Bahraini Activists Begin Hunger Strike
February 1, 2012
By: Garrett Nada | Printer Friendly
On January 29, 14 Bahraini activists began a hunger strike in protest of the government’s actions against activists calling for reform. The head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), Mohammed al-Maskati, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) that around 150 prisoners have joined the hunger strike. He also claimed that riot police fired tear gas on detainees who refused food on January 31. As a result, al-Maskati said that opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was hospitalized on Tuesday, “as he suffered from hypotension and low blood sugar levels.” Bahrain’s state news agency released a statement claiming that “No cases of illness have been registered due to the hunger strike.”
Among the hunger strikers is Ibrahim Sharif, a Sunni Muslim opposition leader. His wife Farida told Reuters that the prison authorities are force feeding the activists and had taken away privileges such as access to television in an effort to end the strike in Jau prison. She said, “These trials were political, they were just revenge by the government.”
The opposition figures are attempting to call attention to the upcoming anniversary of the failed pro-democracy uprising that began on February 14, 2011. The following month, the Bahraini government declared martial law and used violence to disband the protests with the help of troops from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. According to AFP, an independent commission of inquiry appointed by King Hamad found that 35 people were killed in total during the chaos, including five security personnel and five detainees who were tortured to death.
Reuters reported that a rights commission found evidence that prisoners had been tortured. The government, under outside pressure to review the sentences of the activists and improve their living conditions, has ordered a judicial panel examine the cases. Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa, a senior adviser at the Information Affairs Authority, said, "I am hopeful that a lot of the cases will be reviewed, but there are some cases to go through and cases have been transferred to the civilian courts." He continued, "I'm hopeful for not necessarily all of them, but at least some of them ... There are those in prison who called for a restructuring of the country's institutions, for a full-blown revolution and who called for an Islamic republic using non-peaceful methods."
On Friday, AFP reported that a detained protestor had died in a hospital after the police arrested him. Opposition witnesses accused the security forces of running him over. Leading opposition figure Matar Matar, a former member of parliament, claims, “Instead of receiving the necessary medical treatment, the police took him to the yard opposite Sitra police station where he was tortured.” The Interior Ministry admitted the death of the protestor officially, but added that 41 officers were injured in “orchestrated attacks on police.” Security forces have not toned down their tactics over the last several months. Amnesty International has called on the government to investigate more than a dozen deaths resulting from tear-gas.
For previous news on Bahrain, please see:
Jailed Bahraini Medical Staff Allowed Retrial After International Outcry
AFP - Bahrain police fire tear gas on hunger strikers: activist
Reuters - Bahrainis on hunger strike, official favors release
AFP - Detained Bahrain protester dies: ministry