If you loved the king, nothing bad would happen to you

by Jen Marlowe

health“Everyone here has a story,” I’ve been told repeatedly. “There are too many stories.”

Here is one.

L. came to meet me in the evening; an effusive woman with a round face, warm eyes and soft brown hair, covered by a scarf of shades of brown.

“Where can we sit?” she asked me, looking around the house for a private corner. She did not want to tell me her story in front of her young children.

L. worked for the Ministry of Health, in Human Resources. On April 18, 2011, a month after what is known as “the crackdown” began, hundreds of armed “special forces” surrounded the Ministry of Health compound. It was difficult know who comprised this armed force, L. told me, it seemed to be a mixture of army and police, some uniformed, some in civilian clothing, and almost all wearing masks. L. had never seen such a collection of various weapons outside of an American action flick. The armed operatives went from floor to floor. They knew precisely which employees they were looking for, and where their offices were located.

“They must have had help from the Sunni employees to have this much information,” L. said, then hesitated. “I feel bad talking about Sunni/Shi’a,” she added. “But that’s what happened.”

Several of the armed forces identified L. in her office, with the assistance of her manager, who observed all that ensued. Whatever comments she had made about the situation to her colleagues in the past months was documented on a sheet that her assailants read from.

The first punishment facing L. and her colleagues was humiliation. Prayer mats were thrown into the garbage. Insults were liberally slung. “You’re a bunch of stupid Shi’a.”

Insinuations of support for Hezbollah were made. “Who is Hassan Nasrallah?” they asked. “Do you like him?”

They demanded that L. hand over her iPhone — they knew that she had one. Fortunately, L., having a premonition that the attack might happen, had left it at home.

One man took her to her manager’s office and led the questioning. “I’m just like your father, and you are my daughter,” he began, gently. “Tell me what you know and I’ll try to help you.” He began to ask about her party affiliations and whether she supported the opposition.

“I’m a mother, an employee, and I’m not political,” L. insisted resolutely. “The only thing I care about is my kids.”

He questioned her about her family – where did her husband, father and brothers work? She told her interrogator that they were all small business owners.

“I don’t like you,” he said, beginning to turn nasty. “I don’t like you at all.”

L. thought she understood the subtext of the man’s comment: You have money — why are you against the government?

L. tried not to focus on the sounds of her colleagues being beaten and crying on the other side of the room, as her questioning continued.

“Did you go to Pearl Roundabout at all?”

“No,” L. lied.

He asked her next about her educational background.

“The more educated you are, the more trouble we get from you,” her interrogator sneered. L. remained silent. “I don’t like you at all, and because you’re not cooperating, I’ll get someone to beat you.”

Two dark-skinned women security forces, Bahrainis but perhaps of African descent L. thought, were brought in. Blows from their fists rained down on L.’s face, shoulders and back. Sharp kicks were delivered, and face-slapping to further humiliate. They dragged her back to her office, and several people began to open her office drawers, and opened her emails on her computer.

“We want to see how much is your salary,” one of them demanded. L. showed them a document on her computer. “You receive three times our wage, and you still hate your government?” They began to hit L. again, repeatedly, pulling her out in front of her colleagues as they punched her in the mouth, neck and shoulders. She could hear cries coming from every corner of the office, but L. was in too deep a state of shock to cry.

Two of her assailants grabbed her from under her arms and began to drag her down the steps to the 2nd floor.

“Stop hitting this cute girl, I like her,” one masked man leered. He put his arm around her to lead her downstairs himself, fondling her breast as he did.

On the 2nd floor, L. saw one of her fellow employees pushed against the wall as a large woman in a mask ripped off her abaya and tore her clothes so that her skin was exposed. “Come here and look at the white Shi’a meat!” the masked woman called out.

L. watched in horror as another fellow employee was dragged in front of her and pushed down the flight of stairs to the first floor — rolling the whole way down — and then pushed down another flight to the ground floor. When L. made it down to the ground floor herself, her colleague’s face was swollen and bloody beyond recognition.

Eleven women employees were gathered on one side of the entry foyer and around 35 men on the other — all Shi’a, most of whom worked in the Human Resources department. L. surmised that Shi’a in the HR department were specifically targeted because they had access to information about all the ministry departments.

The women sat on the ground of the entry way — “You don’t deserve to sit on government chairs!” – while the men on the other end of the foyer were forced to sit facing the wall, with their hands cuffed behind their backs. Dogs were brought in to sniff everybody. L. could see blood seeping through the white thobes of some of her male colleagues.

One man’s ghetra (the white head covering worn in traditional Gulf dress) was wrapped around his neck and used as a leash, forcing the man to crawl on all fours like a dog. “Stand up and dance!” he was ordered. He did so.

The assailants commanded the men to hang photos of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on the wall and to kiss them. The women were forced to hold photos of the king, prime minister and crown prince above their heads while shouting “Aash!”, long live the king.

“Sing the national anthem!” they were commanded, as they stood with the pictures above their heads. Anyone who stumbled over the words or forgot them was slapped or punched in the face.

******

I had a meeting to run to, so L. was not able to finish the story, though I knew it involved spending the night at the police station, and being sacked from her job along with half of the Ministry of Health’s Human Resources department.

As I packed up my notebook, L. related one more detail of her ordeal. One policewoman had approached her repeatedly in the foyer of the Ministry of Health. “Why don’t you love the king?” she asked L. “If you loved him, nothing bad would happen to you.”

Cafe’s, coasters, tear gas and police

by Jen Marlowe

The crack of the rifle was loud — the policeman must be nearby.

“Quick, come in here!” H. led me into an apartment building into which a handful of other protestors had ducked to take refuge. “It’s very dangerous now.”

Inside the hallway, debate swirled as to whether the shot was live ammunition or bird shot (most likely the latter, they all agreed) and then H. went with the men to an apartment upstairs and the women, all wearing black abayas and headscarves, ushered me into the apartment on the ground floor.

“You are journalist?” one woman asked me, noticing the video camera.

In my broken Arabic I answered, “Aiwa, ana sahafiyeh mustakillah.” – Yes, I am an independent journalist, a phrase my colleague Adam taught me when we filmed in Darfur.

Immediately the women began telling me what they had been enduring, the ones with some English translating for the others.

I held up my video camera. “Would anyone like to speak about this on the camera?”

“No, no!” at first, and then, one woman asked if she could speak in Arabic, covered her face in ghishwa (a black gauze used to cover the face) in order not to be identifiable, and began to talk about the children in the village who had suffered from the continuous tear gas inhalation, providing the names and ages of children who had died, when her mobile rang. It was an update on the police attack outside. A young man taking photographs had been shot in his upper arm with a tear gas canister, two shabab (youth) had been arrested and there had been more rifle shots.

Soon, we could hear the shabab chanting—the police had left and the villagers were gathering to try and march again. The women slipped on their shoes and rushed to join.

Shebab
Shebab protesting in Bahrain

We were in the village of Karraneh, but similar protests were taking part simultaneously in fifteen different villages. This particular day of protest was lodging an objection to the regime’s use of torture, and, I suspect, a reaction to the king’s proclamation the previous day that there was to be no more protests. H. and I joined the gathering spot and waited for awhile to see what would happen, and then decided to leave. Ten minutes later we were on the highway when H. pointed out thick, dark grey smoke rising in the distance.

“That’s Karraneh,” H. said. The demonstration had been attacked again.

We drove past the coffee shop where all the activists hang out. The place is also crawling with undercover government agents and informers, making it off-limits for me. Their presence doesn’t seem to bother the activists, who are all well-known to the government. But if I get caught, I’ll be immediately deported. The activists gathered on the café’s outside terrace all seemed to be watching a white minibus with steel grates covering its windows, parked in a roundabout directly across from the café and guarded by several armed riot police. I had seen similar minibuses parked all along the side of Budaiya road (an area known as a hot spot.)

“They’re called Coasters,” H. explained to me. “Look, someone is being arrested now.”

Tear gas canisters
Tear gas canisters

The policemen hustled a young man into the Coaster. When the demonstration was over, I presumed, he and any other young men arrested in the nearby villages would be driven to the nearest police station. If the Coaster rocked slightly back and forth, H. told me, the activists knew that the detainees were being beaten.

Later that night, we ate dinner with L., I., S., M. and A, other pro-democracy activists, at a Indian restaurant on Budaiya road. There was a faint trace of tear gas in the parking lot when we left. S. fell to her knees and began retching as everyone gathered around her, guiding her into her car where she would be safe from the fumes. S. has sickle cell anemia, making her particularly susceptible to tear gas.

After making sure that S. got home safely, M., H. and I drove around, trying to figure out where I would stay for the night. I was supposed to go to W.’s house, but her building was raided twice that day, and was not safe.

We were driving through a village close to midnight, calling various activists to see who might take me in, when M. skillfully guided his car around a crude barricade that the shabab had just set up, preparing for the night’s clashes.

“It may feel a little hot, but don’t worry, I’m used to this,” M. reassured me as he inched his car between a chunk of concrete and a burning tire spewing thick black smoke.

From the orange glow, I saw a handful of shabab standing by, t-shirts wrapped over their faces and Molotov cocktails held loosely in their teenaged hands. Zainab had explained to me a few days ago one reason that Molotov cocktails had recently made an appearance in the Bahrain conflict: If the police are afraid to enter the villages, then maybe there will be fewer night-time raids.

“Can we stop for a moment so I can film them?” I asked M.

“Better not,” M. said as we drove towards the entrance of the village. “The police are already on their way.”

A brief on the background to the current situation in Bahrain from an international human rights activist

by Jen Marlowe

Bahrain, a small Persian Gulf country consisting of thirty-three islands off the coast of Saudi Arabia, has been ruled by the Al Khalifa family since 1783. Roughly half of Bahrain’s 1.2 million inhabitants are foreigners. Of the Bahraini citizens, between 60-70% are Shi’a and 30-40% are Sunni (as is the Al Khalifa family). Historically, Bahrain was a commercial center, known for its pearl diving and fisheries. It is also, significantly, the home of the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet.

Bahrain was a British protectorate from 1861 until gaining independence on August 15, 1971. After independence, a modern constitution was developed, but it was frozen in 1973, as was all political participation. In 2000, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa began his rule, initially seeming to usher in an era of reform. He wrote a new constitution which was revealed in 2002, and Parliamentary elections were held for the first time. By 2005, however, people started to become disillusioned and the disillusionment deepened as years passed. Many Bahrainis felt that the reforms were not genuine, and that the political voice and participation they were supposed to enjoy was, in reality, extremely limited.

There were multiple, specific complaints: The same prime minister had governed for 42 years, appointed by the ruling family as well as being a member of the ruling famly; the majority Shi’a complained of discrimination from the ruling Sunnis, evidenced most clearly by the fact that Shi’a are not permitted to join military or police forces, and, in fact, the government brings ex-pats from countries such as Pakistan, Yemen, Jordan and Syria to fill those ranks, often offering them Bahraini citizenship, thus altering the Sunni/Shi’a demographics; the majority of the land is owned (amidst accusations of corruption) by the royal family.

On February 14, 2011, inspired by events in Tunisia and Egypt, a group of anonymous youth (whose identities are, I’m told, still unknown) put out a call to protest at the Pearl Roundabout monument in the capital city of Manama. The regime responded with violence, leading to the death of 21-year old Ali Abdulhadi Mushama. More protestors joined the next day, more were killed, and the demonstrators decided to camp in Pearl Roundabout, Tahrir-Square style.

At 3 a.m. on February 17, Bahraini security forces attacked those sleeping in Pearl Roundabout, killing several and wounding dozens. Ambulances were prevented access and medical personnel who rushed to help the injured were also attacked. Shock and fury rose, leading to more protests, more killings, more injuries. Estimates of between 200,000-250,000 Bahrainis participated in some of the protests; an extraordinarily large percentage of the population of Bahrain. The political agenda of the protestors ranged from calling for a Constitutional Monarchy to overthrowing the regime altogether.

The demonstrators remained in Pearl Roundabout until “the crackdown.” In the early hours of March 16, 2011, one thousand Saudi troops entered Bahrain and took over Pearl Roundabout, backed by five hundred UAE police forces. The Pearl Roundabout monument, by now an iconic symbol of the opposition, was destroyed. State of Emergency Law was declared.

For the next months, anyone who had been involved in the demonstrations was targeted. Most of the opposition leaders were jailed, along with thousands of protestors. Journalists were attacked, as were health care professionals who had treated the wounded, and star Bahraini athletes. There were hundreds of allegations of torture (some to death), and thousands fired from their jobs due to participation in protests, or, according to multiple allegations, merely because they were Shi’a.

On June 29, 2011, the king established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate what happened and who was responsible. The 500-page report, released on November 23, 2011 detailed dozens of deaths, hundreds of claims of torture, thousands of arrests and cases of employment dismissal. Significantly, the report ascertained there was no evidence that supported the regime’s claim that the movement was a Shi’a uprising, instigated by or receiving direct support from Iran.

It is difficult for me to assess to what extent sectarian factors in play. The pro-democracy and human rights activists who I am talking to insist that, despite the regime’s propaganda, the revolution is not Shi’a versus Sunni, and that, in fact, there are numerous Sunnis who are part of the movement, as evidenced by the fact that the first political leader jailed in the uprising was Ibrahim Sharif, a Sunni leader of an opposition party. The goals of the revolution (regime overthrow, or Constitutional Monarchy, depending on which activists you ask) may not be sectarian, but it is certainly true that sectarian-based discrimination was a motivating factor for the uprising. Some people tell me that the vast majority of Sunnis support the regime and that only a few, token Sunnis are with the opposition. Others tell me that there is a far larger number of “silent Sunnis” who support the opposition but are afraid to speak out as the retaliation against them will be especially harsh. All the Shi’a I have spoken to about this issue have told me that they never used to think in terms of Sunni/Shi’a, and always had many close Sunni friends but that now, those same friends will no longer speak to them. I very much hope to explore this issue more deeply, though I will not be able to get the perspective of Bahrainis who are pro-government, as I have to be discreet about my presence in Bahrain.

Today, the uprising is characterized by continuous localized demonstrations, where nonviolent protestors in villages all over Bahrain (men and women), marching and shouting “Down, down, Hamad!” are met with a barrage of tear gas (the canisters often being shot directly at protestors) and bird shot. Masked youth retaliate with burning tires and Molotov cocktails. The massive, sweeping arrests have ended, though hundreds still remain behind bars, including children. Use of torture has decreased, I’m told, though not ended.

Disturbingly, there are nightly raids in villages throughout Bahrain. These night time raids, which resumed after Formula 1 and often result in arrests, seem to be becoming more frequent, prompting the well-known Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab to refer to the current situation as the beginning stage of “Crackdown 2.0.” Two days ago, the king announced that there was to be no more demonstrations. That afternoon, a demonstration was planned in response to this proclamation, which was harshly repressed. Zainab al-Khawajah, who I wrote about in the previous post, was shot at close range in the thigh with a tear gas canister; her thigh bone is now broken.

Since my arrival, I have already witnessed much, and heard far more. As multiple Bahrainis have reminded me, nearly every family has been affected by the situation in one way or another, whether a member of their family was sacked from their job, arrested, injured or killed. Bahrain is very small, and the stakes, price, and outcome of the Bahraini revolution is highly personal to a huge swathe of the Bahraini people.

Sitra: the heart of the Bahraini revolution

by Jen Marlowe

Sitra protest
Sitra continues to protest the Bahraini government

Roughly 250 people gathered in the street in Sitra, Bahrain. Approximately half were men and boys, some dressed in white flowing thob, others in Western-style jeans and t-shirts. Women and girls made up the other half, predominantly (though not exclusively) clad in traditional black abaya and hijab. Several of the men, women, and children had one eye covered with gauze, fastened with surgical tape. This protest was on behalf of those who lost an eye — or both eyes — to the Bahraini riot police shooting rubber bullets, bird shot, and tear gas canisters directly at the faces and upper bodies of protestors. Approximately one hundred protestors lost an eye since the revolution erupted sixteen months ago, the activists who took me to the demonstration told me, a number I need to confirm.

“Look, there’s Zainab,” my new activist friend J. pointed out. I knew who Zainab was, of course. Her father, Abdulhadi al Khawaja, one of the founders of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was probably the best known political prisoner in the country. He had recently launched a hunger strike with the hopes of winning his freedom and drawing international attention to the human rights violations that has characterized the ongoing political crisis in Bahrain. Zainab became a fierce activist in her own right who has been detained and jailed multiple times, and is known for an uncompromising insistence on exposing the abuses in Bahrain and has a Twitter following of over 43,000. I had been following Zainab on twitter for months and had had phone contact with her since my arrival in Bahrain, but we had not yet met.

Zainab was standing off to the side of the protest, sending a tweet. She greeted me brusquely when I introduced myself to her. “It’s hard to tweet with this thing on,” she said, referring to her eye patch. “It’s hard to even keep my balance walking. I had no idea how hard it is to see out of only one eye.” Then, “do you have something to cover your face with?”

I held up the gas mask that the pro-democracy activists had provided me with. There was every reason to expect that the demonstration would eventually be met with a barrage of tear gas.

*****

Sitra is considered the heart of the Bahraini revolution. Sitra is one of five inhabited islands in the thirty-three island archipelago that comprises the small Gulf country of Bahrain. Demonstrations against the Al-Khalifa monarchy occur nearly daily in Sitra, I’m told, and a copious amount of tear gas is used routinely to suppress them.

In fact, the previous day, I had accompanied two young, female Bahraini doctors from Physicians for Human Rights as they began a process of documenting the long-term effect that continuous tear gas exposure is having on the people of Bahrain. We went to three randomly selected houses in one neighborhood in Sitra, explained the mission and were invited inside so the doctors could conduct their survey with the residing family.

The families in the first two houses reported being exposed to tear gas inside their own homes four to five nights each week for the past fifteen months; the third family reported daily exposure the last six months. Most times it was due to tear gas from the outside streets seeping into the houses, but, not infrequently, we were told, tear gas canisters were shot directly inside the houses.

“Because the shabab (youth, used to refer to the young men on the front lines of the protests) take refuge inside the houses in the village,” the activist translating for me explained in a whisper. A tear gas grenade had been thrown inside the third home we visited two nights prior.

“We don’t know what to do when it’s shot inside the house,” the mother told us. “If we open the window to let out the fumes, the tear gas that is outside comes in.” They were trapped in the tear gas and had no choice but to endure it. Once, this happened when the six year old boy was in the house alone. He was terrified and didn’t know what to do. In another house, the mother told us how her small daughter wakes up in the middle of the night, scared. She often scratched at her face even when there was no gas.

Symptoms we heard about from the regular, prolonged exposure included rashes, eye, abdominal, chest and stomach pain, dry cough, diarrhea, nasal blockage, headaches, and eye infection—symptoms which often persisted long after the tear gas itself dissipated. I was told that there had been four miscarriages in one highly-exposed neighborhood—PHR is investigating this claim as well. No one goes to Salmaniyya, the government hospital, for treatment. The fear of being arrested at the hospital is prevalent, and real. A teenaged boy is the third house told us that is uncle had gone to the hospital with a burn wound and was arrested, under the assumption that the burn was related to throwing Molotov cocktails.

Evidence of high usage of tear gas is all over Sitra. The sandy streets are littered with remnants of black plastic unmarked tear gas canisters of unknown origin, especially where the shabab had set up crude barricades out of mounds of broken chunks of cement, plywood, bed frames and broken furniture to keep the police out of the village. Pinkish/orange round, hard rubber bullets can be found in high concentration as well, as can the pellet-sized black rubber balls I was told were discharged when stun grenades were launched.

The family hosting me in Sitra have two beautiful canaries in a wire cage in their garden. There used to be six, the mother—a gentle woman with light brown hair and soft brown eyes—told me, but a tear gas grenade had been lobbed over the garden wall right next to the bird cage, and four of the birds were found lying stiff on the bottom of the cage, feet up.

I will be getting statistics about how many people have died from exposure to tear gas, but the activists are quick to remind me that tear gas-related casualities and fatalities are not just due to the impact of breathing the noxious fumes. The day before I arrived, a protestor’s skull was shattered by a tear-gas canister, one of many examples of riot police using the canisters themselves as ammunition and shooting them directly at protestors, often at close range. Amongst Sitra’s anti-government graffiti of “Down, down, Hamad!” (the king) and “We will never stop defending our rights!” one can find a stenciled spray-painted boyish face of fourteen-year old Ali Jawad Sheikh. Ali was killed in September, 2001, during Eid, by a tear gas canister shot into the back of his head. Ali’s stenciled image can be found all over Sitra, sometimes smeared over with a thick, gray painted X. Every day, I was told, the police try to cross out the graffiti and every night the shabab re-paint it.

*****

Sitra demo
Sitra continues to protest the Bahraini government

The march moved towards the main road. The majority of them women melt away—they didn’t want to be there for the presumed forthcoming attack by the police. Surprisingly, the anticipated attack never happened. It was the final night of a three-day festival, and there were scores of small children out on the streets playing, eating sweets from booths that were draped with festive colored lights and playing music. The protest organizers decided to end the demonstration early, before marching to the main road, in order not to risk the children being hurt in a police attack.

The entrance to Sitra was choked with black clad helmeted riot police stopping cars in order to prevent them from reaching the demonstration that they did not realize had already ended.

“How often is it that a protest is not attacked by the police?” I asked one of the pro-democracy activists.

“In this neighborhood? Almost never,” he answered, shaking his head in disbelief that the evening had started and ended peacefully.

After all, I was reminded, this was Sitra, known as the heart of the Bahraini revolution.

Note: The author is a human rights volunteer and requested their identity remain anonymous for security purposes.

Bahraini doctor to speak at protest today at 1pm at Royal College of Surgeons and Dáil Eireann

Irish Anti-War Movement

Irish-trained medica to be sentenced on June 14

IAWM says freedom and justice for the Bahraini people

In a statement issued this morning the Irish Anti-war Movement (IAWM) called on its members and the general public to join in the protest organised by Witness Bahrain Ireland for today at 1pm at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), and later at Dáil Eireann, to highlight the plight of the Irish trained Bahraini doctors and other medical staff who are due to be sentenced in a few days time.

Dr. Nada Dhaif, who has flown in from Bahrain to highlight the mistreatment of the Irish trained medics, will speak at the protest and later at a Press Conference at 4pm in Buswells Hotel.

The IAWM statement condemned both the RCSI’s silence of this persecution of members of its Alumni and the silence of the Irish Government regarding the mistreatment of these Irish trained medics and of the general Bahraini population who are seeking justice and freedom from a corrupt dictatorial regime.

The statement noted that the Bahraini revolution has not received similar levels of interest and coverage of the revolutions in other Arab countries from western politicians and the media. The ordinary Bahrainis, including medical professionals doing their job of treating the wounded and saving lives, have suffered the most horrific repression, including killings, imprisonment and torture, from a despotic and corrupt regime.

Jim Roche, PRO of the IAWM said:

The protest today is very important, both to highlight the plight of the Bahraini people, and in particular the Irish trained medics, who have suffered horrific suppression from the unelected Al-Khalifa regime in Bahrain, and also to highlight the silence of western powers in the face of this suppression. The US and Britain is siding with the regime in its oppression of its citizens through its silent complicity over its ally’s crimes and through continuation, and indeed escalation, of arms sales. Today’s protest will send a message of hope and support to the people of Bahrain – and the IAWM is calling on western powers to stop dealing with the despotic regimes of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and to support the ordinary peoples struggle for their basic human rights.

END

For more information:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 087 414 7906

and

Jim Roche, PRO Steering Committee IAWM, Tel. 087 6472737
John Molyneux Steering Committee IAWM, Tel. 085 7356424
Dary Southern, Coordinator, Steering Committee IAWM, Tel. 085 2776505

“If you show pictures of his body to anyone, you won’t see another daylight.” – Interview with Karim Fakhrawi’s daughters

Karim Fakhrawi
Karim Fakhrawi

“My father was a very religious man, and very open minded,” Fatima said, calmly keeping the eye contact with me longer than people you meet for the first time normally dare. She is Karim Fakhrawi’s oldest daughter, born in 1986. Karim, who grew up in Manama but has Persian roots, is one of the 90 people martyred in the revolution since February, 2011. I was told many times that he was a very beloved and respected man in the community.

I was invited to his family’s house to meet two of his three children; Fatima, twenty-five years old, and Zahra, fourteen. Big chandeliers of crystal hung from the ceiling and the girls told me that Karim patiently placed every crystal piece with his own hands. They showed me his big collection of antique books that he, as a bookstore owner and publisher, had edited himself. In addition to the bookstore and publishing, he was the owner of a construction company which is now run by his wife. Several paintings of Karim were in the living room, given to the family as gifts from the community. In one corner there was a table with his Qur’an and lots of gifts received both before and after he died. One of the gifts was a little piece of the barbered wire that the Israeli government built in Lebanon during the war in 1982.

Karim’s two nephews were like sons to him after their father passed away. “He never used to differentiate between his biological children and his step-children,” Zahra Abdulkarim Fakhrawi, his fourteen year old daughter told me. “My older sister is actually my stepsister but I don’t think a lot of people know that or ever thought about it even.” Karim expected the police to target the two brothers through him, so he made sure his family would stay in a different place for some time. One day the neighbors told him the police attacked their home. The house was completely upside down. All the closets and shelves had been opened and everything torn apart. Even some of the numerous rocks for praying (turba) that the family kept in a bowl for when friends and extended family came during Ramadan had been broken. He remained calm and went to the police station to tell them what had happened to his house. He knew they were looking for him, so he wanted to save the family from more trouble by letting the police know where to find him. They told him to come back thirty minutes later, which he did.

It was the last time the family saw him alive.

Fatima showed me a report in Arabic that she made for Basouni when he was in the country. It showed pictures of the house after the raid and of Karim just before he went to the police station. There were also pictures of his dead body that the family saw later. In the first picture, from just before he left his house for the last time, he looked happy and calm. He had that big warm smile all over his face, just like his daughters.

After going to the police station for the second time he was missing for ten days. No one knew anything about his location or condition. The police didn’t admit that he was in their custody until ten days later when his secretary got a call. They said that he was in Salmanya hospital. The oldest sister, Fatima, went to the hospital to find out that he had been dead for two days already. From the pictures in the report I could clearly see the marks of torture. His legs had big marks that looked like burnings. There were wounds from having been chained by the arms and wrists, possibly to be hanged from the ceiling and beaten. On his neck there was a big hole which had kept leaking so much blood even several days after his death that they had to use an entire tube of glue to stop it. The doctor’s report stated that he died suddenly from “kidney failure.”

The rest of his family wanted to see him as well but it was during the days of the martial law and the hospital was completely surrounded by the police and military. Some people were allowed entry and others were not. Karim’s wife, Kubra, was not allowed to enter and was screaming and crying outside the hospital. It did not make the soldiers change their decision. His brother was allowed to see him in the hospital, but was threatened by one of the soldiers on his way out: “If you show pictures of his body to anyone, you won’t see another daylight.”

“If you show pictures of his body to anyone, you won’t see another daylight.”

Karim’s body was buried the next day. Kubra asked Nabeel Rajab, president of Bahraini Center for Human Rights, to come and document it’s condition. Karim’s brother, who had been threatened by the soldier, was afraid of the consequences of such documentation. In the end he prevented Nabeel from taking photos. Some people, who none of the daughters knew, took pictures of the body despite his brother’s concerns. They were quickly put online and stirred huge reactions all over the country.

“He was not just a father to me. He was like a brother and a best friend as well. No one understood me like him,” Zahra said. “I was never good at waking up in the morning, so my dad used to sit next to my bed for ten minutes almost every morning, to wake me up slowly by talking to me and teasing me and sometimes singing for me.”

We sat in the center of the living room on couches arranged in a circle while Karim’s daughters recounted the story of his killing. The circle of couches encouraged people sitting on them to look at each other before looking at anything else in the room. Most wealthy families I have visited in Bahrain place a television in the middle of the living room. I don’t recall seeing one there, but if there was one, it was well hidden away.

Fatima told me her father used to invite hundreds of people over each and every day of Ramadan to pray together with him and the family. Karim was the kind of man who would bring people together. Even now, after his death, many of friends come to their house to remember him and to pray. Behind the stairs she showed me a little corner where the close family used to celebrate Eid al-Fatr together. “It’s too painful to do it now. We will miss him too much if we sit in this spot without him, so now we sit upstairs.”

Before her father died Fathima used to live alone with her husband and son. She has since moved back to her family’s house to be close to her mother who is struggling with stress and other health problems caused by the emotional turmoil Karim’s killing brought. Her doctor requires someone to be with her at all times in case her health turns.

“We all miss him so much,” Fatima said. “I miss his footsteps on the stairs, his voice, everything even his smell – but my sister took his perfume and kept it to herself.” Both sisters explode with laughter when the perfume is mentioned. Their strong and loving bond is clear and inspiring.

Karim never talked about politics with his family. He was very focused on how he behaved towards others, and less so on how others behaved towards him. He always encouraged his children to be good people; to study well, be respectful to themselves and others, and to be honest and positive.

“He was always smiling.” While Fatima was talking about her father, her facial expression showed that she was clearly dreaming herself away to a nice place. “One of his friends asked me recently if I could find a picture of him alive and not smiling, and I couldn’t.”

Most Arabic names carry a meaning, and “Karim” means “generous.”

Zahra thinks that the way her father gained the respect and love from so many people is what keeps the family safe today. “Too many people cried over his death, and too many people were angry. They can’t afford to take another life from this family and they know that.”

They already took Karim, the generous.

Note: The author is a human rights volunteer and requested their identity remain anonymous for security purposes.