For some days there has been no news of imprisoned Bahraini human rights activist and opposition leader Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, who has been on hunger strike since February 8. It is feared that Alkhawaja, who was sentenced last year to life imprisonment and has reportedly been subjected to physical and sexual torture in detention, is now either being force-fed or is in a critical state.
On February 8, Alkhawaja started a hunger strike and made it clear that he would not stop until he was released. According to his family, he has been preparing them to accept his death. Since April 23 Alkhawaja's family have had no news about him, and requests for visits have been denied by the authorities. Concern is growing, and thousands have been tweeting on the hashtag #WhereIsAlKhawaja, demanding an immediate answer from the government. Human rights organisations around the world, including Front Line Defenders, have joined the calls for information about Alkhawaja.
Khadija's tweets of love
Khadija Almousawi, Alkhawaja's wife, has been using her Twitter account (@tublani2010) to send messages addressed to her husband. In one tweet she mentioned her daughter Zainab, who tweets as @angryarabiya and is currently in detention after a one-woman demonstration for her father:
@tublani2010: Dear Hadi, Today we did not need to expand our dinning table. the family has shrunk. Zainab is in jail. Ur absent and missing too.
In other tweets she said:
@tublani2010: Dear Hadi, I hear officials telling me that u r ok. But i need to hear it from u. U never lie. They always do. Why cant u call me?
@tublani2010: Dear Husband: U continue ur fight for freedom from ur bed in where ever u r. If ur still here.
@tublani2010: Dear Hadi, I stand by u 100% and I will keep supporting u 100%, I just miss u. Miss ur smile, Miss ur kindness
Many Bahrainis have expressed their fears about the status of Alkhawaja, even those such as blogger Suhail Algosaibi who has previously debated Zainab Alkhawaja:
@SuhailAlgosaibi: If Abdulhadi passes away it will be a disaster in #bahrain. #WhereIsAlKhawaja
Bahraini cartoonist Ali Al Bazzaz has created a number of works about Alkhawaja and the one below, showing Alkhawaja with Gandhi and Mandela, has been retweeted widely.
Maryam Alkhawaja, another of Abdulhadi's daughters who is living in exile, has expressed her fear that her father is either in a critical state or is being force-fed. She said, “I know that my father is not going to willingly drink or eat anything so if they are giving him anything it is by force.”
The debate over Alkhawaja's situation has been fueled by a recent interview with Bahrain's prime minister. He called the protesters in Bahrain terrorists, asserted that he would not tolerate Western interference in Bahrain's affairs, and said that Alkhawaja is fine and taking liquids.