A UK-based human rights organization has disclosed that a considerable number of detainees held in Bahrain have launched a hunger strike, claiming to protest against purported human rights abuses.
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said Friday (August 18) “at least 500 prisoners” were taking part in the hunger strike against what they call “inhumane prison conditions.”
As per the group, prison inmates are confined to their cells 23 hours a day and are even restricted from practising their religion.
At the centre of the controversy is the Jau prison, where those dissidents are held who were detained following the pro-democracy protests in 2011.
The hunger strike began on August 9 and has escalated as more inmates join the movement.
What are the demands put forward by prisoners?
A statement released by the outlawed Bahraini opposition party Al-Wefaq quoted the prisoners as saying that they needed increased time outside the cells.
Other demands include permission to hold prayers in congregation at the prison mosque, changes to constraints on family visits and improvements in education facilities.
“These are not frivolous demands, but necessary ones required for basic human life,” the prisoners said.
US expresses concerns
In response to inquiries about the situation in Bahrain, Vedant Patel, spokesperson for the US State Department, stated that Secretary of State Antony Blinken conveyed concerns regarding certain reports during a meeting with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdellatif al-Zayani on July 20.
Patel said, “We are aware of and concerned on the reports of this hunger strike … We urge Bahrain to continue to make progress on criminal justice reforms and ensure human rights standards are upheld.”
Activists say US enabling atrocities
Observers argue that the ruling monarchy in Bahrain heavily relies on their Western allies, particularly the US, and successive US administrations have contributed to the Bahraini regime’s unchecked human rights violations by not exerting pressure on the government.
During the initial suppression of the 2011 uprising, Bahrain faced criticism from the US, leading former President Barack Obama to enforce a four-year arms embargo.
However, critics point out that despite the initial criticism, the emphasis on Bahrain’s human rights issues waned during Obama’s tenure and even more so under his successor, Donald Trump.
Donald Trump notably embraced Bahrain, earning praise for its recognition of Israel as part of the Abraham Accords.