Maryam al-Khawaja, a 26-year-old Bahraini human rights activist, was detained upon her arrival in Manama, the country’s capital.
While her arrest by the Arab government is indeed condemnable, even more disappointing is the fact that the international community is not doing much for human rights activists in the Middle East.
Maryam is the third member of her family detained for criticizing the government’s autocratic policies.
She is the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – one of the most prominent Bahraini-Danish human rights activists who was imprisoned on the charges of participating in an uprising in February 2011 against the ruling monarchy.
Her sister Zainab was also arrested in 2013 for protesting against her father’s detention and her tweets about the Bahraini uprising on the Twitter account AngryArabiya (@angryarabiya). She was subsequently released in February this year.
Although Maryam was visiting her ailing father – who has been on an intermittent hunger strike since 2012 – she was charged with allegedly assaulting a policewoman at the airport earlier this month.
She was also accused of leading a campaign called Wanted for Justice in Bahrain (which named government officials responsible for torture) as well as for insulting the king, considered the most heinous crime of all in the country.
Here’s what Maryam tweeted shortly before she was arrested:
To be clear, I'm officially under arrest on unknown charges. They will bring me before a judge tomorrow at an unknown time. #Bahrain— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 30, 2014
It’s a shame that three of the most prominent human rights activists had to – and have to – suffer such injustice in Bahrain, a country that enjoys a friendly relationship with Western nations, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom.
Bahrain has struggled with sectarian conflict within the country for a very long time now. The Shi’ite community in the country demands equal rights and the government is adamant that there is no discrimination against them. Ever since Feb. 14, 2011, there have been protests and demonstrations against the ruling royal family.
The United Nations released the following statement last week, condemning the attempts to suppress freedom of expression in Bahrain:
“Ongoing violations of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association, and the targeting of human rights activists in Bahrain remain of serious concern," Ravina Shamdasani, the spokeswoman for the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.
Despite widespread criticism, a Bahrain court postponed Maryam’s trial on Sept. 7 and ordered that she remain in custody for an extra 10 days.