A Bahraini activist who was sexually assaulted and tortured whilst imprisoned over a Facebook post criticising the Formula 1 race being held in her country, has said she had contemplated suicide, a report by the Independent revealed.
Najah Yusuf, a former civil servant and mother of four was jailed in April 2017 following her criticism of the prestigious Grand Prix race and the human rights abuses under the regime. "Formula One should not be racing in a country when abuses occur," she said in her first interview with the newspaper since her "pardoning" and release in August coinciding with the Islamic festival of Eid Al-Adha. "I was concerned about this and the government's attack on freedom of expression and their treatment of protesters and citizens so I spoke out."
Recalling her treatment during interrogation at the Muharraq police station, the 42-year-old said,
While being interrogated in police custody, I was also raped. My dignity was destroyed. At one point I was thinking of killing myself and throwing myself from a window so I could end the suffering.
"But I thought even though they are already keeping me in hell, I do not want to kill myself. I was shocked the person who was the head of police station where I was sexually assaulted and tortured was the beneficiary of a British taxpayers scheme."
She was referring to Brigadier Fawaz Hassan Al Hassan who was the official in charge of the police station at the time, although there is no suggestion he was involved in the abuse or that he sanctioned it. He reportedly received training in the UK, courtesy of British taxpayers paying for the £16,000 "command and control" programme.
Yusuf also said the same punishments were inflicted against cell-mates, political prisoners Hajer Mansoor and Medina Ali. Hajer required hospital treatment after being assaulted by prison guards last September and was left with bruises all over her body.
On 19 September, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found Yusuf's detention to have been arbitrary and unlawful, in violation of her rights to free speech and a fair trial. The WGAD particularly "emphasize[d] that no trial of Ms. Yusuf should have taken place," and called for the Bahraini authorities to award Yusuf compensation for the violation of her human rights.
US President Donald Trump appeared to have given the "green light" to Bahrain's crackdown on rights activists during a state visit in May 2017, where he promised an end to the "strain" his predecessor had placed on US-Bahrain relations, by way of arms sales being blocked over human rights violations. Not long after Trump's visit, Bahraini police opened fire on peaceful protests in the village of Duraz, in what the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights described as among the "deadliest" operations since Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising was crushed in 2011.
Shia-majority Bahrain has been ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family for more than two centuries and is "one of the Middle East's most repressive states" according to US NGO Freedom House.