French parliament representative, Frederique Dumas, called up the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian to highlight the frequent human rights violations against women in Bahrain. Frederique Dumas, politician and film producer, who was elected as a deputy of the National Assembly in 2017, where she also serves in the Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Frederique Dumas wrote to the minister concerning the cases of several women political prisoners in Bahrain that endured serious sexual, psychological and physical abuses. The most prominent case that the MP addressed is the one of Ebtisam al-Saegh. After voicing government criticisms on social media and for human rights work, in 2017 she was summoned by the authorities for questioning. She was interrogated and subjected to hours of physical and sexual violence. She was eventually charged with “falsely using her human rights work as a cover to provide inaccurate information about Bahrain and undermine its international status”. She was then sentenced to 3 months in prison. Following the imprisonment, Ebtisam started suffering from severe symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as indications of post-traumatic stress. That was not the first time that Ebtisam al Saeg was explicitly targeted because of her human rights work. Bahraini authorities have repeatedly subjected al-Saegh to reprisals for her engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, including the HRC.
In her letter, MP Dumas listed a series of other names of other women political prisoners who were subjects of sexual, psychological and physical violence, naming Ammera Alqashami, Faten Naser, Hajer Mansoor, Medina Ali, Zahra Aslshaikh, Zainab Marhoon, Zakeya Albarboori and Najah Yusuf. In addition, The MP also highlighted the fact that the list is non-exhaustive. This is because many women in Bahrain have had their voices silenced due to intense government persecution. More women are afraid of government reprisals than speaking out about their maltreatment in Bahraini society.
MP Dumas also informed the Minister of the current status of Najah Yusuf who was released from prison in August 2019. The United Nations called on the government of Bahrain to protect her physical and mental integrity. Naja Yusuf is an activist and former civil servant in Bahrain’s Labor Market Regulatory Authority. She was summoned to the Muharraq Security Complex by the National Security Agency (NSA) under false pretenses concerning her son on 23 April 2017. The NSA officers subjected her to multiple interrogations over a five-day period, during which they threatened her, sexually assaulted her, prevented her from meeting with legal counsel despite repeated requests, and forced her to sign a confession without being permitted to read it.
Dumas concludes the letter asking for clarifications about the actions that the French diplomatic corps is taking in order to put an end to these human rights abuses. The Minister of European and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves le Drian has not replied yet. It is critical that France conducts initiatives to the United Nations to recognize these facts and protect these women from the system use of violence and abuses.
To read the full letter please click here