Human Rights Defenders Lunch Series Presents: “A Conversation with Bahraini Human Rights Activist Maryam al-Khawaja”

May 9, 2013, 1:00pm - 2:00pm

WILF Hall 5th Floor conference room
139 MacDougal Street
New York, New York

Watch a recording of this event here.

RSVP is required for this event and lunch will be served. Seating is extremely limited, so please RSVP to Audrey Watne at watnea@exchange.law.nyu.edu by this Friday, May 3rd to be guaranteed a spot.

Please join CHRGJ and LSHR as we welcome Maryam al-Khawaja in an informal conversation about her work as a human rights activist in Bahrain.

AL-KHAWAJA’s BACKGROUND:  Following primary and secondary education in Bahrain, Maryam’s father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja (born in 1961) traveled to the U.K. to continue his studies, becoming engaged in the pro-democracy activities of Bahraini students abroad.  When fellow students returning to Bahrain began being systematically detained and tortured and his own family home was searched and ransacked, Abdulhadi resolved to continue his activism from exile, being granted political asylum in Denmark in 1991. Returning to Bahrain with his family in 2001 in the wake of a short-lived democratic opening, Abdulhadi founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; but by 2005 the democratic opening had collapsed, and across the years that followed, Abdulhadi and his civil society activist colleagues (including two sons-in-law and presently two of his daughters, Zainab and Maryam) were subjected to ever more frequent arrests, beatings, and extended sentences.  All the while (and to this day) the al-Khawaja family hewed to the line of nonviolent resistance.  Following the suppression of the Pearl Revolution, Bahrain’s version of the Arab Spring, in 2011, police broke into the al-Khawaja home and administered Abdulhadi his most savage beating yet (breaking his jaw, banging his head along the stairs as they dragged him from the building, necessitating four hours of surgery for head injuries).  The regime then sentenced him and eight other activists to life imprisonment, a sentence to which he responded, in 2012, with a 110-day hunger strike (during which he almost died on several occasions, and toward the end of which he was repeatedly force-fed).  His daughter Zainab (born 1983), the mother of a three-year old toddler, led countless demonstrations in support of her father and the Bahraini movement generally and was herself arrested eight times and subjected to months in prison.  She and her father both had frequent recourse to further hunger strikes.  Meanwhile, Maryam, only 25 (born 1987), now the acting head of the organization her father had helped found, travels the world from her base in Copenhagen, highlighting the steadily deteriorating situation in her homeland.