PEN International protests the detention of blogger and activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested on December 15, 2011, for her participation in a peaceful protest. She is feared to be at risk of ill-treatment in detention. Zainab is the daughter of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is serving a life sentence for his peaceful opposition activities. PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain for the peaceful exercise of their opinions, including Zainab Al-Khawaja, and seeks immediate guarantees of her safety. It reminds the Bahraini authorities of their obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory.

Background Information

Al-Jazeera gives the following information:

Police in Bahrain have arrested human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, as security forces clashed with protesters attempting to march along a highway leading to Manama, the Gulf kingdom's capital. A source at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told Al Jazeera that she would be detained for seven days. Al-Khawaja, daughter of a prominent opposition leader, and several other women were holding a sit-in in Budaiya roundabout on Thursday.

Photographs and video footage circulated by activists showed a female police officer handcuffing and dragging al-Khawaja.

Tear gas and stun grenades were also used to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters near the town of Diraz and other opposition stronghold villages west of the capital.

Riot police were seen chasing protesters away from entrances to the key highway and back into the largely Shia Muslim communities that line the road…

The clashes follow 10 months of unrest between Bahrain's Sunni monarchy and an opposition movement led by the country's majority Shia…
More than 35 people have died in clashes and protest-related violence since February, inspired by other Arab Spring revolts.

For further information, see the blog post written by Sara Yasin for INDEX on Censorship.

Protests led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community against the government’s policies have been underway since mid-February 2011. The Bahraini security forces responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians were reportedly killed and many more wounded. The Bahraini government declared a State of Emergency on March 15, 2011, and brought in troops from neighboring Gulf countries including Saudi Arabia to help suppress dissent. The State of Emergency was lifted on June 3, 2011, but those arrested and charged under that law have not been released. Opposition sources estimate that some 400 people are currently on trial for their support of the protests, and further arrests and demonstrations are continuing. An inquiry by an international panel of human rights experts found police had used excessive force and King Hamad has pledged reforms.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the arrest of blogger and activist Zainab Al-Khawaja solely for peacefully exercising her right to free expression;
  • Seeking assurances that she is not ill-treated while detained;
  • Urging the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all those currently detained in Bahrain solely for the peaceful expression their opinions, including Zainab Al-Khawaja.

Send Your Letter To

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
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O.Box 450
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Dr. Fatima AL-Balushi
Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Acting Minister of Health
Ministry of Human Rights and Development
Kingdom of Bahrain

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in your country if possible.

Please send appeals immediately. Contact PEN if sending appeals after December 31, 2011: ftw [at]