I stand before you today as a living example of the price paid by anyone practicing freedom of speech in Bahrain.
Before 1 year, 2 months and 4 days I left Bahrain. I know it exactly because I count by the day. When I was packing to leave, everyone (including myself) thought it was temporary: weeks or a few months. Only my mother, because of the sense of motherhood, knew that I will be gone for a long time. That’s why she hugged me tightly and said: You are my eyes; from this day onwards, I would be blind.
My mother preferred to live “without her sight” rather than me losing my life or getting arrested and tortured, as what happened with my own sister who was kidnapped at dawn, detained, tortured and forced to confess to fabricated charges. Her only crime was performing her job and treating injured demonstrators.
I am a journalist. I got terminated from four jobs in 2 days. I was black-listed so that I would not be hired anywhere. My house was attacked 3 times with Molotov cocktails. During the first few months after February 14, I used to wake up to letters of threats and sleep on insults because my phone numbers, home address, and ID numbers were published in pro-government websites and a member of the ruling family threatened me on his Twitter account, and I quote, "Cut me in half". I was also threatened, and I quote again “to be taken to the grave” by an X-colonel . They even started rumors targeting my manners and chastity to avenge and harm me.
My only crime was that I did my job and did not accept to become a false witness, and I did not accept being manipulated to say only what the authorities intended me to say, as what happened with my colleagues who gave up their morals for rewards and high-ranking posts while those who adhered to the rights of people deserved abuse and intimidation. Certainly, I am not the only victim. Every Bahraini citizen who stood against the regime paid a price in the form of detention, torture, job termination, denial of services and scholarships, and some people even lost their lives as a price for opposing the regime.
Recently, the government enacted a law to imprison anyone condemning the King up to 5 years with a fine of around 40 thousand dollars. Lately, the government began a campaign to monitor the activists on social media, who sought cyberspace to express themselves freely, and threatened to sue them for that. The regime already dismissed thousands from their study and work, investigated and arrested lots of youth because of something they wrote or recapped on social media and we do not know what step might be taken further to suppress any opinion that expose the regime.
I do not know what to say. My words stumble before the amount of suffering I see in my country. I know one thing for sure: that the world does not care about what is happening to us and that everyone intentionally turns their back on our daily suffering. In conclusion, please let me ask you: don’t we have the right to live like others, like yourselves, or are we a different type of human beings? We do not demand more than our right for justice and democracy, our right for dignity to live as citizens not as slaves, and our right to say what we witness and think without putting our lives or future at stake. Since you call for democracy, why don’t you help us achieve it?