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Urgent Appeal: Zainab Al-Khawaja's Life at Imminent Risk

[Zainab Al-Khawaja. Image from author's family archive] [Zainab Al-Khawaja. Image from author's family archive]

[The following is an urgent appeal that the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Issued on 24 March 2013.] 

Both Abdulhadi and his daughter Zainab Al-Khawaja were denied family visits again this weekend, prompting them to start a dry hunger strike today. Zainab Al-Khawaja was told by doctors that she is at risk of organ failure, cardiac arrest, or coma at any time. Her blood sugar has dropped to two on several occasions in the last two days. According to Dr. Fatima Haji, Internal Medicine Specialist:

Zainab Al-Khawaja is reportedly having severe hypoglycemia with HGT measurements reaching two. Her family reported that she sounded fatigued, and that she was suffering loss of memory and concentration. Having initiated a dry hunger strike now, including no intake of glucose, will put her at high risk of sudden onset of arrhythmias, loss of consciousness, and possibly death, especially that she is in a detention center where no cardiac monitor or cardiac resuscitation service is available.

21 March 2013

The BCHR has received information that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja's health continues to deteriorate. Prison officials refuse to take him to the hospital for treatment because he will not wear the prison uniform. Because Al-Khawaja is a prisoner of conscience and he has thus far not been required to wear the prison uniform, as is standard for criminal prisoners.
The BCHR reminds the prison authorities that, as Bahrain is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, they are required to treat all prisoners with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. This includes providing medical attention to persons in need, regardless of whether they are wearing a prison uniform or not. The BCHR holds the prison authorities solely responsible for the health of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and demands an immediate investigation into the allegations that his health is being held hostage because of his decision to refuse a prison uniform. Zainab Al-Khawaja's hunger strike continues.

20 March 2013

The BCHR has received information that Zainab Al-Khawaja was taken to the hospital and received glucose in order to bring her blood-sugar levels back to normal. Her hunger strike continues. The BCHR has also received information that Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has begun to drink water. His hunger strike continues.

18 March 2013

The BCHR has received information that Zainab Al-Khawaja's mother received a phone call today from the prison notifying her that Zainab's health had deteriorated, and that she had refused to be taken to the hospital until she is allowed to see her daughter.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses urgent concern for the health and well being for the incarcerated human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and his daughter, activist Zainab Al-Khawaja.

Zainab Al-Khawaja began a hunger strike yesterday afternoon after she was denied visitation rights. Members of her family, including her three year-old daughter, attempted to visit her at the detention center where she is being held, but were denied access. The prison authorities only stated that they were following the orders of Lieutenant Shamma. Zainab has been arrested on several occasions for her peaceful protests, and on this occasion she has been in prison since 28 February 2013.

Yesterday, Zainab was also scheduled to meet with her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, but this visit was denied. To protest the cancellation of this visit, Abdulhadi announced the start of a dry hunger strike, which consists of no foods or fluids. The health consequences for such a strike are much more severe, and the BCHR is seriously concerned for his well-being and holds the prison authorities entirely responsible for his health.

Abdulhadi is a member of the “Bahraini 13”; he was imprisoned in 2011 and is serving a life sentence for charges relating to freedom of expression. He staged several hunger strikes, the last being on the 2nd of February to protest the restrictions that the prison authorities have placed on their communications with the outside world. (See: for more information.) Since their arrest, the authorities have not required that the Bahraini 13 prisoners wear a prison uniform, as is normally enforced upon prisoners with criminal charges, but just before Abdulhadi was scheduled to meet with his daughter, the guards demanded that he wear a prison uniform. Enforcing the uniform rule appears to be a new tool used to humiliate prisoners of conscience and identify them as criminal prisoners. As punishment for refusing to wear the uniform, the Bahraini 13 and Zainab Al-Khawaja are being denied family and hospital visits.
There has been a large increase in recent months in the number of prisoners who have started a hunger strike in protest of human rights violations in prison. Prisoners report that they feel that they have no other recourse, and that their wrongful imprisonment and the violations against their rights go unnoticed.

The BCHR calls on the Bahraini authorities to immediately:

1. Release all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience from prison and dismiss all trumped-up charges against them.
2. Guarantee visitation rights and medical access for all prisoners.
3. Reform the prison system and hold accountable all officials involved in human rights violations.

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