Voices in Danger: "They said I shouldn't report because I was ruining my country's reputation."

Amid the chaos of the 2011 protests in Bahrain, France 24 correspondent Nazeeha Saeed was tortured and humiliated by police - and she's still awaiting justice

Share

Nazeeha Saeed expected the phone call from al-Rifaa'a police station in Bahrain's capital Manama, which asked her to come in for questioning during the early days of the 2011 uprising. What she did not expect, when she arrived on 22 May 2011, was to be taken in to custody, tortured and humiliated by police officers for thirteen hours.

A correspondent for French channels France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, she had been covering the chaos as Shia protesters, unhappy with the ruling of the Sunni Al-Khalifa royal family, clashed with security forces.

"It was a messy time," she says.

Reports of people being detained, injured and killed were rife, emotions were running high. Journalists had been mistaken for activists and caught up in the crackdown.

She decided not to contact her family, expecting no more than a couple hours' interrogation before returning home. But she did call France 24, and told them where she was going.

"I was blindfolded and beaten with a hose all over my body. I was harassed, I got electrical shocks - it was humiliating," she told The Independent.

The beatings on her face, back, shoulders and legs were so severe that she was unable to walk for days.

That was just the beginning. During her ordeal, Nazeeha, who is 32, says she was accused of participating in the protests, lying in her reports and was interrogated about possible links to the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah television station al-Manar and the Iranian Arabic station Al-AlamIranian - serious accusations, as Iran had been accused of fomenting the largely Shia-Muslim majority demonstrations against the Sunni-Muslim ruling family. She vehemently denies these claims.

"They kept saying that I didn't respect my country, that I'm a traitor," she says. "They said I shouldn't report because I was ruining my country's reputation.

"I would care if it was about the reputation of my country I was ruining, but it was not - it was the police force's reputation."

"I didn't do the things I thought would really upset the government. I just did my job - OK, not the way they would like it, but it's my job."

She told The Independent she was forced to sign a confession she was not allowed to read, and she was made to bray like a donkey.

She said that one police officer forced her head into a toilet and flushed it, while another tried to make her drink an unknown liquid.

Somebody in the room said it was urine. Nazeeha refused, so the officer spilled it over her clothes and hair, to which she had an allergic reaction.

I don't know to this moment what it was," she says. "Even the medics who examined me later didn't know what it was."

"I thought at that moment, 'I'm not going to get out of this place, ever'. The way they treat you, and when you are locked in a room and blindfolded - you don't know how long you are going to be there. It was too long for me. I didn't know I was only there for thirteen hours. I thought it was a few days."

"Thank God I informed my channel that I was on my way to the police station," she says.

France 24 pushed for the government to open an investigation into Nazeeha's abuse. She says she underwent hours of questioning and a thorough medical examination, limping, her body still battered and bruised, before being flown to Paris to receive medical treatment. There, in Paris, she met with a representative of press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders to examine her injuries independently and bring her story out into the open.

"I don't want you to imagine I wasn't scared after I left," she says. "I wasn't feeling secure at all, and I wanted to hide the story. But my channel decided it was an important move. Now, there is no use in hiding it - it was already out, so I was talking about it loudly. I had a case in the court, and I wanted advocacy."

But two years on from her ordeal, and Nazeeha is still fighting for justice.

She filed a case a complaint with the Public Prosecution Office against who she believed were her torturers, and the case was referred to the criminal courts.

Sarah Al-Musa faced charges before a civilian court for abuses during the police crackdown on the protests that started in February 2011. Her trial opened in June, but in October 22, 2012 a court in Manama cleared the police officer of torture and ill-treatment in the course of her duties, describing Saeed's evidence as "contradictory" and "not consistent with the forensic report."

A government spokesperson said Nazeeha could not have identified her alleged abusers if she had been blindfolded, as she had said in her initial statement. And according to the forensic report, there was no evidence for electrocution and hair pulling, and although she had scratch marks on her neck, Nazeeha had not mentioned this in any of her previous statements either.

"The High Criminal Court acquitted the defendant Lt Sarah Al-Musa, on the grounds that the evidence did not prove the defendant's guilt beyond reasonable doubt," a government spokesperson told The Independent.

Rights campaigners Amnesty International dismissed this decision, saying there was "overwhelming evidence that Nazeeha Sa'eed had been tortured" and that the forensic reports "noted marks of torture and beatings on several parts of her body."

A report commissioned by the Bahraini government and published in November 2011 revealed that there had been widespread torture and killing by the Bahraini security forces.

Nazeeha also filed a complaint against another female and male police officer on the same charges, but no action has been taken against them.

She immediately appealed the verdict, but the decision was upheld last June - a move which Reporters Without Borders slammed, saying it "clearly shows the lack of independence of the Bahraini judicial system and the duplicitous nature of the government's concern for its image in the eyes of the international community."

Nazeeha's final attempt to appeal the decision failed last July, when the Public Prosecution refused her request.

But, although her case has run its course in the criminal courts, she says she will keep on fighting.

The government has recently set up several human rights bodies, including two Ombudsmen, to investigate human rights abuses by the security forces.

"It's difficult, to put yourself in a position against the whole system," she says.

"But if I quit, then I'm sending out the message that journalism is risky, that you shouldn't do it. I don't want this message to go out. I have a responsibility to continue until the end, because if I quit I'm allowing others to do the same to my colleagues one day."

"I don't feel safe, I don't feel justice, and I don't think the system respects journalists, and human beings, if these people are walking around us without punishment."

You can read other Voices in Danger stories on the campaign page, here.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Buyer / Planner

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An excellent opportunity has ar...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Journals Manager

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The prime focus of the role is to assist...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The era of graduates from the university conveyor belt is over

Hamish McRae
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks