Arab Spring in Bahrain didn’t make remarkable achievements, but the scars are still visible in moves like hunger strike. Ebrahim Sharif still remembers witnessing blood on the jail’s walls right after participating in Bahraini protests.
Wa’ad party was hauled up along with other opposition activists and prosecuted and jailed by the military judiciary.
The opposition head and other participants in the large-scale demonstrations in support of democracy were moved to the regular prison system shortly after an independent investigation was conducted, and only then did the physical abuse cease.
For many years, conditions within these jails were significantly improved. During the daylight time, inmates were allowed to get out of their confines to go to the mosque for prayer, visit the library, or play outside. But once a riot started in 2015, things became worse.
Almost ten years later, inmates can spend up to 23 hours every day in their jail cells. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy claims that the prisoners have no opportunity for education and health services. Many of them have been incarcerated since 2011; some of them are being placed in solitary confinement for long months or years.
Since earlier days of the current month, Over 800 inmates have been participating in the country’s greatest-ever hunger strike in protest against the prison’s continuously deteriorating living circumstances. Several of the striking political inmates are housed in the Jau Reformation and Rehabilitation Centre, its biggest jail in the country.
Families of the detainees have also protested in the streets by calling for the freedom of their relatives.
After three weeks of hunger strike, Bahraini officials talked with reform-focused campaign organizations yesterday. Prisoners, however, claim that these measures do nothing to allay their worries, and as a result, they have pledged to keep up with their strike.
Unprecedented Hunger Strike
The resentment over this injustice is no longer an issue only behind the jail walls. This is now a concern across the country. Sharif was lucky to not have served over five and a half years in jail, while so many other prisoners have received life terms.
One of them is Abdulhadi, a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. Alwadaei refers to him as the “godfather” of the Bahraini human rights struggle.
Considering the total number of strikers increasing by two times since it started three weeks ago, these strikes have gained traction. Based on a list of inmates on hunger strike put up by BIRD and checked by independent sources, there are presently 804 convicts participating in the strike.
The administration’s talks with advocacy organizations on Monday did little to end the hunger strike in Bahraini prisons.
Advocates were received by Interior Minister General Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa. The head of the Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission and the president of the National Institution for Human Rights were among those in the meeting.
Al Khalifa claimed in the meeting that “the ongoing cooperation between the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Education in providing educational programs and services to inmates.”
At the discussion, it was addressed how to improve the present visiting system and provide health care for prisoners. Among the other considerations was extending the daily permitted outside time that is currently only one hour.
The United States, a partner of Bahrain in the Middle East, has expressed worries over the strike. A spokesperson for the department noted earlier in August that the country was “aware of and concerned about reports of this hunger strike.”