all that I could to protect her family and future.

For my daughter's sake, for her future, for my father's life, for the life of my husband, to unite my family again, I will begin my hunger strike,"
writes Zinaib.

Bahraini officials have rejected claims of a targeted campaign against opposition activists, insisting authorities are only doing what was necessary to ensure law and order.

Critics suspect many countries have been reluctant to take a firm stance on Bahrain because of the emirate’s strategic importance as a Western ally in the oil-producing Persian Gulf region. Bahrain is also home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
and discuss them on our Facebook page.

You May Like

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid