While the world is focused on the upheavals in Egypt and Syria miles away, a small but dedicated group of young activists planned the latest round of protests against an autocratic regime in the island nation of Bahrain last week
The pro-democracy protests on August 14th — exactly 42 years after the country's independence in 1971 — are the latest installment in Bahrainis' long struggle for democracy and human rights in their country of 1.32 million people.
Among the most well-known reformists is Maryam al-Khawaja, daughter of famed Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. When she was two years old, Maryam's father brought her to Denmark as a political asylee. Banned from Bahrain for his activism in the 1980s, Abdulhadi and his family sought and found refuge in Europe, where he and other Bahrainis are living in exile. From there, he co-founded the Bahrain Human Rights Organization, now known as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. In 2001, after finally being allowed re-entry to Bahrain, Abdulhadi made a fateful decision: to return home.
Maryam graduated from the University of Bahrain in 2009, then left the country on a Fulbright scholarship to Brown University. She returned in 2010 but couldn't find a job because of Abdulhadi's continued disfavor with the government, so she traveled abroad to raise awareness about Bahrain's human rights violations. She hasn't returned to Bahrain since January 2013, to visit family in prison and do documentation work.