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Bahrainis Deserve More than Al Khalifa: Activist'

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TEHRAN, April 21 (ICANA) – Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who witnessed the arrest of her father, uncle, husband and brothers-in-law, has ended her hunger strike.
Thursday, April 21, 2011 11:47:15 PM
Bahrainis Deserve More than Al Khalifa: Activist'

Al-Khawaja had criticized the US administration for turning a blind eye to the Saudi-backed crackdown on anti-government protesters in Bahrain.

The Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain continues to torture and abuse human rights activists protesting against the lack of freedom in the monarchy.

Since mid-February, thousands of anti-government protesters have taken to the streets, calling for an end to Al Khalifa dynasty, which has ruled the nation for almost forty years.

Press TV interviewed Zainab al-Khawaja regarding her hunger strike and Washington's silence over the Bahraini regime's crackdown on protests.

Q: First of all, tell me about your hunger strike, what was your goal? What were you trying to accomplish with that?

Al-Khawaja As I have spoken before about this is that the goal of the regime in Bahrain is to make people in Bahrain feel helpless. They take away our sons and our fathers and our brothers. And they want us to sit in our home and do nothing. Basically, we cannot go on and ask about them in police stations. And even rulers are too scared to take their cases and when they do, they don't get any information. So hunger strike, in my point of view, was the only thing that I found empowering to me, where I could get myself heard and get the people of my country heard around the world as to what is going on in Bahrain, and the suffering of the Bahraini people.

Q: And do you find, at least in the time that you had the hunger strike and even now, do you think the international media has paid more attention to the situation in Bahrain or particularly the point you were trying to make?

Al-Khawaja I do believe there was media attention on what happened here whether it was from my hunger strike and some other things that other people are trying to do to get their cases of human rights abuse outside Bahrain. The problem is that even though we have people around the world who care about Bahrain now and want to do something, the government who can, don't seem to care much, like the US administration for example doesn't seem to care about Bahraini lives and Bahraini human rights.

Q: Why do you think that's the case? We see this situation right now in Libya and how the international or the Western countries have responded and have gotten involved in Libya. And yet we see other countries, Bahrain being one of them, where there is basically no response coming out from Washington. Why do you think the difference?

Al-Khawaja Because basically the US administration, although they speak about justice and human rights and democracy, what they seek is their interest in the area. Their interest comes before all. If it servers their interest for a country to have democracy, then so be it. But if it's not in their interest, they will do everything they can to stop to democracy in that country, as we are seeing here in Bahrain. Not only are they quiet about it here, but they're actively supporting the dictatorship in Bahrain, and are equally responsible for what's happening here. To them they believe, that it's in their interest, financial or otherwise, to keep the Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain, even if it's at the cost of the Bahraini people.

Q: Can you tell us the latest situation about your father? Now we know that Mr. Abdallah al-Khawaja who is your father is supposed to be charged in a military court. Could you just fill us in on the latest, I would appreciate it?

Al-Khawaja In Bahrain right now there are heroes and brave men in every house, all we have to do is to go into one of the villages, and you will see how many brave people and heroes we have here. As for my father, after we talked to him last night, he sounded very tired, he could barely speak. And when I asked him how he was he said the oppression is great and I asked him again, I said, 'Please tell me how you are? Are you okay?” he said, “The oppression is great” and I could tell from his voice, he has been tortured severely. He told us that his trial was this morning, and to take clothes for him so that he could go to trial. Well we did go there, they took the clothes from us, but they didn't allow any of the family to enter the military court. And they did not even allow any of the lawyers to enter the military court, in fact one of the lawyers that we first chose to represent him, we were told that he was also on the wanted list, and that he cannot represent anyone. So, right now the government is trying to punish everyone and anyone, and that's why they're spreading fear amongst people, but everyone knows that the Bahraini people have already started this task and they are not going to stop. The Bahraini people have decided that it's the freedom they want, and the US have to realize that that if they come in between the Bahraini people and their freedom, it's definitely not in their interest.

Q: Can you just give us an idea of what the people there are going through on a day to day basis, a regular day, and how they are dealing with it all?

Al-Khawaja Well what I'm seeing around here is that there is a mixture of fear and anger. A lot of people are afraid, of course for their families mostly, as they sit in their homes, most of the attacks happen on the home and in the villages by masked armed men. So a lot of people at nights, when most of the raids happen, are sitting and holding on to their families. A lot of people don't sleep until 4 a.m. because that's when the arrests usually end. But at the same time when you hear people talking, what they're talking about is that this is not over, the minute we get a chance are going to go out to protest again. We don't want the Al Khalifa regime anymore. In the beginning of all this, after February 14th, there was some kind of discussion, 'Do we want a constitutional monarchy?' Or 'Do we want democracy?' But now there is no such discussion, everyone just wants it over with, the want the fall of the Al Khalifa regime. They say, the Al Khalifas have shown their real faces, and it's about time that we remove them. The Bahraini people deserve better, they deserve a democracy.

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