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Bahraini Activist Maryam Al Khawaja Denied Entry to Her Country, Goes On Hunger Strike

Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja has been denied entry to her country – and has gone on a hunger strike at the airport.  Photo by:  Julia Reinhart. Copyright: Demotix

Bahraini human rights activist Maryam Al Khawaja has been denied entry to her country – and has gone on a hunger strike at the airport. Photo by: Julia Reinhart. Copyright: Demotix

Maryam Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini citizen and the Co-Director of the Gulf Center For Human Rights, was denied entry to her country today [August 30, 2014].

According to the organisation, she was planning to visit her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is in prison and on his sixth day of a hunger strike. Her father was jailed during the harsh government crackdown which followed pro-democracy protests which swept Bahrain, starting on February 14, 2011. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. This is his second hunger strike. His first lasted for 110 days and ended after he was force-fed by authorities.

After the authorities detained Maryam Al-Khawaja on unknown charges and confiscated her Danish passport (she holds both Danish and Bahraini citizenships), she announced on Twitter that she would go on hunger strike:

She will be facing trial on August 31, someone close to the Al-Khawaja family is now updating her Twitter account:

The latest update on her account, at the time of writing this post, reads:

It is not clear when Maryam Al-Khawaja stopped tweeting in person but the Gulf Center For Human Rights’ website confirms the hunger strike:

Maryam Al-Khawaja having witnessed on her arrival that her rights have been violated by authorities in Bahrain declared:
“I have decided to launch a water-only hunger strike and to refuse to leave the Bahraini airport. I will continue the hunger strike until I am allowed in to Bahrain to see my father. I want to make it clear that I refuse any and all food or treatment during my hunger strike.”
Latest reports received by the GCHR suggested that Maryam Al-Khawaja is refusing to leave Bahrain voluntarily. However, authorities are insisting that they will deport her in a clear violation of international human rights law.
The GCHR condemns both — not giving Maryam Al-Khawaja entry to her country Bahrain and also her detention at the Bahrain International Airport. The GCHR believes that this forms part of an ongoing trend of systematic targeting of human rights defenders by the government of Bahrain.

Al-Khawaja will be taken to court tomorrow [August 31]. Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab alerted Danish Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard:

Lotte Leicht, the European Union advocacy director and director of Human Rights Watch's Brussels Office, asked if Denmark would assist Al-Khawaja:

This is not the first time Al-Khawaja is denied entry to Bahrain. Last year, she was prevented from boarding a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to Manama by the airlines staff. Since a popular uprising in 2011 to demand greater civil and political rights, the government has been violently cracking on political dissidents. This includes monitoring online activities, arbitrary detention, torture, and stripping Bahrainis of their citizenship.

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