Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the 50-year-old Bahraini human rights activist who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months, may be edging toward death. His family and lawyer are telling the press the human rights activist is at risk of cardiac arrest or slipping into a coma. Al-Khawaja received a life sentence in June 2011 for charges of trying to overthrow the Khalifa monarchy.

His latest hunger strike – which began on February 8, 2012 – is his fourth in eight months. Supporters of Al-Khawaja, which include human rights defenders both inside and outside Bahrain say he is innocent and should be freed. Scores of Bahrainis have taken to the streets and are highlighting his plight in the wake of the decision to hold the Formula One Grand Prix, scheduled to be held in the country on April 22. Critics say he has bred insurrection and if he should he die in the prison hospital of his own accord, so be it.

So our question to you today is if Al-Khawaja dies, who is to blame?

At death’s door?

According to most recent reports, Al-Khawaja is in “critical condition” or in “excellent health” depending on the sources. Al-Khawaja’s lawyer Mohammed Al-Jishi spoke to Reuters and said that he visited his client in the hospital last week and that his weight had dropped by 10 kg (22 pounds). He also said he was being fed through an intravenous drip.

A photo from Al-Jishi has been circulated in the past few days which depicted Al-Khawaja as emaciated on a hospital bed. Al-Jishi says he also spoke to Al-Khawaja by phone over the weekend and said he sounded “exhausted” and indicated he was planning to stop drinking water to escalate his strike.

Meanwhile, the Bahrain State News Agency has since reported that Al-Khawaja had been transferred to a military hospital in the past few days and is in “good condition.” Bahraini Attorney General Abdelrahman al-Sayed said an international duo of doctors conducted an examination and have confirmed he is in “good condition and shows cooperation with doctors.”

In March, Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Al-Khawaja citing his deteriorating health and reiterated that request this week. Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt also said this week her government is pressing the Bahraini authorities to let Al-Khawaja go for medical reasons so he might receive treatment (Al-Khawaja also holds Danish citizenship).

Violence on rise ahead of Formula One

Following anti-government protests in February and March of 2011, incidents of violence and confrontation have persisted throughout the past year, but appear on the rise again, according to video and images coming out of the country through social media (see Lulu Live).

Youth regularly confront police in Bahraini suburbs with stones and Molotov cocktails. Many Bahrainis blame Al-Khawaja, his daughters Maryam and Zeinab, and the Shi’a-affiliated Al-Wefaq Islamic Society for creating an environment that breeds violent insurrection (in its appeal, Amnesty International notes that Al-Khawaja has not advocated any violence since protests began in February of last year).

This week, the Associated Press reported that some businesses have become victims of vandalism by Sunni mobs wielding metal rods and sticks targeting Shi’a neighborhoods in reprisal for calls for political change. AP also reported that an explosion in the rural village of Akar resulted in the injury of seven police officers, according to the Bahraini Interior Ministry. While skirmishes between youth and security have become increasingly common, the use of full-fledged explosive devices has been rare in Bahrain.

Meanwhile, peaceful protesters appear ready to step up their civil disobedience ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix, which was canceled in 2011 due to political tensions in the island kingdom. More and more Formula One officials, observers and competitors are voicing concern about proceeding with the sporting event as scheduled. On Twitter, hashtags like #bloodyF1 are starting to trend. And should Al-Khawaja die in the next few days, the movement may gain an internationally recognized martyr figure which, observers say, may only strengthen the resolve of Bahrainis seeking broader political rights.

We are using social media to report on the protests in Bahrain regarding the Formula One race and the deteriorating health of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja. We invite you to submit your video and photos of Al-Khawaja and F1 protests to LULU LIVE – our microsite dedicated to the protests and political undercurrents taking place in Bahrain. Use the #LULULIVE hashtag on Twitter to alert us to your photos and videos.

If Bahrain’s Abdulhadi Alkhawaja dies, who is to blame? Part of the Bahrain coverage on MiddleEastVoices.com

If Bahrain’s Abdulhadi Alkhawaja dies, who is to blame? Part of the Bahrain coverage on MiddleEastVoices.com

 

 If Bahrain's Al Khawaja Dies From Hunger Strike, Who Is to Blame?

Davin Hutchins

Davin Hutchins is Consulting Editor of Middle East Voices. Hutchins brings 17 years of journalism experience to VOA after working with media organizations such as CNN, Tech TV, Huffington Post and PBS. He specializes in news, documentaries and new media with an emphasis on international social issues, media training and online delivery platforms. Hutchins lived five years in the Middle East and covers the dynamic changes that have been triggered by the Arab Spring.

  • Pingback: Poll on Who to Blame « The Bahrain Pulse

  • Pingback: Formula One Grand Prix Is On, Bahrain Protesters React | Middle East Voices | Arab Spring News

  • Ebrahim83

    good evening all
    I personally will blame mainly all the royal family and the government’s suupporters such usa, uk, s.a, and those terrorist in bahrain (al-qaedah) who like to see the shia being killed everyday exactly what is happening in iraq.
    we are hoping our creator to help us and support us to gain our humanity, dignity and our human rights.
    Ebrahim

  • Ebrahim83

    good evening all
    I personally will blame mainly all the royal family and the government’s suupporters such usa, uk, s.a, and those terrorist in bahrain (al-qaedah) who like to see the shia being killed everyday exactly what is happening in iraq.
    we are hoping our creator to help us and support us to gain our humanity, dignity and our human rights.
    Ebrahim