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Manama (GPA) – For years, Manama has endeavored global prestige and attempts at emerging as a democratic state despite its brutal repression of more than four thousand peaceful dissents. One of those is human rights advocate Zakia Al Barbouri who continues to rot in the notorious Isa Town women’s prison since 2018 when masked pro-regime militiamen accompanied by members violently raided her home in the village of Nuwaidrat.

Zakia was held incommunicado at a detention facility for weeks following her arrest.

In February 2011, tens of thousands of Bahrainis flocked into the streets demanding democracy, political reforms, fundamental freedoms, and an elected government that represents all Bahrainis be established. The repressive regime, however, has gone to great lengths to brutally crackdown against the peaceful protesters, murder dozens, and detain hundreds.

The government then declared a state of emergency and instituted martial law. In the ensuing years, it granted the National Security Agency exceptional powers to arrest and interrogate dissidents. In April 2017, it further empowered the military courts to try dissents, human rights defenders, journalists, pro-democracy advocates, and citizens accused of “terrorism” in a bid to silence any peaceful opposition.

Bahrain’s supreme court of appeals upheld Zakia’s five-year prison sentence. Meanwhile, the Court of Cassation stripped her citizenship after judging her guilty of “terrorism-related charges” based on confessions extracted under duress and torture. The authorities claimed at the time that the defendant was “transporting materials used in explosive devices to an alleged cell trained in Iraq.”

Bahrain’s Culture of Torture and Impunity Ramps Up

Such ludicrous fabricated charges are nothing but part of Manama’s heavy clampdown on political dissidents.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, rights activists and institutions have relentlessly called the government to address the prisons’ overcrowded, unhygienic, and unsanitary conditions which put over four thousand prisoners of conscience at greater risk of contracting the infection.

Meanwhile, Zakia is at risk of contracting COVID-19, whereby she can take no social distancing and hygiene measures. Her family thus raises grave concerns regarding her fate, calling activists to take action and demand Zakia’s immediate and unconditional release and for her arbitrary charges to be quashed.

Zakia, who has dedicated her youth to peaceful human rights activism, continues suffering today merely for dreaming of a free homeland. She has been viciously tortured and abused, yet her case is overshadowed by many who claim to advocate women’s rights across the world. Zakia is a victim of a totalitarian monarchy that continues to persecute any citizen, at home or abroad, who dares to critique it.

(Featured photo: Twitter)

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