Ali on hunger strike to highlight his father’s imprisonment in Bahrain

28th Sep 2018
Ali on hunger strike  to highlight his  father’s imprisonment in Bahrain

Ali Mushaima and Zainab Al-Khawaja in front of the Bahrain Embassy in London (Photo: Ahmed J Versi)

Aqila Mumthaz

In front of the Bahrain Embassy in London, lies a man on a makeshift bed, surrounded by hot water bottles, a blanket to keep warm at night and only drinks water. His name is Ali, and he hasn’t eaten since August 1. Ali is on a hunger strike is to highlight the imprisonment of his father, Hassan Mushaima, a political opposition leader, in Bahrain.

He plans to continue his hunger strike until the Bahraini Government meets his demands to provide his 70-year-old, prisoner of conscience father with a few basic needs: access to cancer scans – as he’s recovering from lymphoma -, family visitation rights and access to books.

He started his hunger strike after trying all avenues. “I tried different ways, and I contacted different human rights organizations here, I wrote letters to MP’s,” but nothing happened, Ali told The Muslim News. Hassan was imprisoned with 12 other political activists in March 2011 protesting for liberty and democracy. He was tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Hassan is being denied access to his most basic rights, including medical assistance, while in Jau prison, a detention centre that in July 2018 was criticised by the United Nations for its inhumane conditions. He hasn’t had scans for cancer since September 2016, denied family visitations since February 2017 and had his books and writing materials confiscated in October 2017.

Ali escaped arrest because he was in the UK in 2011. After he began the hunger strike Ali said there has seen a change in his father’s treatment.

“On my 9th day of hunger strike they gave him his medicine. On my 27th day, they took him for a cancer scan, we are still waiting for the results. He still needs to see a specialist for diabetes. There is no progress for the family visit or books” he said.

During our interview with Ali earlier this month, the toll of the hunger strike on his body and mind had taken a toll.
His has back pains, stomach ache, is weak and has lost 15kg and was hospitalized a week earlier when he was given a drip of glucose and vitamins. “I am doing this to save my father,” he said.

Foreign Office Minister, Alistair Burt, during a debate on Bahrain in Parliament on September 11, said the Foreign Office and the British Embassy in Bahrain have raised the issue of Hassan and others with Bahrain Government.

“We continue to encourage anyone with concerns about treatment in detention to report them to the appropriate oversight body, and we also encourage the oversight bodies to carry out swift and thorough investigations into such claims.” Adding that they have received assurance from the Bahrain Government that, “in his case and others, there is and has been access to appropriate medical care while in detention.”

Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP, tweeted on September 11, the “UK Government has licensed £18m+ of arms sales to #Bahrain since 2011.

UK has provided training for 400+ prison guards, some of whom have been accused of torture – paid for by the UK taxpayer. The government must apply pressure to Bahrain to ensure human rights violations are brought to an end.”
As we go to print, Ali was advised to discontinue his hunger strike, after doctors and well-wishers expressed concern over his deteriorating health. He said that he decided to end his hunger strike, but will continue his sit in, and will restart another hunger strike in October if the matter is not resolved.

He expressed his happiness to hear his father will no longer be taken in shackles to get medical treatment. But he tweeted “The statement issued by Bahrain’s Embassy in London stated some positive changes; however, it wasn’t free of misinformation on other issues” in response to the assurance of appropriate healthcare.

In another tweet, he said, “The statement alleged that family visits are not banned, which is a very vague statement. It could be interpreted as that visits are allowed despite enforced punitive measures or it could mean they’ll allow visits without humiliation.”

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