Patrick Cockburn reports:
Bahrain’s security forces are increasingly targeting women in their campaign against pro-democracy protesters despite yesterday lifting martial law in the island kingdom.
Ayat al-Gormezi, 20, a poet and student arrested two months ago after reading out a poem at a pro-democracy rally, is due to go on trial today before a military tribunal, her mother said. Ayat was forced to turn herself in when masked policemen threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.
She has not been seen since her arrest, though her mother did talk to her once by phone and Ayat said that she had been forced to sign a false confession. Her mother has since been told that her daughter has been in a military hospital after being tortured.
“We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery,” a film captures Ayat telling a cheering crowd of protesters in Pearl Square in February. “We are the people who will destroy the foundation of injustice.” She addresses King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa directly and says to him: “Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?” As she finishes, the crowd shouts: “Down with Hamad.”
Ayat’s call for change was no more radical than that heard in the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi at about the same time. But her reference to the king might explain the fury shown by the Bahraini security forces who, going by photographs of the scene, smashed up her bedroom when they raided her house and could not find her.
There are signs that Bahraini police, riot police and special security are detaining and mistreating more and more women. Many are held incommunicado, forced to sign confessions or threatened with rape, according to Bahraini human rights groups.