When we see Zahra on a T-shirt?
The lump in my stomach grows when I say goodbye to Zahra (29) from Bahrain. Is it just a matter of time before she gets arrested?
The background image of Zahra's mobile is Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, where Zahra works. But their meetings are no longer conducted in Nabeel's office. Human rights advocate is sentenced to two years in prison for encouraging "illegal gatherings" and Amnesty describes it as an "affront to freedom of expression" that Nabeel still sitting behind bars.
- I have worked with Nabeel since 2007. I miss him so much, exclaimed Zahra, and looking down on her screen
- I have him with me everywhere.
Zahra and I meet in Rabat, capital of Morocco. Under the auspices of Amnesty are a number of young activists from the Middle East and North Africa gathered to share experiences and learn how they can better fight for human rights in their countries. But Zahra (29) is already excessive in the game. Her job at the Human Rights Center in Bahrain is to document and follow up on cases of torture and violations of freedom of expression. In addition, she is arranging for training activists on using human expression terminologies. This is necessary for them to express themselves correctly when reporting on events, such as on Twitter.
This is not innocuous tasks in the small island state of Bahrain, where serious human rights violations sadly commonplace and government turn bones down hard on any kind of criticism. When I talk with Zahra, she says that five out of almost ten members at the center are currently in prison. Former head of the Bahrain Human Rights Centre, Danish-Bahraini Abdulhadi al- Khawaja, is serving a life sentence. Health conditions are poor. He went on hunger strike over extended periods, and has not get medical care. Amnesty works for both Rajaab and Al-Khawaja to be released immediately. Currently, there are al-Khawaja's daughter Maryam who heads the human rights center, and she fights a continuous battle to get set free from danger.
Zahra has not yet been arrested herself. But police have raided her home and keep it under surveillance when demonstrations take place nearby. Zahra just smiles when I ask her to take care of herself.
- My friends have said that "we will not see your face on a T-shirt!" Laughs 29-year-old. She knows it's dangerous to be a human rights activist in Bahrain, but she does not have any other option but to continue working for basic rights. As the freedom to send a Twitter message without fear.
- I'm not scared, says Zahra quiet, and adds: - No one in Bahrain is safe. But where does she discourage?
- We have rights, she says simply. Finished it. And then she smiles a little wryly, when she sees her new Amnesty friends have tears in her eyes, and not altogether will drop ceiling a farewell clip.
The day after Zahra went home to Bahrain, I got e-mail from her with the following conclusion: "Second, I would like to confirm that I am in my office I have not been jailed yet."
I hope it continues that way.