My Friend is Getting Tortured for Blogging

BREAKING UPDATE [October 2, 2013 10:26pm UTC]: Earlier today, Mohammed Hassan was released from prison on bail. Close friends report that he is safe and at home with his family. We thank our friends and colleagues for their help and support in advocating for his release.

Since his arrest in late July, it has been hard for me and other bloggers to bring attention to the case of Mohammed Hassan (aka Safy) a Bahraini blogger detained by authorities for his online activities. In a country like Bahrain, the brutal regime has been successful in normalizing and silencing its crimes against those involved in the political struggle for freedom and equality. Doctors, journalists, human rights defenders, teachers, athletes, and protesters have been targeted in Bahrain with sanctions, surveillance, interrogations, arrests. Some have been tortured. Some have been killed. The horrors committed since the February 14 revolution (and years before) are too many to mention and the case of Safy is only one among many.

Illustration by Jafar al-Alawy

Illustration by Jafar al-Alawy

Many of you might not know Safy; he is not of the older generation of bloggers who enjoy much more visibility yet he is certainly from a generation that has been on the front line, facing high risks of arrest, torture, and perhaps being forgotten. Safy is a regular guy who has worked as an IT officer until he saw his friend get shot by riot police during the first weeks of the revolution. He could not be the ‘regular guy’ after this. After months of blogging anonymously, Safy decided to go with his real name and picture. He helped journalists move around, took them to villages where people breath tear gas more than oxygen, and spoke bluntly in front of the camera. He decided to join Global Voices despite the risks that face bloggers in Bahrain when contributing to a major international platform.

Safy is not alone in this struggle: Photographers Hussain Hubail and Qassim Zainaldeen were arrested in the same week, followed with the arrest of Safy’s own lawyer Abdulaziz Mousa who was accused of disclosing details of the interrogation without legal permission. Mousa stated before his arrest that Safy was beaten through the interrogation and has been charged “with being a member of the 14 February Media Network, calling for and participating in public demonstrations, inciting hatred against the government and being in contact with exiled members of the the Bahraini opposition.”

Safy was not allowed to sleep for four nights. They slapped him, punched him in the face, and kicked his stomach, shoulders, legs and back. In these four nights, he was handcuffed and not allowed to sit down. All this happens in a cold room like a freezing hell. Typical of Bahraini torturers, they insulted him all the time, called him a Shia traitor conspiring for Iran and a man with no honor. They threatened to rape him and rape his sisters. When Safy is freed, we will surely get to know more details of the nightmare he had to live in prison.

Last year, Safy appeared on Dan Rather’s report on Bahrain. When asked if he feared persecution for speaking openly against the regime, Safy replied, “I do not care anymore. My friends have been imprisoned. Some still in prison. Some in hiding and some are dead… at the end of the day if you don’t have your dignity, lots of things don’t really matter.” For this blogger, persecution is an expected result of his choice to resist the brutality of a dictatorship. His willingness to take the results should be a reason for us to make enough noise in his defense. In a country like Bahrain, free speech is a major crime in the eyes of the regime; this dictatorship is threatened by any effort that criminalizes its authoritarianism and violence.

Many bloggers have already shown support for Safy but many more are needed to fight for our imprisoned friend. We do not want Safy to be alone, we do not want to see death and torture normalized, we do not want to let it be believed that Bahrainis don’t matter, or that their bodies and souls are worthless. Thinking of Safy in prison getting beaten and tortured is enough of a reason for us to feel restless.


#FreeSafy Campaign

We urge readers to share this story widely. Use hashtag #FreeSafy and tweet links to this press release or recent reports by Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Use the campaign image above to highlight his case and read more about Safy and the campaign for his release below.

Former CBS News anchor Dan Rather interviewed Safy in 2012. See a clip from the news program here:


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