Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah is the head of monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). The President of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, is currently serving a two year sentence for organising and participating in protests. In 2011, BCHR’s founder, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja was arrested, severely tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Both sentences have been internationally condemned. Said Yousif has himself been persecuted by the Bahrain government. He has been arrested several times when observing protests and last year was beaten at a police checkpoint in front of his two young daughters.
In an article for the Huffington Post, Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah asks the world to “look beyond the track” and instead, “look into the streets of Bahrain, where those who want democracy are in a race against time for their lives and freedom”. His article reads in part:
For the second consecutive year, Bahrain will host a Formula One (F1) race despite severe human rights violations documented by local and international human rights organizations, including the United Nations.
For the second consecutive year, the race will proceed with great fanfare as the plight of dozens of athletes who weredetained and tortured for exercising their freedom of expression goes unnoticed. Many of these athletes weretargeted, arrested and defamed because of their participation in the “Athletes March,” a peaceful march by athletes who supported the 14th February Revolution at the Pearl Roundabout. Some remain in jail.
For the second consecutive year, the suffering of the staff of the Bahrain International Circuit – the company that hosts the F1 race – is being ignored. Back in 2011, the staff’s offices were raided by security forces, and some were subjected to torture inside the F1 premises. Some were even fired from their jobs.
We, as human rights activists in Bahrain, ask journalists who are coming to cover the F1 to see the other side of things here, the side hidden by the authorities. We ask them tocome and see the daily protests in over 40 areas of Bahrain where people demand their freedom and their right of self-determination. We ask them to observe how peaceful protestors are often met with collective punishment using tear gas and shotgun pellets.
We ask them to watch as the seriously injured are scared to go to government hospitals because they have been militarized. Even private hospitals have been instructed by the Ministry of Health in Bahrain not to treat injured protestors and to report them immediately to the police upon arrival to the hospital. The BCHR recently issued a detailed report on the militarization of hospitals and the lack of medical neutrality. Despite the ongoing abuses in Bahrain, weapons sellers are ready to supply the Bahrain authorities with the weapons used in its crackdown.
If they look, journalists will have no problem witnessing the deterioration of freedom of expression in Bahrain, including the arrest of those who publish their views on Twitter. I was among those arrested just minutes after tweeting a photo of an injured Bahraini who was shot by shotgun bullet. I was imprisoned for my post.
Follow Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah on Twitter at @SAIDYOUSIF