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

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing 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.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid