Six Months of Hunger Strike Could Put Dr Abduljalil Al-Singace’s Life in Imminent Danger!
After roughly 6 months on hunger strike, activists say Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace ’s righteous demands continue to be ignored.
Amnesty International has expressed in a tweet that it is worried “about the deteriorating condition of the prisoner of conscience Abduljalil AlSingace who started a hunger strike following the confiscation of his research by prison authorities in July 2021”, urging the King of Bahrain to “put an end to his cruel and unjust punishment, and order his immediate and unconditional release”.
For his part, Senior Advisor at Washington DC-based NGO Human Rights First has called for his release saying he “was jailed for life for his peaceful activism. The authorities refuse to give him a hot water bottle to alleviate his severe back pain, so I’m sending him one”.
After roughly 6 months on hunger strike, activists say Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace ’s righteous demands continue to be ignored. His only demand for ending the hunger strike is the return of his confiscated academic research on Bahrain’s dialects and culture.
Reportedly, the detained Bahraini academic is not receiving daily medical check-ups except in rare emergency situations, despite being held at Bahrain’s Defence Force Hospital, whereby he suffers from a long list of health issues including “severe intermittent headaches, a prostate problem, arthritis in his shoulder joint, tremors, diminished eyesight and a low immunity due to a low white blood cell count”.
Since November 2021, Dr. Al-Singace has escalated his hunger strike by refusing to take IVs, supplementary vitamins, and oral medication in protest at Jaw Central Prison’s authorities punitively suspending his video calls. His consumption is limited to salts, sugar, and tea for dehydration.
Dr. Al-Singace waited more than 2 months to receive a computed tomography (CT) as requested by his doctors; his frequent requests for painkillers and a hot water bottle to relieve his pain were also refused, in violation of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (aka the Nelson Mandela Rules).
As early as 2005 he was arbitrarily demoted from his prominent position as an associate professor of engineering at the University of Bahrain, due to his human rights activism. He was a rights advocate and journalist who managed “Al-Faseela”, on which he published critical articles on the human rights situation in the tiny island, denouncing the suppression of political opposition; thus, he was long a consistent target of a government crackdown.
In 2009, he was known for his famous saying, “Be careful when you use the words ‘change’ ‘dream’, and ‘democracy’. Those things don’t come so easily to us”.
In 2008, during former US president George Bush’s visit to Bahrain, Al-Singace presented him with a petition of 80,000 signatures protesting Bush’s description of Bahrain as a democracy and demanding the right to draft a democratic constitution.
In 2010, he was detained upon his return at Bahrain’s airport, in response to a speech he gave at a conference at the British House of Lords criticizing Bahrain’s lack of freedoms. He was released in February 2011 just before pro-democracy demonstrations kicked off, and re-arrested on March 17, 2011.
His arrest was the first in a long series of arrest policies, which reveals the Manama regime’s blatant attack on the citizens’ fundamental freedoms. He is serving a life sentence along with the “Bahrain 13”, simply for their involvement in the peaceful pro-democracy protests.
The “Bahrain 13” are a group of prominent opposition prisoners in Bahrain who were arrested in March 2011 for their calls for civil and political rights.
Following his arrest, Dr. Al-Singace was convicted by a military tribunal to life in prison for “plotting to overthrow the government”. According to the 2011 Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Bahraini authorities placed him in solitary confinement for two months and subjected him to torture, including being repeatedly beaten and “sexually molested”.
Since then, his health has sharply deteriorated. Dr. Al-Singace has gone on several hunger strikes to protest against the prison’s worsening prison conditions, willful medical negligence, use of collective punishment, torture, and humiliating practices.
Although he suffers from post-polio syndrome, resulting in paralysis and confining him to a wheelchair, the Bahraini authorities have subjected Dr. Al-Singace to torture and medical neglect, including for his severe low white blood cell count and low potassium. They have also denied him rubber stoppers for his crutches, resulting in falls on the prison floors and subsequent ridicule from the prison authorities.
In August 2015, Dr. Al-Singace was transferred to the military hospital after his health deteriorated as he had been on a hunger strike since March 21, in protest of the collective punishment and acts of torture that police inflicted upon prisoners following a riot in Jaw Central Prison.
Meanwhile, Dr. Al-Singace is on hunger strike since 8 July 2021, protesting against persistent restrictions imposed during COVID-19 pandemic, limiting prisoners’ contact to only five numbers, and demanding the return of his book confiscated by prison guards on 9 April 2021.
The book is a research on which he worked for at least 4 years, studying the linguistic diversity among Bahraini Arabic dialects, i.e. it has no political content.
On 18 July 2021, Dr. Al-Singace was transferred to the Ministry of Interior medical facility in Al-Qalaa for monitoring and to be given intravenous fluids; by 29 July he had reportedly already lost 10kg.
The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights Defenders, leading international rights organizations, the US, the UK, and the UE legislators have made consistent calls for his immediate and unconditional release, yet the authorities in Bahrain continue to completely ignore it.
In February 2016, the 2016 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards announced that Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace was among the 20 nominees shortlisted from over 400 nominations worldwide to receive the award, saying he “has not let prison stop him from calling attention to his country’s human rights practices”.
On 11 March 2021, the European Parliament overwhelmingly adopted an urgent resolution that calls the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release of all human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience, including Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, and that all charges should be dropped against them. The resolution condemned the ongoing denial of medical care; called for thorough and credible investigations into all torture allegations with a view to holding those responsible to account; and deplored the dire prison conditions in the country.
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