Recently released Medina Ali, who was detained in March 2017 for taking part in peaceful protests during the Arab Spring, has spoken out about the inhumane and degrading treatment of inmates in the all-female Isa Town Prison in Bahrain.
Ali said she experienced “extremely harsh treatment,” including physical assault of both her and fellow detainee Hajer Mansoor in September 2018.
Ali alleges that “the head of the prison punched [her] back,” adding that “the pain remained for several days… [causing] shock and pain.”
Mansoor was reportedly hospitalised after the attack, which took place just days before her son-in-law briefed MPs in the UK about the mistreatment of female prisoners in Bahrain, which left her body covered in bruises.
Fifty-one-year-old Mansoor, who alleges she was arrested because of her son-in-law Sayed Ahmed’s activism against the Bahraini monarchy, was detained in March 2017 at the same time as Ali but is yet to be released. Ahmed currently lives in the UK.
Ali and Mansoor told the Independent that they were kept in their cell for almost 24 hours a day, without access to drinking water, were “denied access to take part in religious rituals,” barred from speaking to other prisoners and frequently blocked from having relatives visit.
Both said they have been denied access to necessary medical care.
Mansoor said she found a lump in her breast in August 2018 but was initially refused hospital treatment. After an appeal by Amnesty International, Mansoor was allowed a mammogram, which, prison officials told her, shows that the lump is not cancerous.
Mansoor has not been given a copy of the results and has since been denied access to follow-up healthcare.
Human rights organisations have frequently condemned Bahrain, which is, according to the US NGO Freedom House, “one of the Middle East’s most repressive states,” for covering up torture, unlawful executions, and human rights abuses in prisons, including the cases of Ali and Mansoor.
Since 2012 approximately £6.5 million ($8.5 million) of British taxpayer’s money has been spent on training people in public institutions in Bahrain, including officials stationed at the Isa Town Prison and cases such as Ali and Mansoor’s have led activists to call for the UK to end this funding.
British MPs have raised concerns over the government’s approach to funding Bahraini prisons without addressing human rights abuses.
In response to questions raised by Lord Scriven MP about the case of Mansoor, the government said it had raised the case “at senior levels with the Government of Bahrain,” adding that the government will “continue to monitor [the] case.”