Anna Therese Day recently returned from Bahrain, where she was investigating the political unrest and subsequent military crackdown on civil society in the country. Day is a freelance journalist with a background in Middle East studies. She is covering the democratic upheavals throughout the Arab world. Day has interviewed nearly a dozen Bahraini activists in the past several weeks, with whom she got into contact via Twitter, Facebook, and personal blogs as well as through contacts from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
Among these is @Alhejairy, a youth cyber activist who participated in Bahrain’s initial February protests. In her interview with @Alhejairy (who wishes to remain anonymous in light of recent arrests of similar activists), he describes the torture and death of his cousin, Abdulrasool Al-Hujairy, a 38-year-old Shi'a who did not participate in protests, but was detained at a checkpoint by government security forces for unknown reasons. Al-Hujairy’s body was found dead and brutally tortured the following day. Al-Hujairy is one of over thirty Bahrainis to die in the unrest since protests began in mid-February and one of over 400 Bahrainis who have gone missing in recent weeks.
Bahrain is home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, and is a key strategic naval base in the Persian Gulf. Because of the U.S. presence, Bahrainis are calling for America to play a wider role in ending the repression of the current regime.
In this exclusive interview, @Alhejairy describes the experience of his family and others effected by the crackdown in Bahrain.
Anna Therese Day (@AnnaOfArabia): In your own words, can you explain the background to the current situation in Bahrain?
@Alhejairy: Beginning in mid-February, thousands of Bahrainis from different areas and villages protested in their areas demanding political reforms and fair employment in what we called a "Day of Rage," inspired by demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia. Many of us were suffering from poverty and unemployment, but also there were so many of us who protested because of the unfair policies pursued by the ruling Al-Khalifa family. For over 200 years, the Al-Khalifa family has been ruling the island without allowing the people to participate effectively in political life. We just wanted to elect our government, nothing more.
The protesters were from various parts of our society, including students, academics, managers, officials, engineers, nurses, doctors, poets, writers, business men and women, and many more. The demonstrations embraced a mixture of diverse demographic groups: men and women, youth and elders. The protesters were just standing in their villages protesting peacefully and chanting slogans that reflect their demands (including the release of the political detainees, the changing of the prime minister who has held the job for 40 years).
During the demonstrations in Daih village in the first days, one person, Ali Moshaima, was killed after the riot police opened fire on the protesters. Further tension arose when the police opened fire again on crowds at Ali's funeral, killing another civilian. Thus, the demonstrations moved to the Pearl Roundabout near Manama where the escalation continued. Then on March 14th, the regime allowed Saudi troops into the country to disperse the protestors, and the crackdown began.
@AnnaOfArabia: Your family is one of the many who have been effected by the government crackdown. Can you tell us what happened to your cousin, Abdulrasool Al-Hujairy?
@Alhejairy: My late cousin, Abdulrasool Al-Hujairy, was a very peaceful man. He didn’t even participate in the protests. One night, he went to fix his [television] receiver in the village of A'ali, but the electronics store there was closed. So he went to another place, which he would have had to pass through a checkpoint to get to. That’s where we believe he was lost. We missed him since that night and didn’t know anything about him.
The following day, Salmaniyya Medical Center called us to tell us that a car, believed to belong to the Ministry of Interior, brought Abdulrasool’s dead body to the hospital. They said that they found his body lying on the ground. A doctor said that he had been bleeding for at least 8 hours before he passed away. All signs at this point show that he has been tortured to death by government thugs or by the army men who took him from the checkpoint.
He had been targeted because his name [indicates he] is Shi'a and also probably because he had been helping the injured and wounded in Salmaniyya Medical Center where he worked. He left [his] three children behind him (two girls and a three-year-old boy).
@AnnaOfArabia: What do you want Americans to know about the situation in Bahrain?
@Alhejairy: There is a crisis in Bahrain that I believe the American nation can stop. The government and its media are hiding and manipulating what’s actually happening here. In reality, the monarchy deals with the Bahraini people as if they are flies. When we march, tanks and troops open fire. The government was killing anybody passing by the Pearl Roundabout in the capitol. On top of that, some ambulances were detained by the army, others were blocked from picking up injured people, and its drivers were beaten. The vast majority of protesters were peaceful, yet, at least 31 have been killed in a brutal way including youth, elders, women, and children. There are more than 800 people arrested and we don’t know their status. Four of them have already died in custody recently. The government has suspended so far more than 700 professionals, suspected of taking part in anti-government protests.
The White House is silent, ignoring the human rights violation committed by the Bahraini government. I ask all peace-loving Americans to protest in solidarity with the people of Bahrain regarding the brutality that the government practices toward us. Our government has robbed our people of our safety and security, and such a government should not stand. This is not in anyone’s best interest – not America’s and not that of the Bahraini people.
I am a free, peace-loving Bahraini, and I’m just doing the best that I can to help my people. But in my family alone, my cousin was beaten to death by the government's thugs in mysterious circumstances, leaving three children behind. My aunt who suffered from a brain clot has been arrested by dozens of the army’s men from her house after midnight. This is the situation in Bahrain: Many families in Bahrain are bleeding because of the loss or absence of their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons, or daughters.
For more interviews and pieces from Anna Therese Day’s recent trip to Bahrain, follow her on Twitter (@AnnaOfArabia) or check out TheMidEaster.com.
Photo Credit: The family of Abdulrasool Al-Hujairy