By Tine Danckaers, Mondiaal Magazine.
In February 2011, tens of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets to protest against the tiny country's ruling al-Khalifa family. Protesters camped out on the capital's Pearl Roundabout for a month, until security forces violently put an end to the protests. Demonstrators were arrested, activists persecuted, doctors who helped the wounded terrorized. Belgian journalist Tine Danckaers traveled to the Gulf state in November 2011. HuffPost World has published the testimonies of some of the Bahrainis she interviewed.
Twenty-two-year-old Mohammed Abdulhadi al-Shakar has been confined to a Bahraini prison since September 16, 2011. He doesn’t understand why. Nor does he understand why his brother hasn’t come yet to pick him up. Al-Shaker is mentally disabled. We talked to his brother and aunt in October.
Al-Shaker had been arrested once before, in September. He had joined some guys who went demonstrating and was picked up when the riot police entered the village.
“The next day, we got a phone call from the police explaining where he was imprisoned,” Mohammed’s aunt says. She describes her nephew as an unstoppable boy, who loves to join boys meeting outside. “We can’t control him,” she says. “Mohammed is unable to act independent, which has been established in a medical report issued by the Ministry of Health.”
That first time, Mohammed was released after spending two days in a police prison. “He clearly had been beaten, his eye was red and swollen,” his brother says.
Two weeks later, the scenario was repeated. “Mohammed went to the funeral of a martyr in Sitra (a nearby village) on September 16,” his aunt remembers. “The last thing we heard before he disappeared, was that he had run into a house. For three days, we didn’t know where he was, whether he was arrested or was hiding somewhere. Then we got a phone call from the police saying that Mohammed had been arrested again. Two weeks later he received permission to call us. It was a very short call, enough to know he was so scared.”
“We went to the prison to see him every day after this call. They refused us every time. His medical report was not accepted.”
Al-Shaker’s family received permission to see him one week later.
“Mohammed only looked at the policeman, not at me,” his brother says. “We got to see him for 10 minutes. He wouldn’t talk. His mental state had deteriorated enormously. Mohammed is very afraid when he is alone. So he keeps asking us why we can’t take him home. We can’t even give him an answer he would understand.”
“Are they targeting a mentally disabled boy because he is an easy victim?” his aunt asks. “We really don’t get it. Of course Mohammed is not politically active, that is absurd. He follows everyone around and does what people ask him to do.”
“Despite all this suffering, we support the revolution,” Mohammed's aunt adds when we ask her whether she wants the protests to continue. “We don’t want to repeat the silence of our mothers and fathers. I understand that every generation has to deal with its own time spirit and the will linked to it. But enough is enough. We can’t stop protesting, we have to stay strong and continue, demanding our rights.”