Mariam Tarif: I've Grown Old and Frail but I Won't Bow Down

2020-03-21 - 1:48 م

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Police vehicles didn't leave her front door ever since the 1980s until February 14, 2011. There has always been a reason making this house a target to be destroyed. The reason has always been political. Mariam Tarif hasn't relaxed for over 30 years. Despite this, she hasn't surrendered. She is now more than 70 years old. Her sons and grandsons have been imprisoned. She is now bound to a wheelchair, her bones have become weak but her head still remains held high.

This is indeed determination. She went on her wheelchair to the Pearl Roundabout. On the same wheelchair she also took part in the March 9 protest. However, she is no longer as she was before. She isn't capable anymore of gathering stones and hurling them at security forces. She has become more emotional. She would cry when she saw security forces take her sons to prison. Mariam used to fight and irritate the security forces.

Five years after the death of her husband, Mulla Hassan Sahwan, Bahrain was witnessing the establishment of the state security grip (1975). One of the houses that this grip got a hold of was her house in Al-Sanabis, the Al Sahwan household, especially after the victory of the Iranian Revolution (1979). The night house raids began to be launched. In 1981, her son, Jafar Sahwan, was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in prison without a charge. His only charge was based on the poems he delivered in mourning processions.

It was only a short time after her another son, Hussein, was arrested. He was only 13 years old at the time. Hussein was arrested over the same charge, the poems he recited in funeral processions. Then her eldest daughter, Khadija, was arrested. Hussein was later released to be summoned regularly to the intelligence department, until the end of the 1980s.

In all those days of cruelty the family faced in the 1980s, the mother remained steadfast. She was keen to encourage her children to stand in the face of injustice. She always told them in difficult times: "You are my children and I love you, but you are no better than your leaders who faced the same fate."

The 1990s was one of the periods in which Mariam experienced all the meanings of injustice and oppression. Her children had important roles in that uprising. Her four sons were arrested at once. But it wasn't only them, as she herself, despite her old age, participated in marches calling for democracy. When security forces attacked protesters, she used to gather stones and throw them at the security forces. "She never stopped picking up stones and throwing them at the police," says her daughter Jawaher. "She was healthy at that time. She is still strong and so is her determination."

Half of her seven sons were arrested, and were her grandchildren. Some have been sentenced for long years. Mohammad was sentenced to 15 years in prison. His prison term was the most severe. Her son Jaafar was accused of joining Hezbollah. Mahdi and Abbas were also arrested and the rest of her sons were displaced. Only one of her children was left with her at home. She didn't carry any hatred in her body. She doesn't know how to hate. But surely, she doesn't know how to remain silent when it comes to her rights. She always had tussles with regime and intelligence forces in the repeated raids on her home. She used to frustrate them. Whenever she saw them getting taken into custody, she would tell them repeatedly "be patient," her daughter Khadija says.

When the revolution erupted on February 14, 2011, Mariam had become very old, and her body frail. Nevertheless, she didn't stop following up on everything that was going on. She used to constantly ask about the latest developments. She used to raise her hands and pray: "Support them, O God." One time, she insisted that one of her sons take her to the Pearl Roundabout on her wheelchair. She wanted to take a look and be reassured, although she couldn't do anything. She didn't want to be at the end of the line. The stories her sons and daughters were telling her were not enough.

With the second evacuation of the roundabout (March 16, 2011), Mariam was facing yet another chapter similar to her struggles in the 1990s and 2000s. Her house was raided multiple times. This was how her son Mahdi was apprehended. It was the same way her son Mohammed was arrested when he received about 80 shrapnel in his back and neck. He was forcibly brought in from Doha, where he went for treatment. He was handed over by the Qatari authorities after being held in their prisons. He was accused of "attempting to blow up the King Fahd Causeway". This is why her son Hussein disappeared. He could have faced the same fate.

For the third time since the events broke out, her son Mahdi was arrested and the same scenario was repeated. He was in and out of prison for months. This time he was sentenced for 6 months in prison. Moreover, four of her grandchildren, Yousef, Mohammad, Ali, and Mahmoud were also taken into custody. They served time in prison before they were released.

"My mother is very tired of the injustice she has endured throughout all these years," says her daughter Jawaher. "She lost her energy, which inspired us with determination. Only this time, and for the first time, I saw my mother crying over the arrest of my brothers. When the security forces raided our house to arrest Mahdi after the second evacuation of the roundabout, she was in a state of hysteria. But despite all this, she urges her children to participate in the demonstrations. She is a strong supporter of the uprising. She always asks about the news. She holds the remote controller to watch the news and analysis on television channels. She also expresses her opinions, and opens discussions."

Jawaher continues to talk about her mother by stressing that "despite her old age and sickness, she insisted on participating in the March 9 protest. She took to the streets on her wheelchair and shouted with the demonstrators."

How does she feel as a mother amid all of this? Jawaher comments: "Like any mother, she suffers a lot over the imprisonment of her children. Nevertheless, the pride of the revolution travels through her veins. To this day, Haje Mariam contributes with her savings and offers donations to help opposition activities in Al-Sanabis village succeed. She will fight until her last breath."


Arabic Version