Monday, 27 June 2011

Latest on Ayat Appeal and the campaign

Ayat appeal hearing has adjourned to 3rd July; her lawyer said the hearing adjourned because the first appeal was for the Court to submit its case and the second hearing of the defense to present his statement.

Ayat appeal was first put forward by her family on her one year sentence and so the prosecutor appealing to tougher sentence.

Attorney-General has provided new charges, participating in demonstrations and marches, the Attorney general want also to press charges the students from her collage to be prosecuted for following Ayat steps .

The prosecutor asked for severe penalty and said that this provision any one year is not enough.

The court only allowed her mother to attend the hearing and could not meet Ayat in person, the Lawyer always complain of not allowing her access to a Ayat to take her statement.

The hearing fall on the schedule visit day, so her parents accompanied by two other member of the her family went for the visit under the watchful eyes of the guards who were monitoring every move and words exchanged between Ayat and her family and instructed them to not whisper, and her family was threatened that the visit will be cancelled if they continue speaking to Ayat in low voice.

The campaign against Ayat has been escalate, in particular that on Saturday night there was a program in a channel Scoop TV (Private Kuwaiti owned) accusing Ayat of insulting the kings and his family and one phone in was Bahrini MP who is calling harsher punishment of at least 25 years to be give to Ayat for simply reading a poem in a country that been proud to be one of democratic state in the Gulf , others who contacted the program has falsely accused Ayat for inciting haters which led two Sunni girls been kidnapped in retaliation to Ayat sentence, her brother Said that these claim are a lies to fulfil the interest of the escalation of the issue ..

We demand an independent visit from the human rights organizations to Ayat Al-Gormezi to act as fact finding to determine if Ayat trial had the full legal process and should been tried at the civilian court and not military court, according to her Lawyer she complain for not allowing her to have access freely to a Ayat to take her statements.

Written in defense of Ayat

An article written in defense of Ayat by 'Faqeer Bahrani'. Has not been translated yet, unfortunately. 


مظلومة يا آيات


أكل هذا التعذيب و التهديد و الوعيد من اجل تلك الكلمات المسجوعة حيث لا احد يؤمن بالشعر في زمن الشعير و كل هذا الزخم الإعلامي الذي يبث لتبرير الموقف اللا أخلاقي في قيام سلطة حكومية ضخمة مدججة بالأسلحة تخاف ان يقال في حقها كلمة ؟!
عجب عجاب حيث لا زلت استمع و ارى تلفاز العين العوراء و هو يبث اعتذار فتاة تبلغ من العمر ٢٠ عاماً
تلك اذا مصيبة ، نظام بات في الحكم سنين طوال ترتج اعمدته بأبيات من الشعر!؟
شهامة ما بعدها شهامة
تعذيب و قهر و إهانة و لا زالت الأجهزة الأمنية تريد إثبات موقف تلك الفتاة و محاولة إظهار الصورة للوجه البريء الذي قال تلك الكلمات على انه كان مندفع و قد ندم على ما فعل و ابدى اعتذاره للوالي
أف لكم 
او لم تروا انها كانت صلبة حين اعتذرت فقالت الكلمات بإقتضاب فلم تزد شيئا على ما لُقنت 
تلك هي آيات صمود،شموخ، اعتزاز
وقفة لكل شرفاء الوطن من اجل العزيمة اللا متناهية عندك يا بنت بلدي
و أقولها لكم بكل فخر آيات حتى و ان اعتذرت فهي على حق فما قالته كان نتاج حتمي من جراء استبداد الطغاة
و عرفت ان الكلمة تصبح سيفاً
حينما يكون الطاغي في اوج قوته
ترميه في سحيق مظلم و يسقط التاج على مذبح الشعر

آيات مظلومة لاقت من الآلام اطواراً و من التعذيب الجسدي و النفسي ما لم تلاقي فتاة في عمرها فهي طالبة في جامعة البحرين اي عدل ذلك الذي يزج بطالب في السجن من اجل كلمة اي نظام ذاك الذي يزن قشة و يتهالك بمجرد القاء شعر !؟

أدعوكم إخوتي الى وقفة تجعل آيات تستمد منها الصبر على ما أصابها 
أدعوكم الى يوم تقفون كلكم فيه لتعلنوا فيه استنكاركم لهذه الرزية و مظلومية آيات لا تقفوا مكتوفي الأيدي 
آيات هي اختنا و بنتنا و هي اكيد ام لحر لم يولد بعد
تلك العذراء أنشودة اسميها لسان الثورة

[If you would like to help in translation, email info@justiceforbahrain.com and you'll be credited] 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Postponed... Again.

Ayat's appeal has been postponed once more, to the 3rd of July, when a decision will be made to either release her, reduce her sentence or else she will have to serve her full sentence. 


Again, we remind you of the importance of your prayers; please remember her in yours prayers and supplications. Her family receive regular updates about the avid interest of the international community in their daughters case, so please continue to offer them moral support with your continual effort to spread the word and spread awareness. 


Also, we remind you that Ayat has been nominated for the Freedom to Create 'Imprisoned Artists Prize.' Please take your time out to contact Kate Timperley, kt@freedomtocreate.com, and tell her why you think Ayat deserves the prize. This will have great media impact and will draw attention to the human rights violations in Bahrain. Most importantly, it will be a sign of our gratitude to Ayat for motivating the pro-democracy protesters to keep up the struggle against the atrocities and injustice in Bahrain.

For further information check the previous post regarding Freedom to Create here, and the Freedom To Create website here.





Friday, 24 June 2011

Poet Jailed in Bahrain

Published today, 24.06.11, in The Muslim News by Elham Asaad Buaras


Bahraini poet Ayat al-Gormezi was sentenced to a year imprisonment on June 10 for writing and reciting a pro-democracy poem criticising the monarchy.

The 20 year-old became the latest academic to be punished for a thought crime in the Gulf Island, when she read out her poem in a pro-democracy rally in in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February. The poem was addressed to King Hamad bin ‘Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's head of state.

Its lyrics include the lines, “We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery/ Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?” She was forced to turn herself in to the authorities on March 30 after masked police raided her parents’ house repeatedly and reportedly threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.
Her lawyer was not allowed to address the military court.

Her brother, Yousif Mohammed said her treatment in prison had improved in recent days, in contrast to the extreme mistreatment she received when she was first detained at the end of March when she was hit in the face with electric cable, held for nine days in a tiny cold cell and was forced to clean toilets with her hands.

Her family, who has has lodged an appeal against the sentence, say the change in the authorities’ behaviour towards her is due to the international publicity given to her case.





Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Appeal postponed to 26th June

Ayat Al-Gormezi's appeal has been to the 26th of June. We urge you to pray for her and contact human rights organisations requesting for their immediate intervention and to place increased pressure on the Bahraini government. 
-------------------------------

Sample letter you may use:

To whom it may concern,

RE: Ayat Al-Gormezi’s appeal on 26th June

I write this to you with the time being of critical essence as many people in Bahrain are being trialled and sentenced for committing absolutely no crime at all. As a renowned human rights organisation I am sure you receive requests for your immediate intervention and action, however Ayat Al-Gormezi’s case is one that requires special attention. She is in dire need of your assistance. 

On the 12th of March, Ayat Al-Gormezi, a poet and student at the faculty of teachers in Bahrain, recited a poem
slamming the Al Khalifa regime for their brutality, injustice and lack of democracy. Some of the key issues she highlighted in her poem was the pain suffered by the oppressed pro-democracy Bahrainis as a result of the suppressive Al-Khalifa regime.
An excerpt of her poem (translated from Arabic):

“We do not wish to live in a palace nor do we yearn for leadership,We are a nation that slays humiliation and assassinates misery,We are a nation that demolishes injustice peacefully from its foundations,We are a nation that doesn’t want this nation to remain at a constant setback”

As a result, Ayat Al-Gormezi has been subjected to much torture, harassment, defamation, intimidation and threats of rape and murder. On March 30th Ayat gave herself up to the police after they threatened to kill her brothers. She has been detained since. The Military court in Bahrain sentenced her to one year in prison for reading out a poem on the 12th of June 2011. On the 20th of June she was moved to a prison for major offences to stay alongside murderers, rapists, prostitutes and drug addicts –for what crime?!

Her appeal has been scheduled for the 26th of June and we request your immediate intervention to ensure that she is released.  
We urge you to help Ayat and the many other Bahrainis in similar positions and also the pro-democracy individuals who fear the same fate.

[For further information, please visit: ayat-algormezi.blogspot.com]

Yours faithfully,


-------------------------------

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Ayat's latest poem


Latest poem written by Ayat Al-Gormezi in prison. (Has not been translated yet)
 
آيات القرمزي استعدت للوقت الذي يذيع فيه تلفزيون العار
اعتذارها لحمد وخليفة وهي مكرهة،وتقول إني صامدة ولازلت على
عهد الثورة..عذبوني حتى بصعقات الكهرباء والدبابيس،وهددوني
بالاغتصاب!! فاعتذرت وأنا تحت الإكراه..قصيدة حفظتها عن ظهر قلب
إحدى السجينات،،إنشروها على أوسع نطاق رداً على القتلة والمعذبين .
 
(( زنزانتي .. ميدان لؤلؤتي  ))
 
بسمِ الإلهِ مخافتي ورجائي 
 وبمحمدٍ والعترةِ النجباءِ
 
وإليك ياربي خضعتُ تضرعاً 
 لتعينني في رحلةِ اللأواءِ
 
لا..لستُ أكتب بالدموعِ رسالتي
 دمعي يثيرُ شماتةَ الأعداءِ
 
لاتسألوا عن وقتِ نظمِ قصيدتي
فالشمسُ حلمٌ والصباحُ مسائي
 
يا يوسفُ الصدّيق فسّر محنتي
 ألمُ السياطِ وصعقةُ الاعضاءِ
 
اُنثى..ورعبُ..والعذابُ..ووحدتي
زنزانتي كالجبِ بالظلماءِ
 
ياليتني!! مصلوبةٌ،،منسيةٌ 
والطيرُ تأكلني،،لعُظمِ بلائي
 
أنا لستُ يائسةٌ،فروحي حرةٌ
لكنّ جسمي لايطيقُ عنائي
 
ياليتني مسبيةٌ مع زينبٍ 
فتعينني لو جاءني أعدائي
 
أنا لستُ مريم فالملاكُ يزورها
 "ياليتني..."قالت بلا استحياءِ
 
وهتفتُ..يارباهُ!!من فُرطِ الأسى
أولستَ تسمعُ صرختي ودعائي
 
فكأنما الملكوتُ أرسلَ نفحةً 
 بتوسلي ،، بروائعِ الأسماءِ
 
أبصرتُ في قلبي سماءَ طهارةِ
العذراءِ ، والزهراءِ ، والحوراءِ
 
فاستيقظت روحي وكلُ جوانحي
وجوارحي انتفضت على أرزائي
 
وتهجدت شفتايَ بالآياتِ
وابتهجت بشعرِ الثورةِ الغنّاء 
 
أ نا لستُ راكعةً لمخلوقٍ..بلى
للهِ..للشعبِ العظيمِ ولائي
 
إن أكرهوني باعتذارٍ حسبهم
 اللهُ يعلمُ نيتي وبلائي
 
والشعبُ ثارَ ولن يُصدّقَ مكرَهم
 ألله أكبرُ ،، ثورةٌ بسمائي
 
زنزانتي ميدانُ لؤلؤتي أنا 
 أفديكِ يا حريتي بدمائي

Enter Ayat for 'Freedom to Create' prize


Freedom to Create supports programmes and projects around the world that unleash 
people’s creativity.

Freedom to Create focuses on regions of the world where there is the greatest need to change mindsets and build capacity to fight the intolerance and conflict that prevents creativity from flourishing. But in many societies, political repression and intolerance inhibits creative expression, especially for women like Ayat. Artists, like Ayat Al-Gormezi, play an important role in breaking these barriers and championing political freedom. 
The Freedom to Create Prize celebrates the courage and creativity of artists who use their talents to build social foundations and inspire the human spirit. Artists and poets like Ayat take risks to play an important role as positive change agents.
The imprisoned artist’s prize is presented to artists who are imprisoned because of their courage and creativity in pursuing their art, and the role of their work in highlighting injustice. There will be less emphasis placed on the artists work and more on the personal courage demonstrated by them, the message conveyed through their work and its impact. The prize of US$25,000 is awarded to one winner, to be directed towards securing the artist's release, advocating on behalf of them and their cause and offering support to their family.

Surely no one is more deserving of this prize then Ayat Al-Gormezi who faces torture, imprisonment and detention as a result using her talent in poetry to stand up and speak out against the suppressive Al-Khalifa regime.

Enter AYAT AL-GORMEZI for the prize -
This will take some 10 – 15 minutes, we urge you to do this for the sake of Ayat, for the sake of freedom and for the sake of justice for Bahrain.

Update on Ayat

Posted on the Justice for Bahrain facebook group by Mohammed Sadiq today, 21/06/11


Ayat's family went to visit her in prison this morning having been told that they could come, but when they arrived at the gates they were told that they can not see her because they didn't register for the visit and the reason they called them was to register for the next visit. However, after her family protested, they manged to see her for 5 minutes only and were constantly accompanied by a prison guard. Her brother that the prison guard was listing to every word and kept interrupting in the conversation, so they could not ask her about her treatment in the prison she had recently moved to, especially that this prison is for criminals who serving sentences for murder, drugs, prostitution etc. Her brother also noted that his sister had lost a lot of weight.

Her brother stated, regarding the video featured yesterday on Bahrain TV showing Ayat apologizing for reading her poem, that it was recorded during her torture period. The video is actually 20 minutes  long and the officials only showed 1 minute. 

Ayat's appeal is tomorrow.
 We urge you to pray for her and contact human right organisations to put pressure on the Bahraini government to release her as she should not even be in prison since she has committed NO crime.


Ayat was told her about the global support and solidarity for her case and she sends her salutes and thanks every one who helped in her campaign.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Short documentary about Ayat

This was uploaded onto YouTube by AhrarQatif on the 9th of May, so it's not very recent - but it is definitely worth sharing

Sunday, 19 June 2011

In times like these, poetry is a road to a Bahraini jail

Posted by: Geoffrey Mock in Amnesty’s blog http://blog.amnestyusa.org/, June 16, 2011

In this season of uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa, governments consider even poetry subversive.  Now a young Bahraini student is looking at a year in jail for reading a poem criticizing the Bahraini king.

Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was convicted by a military court after an unfair trial. She was charged with taking part in illegal protests, disrupting public security and publicly inciting hatred toward the regime. She was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama.

The poem’s lyrics include the lines:

“We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery/ Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?”

She was forced to turn herself in to the authorities on March 30 after masked police raided her parents’ house repeatedly and reportedly threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.

One colleague of the young poet has also told Amnesty International that she has been beaten and tortured.  In addition, the use of military courts to try civilians fails to meet international standards for fair trials.  Download our Urgent Action with information on how you can help free Ayat al-Qarmezi.

According to Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa Malcolm Smart:

“By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis.”

Amnesty International believes the charges against Ayat al-Qarmezi should be dropped and she should be released immediatelyand all allegations of torture should be investigated in an independent and public manner.  It also goes without saying that the use of military courts to try civilians needs to end now.

But the case is just one among many disturbing instances of human rights abuses as protests in are met by violence by security forces and legal action by the Bahrain government, one of the U.S.’ closest strategic allies in the region.  A trial of dozens of doctors and nurses, charged because they treated protesters injured by security forces, is scheduled to resume in a few weeks.  A large trial of opposition leaders is also ongoing.

In his recent speech on the Middle East, U.S. President Barack Obama criticized the abuses he saw in Bahrain.  But beyond these words, our government has failed to take effective action to pressure Bahrain to rein in their security and judicial forces.

The US government’s silence only means we have to be louder.  Ayat al-Qarmezi’s case has attracted the attention of writers everywhere including PEN International.

Amnesty International launched a Twitter action on Bahrain yesterday (June 15).  Click here to take part.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A woman poet is the sign of defiance in Bahrain


Published on Thursday, June 16, 2011 by CommonDreams.org


Ayat al-Qarmezi, a 20 year-old woman poet in Bahrain, recently condemned to one year in prison, has become the human face of defiance against the regime ruling the country. Her crime, to have spoken at a pro-reform rally in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February. Unless the government changes its approach and accepts peaceful dissent, the seeds of resistance will flower in Bahrain.
Speaking at a rally, Ayat al-Qarmezi recited a poem among whose lyrics were, “We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery.” She was arrested after the police raided her parents’ house and threatened to kill her brothers if Ayat didn’t give herself up. During her detention she was whipped across her face with electric cable, held for days in a small cell with near-freezing temperatures and forced to clean lavatories with her bare hands, the same hands that wrote other beautiful verses.
One of her poems, translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi, says:
We don’t like to live in a palace
And we are not after power
We are the people who
Break down humiliation
And discard oppression
With peace as our tool
We are people who
Do not want others to be living in the Dark Ages.
Ayat is one of many women – doctors and medical personnel among others – who have been targets of repression by Bahrain’s regime. Her detention has been harshly condemned by Amnesty International and other human rights organizations.
“By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain’s authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis,” stated Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
Smart asked that the Bahraini authorities drop all unfair charges against Ayat al-Qarmezi, and release her immediately and unconditionally. His request follows President Barak Obama’s statement during the visit to Washington of Bahrain’s Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa that stability of the Gulf Kingdom “depends upon respect for universal human rights.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has joined the protests against the Bahrain regime’s actions, particularly regarding special military court proceedings against those arrested during the country’s anti-government protests. “Bahraini authorities should immediately halt all proceedings before the special military court and free everyone held solely for exercising the rights to free speech and peaceful assembly,” stated HRW, while at the same time demanding that all those charged with criminal offenses be tried in independent civilian courts.
The young Bahraini poet joins the ranks of other women in history who have written forcefully against brutality and oppression. In the book “Women Against Tyranny: Poems of Resistance During the Holocaust,” edited by Davi Walders, Marianne Baum, one of the creators of the Baum Group, a resistance group opposing the Nazis from 1937 until 1942 when most were arrested and sent to concentration camps, wrote,
They hunted us. Retaliation everywhere.
Then the Sondergericht –‘special court.’
They carried me there, my shattered legs
dangling. No one talked. A hundred
Berliners rounded up for each of us.
Five hundred –most shot there and then;
The rest, slower deaths at Sachsenhausen.
This, too, our burden, but…would they
Have died anyway? You must understand.
We had to do something.
Changing a few circumstantial details, those words could have been written by Ayat al-Qarmezi today in Bahrain.

Take Action: call for Ayat's release


20-year-old activist Ayat Al-Qarmezi has been jailed for a year for reading poetry critical of the King. Call for her release.
In February, while attending a pro-reform rally in Manama, Ayat al-Qarmezi read out a poem she had written. Its lyrics include: ‘We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery / Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?’ On 12 June, Ayat al-Qarmezi was sentenced by a military court to one year in prison for taking part in illegal protests, disrupting public security and inciting hatred towards the regime. We consider Ayat al-Qarmezi to be a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned for peacefully expressing her views in public.

Free Ayat now, Amnesty tells Bahrain regime


Published in the Independent on Thursday 16th June 2011, By Alistair Dawber

Amnesty International last night called on Bahrain to free Ayat al-Gormezi, the 20-year-old student who has become a symbol for those who have taken to the streets of the Gulf state to demand greater political freedoms.
Jailed for a year this week for protesting, Ms Gormezi was convicted after reciting poetry critical of Bahrain's king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and the Bahraini regime. She was arrested on 30 March when security forces raided her parents' home and forced four of her brothers to the floor at gunpoint. As previously reported in The Independent, Ms Gormezi was whipped across the face with an electrical cable and held in a tiny cell.
Amnesty's Bethan Cansfield, said: "Ayat's imprisonment is an utter disgrace. The Bahraini authorities ought to release her immediately and investigate disturbing reports that she was horribly mistreated while in detention."

The Bahraini government has said it had appointed lawyers in the UK to file a case against The Independent for what it described as the newspaper's "unrealistic and provocative" articles on the protests.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Poetic injustice

By Sophia Jones  

A Bahraini security court sentenced 20-year-old student Ayat al-Qurmezi to one year in prison yesterday. The young woman, infamous for her February recitation of an anti-government poem in Pearl Square, has been found guilty of speaking out against the king and inciting hatred. Her poem has become an international symbol of the Bahraini opposition:
We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery
We are the people who will destroy the foundation of injustice
Don't you hear their cries, don't you hear their screams
Down with Hamad
Al-Qurmezi has been in captivity since March. She was rumored to have been raped and tortured after an alleged phone call was made from doctors at an army hospital in April. Yesterday, a relative confirmed that her face had been shocked with an electrical cable, she was forced to clean the prison bathroom with her hands, and held in a near-freezing cell for days at a time. Ayat al-Ghermezi has incited a rally cry for free speech in Bahrain, where female students, doctors and professors have become targets of government crackdown on civil rights.


She is not the only poet to face such harsh punishments recently in the Middle East. Waleed Mohammad al Rumaishi had his tongue cut out after reciting poetry in support of embattled Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 2009, civil servant and poet Moneer Said Hanna wrote a five-lined satirical poem about former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and is now serving a three year sentence, as well as paying a fine of over $16,000. Syrian poet, Faraj Bayrakdar, now fuels the revolution from Sweden after enduring over 13 years of torture in prison where he would carve pens from wood splinters and make ink from tea leaves in order to write poetry.


Robert Frost said that poetry is what gets lost in translation, but for Ayat al-Qurmezi and her fellow dissident poets, the message is quite clear.

Bahrain student jailed for year over protest poems

Ayat al-Qurmezi became minor celebrity after reciting poems critical of king during Pearl Square gatherings

Associated Press, guardian.co.uk, Sunday 12 June 2011

A 20-year-old woman who recited poems critical of Bahrain's rulers and later claimed she was beaten in jail was sentenced to a year in prison, as part of the kingdom's crackdown on Shia protesters calling for greater rights.

The ruling by a special security tribunal sent a strong message that the Sunni monarchy is not easing off on punishments linked to the unrest despite appeals for talks with Shia groups in the strategic Gulf island state, which is home to the US navy's 5th Fleet.

Ayat al-Qurmezi became a minor celebrity among protesters after reciting poems critical of the king and prime minister during gatherings in the capital's Pearl Square, which was the hub for Shia-led demonstrations that broke out in February after drawing inspiration from the Arab uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

One verse, addressed to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, included the lines: "We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery. Don't you hear their cries? Don't you hear their screams?"

She was convicted of anti-state charges, including inciting hatred, said the official Bahrain News Agency. Her mother, Sada al-Qurmezi, said an appeal is planned.

The court's decision drew sharp denunciations from opposition groups and the human rights group Amnesty International, which said the verdict highlighted how free speech is "brutally denied" by Bahrain's authorities.

Qurmezi surrendered to authorities in late March after police raided the family's house and threatened to kill her brothers, said her mother. While in custody, the young woman claims she was beaten and tortured with electric shocks, Amnesty reported.

Shias account for about 70% of Bahrain's population but claim they face widespread discrimination such as being blocked from holding top military or government posts. Shia leaders have called on authorities to end security crackdowns and protest-related trials before considering talks with the Sunni ruling family.

But Bahrain's rulers appear strongly committed to keeping a heavy hand in place.

Bahrain's monarchy and its Gulf Arab allies fear Shia power Iran could use instability in Bahrain to gain new footholds for influence. A 1,500-strong Gulf force led by Iran's main regional rival, Saudi Arabia helped crush the protests and is expected to remain in Bahrain indefinitely.

Qurmezi was in her second year of study toward a teaching degree at the University of Bahrain when she joined the protesters in Pearl Square.

"My daughter did nothing wrong," her mother told The Associated Press from the family home in Sadad, a village in central Bahrain. "She didn't raise her hands in anger. She used words to express how they felt. She was only using her rights of free speech."

Across the Arab world, poetry is a powerful and popular form of expression. Thousands of works have extolled the so-called Arab spring, ranging from free-form verse in Cairo's Tahrir Square to literary figures such as Syria's Ali Esber, better known by his pen name Adonis, who has railed against Arab despots and last month was awarded Germany's Goethe prize.

"By locking up a female poet merely for expressing her views in public, Bahrain's authorities are demonstrating how free speech and assembly are brutally denied to ordinary Bahrainis," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty's director for the Middle East and north Africa.

Her mother said Qurmezi also was expelled from university apparently caught up in government-ordered purges of thousands of students, workers and others accused of backing the protests.

At least 31 people have been killed in the unrest in Bahrain. Amnesty said at least 500 people have been detained.

"How can they do this to my daughter?" her mother asked. "Is this fair?"

Two former parliament members, Jawad Fairooz and Mattar Mattar, also went on trial on Sunday as part of wide-ranging arrests and trials of perceived enemies of the ruling system. Both are members of the main Shia political group, Wefaq, whose 18 lawmakers resigned to protest the harsh measures against protesters.

In a statement, Wefaq said the poet's arrest is a "clear message that the government is against freedom of expression."

It came a day after Bahrain's government allowed a Wefaq-led rally of more than 10,000 people in an apparent bid to ease tensions and make overtures for dialogue.

The U S has condemned the violence in Bahrain, but has stopped short of any tangible punishments against the rulers in one of Washington's military hubs in the Gulf.

Ayat al-Ghormezi's poem: Khalifa

By Ayat al-Ghormezi
Translated from the Arabic by Ghias Aljundi with Mitchell Albert (PEN)


Hear me: 
You, the elder,
the "good man", who "safeguards justice"
(so you have always declared),

if I were to make excuses for you,
I, for you, for the things you have done,
I would only look the fool,
for you would continue in your ways, 
and murder us as "traitors".

Hear me:
Hear us all,
for we all demand likewise - both sects, all Bahrainis:
You must go. 
Take His Majesty with you, 
and leave your deeds behind.

You, oppressor, 
from where do you derive your power,
the power to keep your people down? – 
all your people,
even women 
even children 
even men. 

Yet you call for "dialogue", 
even in the midst of your brutality?
No! ...
No! ...

One word: No!
One demand:
Give us back our Bahrain. 
Return this country to its people; 
to us, its people.
Our Bahrain is ours.
________________________________________
1Khalifa (Arabic): Prime Minister

Poet who became symbol of Bahrain resistance is jailed


Poet who became symbol of Bahrain resistance is jailed

By Patrick CockburnMonday, 13 June 2011

Poet Ayat al-Gormezi was detained after she took part in a protest rally and read out a poem appealing for democratic rights

Poet Ayat al-Gormezi was detained after she took part in a protest rally and read out a poem appealing for democratic rights

The 20-year-old Bahraini poet Ayat al-Gormezi, who has become a symbol of resistance to repression on the island, was sentenced to one year in prison yesterday.

She was detained after she participated in a protest rally earlier this year and read out a poem appealing for democratic rights and criticising the monarchy. During her detention she was whipped across the face with electric cable, held for nine days in a tiny cell with the temperature near freezing, and was forced to clean lavatories with her bare hands.

She was jailed yesterday by a security court without any legal argument or her lawyer being allowed to speak, said a family member present at the trial. Her brother, Yousif Mohammed, said by phone from Bahrain that her treatment in prison had improved in recent days, in contrast to the extreme mistreatment she received when she was first detained at the end of March.

He attributed the change in the authorities' behaviour to the international publicity given to her case. The family has lodged an appeal against the sentence.

In addition to Ayat's receiving a lower sentence than had been expected, there are signs that the Bahraini government may be having second thoughts about its all-out assault on those who supported the demonstrations demanding political rights which took place in February and the first half of March. The Sunni monarchy allowed a rally, which attracted 10,000 people, organised by the main opposition party al-Wifaq to take place on Saturday. A few weeks ago the government had considered banning al-Wifaq.

The opposition, most of whose supporters come from the Shia, Bahrain's majority Arab community, showed by the size of the turnout that they were not crushed. Crowds chanted "We are the winners" and "With our blood and soul we sacrifice for Bahrain" as security forces held back and helicopters flew overhead.

"We salute every mother who lived through the fear of having the door of her home kicked in by security forces," al-Wifaq's leader Ali Salman told the rally. "We have lived through black months."

All of al-Wifaq's 18 members of parliament have resigned in protest at the clampdown, during which many of those detained have complained that they were abused or tortured. At least 400 people are still imprisoned.

President Obama saw the Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in Washington last week and asked Bahrain to respect free speech and the right to free assembly.

A warped response to calls for democracy


Published in The Independent, by Kate Allen on Saturday, 11 June 2011
Ayat al-Gormezi is far from being the only detainee in Bahrain who may have been tortured before going on trial. Hundreds have been arrested and many, like Ayat, were held incommunicado (always a deeply worrying sign).
Many report unprovoked assaults at the time of their arrest, often – in a clear pattern – by groups of masked police and security forces who smashed down doors in the early hours.
Amnesty International has had numerous reports where detainees allege torture, often while at undisclosed locations. Many of a group of 48 medical staff from Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama seem to have been horribly abused.
Relatives of the medics – who are on trial apparently as a punishment for treating wounded protesters – have told Amnesty how security officials at Bahrain's Criminal Investigations Directorate made them stand for long periods, deprived them of sleep, beat them with hoses and nailed boards, and made them sign "confessions" while blindfolded.
A 31-year-old man from a Shia village told what happened at a police station. "They put me in the middle of a room, blindfolded, and several men – I don't know how many – beat me and applied electric shocks on both legs," he said. "It hurt so much that after they applied the first shock I fell on the floor because I could not feel my legs. Once on the floor, they beat me and kicked me on my head and body. They beat me so hard that I still cannot see from one of my eyes."
Torture may have been lethal. In April, at least four detainees died in custody in very suspicious circumstances. The mistreatment seems aimed at warning protesters.
When the medics attended court this week their heads had been shaved and many looked gaunt. The men had been forced to stand in the hot sun before entering court and all were led in blindfolded and handcuffed.
Ominously there have been no independent investigations into the alleged abuses. But if they can do this to doctors, nurses and a poet, what does it say about the authorities' warped response to the challenge of people taking to the streets just to demand change?
Kate Allen is the director of Amnesty International UK

Detained poet 'beaten across face with electric cable'


Bahraini security forces accused of torturing pro-democracy activist
Published in the Independent, By Patrick Cockburn
Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation's crackdown on dissent.
The 20-year-old trainee teacher, who spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, is due back in court this weekend on charges of inciting hatred, insulting the king and illegal assembly, and her family fear she may suffer further mistreatment in custody amid threats of another round of interrogation.
Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem criticising the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February. Her family were able to talk to her by phone from prison, but they only learned about her mistreatment, amounting to torture, when she spoke to them at her arraignment earlier this month.
In a phone interview with The Independent from Bahrain yesterday, her mother, Sa'ada Hassan Ahmed, related Ayat's account of what happened after her arrest. The details of her interrogation and imprisonment are similar to the experiences of other women detained by Bahraini security forces since they launched a full scale repression on 15 March against all those demanding democratic reform in the island kingdom.
Ayat gave herself up to police after they threatened to kill her brothers. She was taken away in a car with two security officials – a man and a woman – both of whom were masked and dressed in civilian clothes. They immediately started to beat her and threaten her, saying she would be raped and sexually assaulted with degrading photographs of her put on the internet.
"When she reached the interrogation centre in Manama she was put in the very small cell and kept there for nine days," her mother said. "The beatings with electric cable made her lips swell up." At times, Ayat thought the air conditioning in the cell was emitting some form of gas, which made her feel she was suffocating. Throughout this period the police made no real attempt to interrogate her.
Her family say the days after Ayat was taken away was a period of intense psychological torture. "We knew nothing about what had happened to her though we heard rumours that she had been raped or killed," her brother Yousif Mohammed said.
Her mother went from police station to police station asking for news of Ayat, but learned nothing. Sa'ada was finally told by the police that she should file a missing persons report, though she complained that this was absurd since it was the police who had detained her daughter.
And in a sinister development, pictures of Ayat began to turn up on dating and pornographic websites. This may relate to the threats made by police when she was first arrested that shameful photographs of her would be posted online.
After nine days, Ayat was moved to Isa prison and, 15 days after she was first taken away, she was allowed to make a phone call to her parents telling them that she was alive. The physical torture stopped, but she was kept under psychological pressure.
"At some point," her mother says, "she was forced to sign a document but she was blindfolded and did not know what it said."
She was told to clean up other cells and the corridor of the bloc she was in but was allowed no contact with other prisoners. On several occasions she was taken back to the interrogation centre where she had first been held and a video was taken of her giving her name and saying that she was a Shia and she hated Sunnis.
The majority of the Arab population in Bahrain are Shia and the ruling Al-Khalifa royal family are Sunni. The government have been trying to portray demands for democratic reform as an anti-Sunni conspiracy orchestrated by Iran.
Asked for further details of Ayat's interrogation in Isa prison, her mother said she did not know because they did not have long enough to talk when they met during the arraignment. They were told the previous day to bring a lawyer, though it is unclear how freely he was able to talk to his client.
While Ayat was meeting her family during the arraignment, a policeman overheard her giving details of her mistreatment. He said that if she continued to do so, she would be returned to the interrogation centre and tortured again.

Bahraini poet set to face verdict for protest reading


Amnesty International, 8 June 2011

A Bahraini poet faces possible imprisonment for reading out a poem criticizing the country’s King when a military court rules on her case next Sunday.

Ayat al-Qarmezi, 20, a poet and student was arrested in March for reading out a poem at a pro-reform rally in the capital Manama. She has been charged with "incitement to hatred of the regime" and has reportedly been tortured while in detention.

"Ayat al-Qarmezi has been put on trial merely for expressing her opinion, peacefully and openly. Her case represents an appalling and sinister attack on free speech. The charges against her should be dropped and she should be released immediately," said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

"If convicted, Ayat al-Qarmezi could face a long prison sentence. If she is imprisoned, she will be the first woman prisoner of conscience to be locked up in Bahrain for peacefully expressing her views," he added.

While attending a pro-reform rally in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout in February, Ayat al-Qarmezi read out a poem which she said was addressed to King Hamad bin 'Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain's head of state.

Its lyrics include the lines "We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery/ Don’t you hear their cries, don’t you hear their screams?".

She was forced to turn herself in to the authorities on 30 March after masked police raided her parents' house repeatedly and reportedly threatened to kill her brothers unless she did so.

She was held incommunicado for the first 15 days of her detention and since then has only been permitted to see her family twice.

According to one informed source to whom Amnesty International has spoken, Ayat al-Qarmezi alleges that she was beaten in detention and tortured with electric shocks.

The Bahrain authorities say at least 24 people, including two police officers, have died in the unrest and clashes between police and demonstrators since pro-reform protests began in February.

At least 500 protesters have been detained and four have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. Some two thousand people have also been dismissed or suspended from their jobs, apparently as part of an ongoing purge of those who participated in the protests.