I Was Tortured as a Bahraini Political Prisoner
Photo courtesy of Ahmed Radhi
Thirty-six-year-old Bahraini journalist Ahmed Radhi was one of the roughly 500 prisoners of conscience who were detained following the citizen uprising against Bahrain’s government that began in February 2011. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights estimates that the country has the highest number of political prisoners per capita worldwide. Ahmed told us about the supposed reasons for his detention and the extremely poor conditions he faced while in prison.
Being a journalist in Bahrain comes with many risks. The press has no freedom to move and work independently without being harassed by the regime. I was investigated by the Ministry of Information for reporting on the US presence in Bahrain, but it was a May 13 phone interview with the BBC, during which I criticized a proposed union of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, that led to my recent arrest. Clearly, America and Saudi Arabia are topics that the Bahraini regime doesn’t want anyone to discuss.
I was arrested on May 16—police and masked civilians surrounded and broke into my father’s house at around 3:30 AM without a court order. I was interrogated from the moment I was arrested until I reached the Criminal Investigation Department building.
Over the next two days, I was subjected to humiliating physical torture, beatings (concentrated on my head, face, and chest), threats of sexual assault, and being sent to the “black room.” Officer Isa al-Majali, who has a notorious reputation when it comes to dealing with political detainees and is in charge of all interrogations in the black room, oversaw my stay in detainment. All the while, I was blindfolded and handcuffed, and at various points during my torture I heard the shouts and moans of a detainee being “questioned” in the black room. I was also forced to sign a confession.
The investigators charged me with activities relating to participating in illegal marches, arson, and throwing Molotov cocktails. They did this to cover up the real reason for my arrest—reports that I supported the Bahraini revolution.
I told my captors that I suffered from heart attacks regularly and am deaf in one ear (a result of my arrest and torture during the 90s uprising), but they didn’t care. They said, “You will die in prison” and “You do not deserve attention or treatment.”
In prison, I devoted my time to documenting human rights violations. I witnessed minors being beaten, tortured, and sexually assaulted by security forces. I saw people walking the thin line between life and death, suffering both from torture and from chronic diseases.
After four months inside, my release came by surprise. My lawyer later learned that I was banned from traveling, and that the regime can activate the case and bring me back to court or prison again whenever they like. I was happy to know that I was going to be released yet sad to see my fellow inmates still detained. I will never forget them, and I will always fight for their cause. Anyone who thinks that this regime can be fixed is either delusional or a partner in their unjust persecution of the opposition.
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