Jalila Alsalman, the general coordinator in the Bahrain Observatory for Human Rights, emphasized that women must document abuses they are subjected to so they can be delivered to international human rights organizations.
“The UN bodies and international human rights organizations are following these cases with us, and we they have showed great interest to learn more about the abuses Bahraini women are suffering”, Alsalman said.
Her statements came in an event to mark the International Day to Eliminate Violence Against Women in the headquarters of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, on Wednesday 25th Nov. Alsalman is also a former prisoner of conscience.
Ramla Abdulhameed, member of Al Wefaq’s Secretariat outlined, “This international occasion is not limited to domestic violence, state violence against women is as crucial and must be eliminated in Bahrain”. She called on Bahraini women to launch a public petition for the elimination of all physical and psychological forms of violence against women.
The event brought together female victims and human rights activists to discuss the state’s violence against women in the wake of the crackdown on the nationwide pro-democracy protests, which began in 2011 and ongoing to date.
A number of victims told their stories about the frightening home raids carried out by security forces. One woman said security forces broke into her home during her presence, and when she objected to their act they threatened to beat her. A mother of a 16 year old boy who was killed by security forces, Ali Alshaikh, said security policemen ripped the pictures of her son off of the wall and shouted that “his pictures are prohibited” to her face.
Others talked about horrific interrogation sessions and torture in prison. Bahrain was criticized for such abuses in a report issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011. It is yet to implement its recommendations, of which one is to release all prisoners locked up for freedom of speech and peaceful assembly and association. Today, at least five Bahraini women remain behind bars for these same reasons.
Last week, Human Rights Watch issued an 84-page report concluding that torture is ongoing in Bahrain’s prisons.
Among the participants was the daughter of the martyr Asmaa Hussain, a Bahraini woman who died of fear when security officers pointed a gun to her head when she tried to prevent them from arresting her son during a night raid. The officers then prevented her daughters from taking her to hospital until she passed away.
Eman Alhubaishy, a human rights activist, highlighted that the BICI report documented cases in which security authorities threatened male prisoners that their female relatives would be raped if they did not confess to accusations. “This is an appalling exploitation of the sanctity of women”, she said.
Khadija Jawad, member of Al Wefaq’s advisory board, condemned the arrest and abuse of women for expressing their views. “I cannot imagine how painful and difficult it was for Zahra Alshaikh to bear the conditions of prison with her newborn”, she said, “or for Zainab Alkhawaja to be locked up in her late months of pregnancy. All this suffering for rejecting injustice”.
The participants emphasized that efforts to eliminate the state’s violence against women must be doubled.