In The Cellars of Death, Bahraini Detainees are tortured
Bahrain prisons, are not less violent than Abu Ghraib or the Guantanamo as what happened there and still happening is way beyond one’s imagination. Its scary, brutal and so violent! After documenting some of the cases and stories of mass arrests and tortures I am not sure if I could ever survive if I was to be in the detainees shoes.
My father-in-law Mohamed Hasan Mohamed Jawad (Parweez) who is 65 years old is an independent Human Rights Activist and the eldest prisoner in Bahrain. He was convicted in a so-called “terrorist cell” known by The Alliance for Republic, in the top leading cases in Bahrain consisting of 14 opposition figures and leaders.
He was tortured severely after that he was kidnapped by the Bahraini army alongside the Peninsula Shield forces in March 22, 2011. He went missing for more than 50 days where everybody knew absolutely nothing about him and his family started thinking: “he could be dead”. During that time, he was tortured underground in the ministry of interior main office in Manama to a point where his both legs were drilled with an electrical drill, electrocuted, beaten, kicked and punched on the face several times for long cold months. He wrote his first diary from inside AlGurain military prison under the title of (The diaries of a prisoner of conscience in the cellars of death) in which he stated very frankly the very details of his arrest, investigation, torture and military trails and sentence for 15 years of imprisonment. A fact worth mentioning is that he noted in his diaries witnessing Martyr Karim Fakhrawi’s death under torture while being electrocuted with him in the same room.
In addition to all that, he was tortured brutally by the son of the king, Naser Bin Hamad AlKhalifa, who is the Commander of the Royal Guard, the Chairman of the Supreme Council for Youth and Sport, and the President of the Bahrain Olympic Committee. Naser Bin Hamad AlKhalifa who is a father of a nearly 2 years old girl called Sheema worked on torturing my father-in-law Parweez (65 years old) through beating his head continuously with a hose, bashing his head to the walls, while resting in between! My father-in-law still suffers from terrible headaches and pain in head back, legs and pelvis due to that.
Another personal case of a torture was that of my uncle Shaikh Abduladheem AlMohtadi -50 years old- who is a religious scholar and an author of the most Bahraini books published. He was also tortured badly, and his hand -the one which he writes with- was intentionally broken under torture by mercenaries working for the Ministry of Interior.
In this article I shall provide you with a detailed story of a Bahraini victim of torture under the title of (HorribleTidings) that I will put in parts for you to follow. The story which is to be presented was reported to the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry BICI better known by (Bassiouni commission) last year. In order not to overwhelm you with heavy reading, the story shall come in parts to you. So follow it.
Horrible Tidings: A True Story of Torture in Bahrain
Written by: A victim of torture in Bahrain.
In this short preface, I shall not attempt a detailed narration of my horrible tidings, but rather convey a short account of what happened to me during the recent ‘brutal’ crackdown of Bahrain’s protests in March; I shall also say a few words on the process and tribulation of writing out my misfortune. I shall herewith start out with an overview of the main physical ramifications I had sustained.
In short; I’ve been arrested, shot twice with rubber bullets from a short range, interrogated and severely tortured, and then was released. But during which I had incurred some injuries: I have had my nose broken (twice), a fracture in my cheekbone, bruises all over my body, had broken ribs, lost so much blood, was taken to the military hospital (by them) twice and brought back for more interrogation. But in the end there were no charges to be pressed against me and thus I was released.
In writing out such an ordeal, it was quite a challenge indeed to give words to the voice that others may not have had the courage to say, that is, the voice of the tortured. It is quite clear–at least to me–that I wasn’t only a victim of torture, but also a survivor of torture. Indeed, it was not easy to dig into one’s own traumatic memories. But in writing this piece, I thought of such a difficult task as a useful therapeutic tool for my own sake, and for the sake of my own mental welfare, I am hoping.
It all started in the afternoon of March 16th, following the state of emergency declaration and deployment of the peninsula shield force, when I decided to go out fill some gas in my car. In the morning of that day, security forces launched a crackdown on protesters at the pearl roundabout and Salmaneya Hospital and cleared them completely; shortly after I left my house driving in my car, I realized that most streets were blocked by security forces and I was trapped in the roads as I was trying to get back home. Having failed to find an operating gas station, and an open passage to drive back home, it was at around 6:15pm when I found myself running into a checkpoint near Salmaneya Medical Hospital. Members of police force wearing black masks and blue overall gestured with their hand requesting me to drive slowly and pull over. I lowered my car’s window and explained that I was running out of gas and trying to get back home, and I asked if it was just possible to take a u-turn, I detected a non-Bahraini accent from the police officer that spoke to me as he asked me to drive forward in order to run into another group at the same check point. About 20 meters ahead, a group of around six members of military force, wearing the classical light brown army uniforms, also masked and armed with machine guns, asked me to stop my car and lower my window. I said the exact same thing that I said to the previous group, but they asked me for my ID and to turn off the engine and open all doors including the trunk for an inspection. From their dialect and their uniforms I realized they were Bahrainis from BDF, ‘Bahrain Defense Forces.’ They started what seemed to be a very thorough detailed inspection, and as one of them was holding my ID in his hand, he asked me to step out of the car.
He grabbed my shirt and walked me in a hurried way into the gate of Salmaneya Hospital, all the while the other military members were following behind. As we entered the gate, he walked me to the grass side behind the wall in front of the hospital’s parking lot. He tripped me over on the floor, and the beating had suddenly begun.
There were five or six masked men in Military uniforms that were at me simultaneously. A torrent of repetitive kicks and strikes came over me from every-which-way. Sometimes it was fists, sometimes it was boots, and sometimes it was even steel rods. Each blow and every kick was delivered with maximum strength. They were yelling profanities as I was laying on the grass floor shouting for mercy. I felt I was surrounded by hysterical beasts with uncontrollable rage. There were times when I rolled about the floor as shameless as an animal writhing his body this way and that in an endless and hopeless effort to dodge the kicks, but it simply seemed was inviting more and yet more kicks, in my ribs, in my back, in my belly, on my thighs, on my joints, and on the bone at the base of my spine. But in order to prevent or reduce having a direct hit on my face, head, and testicles, I immediately assumed the fetal position where I wrapped my body to prevent further trauma; I curved my back, brought up my legs as tightly against my abdomen, bowed my head as close to my chest as possible, and wrapped my arms around my head in order to protect my brain and vital organs which would otherwise be simply lying spread out on the open. The beating had continued and did not stop until all of those army men became exhaustingly tired—while I lay on the floor in agonizing pain.
I was no longer trembling. My mind and body had accepted the idea that I was under arrest and hopeless to do anything about it. I stayed still. Even my eyes I barely moved. Only one thing mattered: to keep still while lying down on the ground, to keep still and not give them an excuse to hit me. But it wasn’t long before another group came in. It wasn’t actually more than two or three minutes that I was lying on the floor before I heard the stampede of their boots as they were approaching me. The place was filled with solid men in dark blue uniforms wearing brutal iron-shod footwear, and armed with guns, sticks, and truncheons in their hands. Before I knew it, the beating had begun. But I was shortly taken aback by a loud gunshot. One of the riot police pointed his gun and took a direct shot at my right leg within two meters distance using rubber bullet, then took another one at my lower back. At first, the sound of the gunshots was more horrifying than the physical pain caused by them. But only after a few seconds I realized that the numbing feeling over my whole body was turning into unbearable pain. I immediately suspected that my leg had been broken at that point, and became all the more conscious that I was facing a much more serious barbaric disposition from those people. One must note that up until this moment all torture had been accompanied by yells of profanity directed personally at me, and also by shouts of most foul blasphemy directed at my religious sect, mocking the very essence of its ideology. Up until now all torture had not been for the purpose of extracting confessions, but was out of mere rage, hatred, and perhaps even sickening personal gratifications.
PART IV- Section A
I had not been handcuffed yet. I knew that I was eventually going to face a different kind of torture, for there was always the routine of confession that had to be gone through. How much I had endured so far and the wave of horror I went through is beyond description: But I can distinctly remember the groveling on the ground and the screaming for mercy, the crack of broken bones, the smashed face, and the mass of thickened blood that were stuck in my hair. I was already a big mess, and yet was not even half way through my ordeal. I was finally asked to stand up. Never in my life had I such trouble performing such a simple task. I could barely walk. And as I was doing so, I had a quick glance at a man lying motionless on the ground, hand cuffed from behind, and covered by his own blood. His clothes were torn and he didn’t seem to be breathing. I thought he was either dead or had fainted. Later on I learned something about this man. But at the moment I went back concentrating at making my own steps as I was having difficulty walking. But one of the guards grabbed me violently from my shirt and walked me through in a hurried manner to the dark area and sat me down on a little box behind the wall. I was shortly surrounded by police officers from the Ministry of Interior. The area they sat me in was very dark. But one of them was holding a video camera and pointing its flashlight directly at my face as the interrogation had just commenced.
PART IV- Section B
No one can endure their torture. Everyone in their hands always confesses. No one can help it. No one can bear the physical pain and psychological agony inflicted by them. Even the innocent will confess of things he had never done. One thing is certain: They can make you say anything– just absolutely ANYTHING.
There I sat in the darkened area on that little box behind the wall and was surrounded by around seven men in blue police uniforms, with one recording the confession with a camcorder. The interrogation commenced with a persistent questioning along with repetitive punches on the face and constant blows of truncheons on my upper body and trunk area. I had not been handcuffed yet, so I tried to cover my head with my hands, but I was asked never to do so again and to keep my hands down all the time or else I’d be shot again, but with a live bullet this time. The situation was extremely intense. In each received strike, my brain naturally signals to my hands for a reflex, but my mind says I shouldn’t. My brain was undergoing such a trauma in contradicting itself that I began experiencing a nervous break down. For it was such a diabolical rule imposed upon it. It is a natural, deep rooted, motorized human habit to hold one’s hand against one’s face in the event of a direct blow. The brain, in its functional strength, in its sensory powers, in its needs and wants, in its chief natural intention to protect the body, now by torture was made as a weapon to betray itself, made to betray the body in behalf of the enemy, made to be the enemy itself. Every time I was unconsciously trying to raise my hands, the interrogators brought it back down, while the others continued the beating, and the rest were questioning, all simultaneously. The questions came from at least three different people.
PART IV- Section C
There were times when my nerve actually failed me that I began shouting for mercy even before the beating began, when the mere sight of a fist getting ready for a punch heading towards my face was enough to make me pour forth a confession of even imaginary crimes. They were asking me of my involvement with the Iranians, of my involvement with various leaders of Bahrain opposition groups, and with various names I had never heard of before. I thought to myself I shall never resolve of confessing such unreal things no matter how unbearable the pain is; for if I did, I would certainly face the death sentence for such concocted crimes. Every word had to be forced out of me between gasps of pain. ‘I have never been to Iran in my whole life,’ I shouted with a panicky tone of voice. ‘I know who Hassan Moshaima is, everyone does. But I have never spoken to him in my entire life,’ I answered nervously while experiencing an excruciating pain. But as the answers were unsatisfactory to them, I received a sudden and violent blow with a metal rod on my head. Blood started pouring out and soon streaming down my face. I shouted recklessly, ‘you know that I’ve got nothing, you may go ahead and kill me if you wish,’ while thinking: what more can they inflict upon me? They might just as well kill me. But one of the officers ordered them to stop the beating and asked me to cooperate. He said that he wanted the truth and nothing else. And he also explained that the country was under martial law and that they have all the powers to do whatever they wished with me. I cried frantically, ‘I have told you everything already. What else is it that you want to know? There is nothing I wouldn’t confess, nothing! Just tell me what it is and I’ll confess straight off,’ the idea that the beating could actually stop had appealed to me. I was gradually giving up and was trying to strike a deal with them, ‘Tell me what you want me to say and I’ll say it. Write down anything you wish, just anything, and I’ll sign it,’ thus I told them.
Every word came out of me was as a cry of pain. The questioners must have finally known that I truly held no information of value to them. But they also knew that they broke me down, that they could use me for whatever cooked up crimes they may need to set up. The camera man switched off his camcorder as my first interrogation session had ended. The flashlight was turned off and the place suddenly became dark again. They took me to the previous lighted area and handed me to the same military group that handled me earlier. I thought I was going to have a period of recovery. I was right; the beating had stopped for a while, but only to face an even worse disposition; a mock execution.
I was handcuffed now by a military man with my hands behind my back. He used a plastic restraint to tie my wrists, those disposable plastic-cuffs that cannot be loosened and resemble electrical cables ties. The masked soldier with a machine gun instructed me to kneel down on both knees facing the wall. Then he showed me a small dark spot on the wall and ordered me to center my head on it. Thus I leaned on the wall with my forehead touching the spot– which I think was nothing but a little dirt on the wall. They were setting me up for an execution pose in which the spot would have been the target to be shot, i.e., my head. I was thus deliberately but falsely made to feel that my execution was taking place and my death was imminent. One thing came to my mind: Would they do it? It was very plausible since I had already been shot with rubber bullets while lying on the ground defenseless, and I was beaten mercilessly by the same group. Would they do it? Very probable, since they were the same excitingly enraged hysterical group that handled me earlier.
There I sat, kneeling on the floor, handcuffed with my hands behind my back, and resting my head on the wall while looking down on the ground. One of the army men came closer and asked me if I wanted to say anything, implying that I may recount my last wishes. I shook my head nervously indicating that I wish not say anything. They walked behind my back as my whole body began trembling and shaking uncontrollably. Then I heard the click-clack sound of their guns in preparation to shoot. It is quite difficult indeed to describe that dark feeling associated with knowing that you are going to die within a few seconds, knowing that nobody can save you now. I closed my eyes awaiting for the arrival of the bullet that’ll blow up my head. I suddenly stopped trembling as a gesture of a complete acceptance of my inevitable fate in which I will no longer be. It is this peculiar feeling that a person’s general awareness of the inborn notion that “Everyone must die one day” is displaced by the specific awareness that “I must die, and soon.” And whenever death is designated as being “soon,” the dying has already begun. My body stopped shaking because my mind was dying already. It was dying not because it had yet experienced the damage that will end my life but because it had begun to experience the force that will soon end it, experience the body that soon will be killed, and which when killed will carry away the condition that my whole being will no longer exist.
I was held in that position for just a minute or so, but time seemed to cease. Then the same man that handcuffed me came to me, laid his hand upon my shoulder, and said, “relax, we won’t kill you.” I sighed deeply and slowly turned my head to look at him. He was holding a mocking grimace in his face.
PART VI- Section A
They tied my legs together with plastic-cuffs and dropped me on the floor face down. Now both my hands and my legs are tied while lying on the floor on my stomach. They sat near me smocking cigarettes and chattering amongst themselves. One of them received a phone call from his wife; he stood holding the phone against the black mask that was covering his face, and his gun wrapped around his battle-dress uniform. I overheard him assuring her that everything was fine with him and that she shan’t worry. “I’ll take a good care of myself, don’t be afraid.” He said on the phone. I thought to myself: how could she possibly be worried when she knew that her husband left home carrying a machine gun to tackle unarmed protestors? And I wondered if he’d go home and tell her about the heinous acts that he had committed that night. What astonished me was that he sounded ‘human’ when he spoke to his wife, yet by all means, far from human were his savagery acts.
This was the longest period of recovery that I had so far. I was left alone in that position for nearly two hours, completely immobilized and tied down, yet during which I tried to relax my whole body, especially the muscles surrounding injured areas. But the plastic-cuffs, which were purposely applied incorrectly, were tenaciously tight to an extreme degree that I suspected they may have even caused nerve damage because of the continual restriction of blood flow to my hands and feet. Though I did not wish to draw attention to me for fear of being hit again, but I began to feel an irritating and intolerable pain that I no longer could hold my peace. I implored them to loosen the cuffs. They were reluctant, but I noticed that they stayed calm and didn’t react violently. They explained that those types of plastic restraints could not be loosened. I tried to make use of the fact that the soldiers were calm still and appealed to them again asking them to cut the cuffs off and apply new ones if possible. They refused once again, but now instead of chattering among themselves they began chatting with me. They told me about the man whom I had a glance at earlier and who was lying on his own blood passed out on the floor; they said that he was a Shiite religious cleric who, upon running into the check point, tried to hide his black turban–a common piece of Shiite clergy attire–under his feet in his car. Being utterly iconoclastic, they told me the story while trying to mock the man by implying that he, though a man of religion, had no respect for his own religious beliefs; yet it was clear to me that he did not step on his own turban, but rather might have tried to hide it underneath his car-seat for fear of being recognized at the checkpoint as a religious member of the Shiite clergy.
PART VI- Section B
I lost the sense of time by now. It had been a good long period of recovery that lasted–I thought, though I could not be sure–three or four hours at a stretch. I couldn’t figure what time it was or how long exactly it had been since I was arrested. But the blood was starting to dry out around my face as I laid there with my punched-out eyes and scattered blood stains over my clothes, while army men were still chit-chatting around me. The area around my nose felt quite numb, a sign that my nose had been broken already. Both my hands and my legs are starting to swell up from the extremely tight application of the handcuffs, which made it all the more irritating and painful to keep quiet. But before I uttered anything importuning them to do something about it, a police car arrived to pick me up. Among the other men that came out of the car, a Bahraini policeman stepped out of it. He didn’t wear a mask. On his rigid face there stood an expression of blood-raging temper. He was a young man of about twenty five to thirty years of age, middle-sized ectomorph, and had a square shaped face with prominent cheekbones and strong jaw lines. His hands were clenched forming a fist as he was walking fast heading off toward me. I don’t think he knew anything about my case except that he thought of me as one of the protesters that had just been caught. The way he lashed out at me was as if I had personally done him wrong. He crouched down and started punching me in the face. A torrent of violent punches came down to me like a wave of heavy rains. Then he stood up and delivered an implacable—if not deadly—type of front-kicks; he raised his knee and foot of the striking leg up high, then landed it using the heel of his boot with his whole weight and applied force, right on my face and the side of my jaw. There is nothing I could do to protect myself. I was utterly restrained with cuffs in both hands and legs while thrown on the ground face down. Every time the strike plunges onto my head, there comes a loud scream of pain from the top of my lungs, as I bend my back and twist my body from the sudden unbearable agony. He then ordered another policeman to take over as he prefaced it to me by saying, “if you think this hurts, wait and see what this Paksatani would do to you.”
PART VI- Section C
As the fresh blood was oozing out again from my cut forehead, I looked up to see the Pakistani policeman. He was hugely built and had a heavy black mustache. He was a very peculiar man indeed; he held a straight face that had no expressions whatsoever. And not a single word did he utter. He was very strong: He moved slowly, then picked me up from the cuffs of my hands and legs, and lifted me up about two meters above the ground, then threw me face down on the floor. The thumping impact left me almost paralyzed. Then he picked me up again and threw me on the asphalt floor by the pavement. I fell hard on the coarse ground, leaving me robbed of breath and dazed. I ached so badly that I thought I may never be able to stand up again in my life. I thought if I get any more of those thumping strikes, I would literally be dead. It was a natural instinct of mine that made me immediately pretend to have passed on. I closed my eyes and stayed still. But I don’t know how he knew I was faking it, perhaps he detected the movement of my belly as I was breathing slowly, but he picked me up again. He was very strange: He still held a straight face, executed the beatings in a calm manner, and didn’t seem to be angry, nor stormy like the others, yet he was by all means, the most savage and damaging of all. I was taken off the ground again, got both my hands behind my back, he rammed my face into the concrete floor until my teeth bit open the inside of my cheek and my eye was swollen shut and was bleeding, after I pleaded with the Bahraini officer to order him to stop, I could look down and there was a print of half my face in blood on the floor. The air tore into my lungs and issued again a deep groan, as I writhed on the floor, clutching uselessly at my disabled arms and legs.
Nothing in the world is worse than physical pain. Never, for any reason on earth, could you wish for an increase of pain, of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Grains of dust and sands from the floor were stuck and mixed with blood in my face. The ache in the broken bones was no longer bearable. My lips were swollen and sticky with blood as I tried to lick the blood off. Three policemen carried me up from the ground while the fourth one opened the police-car’s door. They noticed I was dripping blood, and their sole concern was that I would stain the back seats. “Isn’t there some news papers to cover the seats from his filthy blood?” a Bahraini officer asked. The policeman who opened the door replied, “Where am I going to get newspapers now? Just throw him in, we ought to go now.” They threw me in, and the car started to move shortly after.
My mouth was shining with blood and blood climbing the cracks between my teeth. I tasted blood; it was mixed with my saliva and I had to start swallowing. And I no longer could breathe from my nose. It was broken, jammed, and thus was blocking the air flow because of the continuous bleeding. It was inevitable that I’d stain the back seats with blood, and I was dreading the moment they’d take me out of the car and find out about it. The car kept moving and then stopped at the Hoora Police Station.
Note to the reader: Part IIX, Part IX, and Part X have been intentionally left out for security reasons.
But here are the scenes in which these parts took place:
Part IIX “Hoora Police Station”
Part IX section A-“The Military Hospital,”
section B-“Back to Hoora Police Station”
Part X section A-“ The Military Hospital (second visit)”
section B- “In prison cells at the Hoora Station.”
section C- “Transferred to Noaim Police Station.”
PART XI- Final
I was no longer blindfolded. My whole face was swollen mainly from the cheek-bone fractures and the broken nose. They made me sign a release paper. I didn’t believe it to be true; I thought it was yet another game they’re playing on me. A Pakistani police guard was walking me through the corridor and I was afraid that he’ll get frustrated because I walked awfully slow. Every step I made I could feel the sudden sharp pain in my right leg and in my broken ribs. At the end of the corridor there I finally saw my father and mother sitting in the waiting-room. My heart was suddenly filled with relief from such a delightful sight; but my deformed and swollen face made it almost impossible for my parents to recognize me immediately. It took a few second before I heard my good mother scream loudly, “What have you done to my son?” The guards stiffened their poses and clinched their hands against their guns as a sign of threat. But my mother didn’t seem to care. My parents hugged me and we went home.
Written by Asma Darwish (Head of Public & International Relations – EBOHR)
Follow Asma on Twitter @eagertobefree