On 27 August 2018, Mohamed Khatim was arrested in front of the Ministry of Justice by Bahraini officials for peacefully protesting for his right to work. He had traveled to the Ministry of Justice with a banner demanding work so he would be able to support his family financially, and he said he would not return to his home until his demands were met. Hours before he was arrested, Khatim declared that he would go on a hunger strike to raise attention to his case because he felt there were no other options. The Office of Public Prosecution has ordered Mohamed Khatim to be held in pre-trial detention in Dry Dock Detention Center for a week before his case is sent before a court. It is reported that Khatim may be charged with “inciting hatred against the regime.”
Khatim was originally arrested in 2013 and sentenced to three years in prison on politically motivated charges of “threats to public safety.” Following his release, Khatim has experienced repeated economic reprisals and discrimination in Bahrain, making life extremely difficult. He has since protested for economic reform and the right to work, and has been regularly arrested and mistreated by Bahraini officials.
Prior to his arrest, Khatim was an employee at the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, but when he attempted to resume his position after his release he was told he would not be able to work there. Despite not being allowed to return to work for the Ministry, the official records still have Khatim registered as a public employee, which prevents him from working for a private company or a different public sector. Since Khatim has been unable to seek employment, his family has suffered and he has gone into debt from loans – which were initially granted to him to cover his expenses for the 2013 trial which led to his arbitrary detention.
Khatim has become an advocate for economic reform in Bahrain, protesting against discriminatory employment practices and calling attention to broader economic issues in the Kingdom. In early July 2018, Khatim posted a video saying that he had been unemployed for nearly five years and demanded that he be returned to work. He stressed how his situation had reached a point where he was having difficulties providing food for his family. The following day, security forces arrested Khatim on charges of rioting and transferred him to Riffa’s police station. He was later transferred to Jau Prison to serve a sentence of one week for failure to pay back loans to the bank. Khatim’s sentence was extended and he served a total of two weeks and was released on 31 July 2018.
The same day he was released, Khatim posted a video of himself in front of the Ministry of Justice, asking for his bank account to be unfrozen to be able to feed his children and wife. He explained that he has a loan but cannot repay it because he cannot work. It had been more than 5 months since he was able to withdraw any money from the account dedicated to his family’s housing and food allowances.
On 20 August 2018, Khatim sent a letter to the King of Bahrain, the Crown Prince, and the Prime Minister, saying that his wife and children have suffered because he was dismissed from his job and not allowed to return to it. Khatim sent a follow up message on 25 August detailing the situation of his family and calling on the Government of Bahrain to take effective and practical measures to save him and his family and return him to work in the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.
Khatim’s ongoing calls for economic reform and access to employment continue to be met with harassment and intimidation at the hands of Bahraini officials. His most recent arrest this week for peaceful protests shows the extent the Bahraini government will go to silence dissent.
Monica Zuraw is an Advocacy Fellow at ADHRB