I hope this letter finds its way out of this prison in Bahrain

I sit here in the dark in prison cell 19, I look past my baby at the shining prison bars. This is a new prison, new walls, new paint and new metal bars

I was arrested a few days ago after being sentenced to three years in prison for several political cases; one of which was tearing a picture of Hamad, the king of Bahrain.

As I walked up to the prison door carrying my baby, I realized that I had walked through that door on crutches, I had walked through that door pregnant, and I had been carried through that door by police. Five years have passed since the start of the revolution in Bahrain; five years of systematic aggression on the people of this country whose only wish was to seek equal rights and democracy. Five years of criminal acts by the regime. Killing peaceful protesters, arresting thousands, torturing thousands. Years filled with heroism, bravery, sacrifice, filled also with pain, anger and loss. And it seems to me, after all this time, the government’s only strategy here is to simply distract the world from the crimes taking place. Instead of improving the human rights in the country, they seem to be thinking, lets create GONGOs (Government Organized Non-Governmental Organizations). Instead of hearing the peoples’ grievances, lets silence them. Instead of fixing the problems, lets contain them so they’re less visible. Instead of releasing prisoners of conscience, lets build bigger, better looking prisons. Contain the protests to the villages and let the world only see the cities and the malls. Contain the activists in jails and let the world hear government mouth pieces who speak of reform. Basically contain, bury, the truth and spread a lie.

What’s more shocking than the government’s plan on how to deal with the biggest revolution the country has witnessed, is that they apparently think it could work.

I sit here in the dark in prison cell 19, I look past my baby at the shining prison bars. This is a new prison, new walls, new paint and new metal bars.

All the government is doing is shining those metal bars. Making them as shiny as possible so the rest of the world would be so busy looking at the shiny metal that they are blinded to what is behind it. I don’t believe they can succeed.

I invite the world to look beyond the shining metal bars. To see my one-year-old baby holding on to them during the day and calling out. To see my 50-year-old father hunched over a book, deep in thought. To see hundreds of tortured bodies and thousands of wounded hearts. Fathers who dream of raising their children, husbands who wish they could support their wives, young boys with lost futures. All living through this pain, every hour of every day, hoping this silence speaks louder than anything they could say.

It’s hard to look pain in the eyes and acknowledge it, but that’s exactly what I ask everyone to do. Yes there are governments willing to turn a blind eye to our suffering and shake hands with those who oppress us, but I also believe that there are enough good people in the world who recognize the good fight, who admire a people who sacrifice in the hope for a better future, and who can’t stand by silently in the face of oppression.

I hope this letter finds its way out of this prison and into the heart and hands of all freedom loving people.

Love from Bahrain

Zainab Alkhawaja

Prison cell 19

Isa Town Women’s Prison

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