For 3rd Year in a Row, My Mother will Celebrate her Birthday from a Prison Cell in Bahrain: Duaa Alwadaei
2019-04-10 - 1:17 am
Bahrain Mirror: Today is my mother's birthday. Like every mother, she would love to spend it surrounded by her family and friends. However, for the third year running, my mother will spend her birthday in a cell in Bahrain's notorious Isa Town Prison, in which she is confined for 23 hours a day, said Duaa Alwadaei.
In an article published in The Independent, Alwadaei stressed that her mother, Hajer Mansoor, is not a criminal. "She has committed no crime. She has been imprisoned, along with my brother and cousin, in response to the human rights campaigning of my husband, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a refugee in Britain."
The United Nations and several international human rights groups have condemned her incarceration as an act of reprisal, she added.
Their ordeal began over three years ago, while she was on a short visit to Bahrain. On 26 October 2016, her husband protested in London against the visit of Bahrain's King Hamad to 10 Downing Street.
"Hours later, as I was passing through airport security on my return to London, I was pulled aside by officers and subjected to a humiliating search. They snatched my 18-month old son from my arms and dragged me to a lift, from where I was escorted to a gruelling seven hour interrogation," she explained.
She recounts that in the interrogation room, a chain-smoking security officer promised to hunt down her husband, whom he referred to as "an animal". He taunted her, asking: "Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?" He warned me that if I spoke out about my experience they would throw me in jail on fabricated charges.
"My mother was horrified when I called her to pick me up from the airport. A few days after The Sunday Times ran a headline stating ‘Bahrain ‘terrorises' refugee's family', I was finally allowed to leave the country. That was the last time I saw her. I thought the ordeal was over. Little did I know, they would follow through on all their promises."
She goes on to say that a few months later, the police came for her mother, her brother and her cousin. All three were subjected to violent interrogations and sentenced on fabricated charges. Hajer was forced to stand until she collapsed, requiring hospital treatment.
"My brother, Nizar, who was just 18 at the time, was deprived of sleep for two days, stripped naked and threatened with rape. Human Rights Watch described their trial as "marred by due process violations and allegations of ill treatment and coerced confessions". Since her arrest on 5 March 2017, my mother has remained in Isa Town Prison."
Alwadaei stressed that she cannot explain the pain of knowing that her mother, the inspiring matriarch who showered love and kindness upon everyone she met, now languishes behind bars, away from her family and friends, adding that she cannot express her horror when her mother begged her forgiveness should she not make it out of prison alive. "I cannot describe the sleepless nights I've had since my mother informed me that prison authorities were refusing to take her to hospital after she discovered a lump in her breast that could be cancerous."
This birthday is particularly lonely for Hajer, she noted. "Last September, after her case was raised by British parliamentarians, my mother was violently assaulted by prison guards, led by the head of Isa Town Prison, lieutenant colonel Mariam Albardoli."
Since that day, restrictions have been imposed on family visitation meaning that her 90-year-old grandmother will no longer be able to hug her daughter but will be forced to speak to her through a telephone while separated by a glass barrier. "As this would break my mother's heart, she has not seen her family for over six months. For the first time, she will spend her birthday alone."
She expressed that her husband's activism has not only affected her family in Bahrain. In 2015, the Bahraini government stripped her husband of his citizenship. Last year, she was sentenced in absentia for supposedly insulting a police officer at the airport. Consequently, they can never return to visit their family in Bahrain.
"My husband and I now live in precarious legal limbo. In July 2017, we applied for indefinite leave to remain. Almost two years later, the Home Office continues to delay our application, with devastating consequences for our family."
Alwadaei highlighted that in November of 2017, she gave birth to a baby girl in St Mary's hospital in London. However, as Bahrain prevents women from passing citizenship onto their children, her daughter was born as a stateless child and remains so to this today.
"The uncertainty is becoming increasingly unbearable. I feel deserted by Sajid Javid and the Home Office, who have done nothing to secure our residency and end our daughter's statelessness, despite Britain's international legal obligations. I feel abandoned by foreign office ministers, who have visited Bahrain repeatedly, yet failed to advocate for my family's freedom."
Duaa Alwadaei went on to say that she longs to be able to spend her mother's birthday with her, but if she travels to Bahrain, she is sure they will end up sharing a cell. Her mother has never met her granddaughter.Yet every morning, when she greets her beautiful baby, she says, she is proudly reminded of her refusal to give up.
"I named my daughter after the woman who inspires me the most. I named her Hajer."
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