I spoke recently with Khadija al-Mousawi, wife of Abdulhad al-Khawaja. No-one seems interested in this article though, can’t seem to place it anywhere. Picture above shows Khadija and Zainab, her daughter.
WIFE OF BAHRAINI HUNGER STRIKER DEFIANT
For a women whose husband is on hunger strike and whose daughter is in prison facing multiple charges of anti-state activism, Khadija al-Mousawi seems remarkably calm. As The wife of human right campaigner Abdulhad al-Khawaja and the mother of well-known pro-democracy leader and blogger Zainab, the pressure must be substantial. But her voice, while tired, gives little of the stresses she must be feeling.
“It’s difficult to watch your loved one die so slowly,” she says. “I can only hope one day he will be free.”
Abdulhad al-Khawaja is now well into his fourth month of a hunger strike, protesting his arrest on charges of terrorism against the state, which effectively refer to his central involvement in the pro-democracy uprising in the Bahraini capital Manama in early 2011. The arrest came at night and was accompanied by a severe beating at his home which was enough to require surgery and bone grafts soon after, whilst still under arrest.
His wife recalls, “The way he was arrested was brutal. He didn’t deserve a life sentence for educating about human rights. When asked later by a government officer about what he thought would happen if he died on hunger strike, my husband replied, ‘I hope it stops people like you putting people like me in solitary confinement.’ “
In prison it has been reported that he has been tortured and sexually abused.
His daughter Zainab was roughed up by government officers as she tried to protect her father. She was later arrested for shouting his name in front of the Ministry of the Interior building and for otherwise making noises about his situation and that of others.
For Kadija al-Mousawi, who was allowed a brief visit with her husband on Sunday, it remains a day-to-day crisis. Her already slender husband has lost almost one-third of his body weight. “Now they can’t keep his blood pressure stable; it keeps falling,” she relays. “His heart is getting weaker. If this continues, we may lose him.”
In late April reports from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, of which al-Khawaja was co-founder, reported that the activist had been tied to his hospital bed, drugged, and was given a IV drip and a nose tube through which nutrients were force feeding him. Earlier he had removed the drip that he was on.
For Ms al-Mousawi, the toll has been added to by direct harassment by government authorities. “After my husband was arrested, I was fired from my job as an administration manager at a school. I was given no reasons for this, and had no rights. I was given no salary or payment. Since then, I have been prevented from working anywhere. I haven’t worked for one year. My family is my only financial support.”
Despite all the hardship, however, she is not inclined to give up. “His doctor asked me to ask him to stop. But I cannot. His request is for his freedom. He is fighting in his own way. Of course I support him.”
Her stoicism is in the face of what she believes is limited movement from the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty. Despite some apparent democratic reforms, she sees little change. Even if al-Khawaja is given his freedom, which is his ultimate goal, she fears things will stay more or less the same.
“It will be good for the government to release him as they will be responding to human rights. The people will be happy but there will not be any real effect on the movement. He is not the reason for the movement.”
From the carnival atmosphere of the early days of the pro-democracy rallies in Manama, centred on the iconic Pearl Roundabout, Bahrain’s burst of Arab Spring sunlight now looks to have all but dissipated. As her husband lies dying under guard in a hospital bed and as a daughter ponders a murky future in a prison cell, Khadija al-Mousawi is optimistic. “I hope that one day money and business will come second to human rights. Right now human rights are not first. It is money and business and entertainment which are important now.”
And without a waver or a crack in her voice, she says goodbye, and prepares to fight another day for a future she still believes in.