Mohammad Sultan: Empty Stomachs and a King Leading Us to the Abyss

2019-08-24 - 2:04 am

Hundreds of prisoners of conscience in Bahrain have launched a hunger strike since August 18, 2019, protesting against the inhumane treatment which violates the most basic international standards for the treatment of prisoners.

This is not the first strike of its kind in Bahraini prisons. However, it is gaining momentum as it expanded after starting off with only 15 prisoners. Hundreds of prisoners find that the hunger strike battle would return to them some of their lost basic rights.

Hunger strikers in Jaw and Dry Dock prisons are protesting the deteriorating conditions behind bars. They are forced to drink water in emptied detergent bottles due to lack of cups, eat meals on nylon bags instead of plates, and sleep in turns because there is not enough space.

5,000 prisoners of conscience, along with other inmates on criminal charges, are being piled up in small prison cells. They live in an indescribable environment which is not suitable for humans, to the extent that some of them resort to putting away their stool in plastic bags due to the flooding of the sewage.

The hunger strike expanded to put an end to the deteriorating conditions, denial of treatment, and exposure of the prisoners' lives to danger. Prisoners tell their families that they are not allowed to see doctors when they need to. Some also say that they had to pull out their teeth inside their call after they were prevented to see a physician.

Despite previous harsh experiences with the authorities, they should be called on to act wisely as the news reported on the use of force to put an end to the hunger strike will only worsen the situation. As human rights activists, we call on the authorities in Bahrain to resolve this issue without losses in lives and to ensure that the hunger strikers receive the appropriate care and respect for their dignity and humanity.

Human rights organizations in Bahrain continue to find that allowing concerned UN rapporteurs to visit prisons is a guarantee that Bahrain will respect its international obligations to prisoners, but the repeated refusal by the authorities indicates that they are violating those obligations and insisting on ill-treatment of prisoners.

Allowing the National Institute for Human Rights (a governmental body) to visit prisoners is not enough to reassure the inmates' families, who have been living since days in a state of anxiety and fear over the fate of their children, as the institute is not accepted by these families or local and international human rights organizations.

It is time to allow UN special rapporteurs and the Red Cross to visit the prisons to play their role in providing doctors to evaluate the health condition of the strikers and make sure that they receive adequate care consistent with the technical and ethical standards in place in this field.

I find nothing but to express solidarity with the prisoners and voice concern for their lives. As for the authorities in Bahrain, shame will befall them in case they decide to use force in dealing with strikers or leave them to die out of hunger.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa seems to be responsible for everything that happens to prisoners since he's the head of the executive and judicial authorities. If he doesn't have the courage to correct the path, he must not make matters worse either by killing prisoners by firing squads or other times by hunger, leading the country to the abyss.

*Member of Salam Organization for Human Rights