Nabeel Rajab and His Family: 8 Years Passed So Far, Where Are They Now?
2019-03-29 - 11:08 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Adam Rajab, son of prominent Bahraini human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, gave an important testimony about the difficult conditions his father witnessed in Jaw Central Prison, his family's sufferings and how he was being targeted since 2011. Nabeel's freedom and reputation were targeted. He lives in very harsh conditions inside prison. His son was denied university education in Bahrain, his wife was dismissed from her job, his house was repeatedly raided and his daughter was intimidated by security forces.
Adam Nabeel Rajab spoke on the BBC Xtra program, aired by the BBC Arabic. Below is Adam's full testimony:
Did you visit him?
I studied law in Britain for 5 years and didn't return to Bahrain in the beginning for a long time, fearing harassment. I returned to Bahrain about a year ago and visited him in prison. Unfortunately, he didn't recognize me at first glance. I surprised him as I entered to see him, because he wasn't aware that I had returned to Bahrain. He totally opposed my return to Bahrain, as he feared that I would be targeted. He didn't recognize me a first because years have passed without him seeing me. I grew older and had a beard. I had been outside Bahrain for 3 years, during which he didn't see me; that's why he didn't recognize me. However, it was the best and most wonderful moment in my life.
Conditions of the Visit
My family in Bahrain visit my father twice a month, for only a half an hour. Time passes quickly, but the visit doesn't go by without smiles and laughs, despite the harsh conditions. Neither my father nor my family allow the prison to steal our smiles. We try to celebrate the simplest of things. For instance, my sister's birthday coincided with his visitation day, we celebrated and sang in front of the prison guards to show them that we are people of a cause, and that my father is a person of a cause, who demands human rights and never breaks down, and that this is how he spends his days, despite the hash situation and prison conditions.
The Trip Back: Dreadful Feeling
The trip to Jaw prison requires an hour and we only get a half hour visit. We eagerly go to sit with our father. Time flies, as if it was only 5 minutes, as if we only spoke a couple of words. The trip back is very dreadful and the visit is painful. You see your respectful 50-year-old father as he enters wearing the prison uniform, handcuffed and being led by a policeman who is not more than 16 or 17 years old, and who isn't even Bahraini. The foreign policeman brings your father in and keeps playing with the cuffs to agitate you. You then see him dragging your father again and handcuffing him. You walk away knowing that they will take your father to be searched before returning him to his prison cell. They will strip him of his clothes and search him in a degrading way, just to humiliate him and break him down.
Raids and Solitary Confinement
My father was arrested 5 times during that past 8 years. Perhaps we got accustomed to the security men raiding our house at night. They come in civilian clothes and others come in their military uniform with their faces masked and wielding their weapons. One time, my sister was sleeping and she suddenly saw masked people standing above her. She was horrified and she was only 9 years old at the time.
My father was placed in solitary confinement during his first 9 months of imprisonment, until his situation deteriorated. We were not allowed to visit him in his first month of imprisonment, but we knew that he was in isolation, in a very narrow cell. He wasn't allowed to see anyone. His situation worsened and he was transferred to the intensive care unit in the hospital. If that didn't happen, he wouldn't have left solitary confinement.
How Do You Explain his Suffering?
My father's situation inside prison requires us to fight to demand his rights as a prisoner. It is a difficult battle. It is easier for you to demand the release of a prisoner, because it is hard to explain to the world the suffering of a prisoner. The world does not live such an experience. You talk to people outside prison, and you tell them that the prisoner you talked about was prevented from receiving books, and that he is barred from writing as well, that he is forbidden to meet anyone, that he is held in solitary confinement for nine months, for example, and that he is imprisoned in a cell alone with foreigners who do not speak Arabic or even English. You do not find many who are aware of the extent of his suffering. They may think this is simple, as they do not know that a book in the prison cell is considered to be the prisoner's world and life. It is very harsh.
It is expected that the world will not be familiar with that suffering. The world can be affected by images of blood and torture, but talking about someone who is prevented from receiving books, someone who is forbidden to meet someone and placed in isolation, may not find the interest you aspire, so you will find it difficult to move the general public towards what you want, despite the great suffering the prisoners live in.
Targeting the Family
We, Nabeel Rajab's family, have been subjected to pressure in all its aspects. Since the beginning of the Arab Spring in 2011, a major campaign was launched against activists and human rights defenders accusing them of treason, most notably, my father. They portrayed him on state television as a sabotager, traitor and agent, and that this man wants to destroy the country and so on. I was young at that time; I was 13 years old, and my sister was 7. We were harassed at school. There were senior students who used to enter my class- I was in sixth grade- and raise up the photo of the king and prime minister and tell me: This is your uncle, this is your king, this is your source of pride, and accuse us of being agents of Iran and the west. This happened because of the inflammatory and defamation campaign led by the authorities in the Kingdom of Bahrain and state television. They painted a false picture of my father, depicting him as a criminal and traitor in the media. That's why we were subjected to a lot of harassment in school.
When I graduated from high school, I went to submit my papers at the University of Bahrain, the main public university in Bahrain, but I wasn't accepted. I asked them why I wasn't accepted and they told me because I didn't succeed in the interview. The interview was merely political, they did not ask me anything related to the academic field. They asked me about my father's situation, so I was clearly and directly targeted. My mother was also dismissed from her work in 2011 due to my father's activism. My entire family was targeted.
I spent two years studying in Britain, and then I came back to see my father despite his dissatisfaction and anxiety. Indeed, I was harassed after my return, prevented from travelling for a while, and subjected to interrogation and pressure.
My name is Adam Nabeel Rajab, which means that I am a resented person, even if I wasn't an activist and voiced no opposition. Only having Nabeel Rajab's name on my identity card was enough to make me a resented person, thus I was blacklisted, denied studying, work, and everything.
How Do You Face All This?
We only have our voice. We shout and scream on the top of our lungs, hoping maybe someone in this world will hear our voice. We tried locally inside Bahrain in all ways and we did not benefit from any of the local institutions, among the tasks of which should be such cases that they are supposed to deal with.
On the international level, global human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and even the United Nations and its bodies, have led great campaigns to defend my father. Many other organizations launched remarkable campaigns as well. We always contact them. We contact the European Parliament, the United Nations and all other parties concerned with human rights issues, perhaps something would happen. Our basic demand is to have my father released since he is unjustly imprisoned.
Nabeel Rajab's Situation Today
My father is held in Jaw Central prison, in an isolated cell. Jaw prison comprises approximately 4,000 Bahraini prisoners, all or most of whom are placed in cell blocks together. But my father may be the only Bahraini prisoner, or the only political prisoner who was placed in a prison isolated from all political prisoners and all Bahraini prisoners.
My father is held in a 3 by 3-meter cell, with nine other inmates. The place is very narrow, my father says it is so difficult to even breathe in this cell. He tells me: I cannot move from my place, and at bedtime sometimes I step on some of the sleeping prisoners so I would be able to pass.
All the prisoners with him are foreigners, from east asian countries. They were brought to work in prostitution in Bahrain due to their need for money. All of them speak neither Arabic nor English. Hence, my father has been deliberately left in isolation and in difficult circumstances just to break and humiliate him. They don't allow him to read or write, and he remains 22 hours a day trapped inside that cell.
What is Your Main Demand?
Our main demand is releasing my father, because he is a man who struggled for human rights and fought for justice and liberties. We demand his release because he doesn't belong in prison, he belongs to his human rights work, the international community and the world, not inside prison.
If they do not release him, we call for the improvement of his prison conditions. Imprisonment is usually for the rehabilitation of the offender. However, it is totally different in Bahrain. My father is being held in Jaw prison, which is called a reform and rehabilitation center, yet he is banned from reading and writing, so what do they mean by rehabilitation?!
We demand that he receives rights, and allowed to live decently in prison, why is he being retaliated against?
What Should be Done Now?
We have to continue to fight for him. This burden has been on our shoulders from the first day my father entered prison, and it will remain on our shoulders until he is released. We work as much as we can. We've tried to reach everyone who could have helped us release our father. We have done everything we can do. We went everywhere. We went to the United Nations and its bodies, and we spoke in the European Parliament and every place we could reach, we went and spoke of my father's case.
My father is unjustly imprisoned, so every night when I go to sleep, I remember that my beloved father is in prison, and that makes me feel oppressed.
Have You Ever Wished He Were an Ordinary Person?
I wish that the situation in Bahrain gets better. I wish there was a space for my father to work for human rights. My father didn't become a human rights defender for no reason. He became one because there are reasons for that and problems in Bahrain that need to be solved. Thus, he took an initiative to help.
I hope the situation will be reformed in Bahrain and I hope to see human rights respected in the country. I wish to see human beings respected and I wish justice for everyone. Of course, I hope to see my father among us, to travel and live with him. He has been in prison for almost 5 years and still has 5 other years to spend in prison as well.
I graduated from school while he was in prison and I will graduate from university while he is still behind bars. I still miss seeing him. Years have passed without living with my father.
I wish he was among us, but I also understand his struggle for human rights and admit its worth. I see how people in Bahrain now have human rights awareness. This was spread among us youths thanks to my father and other human rights activists. Terms like freedom of expression or right to self-determination were not understood 10 years ago, but today all Bahraini youths talk about freedom of expression, thanks to these activists who spread this human rights awareness among people.
The Reform Path
My father's path is that of reform, and it is not limited to the field of human rights. My father taught us that life is useless if it is not for the service of mankind. Any way through which we can serve people is a good path, whether in the field of human rights or any other field.
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