Scene from Bahraini Girl's Life whose Father is Behind Bars

2017-07-06 - 3:05 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The account presented below does not represent the most painful story, or the most exciting for that matter. It is a daily routine experienced by Bahrainis, experienced by the families of political prisoners in Bahrain. It has become a familiar occurrence, not because it is, but because turning something- no matter how humiliating or painful- into a routine becoming part of people's lives makes it less likely for people to  be shocked by it or even notice its bitterness.

Here is a slow narration of some details of the daily lives of Bahrainis, and the pain young Bahrainis grow up on. Children can forget everything but pain, as it grow up within their consciousness as they grow up, fueling them with anger and indignation. A Bahraini woman recounts visiting her imprisoned brother for the first, also telling the story of his little girl, whose life shifted as she entered new territory that she never could have imagined with her young mind.

This is my brother's first visit after his arrest. Our appointment was at 12 pm noon. The temperature was over 40°C. It seemed as if the sun was showing off its ability to melt skulls.
We arrived twenty minutes before the scheduled date,  my mother, his wife, my brothers and I, as well as his two children, three-year-old Fatima and three-month-old baby Mariam.

At the outer gates, we saw a number of families coming in, stopping their cars at the nearest location to reduce their walking distance under the sun. We knew that this was the entrance, so we parked our car the nearest available place we could find to the gate.

Outside, it felt like hell, not in the metaphorical sense! The sun was like a merciless blazing ball of fire. We stopped at a booth, knocked at its window so they would open and take our cards through the window, so that the names and types of kinship are registered. The time it takes for them to do this feels like a long hour of melting, and if there was someone in line before you, then you would feel as if you were about to perish as you waited. At this window also, you will be given another appointment for your next visit.

After finishing up at this booth, we would go to another that does not exceed the size of a guard's room at an apartment building. Here, the families would hand over the items they want to send to the prisoners. This time; however, we would enter the booth, but once you open the door, you will find yourself looking for the breath of air, before looking for space for your next step. Everyone stands in this one square meter area. The place is so tight that everyone feels like they're suffocating. This process will take long, as they scrutinize what is allowed enter the prison, money, clothes, books that are checked thoroughly before being approved, etc...

In Bahrain, starting from June 1st, a prohibition on working is imposed from noon to 4 pm, which applies to establishments operating in open workplaces. This is a completely right decision, but why is there no decision to prohibit keeping families detainees waiting in the heat during these hours.

The two little kids began to sweat profusely, melting from the heat before we reached the waiting area. My mother, brother's wife, his two girls and I entered while my brothers stayed outside completing the procedures. The area consists of two small rooms with one entrance, one for men and the other for women. The size of the room is three square meters at most. Each room has one air conditioner with a medium temperature that only reaches one side. There are not enough chairs to for all the women waiting. Almost half of them remained standing and as the room became more crowded, it was as if the air condition turned into a metaphorical cooler.

We thought that the time for the visit had come after one of the men summoned his family. All the women went out and the families stood in line under the sun at the entrance of the prison. Every minute was heavy as time felt as if it was barely passing. I held Baby Mariam on my shoulder, placing a light blanket over her head to protect her from the sun, but it was useless, as I saw her wither like a burning flower. Fatima, his eldest daughter, was soaked in sweat, which ruined the outfit she had picked herself so carefully, and of course I was melting under my black Abaya.

We couldn't to check the time because we were not wearing watches, as we are not allowed to wear anything like watches, gold, etc.. or carry anything with us other than our ID cards. The policeman standing at the door said it was 11:50, and he would not let us in until 12 pm after the visitors before us had left. We could no longer bear standing on our feet. We all went back to the waiting room, and some of the men stayed outside. I immediately took Mariam, headed to the air conditioner and stood directly in front of it. She looked withered and pale.

We stayed along with the other families of the detainees inside that area. Half of us sat and the other half stood up, until we were called to go outside again by some parents. This time we were sure the time had come. We went out again. I held my brother's three-year-old daughter's hand. I was afraid she would suffer a sunstroke. I hid her in the shade cast by our bodies, but she was suffocating from the heat. The gate was open and the families rushed towards it. Everyone wanted to enter quickly to escape the heat of the sun that was feeding on the bodies. A security man at the gate receives the ID cards, inquires about the nature of kinship and checks the information before allowing anyone to enter.

The process is very slow. It makes you feel as if every minute outside is like an hour spent in hell. Finally, it was our family's turn. I handed the security officer the ID cards and asked him as he checked them to allow my brother's wife and her two children to enter and stand near the door, where there is some shade. He looked at them and hesitantly allowed them to enter. He called out our names one by one and we finally felt that we could breathe. We crossed the gate. "Women from this side," he said showing us the way.

Then we were taken to the inspection room. The family that was before us had just left and one of the policewomen was spraying an air freshener because the heat had sucked all the sweat out of our bodies. I gave the policewoman an angry look. I wanted to say: "Yes, we smell bad. Is this what you want us to be like? As if we live in a country that can not construct a decent air conditioned prison entrance with a ceiling." I wanted to tell her as she passed her hand all over my body: "Did you spray the air freshener to tell us that our smell is foul? Is this a deliberate attempt to humiliate us?" The search was done. Even the little ones were thoroughly searched as well.

During all this, Fatima was silent and shocked, clinging to her mother's Abaya. As for Mariam, she was so dizzy and exhausted that she fell asleep on her mother's shoulder soaked in her sweat.
Finally we arrived at the last station before meeting my brother. There were two police women sitting at a counter. We gave them my imprisoned brother's name, so one of them checked it on a paper in front of her and then called his name through the loudspeaker and said the number of the booth. She then pointed at the entrance. I carried Fatima and ran, telling her: Oh Allah! We are going to see dad right now. She smiled at last and was relieved.

At the entrance of the booth, I knew I would see the glass barrier separating us from my brother. I held Fatima and entered: There is daddy,  told her, so he shouted her name from behind the barrier, and open his arms as if he was waiting for a hug. I placed on the shelf adjacent to the barrier. The first thing she said to her father was: "Did the riot police go away?"

She plastered herself on the glass and opened her arms to embrace her father, as did my brother. She stood silent and stunned, as if she was saying: "Will I hug the glass?!" Her mother had already prepared her for this and explained to her that she would not be able to touch her father and that there would be a barrier between them. She did this to avoid shocking her. But this does not seem to ease the shock of reality. Her smile and excitement were broken. Her father tried to amuse her and make her laugh like he used to do at home, but it did not work.

He said to her, "put your cheek here so I could give you a kiss." She placed her cheek against the glass and he gave her a kiss. She looked at him and gave him a fake smile. He said to her, "now, I will put my cheek and you kiss me." He placed his cheek on the glass. She gave him a look full of meanings, as if she was telling him, "Are you serious?" and then she kissed the glass. She kept on faking a smile. She looked broken and conquered by silence. Her mother told her: "Go ahead laugh with daddy." "I'll laugh with him at home," she replied.

My mother held back tears in her eyes and sat on the chair next to the wall, and when we asked him how he was, my mother leaned her head on the side of the shelf and began to choke on her tears. He tried in every way to assure us that he was fine, that nothing bothered him there. He seemed to be in high spirits. We hardly could hear his voice unless he spoke loudly, or we stuck our ears against the glass, as the speakers on both sides did not work.

Mariam remained asleep, as she was very tired. It took a while before her mother was able to wake her up so that her father could see her.

The duration of the visit ended quickly, we felt very sad and did not want to leave. He did not want to as well. His daughter was still sinking in silence, barely answering her father, who did his best to make her laugh and smile. He left after the officer in charge give him the last warning. We put our hands on the glass as if we were shaking each other's hands. Before he left the booth, he turned, taking a final look with eyes full of tears at his little girl Fatima, who was still sitting there.

On our way back to the car, Fatima did not stop asking one question: "Where did daddy go after he left the booth?" We did not have an answer. "Did he go to prison?," she asked. We did not know what to say.
When she returned home her other grandmother asked her: "Did you see daddy?"
"I saw daddy, but I did not see him well. I didn't touch him and give him love," she said.

A few weeks before the visit, Fatima was singing to her little sister as she was sleeping in her bed and telling her how the riot police had taken her father. Suddenly she looked at her mother, who was looking at her with astonishment and said to her: "Do not be upset mommy."
A few days before that, she planning her father's escape. She whispered to her mother: "When we go to the daddy in prison, we will beat the riot police, smuggle him out and run away."

At another time, she asked her mother: "Mommy, how can I become strong?" "Drink milk," her mother replied, so she quickly stood up and said: "Hurry up, I need to drink milk, so I can become strong and hit the riot police."
No one taught the three-year-old girl that. No one provoked her. She saw and witnessed what she had witnessed, and thus was filled with these emotions!

Arabic Version


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