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Letter to US Ambassador in Bahrain sent on April 5; Khawaja’s 56th day of hunger strike

Ambassador Thomas C. Krajeski,


We are writing this letter to you on behalf of the people of Bahrain to express our deep concern with the deteriorating health of world-renowned human rights defender Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, who has been on hunger strike for the past 56 days in Bahrain demanding nothing more than freedom.

Mr. AlKhawaja was arrested April last year. He was beaten so brutally at the time of arrest that it resulted to fractures on his face and jaw which left permanent damage. His case is mentioned in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report as Case No. 8, where it was proved that he was subjected to severe torture on a nightly basis and put in solitary confinement for two months. Mr. AlKhawaja was then sentenced to life imprisonment in an unfair military trial along with 13 other opposition leaders, accused with baseless charges of financing and participating in terrorism to overthrow the government, as well as spying for a foreign country.

As of the last few days, Mr. AlKhawaja has given up glucose and thus has been hospitalized due to a significant deterioration in his health. Doctors have told his family they expect him to fall asleep into a permanent coma. The Bahraini authorities refuse to acknowledge the severity of Mr. AlKhawaja’s case. More than 50 rights groups have called for his release, yet there has been no response from the government.

Yesterday we attempted to conduct a sit-in at your headquarters in Manama urging the U.S government for actions towards Mr. AlKhawaja’s release, yet we were forced to leave, some of who were even arrested. Sir, isn’t that a violation of our basic freedoms? Shouldn’t you be allowing us to practice the rights you stand for? The United States government, which has proved to be a beacon of democracy and freedoms throughout the years, is surprisingly ignoring this dying man’s plea.

You must acknowledge that if anything happens to Mr. AlKhawaja, the situation in Bahrain will get much worse. It is to everyone’s best interest for him to be released and transferred to Denmark for treatment. We are writing to urge you to pressure the Bahraini government for his immediate release not only because he is a human rights defender, but because he is simply a human who’s life and freedom is of great value to us, and should be to you as well.

We hope you will exercise the needed pressure on the Bahraini authorities for Abdulhadi AlKhawaja’s immediate and unconditional release.

Thank you for your consideration,

Letter from the people of Bahrain


15 year old Zaynab Ali’s letter in solidarity with Khawaja

“Before February 14 I was not interested in politics did not mean to me politics thing, but then I became one of the most Amordan for freedom, democracy, and when they was arrested symbols, activists, and others i began more powerful and more and when Abdulhadi started AlKhawaja strike i was not Sure  that I could be on Strike Like AlKhawaja Hungry Strike but I can! I am proud of that, thanks Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has taught me that nathing impossible and we can do everything I will continue The Stike of Hungry , freedom of the My Best Teacher in prison Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja –

From your Student : Zaynab”
[Note: She has been on hunger strike in solidarity with him for more than 20 days]

Sample Letter to Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal




Villy Søvndal,

Dear sir,

I am writing to you in regards to the case of Danish-Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi Al Khawaja who has been detained in Bahrain since April 9 2011. Mr. Al Khawaja was arbitrarily arrested in a pre-dawn house raid following the Bahraini regime’s crackdown on opposition in March of last year. He was beaten so brutally during arrest, it resulted to fractures on his face and jaw which required an immediate operation that left him with permanent damage. He was subjected to severe torture shortly afterward and put in solitary confinement for two months. Mr. Al Khawaja was then sentenced to life imprisonment in an unfair military trial along with 13 other opposition leaders, accused with baseless charges of financing and participating in terrorism to overthrow the government, as well as spying for a foreign country.

On February 8 2012, Mr. Al Khawaja started an open hunger strike, declaring “freedom or death”. Since then, he has suffered serious health problems which includes internal bleeding, very low blood sugar levels, and his veins have become too weak for IV. We must note that he was already thin when he started the hunger strike, thus he is at a critical phase due to nutritional stats that state how long a person survives a hunger strike depends on how much fat and muscle tissue he had when he first started. Despite Mr. Al Khawaja’s significantly deteriorating health, the Bahraini regime has claimed that his “health is not in danger”, which prompted Mr. Al Khawaja to stop receiving medical checkups starting from March 10 2012 as a form of protest against their false accusations regarding his health. Refusing medical checkups puts his life at further risk as his blood sugar levels and pressure will not be monitored.

It has come to my attention that the Danish government has shown great interest in Mr. Al Khawaja’s case, therefore I would like to thank you for you efforts towards working for his release and asking for his transfer to Denmark for medical treatment. In the past, I have come to know that you requested a retrial, for Mr. Al Khawaja and 13 other opposition leaders, from Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa. Although he promised you a retrial by January 2012, no action has been made in this case. Furthermore, I have been following the Danish consulate’s numerous visits to Mr. Al Khawaja in prison and the Danish ambassador in Saudi’s recent meeting with Bahraini FM Khalid Al Khalifa. I appreciate the Danish government’s concern in Mr. Al Khawaja’s case and your constant efforts for his release.

However, I am writing you this letter as a concerned Bahraini citizen with the life of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, who has entered his seventh week of hunger strike. I urge you to exert more effort for Mr. Al Khawaja’s release as the Bahraini authorities do not seem concerned about his health whatsoever. We need immediate action on your behalf to secure his release as his reaches a critical phase in his hunger strike. We urge you to work at the regional level, presenting his case to the United Nations and European Union to pressure the Bahraini authorities. I would like to point out that Mr. Al Khawaja is not only entitled to protection by the EU for being a Danish citizen, but also for being a Human Rights Defender, in accordance with the EU Guidelines on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders. Thus, we hope that you will work with the EU for Mr. Al Khawaja’s urgent release.

I reiterate my appreciation for the Danish government’s efforts towards working for HRD Abdulhadi Al Khawaja’s release in Bahrain, however again I urge you to exert more pressure on the Bahraini authorities for his immediate and unconditional release. I remind you of your demand that there be action ‘within days not weeks’. I am afraid time is not on our side, therefore we are in need of urgent action for his release as he enters a critical phase in his hunger strike.

Thank you for your time,


Frontline Defenders: Zainab Al Khawaja’s article about her father

“When my father started his current hunger strike, he was already weakened as he had just ended a seven-day hunger strike 48 hours before. On the 10th day of this hunger strike my father was taken to the hospital, having collapsed in prison. He was taken back to the hospital on day 13, again on day 17 and again on day 24. Each time the doctor pleaded with him to just eat something, anything; each time my father refused, reiterating that he would only leave the prison free or dead.

That previous seven-day strike, undertaken with his 13 co-defendants/co-inmates, was made to protest the ongoing imprisonment of those who had taken to the streets last February and March and were being punished for demanding civil liberties and democracy. For my father, it was personal as much as political — his younger brother was sitting in the same prison as him. His two sons-in-law were arrested with him and also subjected to torture. His wife was fired from her job of 10 years by order of the Ministry of Interior.

My father is not a fanatic; or rather he is only a fanatic when it comes to believing that every person should have her or his basic human rights respected in full. He has worked his whole life for this principle, by documenting and reporting abuse, by training others to do the same, by working to effectively campaign for human rights, by speaking out against abuse and by joining with others to peacefully protest when rights are systemically trampled.

Following his arrest, my father refused to give up on the struggle for human rights; he continued his human rights work behind the walls of a military prison, at a site that is not found on any map. My father paid a high price for speaking out on several occasions in the military trial about the torture he and others were subjected to. When his two-month solitary confinement came to an end my father engaged in discussions in the prison, continuing to spread human rights education and the example of nonviolent protest. My father gave the other political prisoners a full course in human rights. He then asked the commander of the prison for paper so he could write certificates for his fellow inmates to document that they had completed a human rights education course.

When I was growing up with my sisters, and we were living outside Bahrain, my dad would talk about the day we would return and the kind of country we would one day live in — where all our rights would be respected, where we could live with dignity and freedom. We did return to Bahrain in 2001, but what we returned to was not my father’s dream. Though not the nightmare it has since become, it was clear even then that there were limits to individual rights and as a community, one group in Bahrain faced systemic discrimination. My father could not live with that, and so he did what he always did — he started working for human rights and opened the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

When the uprising in Bahrain started last 14 February, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, my father quit his job with international human rights organisation Front Line Defenders and went to Pearl Roundabout to join the youth, who seemed all at once to have heard his message. This may have been the closest my father got to his dream, those days at Pearl, but now he is caught in the worst of nightmares. But even here he is teaching, leading by example and proving to be the most dangerous kind of men — the kind whose ideals cannot be shut away.

My father is Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. He has been beaten, jailed, tortured, abused, sentenced to life in prison in a sham court trial, harassed, intimidated, had his family punished and seen friends and loved ones face harm. The last person who saw my father found him very thin, barely able to walk, stand or even sit up. But they also saw a sparkle in his eye. My father has spent his life struggling for others; he would rather die fighting the only way he can, than to ever give up on his dream. My father is Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and he is on the 26th day of his hunger strike for freedom.”


Al Jazeera English: Bahrain hunger striker weak after 36 days

“Five weeks into his hunger strike, family members say Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of the best-known human rights activists in Bahrain, is now so weak that he can barely stand.

He started the hunger strike on February 8 to protest his own detention and that of several other activists arrested last April. Al-Khawaja and six others were given life sentences by a military court in what Bahraini and international human rights groups have called an unfair trial.

Al-Khawaja, who suffers from diabetes, has lost more than 14kg since he began his fast. He has started to refuse medical examinations – his last one was almost a week ago – and is now threatening to refuse water as well.

“On Sunday his situation was very bad. My mother said she could barely hear him on the phone,” said Maryam al-Khawaja, one of his daughters. “He reached a situation where he could not stand up, even to perform his prayers.”

‘Very, very serious concerns’

Al-Khawaja is one of 14 activists and political leaders arrested last April. He was taken from his home at night, according to members of his family, who say he was beaten and not allowed to bring his medication with him.

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), the government-sponsored panel which studied the unrest, corroborated some of those claims in its November report, which said the activists arrested in April were seized by masked men late at night.

“In many cases, the arresting units forcefully entered the homes of these individuals, destroyed personal property, including cars, [and] failed either to identify themselves or to inform the arrested individual of the reasons for arrest or to show arrest warrants,” the report said in a section which mentioned al-Khawaja by name.

His family says the abuse continued after his arrest. Al-Khawaja was admitted to a military hospital last year with a cracked jaw and skull, among other injuries, and reportedly underwent several surgeries.

The activists were tried by a military court in May, charged with “organising and managing a terrorist group”, among other offences. Seven of them, including al-Khawaja, received life sentences, while the rest received shorter jail terms. Those sentences were upheld following an appeal in September.

Amnesty International has described some of the detainees as “prisoners of conscience” convicted simply for attending protests.

“We have very, very serious concerns about his case, and the cases of the other people,” said Said Boumedouha, a researcher at Amnesty who has worked extensively on Bahrain.

“The trial before a military court, the allegations of torture that were never investigated … and there was a lack of any evidence used to prove that these people used violence, or advocated violence.”

‘His health is not good’

Al-Khawaja is not the first prisoner to go on hunger strike in Bahrain since widespread unrest began in February 2011. Mahdi Abu Deeb, the head of Bahrain’s teachers society, went on a three-week hunger strike to protest his detention. But activists say al-Khawaja’s is the first open-ended hunger strike in Bahrain.

There is little public information about his condition; the government has kept quiet about his case and has not allowed independent human rights monitors to visit him. An official with the ministry of human rights declined to comment.

Brian Dooley, an activist with Human Rights First who met recently with ministry officials in Manama, said they told him al-Khawaja was not truly on a hunger strike because he was accepting glucose and “other liquids”. The ministry also released a statement last week that said al-Khawaja was in stable condition and receiving regular visits from doctors.

He has been receiving doctor’s visits, but al-Khawaja’s family dismissed the claims about his health – as did his lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, who visited his client in jail on Tuesday night.

“His health is not good. He can’t walk, and even talking is hard,” al-Jishi said. “He’s tired. He’s not able to stand up; he needs somebody to help him.”

Al-Khawaja is also a citizen of Denmark, where he lived in exile for decades, returning to Bahrain after the government announced a general amnesty in 2001. Danish diplomats have visited him in prison several times, and confirmed his deteriorating health.

The Danish foreign minister has demanded his immediate release, and raised the issue earlier this month in a meeting with Bahrain’s foreign minister, Khalid al-Khalifa, according to Danish media reports.

“The thing that concerns me the most is refusing to do medical checkups,” Maryam al-Khawaja, his daughter, said. “If he enters the critical phase where he needs to go to the hospital, we won’t even know.”

But the Bahraini government so far has shown little interest in revisiting al-Khawaja’s case. His lawyer filed an appeal with the Court of Cassation, Bahrain’s highest court, but judges have yet to even set a trial date.

The BICI recommended that a civilian court review all of the convictions handed down after unfair military trials. But most are being reviewed by a committee appointed by the Supreme Judicial Council, a body chaired by the king.

“Abdulhadi thinks there is no legal reason to keep him in jail,” al-Jishi said. “He won’t stop until they release him, or he will die inside.”


Letter to BBC asking for coverage of Abdulhadi Alkhawaja’s case

“I am writing to you about Danish citizen Abdulhadi Alkhawaja who has been illegitimately detained in Bahrain since April 9 2011.

Mr. Alkhawaja was arbitrarily arrested in a pre-dawn home raid last year. He was beaten so bad it resulted to fractures on his face and jaw which required an immediate operation which left him with permanent damage and metal plates in his face to hold his jaw together.

Following that, he was held in solitary confinement for 2 months, tortured severely on a daily basis, and was sentenced to life imprisonment in an unfair military trial. He was accused with baseless charges of financing and participating in terrorism to overthrow the government, as well as spying for a foreign country.

Mr. Alkhawaja started a hunger strike labeled “Freedom or Death” on February 8 2012. Since then, he has suffered from serious health problems which includes: internal kidney bleeding, veins too weak for IV, very low blood pressure and he has collapsed numerous times.

Currently, he is refusing medical treatment in protest of the Bahraini regime’s claims that his health “is not in danger”, despite being on hunger strike for well over a month now. This puts his life at even more risk as his blood sugar levels will not be monitored, therefore we will not know when he enters the “critical phase” requiring medical treatment.

Now, we are writing to you to ask why you’re not covering his story. Mr. Alkhawaja’s life is at serious risk in Bahrain, media coverage will help expose his case to the world which could pressure the regime for his release.

We urge you to please cover his story immediately before something happens to him. Other media outlets like Al Jazeera English have already covered the story, what are you waiting for?”

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