PETITION: BAHRAIN (RAN 28/11)

June 14, 2011 

BAHRAIN: Poet sentenced

The Writers in Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International protests the one-year sentence handed down to poet and student Ayat Al-Gormezi on anti-state charges for poems critical of the Bahraini King. PEN calls for her immediate and unconditional release, and that of all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful expression of their views, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.

PEN Center USA strongly condemns the undemocratic treatment of Ayat Al-Gormezi and is committed to fighting her case. Please sign the petition below to show your support.

According to PEN’s information, Ayat Al-Gormezi, aged 20, was arrested on March 30, 2011 after reciting protest poems at a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, in which she criticized the monarchy and called for greater democracy. Ayat has become a symbol of resistence to repression and discrimination against the Shia population in Bahrain.

Ayat handed herself in after police raided her house and threatened her family. Her trial began on June 2, 2011 and she was sentenced on June 13, 2011 by a "special security tribunal" on anti-state charges including inciting hatred towards the regime. The trial did not comply with international standards of fairness. Her family have reportedly lodged an appeal. Al-Gormezi was reportedly hospitalized as a result of severe mistreatment in the weeks following her arrest, although according to her brother her treatment has now improved as a result of international attention to her case. An excerpt of Ayat's poetry follows:

We do not like to live in a palace
And we are not after power
And we are not after power
We are the people who
Break down humiliation
And discard oppression
With peace as our tool
We are people who
Do not want others to be living in the Dark Ages
(Translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi).

BACKGROUND

Protests led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community against the government’s policies have been underway since mid-February 2011. The Bahraini security forces of the current Sunni monarchy have responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators.

About 70% of Bahrain's population are Shiite, yet they face widespread discrimination by the Sunni regime and are blocked from holding top military or government posts. The regime and its Gulf Arab allies fear Shia power in Iran could become more influential in the wake of the unrest. In response, the Bahraini government declared a State of Emergency and on March 15, 2011, brought in troops from neighboring Gulf countries. Saudi Arabia, Iran's main regional rival, has been instrumental in suppressing the resistence.

The State of Emergency was lifted on June 3, but the detainees arrested under that law are still in detention, and the 1,500-strong Gulf forces are expected to remain in Bahrain indefinitely.

At least 31 people have been killed in the unrest in Bahrain, and over 500 people have been detained. According to this report from Amnesty, at least four people have died in custody under suspicious circumstances, and some 2,000 more people have been dismissed from their jobs as part of an ongoing purge of those who participated in the protests.

NEWS ON:

U.S. Involvement
- According to The Guardian, the U.S. has condemned the violence in Bahrain, but has stopped short of punitive measures against the rulers in one of Washington's military hubs in Bahrain.

-The U.S. has put Bahrain on list of human rights abusers. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has urged Bahrain to cease persecuting doctors who have treated the protesters.

Ayat's condition
- It was reported by Amnesty International that Ayat was beaten and tortured with electric shocks during her detainment. She has been allowed to see her family only twice since March.

- The Independent reports that she was held for nine days in a tiny cell with the temperature near freezing, and was forced to clean lavatories with her bare hands.

Targeting activists
- Bahrain has expanded its target to include health workers who have treated the activists fighting the Bahraini forces. Amnesty
fears that a prominent human rights lawyer "and many of the health workers have been detained solely for political reasons after they defended or treated pro-reform protesters and spoke out against the authorities in the media."

CALL TO ACTION
The WiPC recommends appeals:

  • Protesting the sentence handed down to poet and student Ayat Al-Gormezi, solely for the peaceful expression of her views;
  • Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain, including Ayat Al-Gormezi, in accordance with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Bahrain is a signatory.

Your names along with a letter of protest stating these appeals will be sent to the King of Bahrain and to the Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs. A copy will also be sent to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Washington, D.C.

His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O.Box 555
Rifa’a Palace
Kingdom of Bahrain.
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O.Box 450
Al-Manama
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284

The period for signing this petition is now over.