Sunday, 20 November 2011

Ayat: Main Prize First Runner-Up - Freedom to Create Awards

More info about the winners:

Ayat Al-Gormezi, a 20 year old poet and student at the Faculty of Teachers in Bahrain, was put on trial for merely expressing her opinion peacefully and openly. She was arrested in February 2011 because she recited a poem which criticised government policy in Pearl Square. Ayat was subjected to harassment, defamation, intimidation and threats of rape and murder whilst in prison, where she served two months of a one year sentence as the first female prisoner of conscience in Bahrain. She is currently out on bail and back with her family, although awaiting further information on future punishment.

During her detention she was whipped across the face with an 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 by a security court without any legal argument or having her lawyer permitted to speak”, said a family member who was present at her trial.

Ayat has become a symbol of resistance to repression in Bahrain, encouraging thousands of young people and women to take to the streets to express their opinions and stand up for justice. Many women believe that ‘they are Ayat’ and feel inspired by her use of creativity to demand justice and equal rights. Ayat’s bravery, courage and willingness to take a risk in the struggle for justice has raised awareness of the numerous political prisoners in Bahrain. Ayat’s call for justice was no more radical than that heard on the streets of Tunis, Cairo and Benghazi at the same time, but her severe punishment has been one of the most sinister attacks on free speech in recent times.