Bahrain:

Locked up for reading a poem

Ayat al-Gormezi, the woman who symbolises Bahrain's fight for freedom

Bahrain's security forces are increasingly targeting women in their campaign against pro-democracy protesters despite yesterday lifting martial law in the island kingdom.

Ayat al-Gormezi, 20, a poet and student arrested two months ago after reading out a poem at a pro-democracy rally, is due to go on trial today before a military tribunal, her mother said. Ayat was forced to turn herself in when masked policemen threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.

She has not been seen since her arrest, though her mother did talk to her once by phone and Ayat said that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has since been told that her daughter has been in a military hospital after being tortured.

"We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery," a film captures Ayat telling a cheering crowd of protesters in Pearl Square in February. "We are the people who will destroy the foundation of injustice." She addresses King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa directly and says to him: "Don't you hear their cries, don't you hear their screams?" As she finishes, the crowd shouts: "Down with Hamad."

Ayat's call for change was no more radical than that heard in the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi at about the same time. But her reference to the king might explain the fury shown by the Bahraini security forces who, going by photographs of the scene, smashed up her bedroom when they raided her house and could not find her.

There are signs that Bahraini police, riot police and special security are detaining and mistreating more and more women. Many are held incommunicado, forced to sign confessions or threatened with rape, according to Bahraini human rights groups.

Bahrain is the first country affected by the Arab Spring where women have been singled out as targets for repression. Human rights groups say that hundreds have been arrested. Many women complain of being severely beaten while in custody. One woman journalist was beaten so badly that she could not walk.

A woman doctor, who was later released but may be charged, says she was threatened with rape. She told Reuters news agency that the police said: "We are 14 guys in this room, do you know what we can do to you? It's the emergency law [martial law] and we are free to do what we want."

The ending of martial law and a call for dialogue from King Hamad appear to be part of a campaign to show that normal life is returning to Bahrain. The Bahraini government is eager to host the Formula One motor race, which was postponed from earlier in the year, but may be rescheduled to take place in Bahrain by the sports governing body meeting in Barcelona tomorrow.

Despite the lifting of martial law, imposed on 15 March, there is no sign of repression easing. Some 600 people are still detained, at least 2,000 have been sacked, and some 27 mosques of the Shia, who make up 70 per cent of the population, have been bulldozed.

The protests started on 14 February in emulation of events in Egypt and Tunisia with a campaign for political reform, a central demand being civil and political equality for the majority Shia. The al-Khalifa royal family and the ruling class in Bahrain are Sunni.

The targeting of women by the security forces may, like the destruction of mosques, have the broader aim of demonstrating to the Shia community that the Sunni elite will show no restraint in preventing the Shia winning political power. Shia leaders complain that the state-controlled media is continuing to pump out sectarian anti-Shia propaganda.

The government is eager to show that Bahrain can return to being an untroubled business and tourist hub for the Gulf. Having the Formula One race rescheduled to take place on the island later this year would be an important success in this direction.

The New York based Human Rights Watch has written to the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), saying that the race would take place in an environment of unrelenting "punitive retribution" against pro-democracy protesters.

If the race does go ahead it will be without a quarter of the staff of the Bahrain International Circuit, the host organisation, who have been arrested, including two senior staff. Most have been sacked or suspended, accused of approving of the postponement of the Formula One event earlier in the year.

The government has been detaining and beating local reporters. The one international journalist based permanently in Bahrain was ordered out this month. Even foreign correspondents with entry visas have been denied entry when they arrive in Bahrain.

Profile: Ayat al-Gormezi

Ayat al-Gormezi, a 20-year-old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers in Bahrain, was arrested on 30 March for reciting a poem critical of the government during the pro-democracy protests in Pearl Square, the main gathering place for demonstrators, in February. She was forced to give herself up after police raided her parents' house and made four of Ayat's brothers lie on the floor at gunpoint. She was not there at the time. One policeman shouted at their father to "tell us where Ayat is or we will kill each of your sons in front of your eyes".

Masked police and special riot police later took Ayat away telling her mother that her daughter would be interrogated. Her mother was told to pick up her daughter from Al-Howra police station, but has not seen her since her arrest. She did speak to her once on the phone when Ayat told her that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has been told confidentially that Ayat is in a military hospital as a result of injuries inflicted when she was tortured.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital