Poet and Writer Arrested; Fears for Safety
PEN International is deeply concerned about the arrests of poet and student Ayat Al-Gormezi (f), and writer and journalist Abbas Al- Murshid, who have been held since March 30 and May 15, 2011, respectively. They are believed to be detained for their peaceful dissident activities and have reportedly been tortured in detention. PEN calls for their immediate and unconditional release and seeks urgent guarantees of their 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 state party.
According to PEN’s information, Ayat Al-Gormezi, 20, was arrested on March 30, 2011, after reading a poem at a pro-democracy rally in Pearl Square in which she criticized the ruling family and asked for transparency. She was forced to turn herself in when masked police threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so. She has not been seen since her arrest, although her mother spoke to her once by telephone 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.
Al-Gormezi appeared on June 2, 2011, before a military tribunal in Manama on charges of "insulting the king, taking part in banned gatherings, and spreading false information." The trial has been adjourned until June 12, 2011, when a verdict is expected to be delivered. She is the first woman to go on trial following the unrest and it is feared she will face a heavy prison term if convicted.
Abbas Al-Murshid, a well-known Bahraini writer and researcher, and a frequent contributor to the Bahraini daily Al-Waqt as well as numerous online publications, has written about Bahrain's social unrest, corruption, institutional discrimination and other topics considered sensitive by the government. On May 15, 2011, he was summoned to appear at Al-Naeim police station for interrogation and has not been seen since. No charges have yet been made against Al-Murshid.
On May 16, 2011, he called his family to tell them that he had been placed under arrest and then the line was disconnected. Al-Murshid has been previously arrested on several occasions in relation to his writing and many of his books have been banned in Bahrain. At the end of January 2009, Al-Murshid was hit above his eye with a rubber bullet in a targeted attack and as a result he had to be admitted to the hospital.
Protests led by Bahrain’s majority Shia community against the government’s policies have been underway since mid-February 2011. The Bahraini security forces have responded with excessive force, using tear gas and live bullets to disperse demonstrators. Dozens of civilians have reportedly been 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 the detainees arrested under that law are still in detention.
An exerpt of Ayat al-Gormezi’s poem follows, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi:
We do not like to live in a palace
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
Write A Letter
- Expressing serious concern about the arrest of Ayat Al-Gormezi and Abbas Al-Murshid;
- Calling for their immediate and unconditional release;
- Urging the Bahraini government to drop any charges against Ayat al-Gormezi that may infringe her right to freedom of expression;
- Seeking immediate guarantees that they are not tortured or ill-treated in detention;
- Urging the Bahraini authorities to abide by their obligations under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and to end the violent crackdown on those who are peacefully expressing their opinions.
Send Your Letter To
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
King of Bahrain
Office of His Majesty the King
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
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284
Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Bahrain in your country if possible.
Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN if sending appeals after June 30, 2011: ftw [at] pen.orgbah