Nothing like a little comedy

One thing I love about Bahrainis is their sense of humour – and their ability to turn tragedy into comedy.  The whole Bahraini situation is a Shakespearean tale with twists and turns, manipulations, farce and drama.

Once again, the Prime Minister continues to be the comedian of the week with this comment, “Bahrain has gone a long way in respecting and protecting human rights, which is obvious to all and has earned the kingdom regional and international praise,” His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said as he received at Riffa Palace today Human Rights Without Frontiers International (HRWF) Director Willy Foutre.” Does he really believe what comes out of his mouth and expect others to as well?  The whole article is worth reading as an example of the typical ‘doublespeak’ government propoganda and misleading information.

The unfortunate part, is that so many people believe this trite nonsense.  They also believe the information they see on Bahrain TV.  This article shows a so-called serious news story – a reporter interviewing ‘protesters’ and then describes how the protest was staged and filmed by Bahrain TV. No sooner does this kind of show go to air than the pro-democracy movement turn it into humour and satire.  But thousands of others believe it’s the truth.

Advertisements

My story in my beautiful island called Bahrain

Here I am going to tell you my story in my beautiful island called Bahrain. I was born at the end of 80 , in a village called Sitra, kingdom of Bahrain and I became Bahraini citizen. I was the seventh child born in my family. Yes seven, this number is normal in my country. I have four older sisters and three older brothers. We were living in an old village house and buildings were old, the village is surrounded by factories and it’s polluted from all around. The oil factory is on the south side, highway is on the north  everywhere in that village and people die from cancer each year.

However , I was born and raised in a Shia Muslim faith and throughout the 1980s and 1990s Shia struggled discrimination in Bahrain.  This led to a civil uprising which took place against the ruling royal family minority government between 1994 and 1998. At that time, I was fearful of the police who were meant to protect us but they were not. Sometimes I wasn’t able to attend school during the disturbances. This was until 1999 when the king of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa ascended to the throne, reforms  were promised and civil unrest eased.  We were happy, because the sun light of freedom was ahead. Constitutional occurred to promote greater democracy and openness, but in reality they represented a  ‘ fake democracy’ and people demanded further reforms . Thousands of people in Bahrain protested in the street against the government corruptions, freedom of speech, unemployment, citizenship policies ,  and discrimination against the Shiites from the minority Sunni the royal family of Bahrain Al-khalifa.

I participated in protest against the government that was organized by Al-Wifaq political party (the biggest political association in Bahrain) between 2003 and 2006. The protest did not experience any problems from the authorities. Initially in the first years of the reforms in Bahrain, people were allowed to protest but later protesters were beaten and imprisoned. The government did not listen to the demands of the people and the situation gradually deteriorated.  From 2006 and 2007 (approximately) I attended demonstrations against pollution and ill health caused by oil cement and sheep companies in our village, The protest was held at the entrance of the village and another protest near the Bahrain Petroleum company (Bapco) premises. The protest was organized  by the people in our village.

In 2007, I completed the high school achieved a high grade. Consequently,  I was awarded a scholarship to study outside Bahrain in a foreign country (I do not want to tell the country as I want to be unknown). Most of the students who achieved 90 percent were entitled to scholarships.  However , some students obtained scholarships despite only achieving grades in the 70s or 80s, this is because they belong to specific faction or had connection. I travelled to study outside Bahrain to study, and I usually come back home each year. While I was outside Bahrain, I received bad news that my dad passed away. I could not attend his funeral but my friends helped me to go over it.

In August 2010, Bahraini political activists were arrested and detained. The government set up checkpoints in the villages of Bahrain including our village. Some people were assaulted at the checkpoints when the riot police were not happy with responses to questions.  At the end of October 2010, I went back home for my long vacation. The situation in Bahrain was miserable, riot police were everywhere without any reason and protests were held almost at night to release the political activists.

On 14th February 2011, peaceful protest began everywhere around Bahrain at the same time. It was organized by young people communicating on Facebook who had been influenced by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. One protestor was killed on 14 February  and another was killed the next day at the funeral of the first martyr Ali Al-Mushima. People were angry at that time and decided to go to the Pearl Square and make it a camp protest same as Egypt and Tunisa until their demands were achieved.  On the 16th of February, I attended the demonstration at Pearl Square around 7.00 and 8.00 pm.

King Hamad had indicated that the deaths would be investigated. People trusted the king to investigate the killings and listen to demands of people. They believed the security forces would not hurt the protestors and it was safe to attend. They wanted the prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman to leave his position , political prisoners to be released and changes to the citizenship policies. Illiterate people from Pakistan , Jordon and Yemen and Saddam Hussain loyalists had been recruited into the Bahraini security forces, intelligence service and the military and provided with housing and vehicles. The  original people of Bahrain, Shia citizens did not enjoy such privileges and were discriminated against.

I stayed for two hours and I left the demonstration and went home. But I returned at 11.30 pm with a friend. We chatted about the expectations for greater freedom, we had black tea and some snacks which was provided at the Pearl square, of course for free!!. Men, women, children were sleeping at the square . I stayed there until  3:00 am , About five minutes later the protestors was attacked by the riot police. I did not expect that – no one did, as the king had gone on TV and promised there would be investigation for the killings of two people.  In the morning of 17th February, the military forces were around the Pearl Square, five protesters were killed.

Soon after this, I departed from Bahrain.  On the 18th February, people still wanted to go back to the pearl square and protest there.  The military forces opened fire against protesters.  World news reported about Bahrain and the international community condemned the violence against the protesters in Bahrain. This led the government to withdraw the military forces and allow the protest in Bahrain.  People went back to the Pearl Square and protested. . In the middle of February, CNN channel reported that 600,000 people participated at a protest for ‘a day of honour for the martyrs’.

In late March 2011, I attended a protest at the Saudi embassy outside Bahrain.  The protest was against the intervention of Saudi forces and the massacre that took place in Bahrain. Also, I attended another protest to show and express the solidarity with Bahrain nation. At the beginning of April, I received a call from Bahrain that my scholarship was canceled because I participated in a protest against the government. From April until uploading this story,  the situation in Bahrain is unrest.   Please Google it to see the news about Bahrain and try to talk about it with your relatives, friends, colleagues and talk about how the Bahrainis are suffering.  They only want their freedom and democracy without corruption to develop their countr !!!

Not Sunni, not Shi’a, just Bahraini

This is what the 14th February Revolution in Bahrain was based on.  This is what the placards read.  Holding these placards was reason enough to the arrested, expelled or dismissed.  Yet it’s the message that the Bahraini people continue to give – this revolution in not based on sectarianism but fairness and democracy.

Last Friday a huge rally was held in Ma’ameer – a very poor village surrounded by industry and pollution.  Here the leaders of the two main opposition parties spoke.  It is worth reading the summaries of their speeches.  What I continue to find inspiring and extraordinary is the ongoing commitment to reform through peaceful, non-violent protest.  This fact is not highlighted enough.  In the history of the world, this revolution will stand out as one of perseverance and commitment through non-violence.

The following is an extract from Aljalil Khalid from the Al Wefaq Party.   

“Our revolution is not sectarian, and enough playing with the false sectarian allegations. Those are funny claims and are a means to run away from facing the people’s demands.”

– “All the wise people in the Arab world know that. The writer Mohamed Hussanein Heikal said that Bahrainis are oppressed, and [former Secretary-General of the Arab League] Amr Moussa said that the change is coming and nothing can stop it.

– “To all our Suni brothers, do not listen to the untruthful voices, this revolution is for all the people and does not raise any sectarian agenda.”

– “Our demands are clear, we demand an elected government, a council with full power, fair election circles, an independent judiciary, and security for all. Are those demands only for Shites without Sunis?

– “This is a letter to all the truthful people, let’s all put our hands together for a better Bahrain.”

In his speech,Isa Ebrahim of the Waad Party talked of the Manama Document which is a joint document prepared by the opposition political groups.  This document spells out the decades long push for democracy and the demands of the Bahraini people.  It is time the west supported the Bahraini people in achieving these demands.

It makes you want to weep.

The following is from an Al Jazeera article.  I would urge you to have a look at the article and the testimonies of those who have been convicted.  At the end of this Al Jazeera article, is an article from Eurasia Review (whatever that is) which talks of how the Bahraini Prime Minister supports human rights. Hmmmm….. ?

“Teachers, professors, politicians, doctors, athletes, students and others have all appeared in Bahrain’s military courts. In just two weeks, 208 people were sentenced or lost appeals, leading to a cumulative total of just less than 2,500 years in prison.

Many of those imprisoned took part in massive pro-democracy protests earlier this year. Others, families say, were in the wrong place at the wrong time and were targeted by virtue of their religious sect.

One lawyer, who represents dozens of the convicted and who asked not to be named, told Al Jazeera the total numbers of how many have stood in front of military courts are not clear – but he estimates at least 600. Well over 1,000 people have been arrested since the crackdown began, he said.

And if you aren’t weeping now, read the double speak of the Bahraini Prime Minister and the hypocrisy of the US State Department.

Bahrain’s Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa stressed Sunday his country’s aims to promote human rights and bolster global security and stability, reports Bahrain state media.

The statement made to a US Congress delegation comes amid reports a US arms deal with Bahrain could be linked to claims of human rights violations. A US State Department spokesperson confirmed Friday that Bahrain is negotiating a $53 million contract with Bahrain for “armored high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, better known as humvees and TOW missiles to go on them” aimed at protecting the country from a potential attack “or nefarious activity by countries like Iran.”

According to BNA, Al-Khalifa, “stressed the importance of dialogue-as a strategic choice – and the protection of human rights and liberties as the cornerstone of Bahrain’s reform policies.”

BNA reported “that the US Congress delegation led by House of Representatives member Donald Payne acknowledged Bahrain’s efforts to embark on democracy and promote reforms steadily. They also lauded the Government’s efforts in this regard, ensuring Bahrain’s pioneering democratic and reform strides.”

BAHRAIN: WHERE A FACEBOOK “LIKE” GETS YOU EXPELLED

This comes from the Index on Censorship which “is Britain’s leading organisation promoting freedom of expression”.

14 Oct 2011

Students at Bahrain Polytechnic are being silenced and expelled for social media posts. Sara Yasin reports

For Eman Oun, 20, life was Bahrain Polytechnic. As a business student, she spent her days being an active member of the school’s campus community. Even though the new academic year started on 18 September, Oun is stuck at home.

“I am supposed to be in a classroom right now” Oun told Index. She is one of 31 studentspermanently expelled from Bahrain Polytechnic for allegedly being involved in pro-democracy protests in February.

65 students were initially investigated, and in June, 63 students were eventually expelled for“participating in unlicensed gatherings and marches” based on evidence mostly obtained from social media pages like Facebook.  After an external review of the case, 32 of the expelled students were allowed to return to Bahrain Polytechnic.

The February protests began while Bahrain Polytechnic was not in session. CEO John Scott sent text messages to students asking them to leave their political views “outside the Polytechnic”, emphasising the importance of a “neutral” and “safe” campus. But according to Asma Darwish, 21, the campus was anything but neutral.

Upon their return, all students signed a new code of conduct, warning of the consequences of “activities of a political nature”, and students agreed to keep the campus neutral.

Students were subjected to a four-week investigation by a committee including members of the Ministry of Education, where they were confronted with paper records of their social media activity. Darwish said that her Facebook page was “secure”, and speculated that “pro-government people” on her list handed her activity over to authorities. While some, like Oun, were peacefully protesting at Pearl Roundabout, others were expelled for “liking” a page on Facebook.

Darwish believes that it was clear that the new code of conduct was “aimed at anti-government students”, because pro-government students that came to school with “Saudi flags and pictures of the king” were not penalised for their political activity.

According to Tony Mitchell, 49, a former tutor at Bahrain Polytechnic from Australia, things drastically changed once government officials intervened and took over the school on 6 April. While Scott stressed the importance of a politically neutral campus and staff, the new administration put in place by the Ministry of Education made the role of the staff clear. Mitchell recalled being informed that Bahrain Polytechnic tutors were now considered to be government employees, and that there would be “no toleration for saying anything against the government.”

For Mitchell, “the cards were pretty much stacked” against him. Much like Darwish and Oun, it is believed pro-government individuals exposed him. He lived near Pearl Roundabout, and he videoed the protests in February and shared them on YouTube. Mitchell’s contract was terminated for “supporting pro-democracy protests.”

Like many other members of Bahrain Polytechnic’s staff, Mitchell is a foreigner, and he found himself confronted with events that seemed to clash with the culturally modern image that Bahrain strives for. While Bahrain appeared to be “progressive and modern” compared to his past experience living in Oman, Mitchell was still shocked by what happened with the protests.

For many staff members, the protests and treatment of students was a rude awakening. Mitchell said that the “majority of ex-pat staff didn’t understand what was happening. They didn’t understand the seriousness of it.”

Darwish was one of the students allowed to return to Bahrain Polytechnic. Even though Oun and Darwish had similar offenses, Oun was kept from returning. Oun, called the selection process “arbitrary”, because the way the administration made the decision was unclear.

For Darwish and the other students, continuing their education at Bahrain Polytechnic came at a cost. She was forced to repeat a semester, and repay fees. She believes that the new administration is trying to “bully” them into quitting their studies.

Even though the returned students are able to complete their degrees, they could still be kept from potential employment, as their results contained a message stating they had missed a semester because they broke the laws.

The atmosphere on campus, which Oun described as once being “motivating, inspiring and encouraging” is now tense and fear-filled for students like Darwish.

“It is very clear that the environment is very different than before,” said Darwish “I always felt like I could share my opinions with other students and tutors.”

Now, even though she said that foreign tutors “know their pain”, they are still unable to speak freely, leaving behind a “weird silence on campus”

Darwish said: “You know that young people are dying, and you can’t talk about it. It is odd and strange.”

“My Valentine with Freedom” – 14th February 2011

“On the morning of 14th February, a very dear friend took me to get a hospital check up. Her boyfriend caught up with us on the way home to give my friend her Valentine’s bouquet, and because he was polite, he got me a rose too. Little did I know that that this rose will end up going to a funeral of a young protester the next day and little did I know that this year, my valentine was not going to be my loving husband, but rather, Freedom! For as long as it lasted, that is.

The following is a collection of memories and chapters of the life of a young Bahraini woman, who for the purpose of this piece, we will call Lulwa. Lulwa had an extraordinary experience, for one month February – March 2011, she could speak up her mind about every taboo in her homeland, Bahrain. Because history and people’s past always constitute and explain huge parts of our present, we visit Lulwa’s past before it leads to her present, as she thought it was the best and most efficient way to explain why she stands where she does right now.

Now, to Lulwa, I yield the floor:

It was a month, take a day or two, of my life, but over all my memories and my experiences, it has affected me the most.

I have an amazing family, lifelong loyal friends, a husband that I wouldn’t give up for the world, I am not poor, I received public sector education, I graduated with high grades from both school and university, I chose my own path in education and work, I have more or less what could be called a perfect life, but I never felt as free and satisfied as I did in that extremely short period of time. It gave me one thing, that my perfect life didn’t have before, I could raise my voice, open my heart and spill my brains out to the world, I had the freedom to speak up!

I lived in a country where if the whistle is blown on a corruption case, and it turned out royals or government friends were involved – as almost always was the case-, a gag rule was immediately issued, let alone if it was something political, like discrimination or unlawful accumulation of state property or “Bandergate”. If you had an online forum or a blog and the topics didn’t “fall in line” then you were in danger and your family may not have had a future. If you wanted to peacefully protest on the sidewalk with more than 3 people, then you had to obtain permission from the holy Ministry of Interior, which most likely would have been denied, and even when it was denied and you didn’t go on the protest, you expected to be watched and monitored, because you dared to request permission to speak. So people generally didn’t speak outside of their closed social circles, because the price to be paid was quite high. Disagreeing with your ruler was not in question, and if you did, you had to do it internally, for saying it out loud meant you were a trouble maker and, who knew, you could be recruiting terrorists! The next thing we knew we would have had all this youth trained to use their brain! And speak! Not only speak, but speak against their rulers and their country! That was outrageous of course. One had to only say beautiful things about their homeland; it was unbecoming of a young Arab, especially from the “perfect” Gulf States, to air the dirty laundry out.

So you see, when the revolution of 14 February began, it was a rush and a serenity that I seized to the maximum. A lot of my past wounds came rushing like hot blood in my veins. Scenes from my childhood and all the way to that moment in time, they were all I could think of, all I could see.

To put this into context, let me tell you about my family.  First a story, of my grandfather, who grew up poor and an orphan, because his father was murdered by orders of the Prince. His father was a religious man, popular in his village and well received by his people, he called for some form of political reform at the time, but before he realized his goal, he and his friend were beheaded while travelling on their donkeys. My grandmother –who lives with us at home- always told me of his greatness. She says he was a great leader and a poet too. She improved her reading in his library, for before, they only had Quran to read and learn reading through. She always laments that her brother-in-law, got most of the books, the library she treasured so much, she wanted us to read them to her again. She went blind after a complication in an eye surgery she had. My heart always hung on the first part of that story, my grandfather who was 7 or 9 (my father and grandmother disagree, and birth certificates, if they existed, weren’t so accurate at those times), how he had to live an orphan and work so young, just because he had a good man for a father, a man who didn’t sit silent and was pretty much a unique example for his time and in his environment. I treasured his memory, even though we’ve never met, and even though so young, I hated those who took him away too soon.

The same tyranny that was in place over my ancestors was there to give me my own experiences as a child. I was around 7 years old, an uprising was taking over Bahrain, demands to bring back the 1973 National Council and constitution, something that many activists and politicians were striving for since it was annulled by the government. That wasn’t of course how I understood it at the time, I was only seven! I understood there were demonstrations and that it was dangerous outside. I understood that there were government agents everywhere, so I mustn’t say anything out of line at school so that my dad doesn’t get hurt. I understood that my mother and one or two of us (my siblings and I) had to accompany dad when he went grocery shopping, because if he’s alone, he might be arrested- men and boys were taken off the streets at random and jailed without a trace.

I didn’t comprehend one thing though; my uncle of seeds wasn’t visiting anymore! He was my grandmother’s only brother, he always carried sunflower seeds in his pockets, always had some as a treat for us when he visited –which was often- and I loved him to pieces because he’s so funny and generous. I don’t remember his talks now, but I remember his laughs, how he made me laugh and the seeds. Grandmother laughing every single time I call him my uncle of the seeds. I found out soon after it happened, the riot police broke into his poor home, shot him in the head with a rubber bullet, which killed him shortly. My grandmother was sad for a good while, she turned me down a lot of the time when I asked her to tell me a fairytale- she wasn’t in the mood, she said. She’s a very strong woman, endured a lot of loss in her life, but time was unkind to her.

That same year, I woke up one day to some noise. I went straight to my parents’ room; my father was by the window, with tears in his eyes- I had never seen my father cry before. Mom was sitting on the sofa, I asked her quietly what’s wrong, but she told me to go to bed. A couple of hours later, my father entered the house. I ran downstairs to see him, he mimed to me to be quiet. He was approaching my grandmother, who was passing near the bottom of the stairs. He led her to sit, asked her to listen closely and not panic- naturally; she panicked, got snappy and told him to speak up. The next part made me freeze half way through the stairs- he said his cousin had been killed, grandmother screamed and demanded to be taken to his house, she didn’t believe it. He was her only sister’s son, the only thing left of her only sister, he had five kids, and he was a fisherman. That cousin of dad’s we knew very well. He always brought dad some of the special finds that he caught and he always made sure to visit his only aunt (my grandmother). He was kind and loyal, his kids were the same. One of his daughters, who is about four years older than me, would walk me home every day just to make sure I got there okay. She didn’t care that I slowed her and her friends down and never complained, on the contrary, she was sad when we moved to the other side of the village and she wasn’t able to walk me home anymore! I found out the details later, from listening to adults speaking; my father’s cousin was fishing at 5 am, with his son and others, riot police found them and shot them. He passed away because he got the bullet in his head; his son sustained a major injury in his shoulder. Years later, I could still hear my father speaking of his son getting follow up surgeries or repairing surgeries for his shoulder.

The times that followed continued to be dark. All my friends at school were facing similar losses. My aunt watched her husband arrested from home in the middle of the night, in front of her kids. He was in for six months. During those months, her son was arrested too for a few days. Riot police just walked up to their school bus and arrested a bunch at random. My aunt was a wreck; those were the longest few days in my life at the time. When her husband was released after six months in jail, things were beginning to calm down on the surface. Many others were released and the population was seemingly silenced. Political leaders and figures and their families were the only ones still being persecuted and/or targeted and more severely harassed in their daily life than others. Small demonstrations broke out every now and then, but no regular movement was sustained for long, at least from my point of view as a youngster in the middle of all that history.

The next big event I remember was when Shaikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri (main opposition leader at the time) was released from jail. People went out in numbers that I have never seen in my life up to that point. We weren’t allowed out as children, so we watched from the roof; the main street had thousands and thousands of people outside welcoming Shaikh Al Jamri, it was surreal to me, because things had been so silent for a while, then their leader came out and it was as if someone breathed life into all of these crowds. The next time that I saw such crowds, and even more, was years after this day, in 2006, when that great man passed away affected by his illness. I believe that was singlehandedly the largest funeral in Bahrain in my lifetime. Shaikh Al Jamri was a unique voice, a moderate man who called for unison of the people, for the various sectors of society to go hand in hand towards the future, rather than one stepping over the other, and thus that voice had to be assassinated. It’s true that he died of illness, but I, like many other Bahrainis, know that this illness was caused by the time he spent in jail as well as the condition of his release. Sheikh Al Jamri was forced to read a prepared speech in front of the late Prince, apologizing for his actions before his release. Of course, at the time, false tv confessions were quite trendy and people on the opposition weren’t shaken by them, except for this one by Shaikh Al Jamri, this one broke their hearts and angered them beyond belief.

The atrocities that took over Bahrain in previous decades are very similar to those of nowadays. The difference is in the way people are connected all over the world now and the abilities that people have to make their cause seen and heard. However, it is still a large challenge because of the sectarian divide the government is advocating and because of the incredibly frustrating effects of foreign policy.  Despite all this, I believe we are in a better place than we were before again because of the constant documentation of the majority of the events and details of the violations and crimes committed since the beginning of the Pearl Revolution. Some have been viewing the variety of voices and opinions as well as the immense amount of power and decision making being owned by youth as a threat, however, to me, that’s just the right foundation for democracy. We’re not supposed to all agree on one thing, but we’re supposed to respect each other despite those differences. Youth participation, involvement and leadership is just the cherry on top of that cake.

To be continued…

Photo of Sheikh Ali Jamri’s funeral from Bahrain Centre for Human Rights webpage

This is a short video with some shots of Bahrain during the 90s with a couple of testimonies from protesters who have been injured. Even if you don’t understand Arabic, the pictures bear a great resemblance to those from our present.

 

Family divisions

Bahrain seems to be at the mercy of the Al Khalifa division.  The Prime Minister is the hard-liner into severe punishment and Bedouin retribution.  The King and Prince, who have had little voice, support more democratic means of dealing with the situation. An excellent article describing the””increasing divisions within the Sunni royal family” can be found in the Independent.  Such is the situation with the Bahraini medics, who having been sentenced to lengthy prison terms in a military court last week, have now been told they will be tried again in a civilian court.

According to the New York Times, “The country’s attorney general, Ali Alboainain, told the state news agency that “no doctors or other medical personnel may be punished by reason of the fulfillment of their humanitarian duties or their political views” and that “pending the outcome of the retrials, the accused shall not be detained.”  However, within the hot and cold political climate, medics are a long way from feeling that their care of the injured will be seen for just what it was rather than a protracted game within the Al Khalifas and the international powers.  The following describes the experiences of one of the female medics in the past 5 months.

“Mrs Al Saffar was detained at the police station for a week, during which time she says she was made to stand for hours, blindfolded and handcuffed in extremely cold conditions. At one point she says she was taken to a room full of men who taunted her saying they would “have fun with her” if she did not cooperate.

“I never ever thought that my own blood, my own countrymen could do such things to me,” she said.  Bahraini authorities have maintained they would investigate any allegations of mistreatment in jail.  After a week in detention at the police station, Mrs Al Saffar was moved to a women’s jail, where she spent the next five months. During her time in prison, she believes she came across up to 250 female prisoners jailed in connection with the crackdown who had suffered some form of abuse.

Eventually on August 21, Mrs Al Saffar was released before a verdict had been reached in her case. She stepped out of jail with a shock of white hair, a shadow of her former self, having lost about 20 kilograms.

In the weeks that followed, all of the medics facing similar charges had been released pending their judgments. Then, on September 29, the group of 20 received sentences of between five and 15 years.

“I’m stronger now. My spine is stronger and harder. They will never be able to break it,” Mrs Al Saffar said.  She said the imprisonment has not changed her attitude about helping those in medical need. “Would I do this again? Yes. Again and again and again, to help when there is need.”  Mr. Alboainian said the retrial would be held in civilian court and would include a “full re-evaluation” of the evidence and a “full opportunity to present their defense.”  This is the message, she says, she will repeat during her upcoming retrial.