Bahrain: Blogger Zainab Al-Khawaja Brutally Arrested

A policewoman pulling Zainab Al-Khawaja after handcuffing her

Bahraini blogger Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of prominent opposition figure and human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja , who was sentenced to life imprisonment last June, was brutally arrested on Thursday. Her arrest follows the death a 22-year-old man called Ali Al-Gassab when a car drove over him, an “accident” that seems to recur since the protests started in Bahrain this year. Right after the death of Al-Gassab, news of Zainab's arrest circulated online. It was confirmed by the head of Bahrain Human Rights Center Nabeel Rajab and her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja. With her arrest, 28-year-old Zainab, mother of a 2-year-old girl, becomes the fourth member of her family to get arrested after her father, her brother-in-law, and her husband. She has always been vocal against the regime especially through her Twitter account which she uses to post updates from the protests that have rocked her country since February 14.

On Twitter, netizens wrote that as she was getting arrested, Zainab was chanting against the Bahraini King Hamad Al Khalifa, chanting “Down with Hamad.” The following video that spread through YouTube shows Al-Khawaja getting handcuffed by a policewoman. Then, another policewoman comes and beats Zainab on her face, before she was pulled to a parked police van.

Zainab was arrested while she was sitting in a roundabout on the Budaiya Highway, as part of a sit-in called for by protesters called Occupy Budaiya Street which aimed at pressuring the government to release political prisoners and pay tribute to Bahrain's 40-plus martyrs, killed at the hand of security forces since the unrest started.

According to her sister Maryam, Zainab was arrested with another woman called Masooma Al-Sayed and was charged with illegal gathering, assaulting a female officer, and inciting hatred against the regime. The prosecutor decided to detain both women for seven days under investigation. Zainab was sprayed in her eyes when she was arrested and was unable to see for an hour. In the police station, Zainab was beaten on the head, arms and legs, as she was unable to see. She recognized the voice of the policewoman who beat her, but the prosecutor refused to write it down. Her lawyer attempted to show the  prosecutor a video of Zainab's arrest, but he refused to see it. The policewoman came to the prosecutor with bandaged arm claiming Masooma and Zainab hit her. Zainab refused to sign the statement unless the name of the policewoman who hit was written down.


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