The Al Khawaja family has found itself at the forefront of protests in Bahrain, ever since the so-called Arab Spring made its way to the tiny island- kingdom on February 14, 2011.
Prominent human rights activist Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja is currently in prison, serving a life sentence for his role in the protests.
Turning to social media, his daughters Maryam, aged 27, and Zainab Al Khawaja, aged 31, became vocal on Twitter, sharing their story and what was happening in their country to thousands of followers across the world. With 102K and 48.8K followers on Twitter respectively, Maryam and Zainab have been constantly badgered by the authorities for speaking up.
Zainab is currently in prison for tearing up the King's photograph in court. Maryam had to leave Bahrain after being detained at the airport when she tried to visit her father. After Maryam was arrested at the airport, she was accused of hitting a member of the police force. Maryam denies the charges. In detention, she started a hunger strike. She was released from jail on September 19 and has since left the country. Her father remains in prison. Maryam is the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights.
In this episode of GV Face, we speak to Maryam Al Khawaja.
Bahrain is now in the third year of its crackdown on a popular uprising. International media reports the protests in Bahrain as a Shia-led revolution against a Sunni regime. While many may see that there is nothing wrong with this description, it is simplistic and doesn’t capture what is happening on the ground. It fails to acknowledge that Bahrainis who rose against the regime did not do so because they were Shia and the regime was Sunni.
We talk to Maryam Al Khawaja about the role sectarianism plays in Bahrain and how that affects the movement. Who is the victim and who is the perpetrator of sectarianism? How does systematic sectarian oppression work in Bahrain? And why is the Bahrain uprising tainted as sectarian?