Ali Mushaima – on hunger strike in solidarity with Bahraini prisoners

Ali Mushaima is currently on hunger strike and sleeps outside in a small tent on the pavement in front of the Bahraini Embassy in London. He wants to raise awareness for his father Hassan Mushaima and for Dr. Abduljalil al-Singace who is also on hunger strike. I visited Ali on Saturday evening and want to ask you to support Ali.

I. Who is Ali Mushaima?

Ali Mushaima is a Bahraini human rights activist. He has been in the UK since 2006. He is living in London together with his wife and their two little daughters.

Bahrain has sentenced Ali Mushaima to 45 years in prison (he was tried in absence) and has revoked his citizenship in November 2012.

Ali Mushaima is the son of Hassan Mushaima a prominent Bahraini human rights activist and a leader of the opposition in Bahrain. Hassan Mushaima was arrested more than 10 years ago and was sentenced to life in prison.

This is the second time that Ali Mushaima is on hunger strike and sleeps outside in front of the Bahraini Embassy in London. The first time was three years ago, in 2018. He had started his hunger strike on 1 August 2018 and was on hunger strike for 46 days. He wanted to raise awareness for his father and had three demands:

  1. Adequate access to medical care, including the regular cancer scans
  2. Allow him family visit
  3. Give him access to books.

At the end of his hunger strike, two of the three demands were met: Ali’s father got access to medical care and was brought to the hospital without shackles and his family was finally allowed to visit him. I wrote in August and September 2018 two blog post about Ali Mushaima and his hunger strike. These also include a lot of information about Hassan Mushaima. If you want to know more him and about the hunger strike in 2018, then please have a look at “Ali Mushaima – on hunger strike for his father Hassan Mushaima” (27 August 2018) and New developments in Ali Mushaima’s hunger strike (15 September 2018)

II. Why is Ali Mushaima on Hunger Strike?

Ali Mushaima started his hunger strike two weeks ago on 25 November. He is again sleeping on the pavement in front of the Bahraini Embassy, but this time he has a small tent.

When I spoke with him on Saturday, he said that the police asked him whether he would use a tent and encouraged him to do so. With the tent he has at least some protection against the rain, but it does not protect against the cold. The hunger strike in 2018 was in summer and early autumn (started on 1 August). I remember that Ali also faced the last time periods of bad weather and rain, but this time it is the whole time cold and often wet. It as had at the moment hardly ever more than 10˚C and often it is close to 0˚C in particular during the night.

Ali has this time two reasons to be on hunger strike: The current situation of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace and of Ali’s father Hassan Mushaima.

1. Dr. Abduljalil Al-Sinagace

Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace is a human rights activist and academic. He is a former Professor and Head of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bahrain. He was a also member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and a board member of the Bahrain Society for Engineering. He was dismissed from University of Bahrain for his human rights activism.

He is disabled and uses crutches or a wheelchair to get around.

Dr. Al-Singace was arrested on 17 March 2011. He was tried in the same trial as Hassan Mushaima and as Parweez Jawad. If you look at my blog post about Parweez Jawad you can find more information about the trial.

On 22 June 2011 Dr. Al-Singace was sentenced to life in prison. Since his arrest he has been verbally and sexually harassed, beaten and tortured. He also has been repeatedly forced to stand for a long time without crutches.

Dr. Al-Singace went on a hunger strike on 8 July 2021. He protests with this hunger strike his ill treatment and that the prison authorities took away from him books which he wrote in prison. Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) has a detailed timeline about his hunger strike and I recommend that you look at it for further information.

2. Hassan Mushaima

Hassan Mushaima is 74 years old. He has been a teacher for thirty years and campaigned for a long time for democratic reforms and human rights in Bahrain. He was arrested on 17 March 2011. On 22 June 2011 he was sentenced to life in prison.

You can find general background information about Hassan Mushaima in my blog post from August 2018. There was also a urgent action from Amnesty International which was published in December last year. Amnesty International says that the health of Hassan Mushaima has severely deteriorated. He had a stroke in November 2020 and suffers from high blood pressure and diabetes.

I spoke with Ali on Saturday about his father’s current situation. He confirmed that his father’s health has deteriorated and that he suffers from several medical conditions.

Ali told me that his father was transferred from prison to another place a couple of months ago. The guards in the other place were initially quite friendly. He was allowed to see his family and to use the telephone regularly. They then asked him whether he want to be released. When he asked whether there would be any conditions for the release, they explained that they would expect that he would not get involved in human rights activism or politics any longer and also that he would not attend any large meetings to celebrate his release. These were conditions which are not acceptable for Hassan Mushaima. He told them that he has not done anything wrong and that he should be released unconditionally. After he told them that he would not accept their offer, they withdraw the right to use the telephone, but he can still receive family visits.

Ali is concerned about the ongoing medical neglect of his father. He told me that his father has pain in one of the knees and it is swollen. He initially only received pain killers, but nothing to cure the underlying issues. After he was transferred, he received some injections in his knee. They provide some relief, but he is still very much in pain. As mentioned Hassan Mushaima has also diabetes. He was told that it is important that he walks around and does not spend all the time sitting of lying down. However, he can currently only walk the short way from his bed to the bathroom. That is not sufficient. He had asked for the possibility to do some exercise, but this was not granted.

Hassan Mushaima asked to be transferred back to prison. He thinks that he might then have more chance to do some exercise there. He also has very limited outside contact at the moment and feels that he is basically in solitary confinement.

Ali is really concerned about his father. He fears that he is slowly dying in prison. In his opinion that there are only two situations in which Bahrain would release him:

  1. There is a general amnesty for political prisoners in Bahrain in particular because of pressure from other, mainly Western, countries to Bahrain
  2. Hassan Mushaima’s health has deteriorated so much that Bahrain fears that he could die in prison and releases him so that he can die at home and Bahrain avoids public attention because of their neglect of prisoners.

III. What can I do to support Ali Mushaima?

Ali Mushaima knows that he puts his own health at risk, because of the hunger strike and the cold temperatures, but he also feels that he has to do something and cannot simply wait and see his father and Dr. Abduljalal Al-Singace dying in prison.

There are a couple of things you can do to support Ali Mushaima, his father Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace.

1. If you are in London, then please go to the Bahraini Embassy and visit Ali. The address of the embassy is 30 Belgrave Square, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 8QB. The nearest tube stations are Hyde Park Corner Station, Victoria Station, Sloane Square Station and Knightsbridge Station. There are people visiting him, but give that it is winter and many people are still working from home and minimise going outside because of Covid-19, there are not that many visitors. Ali is always happy and grateful, if people come and talk to him and ask him about his situation and about his father. Also the embassy watches him. As the last time, they complain to the police for all sorts of reasons. It is good for Ali’s cause, if the embassy sees that many people are interested in Ali’s hunger strike and support him

2. Please also write to your MP and ask them to support Ali Mushaima and generally human rights in Bahrain. There have been a couple of MPs visiting Ali and showing there support, but it would be great, if there were many more. You can easily contact your MP via the website “Write to Them“. Tell them about Ali, his father and Dr. Al-Singace and ask them to raise the cases and show their support. There is also an Early Day Motion in support of Dr. Al-Singace. It is the motion 578: Over 100 days of Dr Al Singace’s hunger strike in Bahrain, tabled on 25 October. So far it has been signed by 35 MPs. It would be great, if many more MPs would sign the motion. You can mention the EDM when you write to them. BIRD has some text which you can use, if you are uncertain what you should say. You find the button to contact your MP at the end of the timeline about Dr. Al-Singace (“How you can help”).

3. Please help Ali Mushaima to raise awareness for his hunger strike and for the situation of prisoners of conscience in Bahrain. Please follow Ali Mushaima on Twitter for updates, retweet them and make your own tweets in support of Hassan Mushaima, Dr. Al-Singace and other prisoners. Please use the hashtags #FreeHassanMushaima #FreeAlSingace and #FreeBahrainiPrisoners, then others can find and retweet your tweets.

Gulf Centre for Human Rights has eleven campaign video clips on their YouTube channel. They are short and very good. They include a video about hunger strike, about Dr. Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Women Rights Defenders and many other topics. You can find the whole playlist here. Please feel free to share the playlist, but also the individual video clips.

I hope that Ali Mushaima will soon achieve some results and that he will stop his hunger strike. I am concerned for his health because of the cold weather and because of the strains of the hunger strike. Until he stops, I hope that he will receive a lot of support for his brave actions and I would be delighted if you some of you decide to help and support him.

IV. Addendum (18 December 2021):

Ali Mushaima ended his hunger strike yesterday after 23 days.

He received support from different UK MPs, but also from politicians from France, Ireland, Austria and Germany. The SNP MP Chris Law mentioned on 16 December Ali’s hunger strike in the House of Commons and raised the cases of Hassan Mushaima and Dr. Al-Singace. Patrick Wintour from Guardian wrote a very good article about Ali’s hunger strike and the Bahraini prisoners.

I am glad that Ali Mushaima has stopped his hunger strike and is back with his family. I would like to ask you not forget his hunger strike and the cases of Bahraini prisoners. You can still contact your MPs and ask them for updates on the situation of Bahrain prisoners and you can also continue to tweet about Hassan Mushaima, Dr. Al-Singace and other Bahraini prisoners and support on social media Ali’s campaign for freedom and justice for his father and for many others.

Let us hope that his father and other Bahrain prisoners will be released soon and that Ali will not feel compelled to go on hunger strike a third time.

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