June 29, 2011
Exiled and 24: The Young Woman Fighting for Bahrain

When Maryam al-Khawaja and I first met in March, in a dingy hospital hallway in Manama, Bahrain’s regime had just tear gassed hundreds of its staunchest detractors, shooting them with rubber bullets and live ammunition while they slept and prayed. The dead and wounded were brought to Salmaniya medical center, where their loved ones were met by an energetic girl in jeans and a head scarf, hopping from floor to floor directing foot traffic, doling out information to worried families, and escorting aid workers. Around 3 a.m., with the screams of a grieving mother echoing down the corridor, Maryam delivered a denunciation indictment of the U.S.’s silence on what was going on around her, calling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the regime a mere wrist slap. By May, she had found a bigger audience, having left Bahrain for the U.S. and Europe, her anecdotes and big brown eyes humanizing Bahrain’s faltering opposition for a West that did not fully understand it. From Brown University to the Oslo Freedom Forum to Voice of America, she preached the gospel that had been violently muted on Manama’s streets — the regime, she repeated, was doing grievous things, and the U.S. and its allies needed to step up their rhetoric. Last week, her work took on a new urgency, when father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the country’s best-known opposition activist, was marched into a closed-door military tribunal and sentenced to life in prison for anti-government propaganda. That a 24-year-old girl has become the face of one of the most repressed Arab Spring revolutions comes as a surprise only to those who don’t know her lineage. Maryam’s was born in Denmark to then-exiled Abdulhadi and his wife, Khadija, who had been banned from Bahrain in the mid-1980s. They lived in Denmark until returning to Manama in 2001, as soon as they were allowed re-entry. Maryam was 14

Read more at The Atlantic
[Image: Maryam in Manama before leaving the country / Twitter]

Exiled and 24: The Young Woman Fighting for Bahrain

When Maryam al-Khawaja and I first met in March, in a dingy hospital hallway in Manama, Bahrain’s regime had just tear gassed hundreds of its staunchest detractors, shooting them with rubber bullets and live ammunition while they slept and prayed. The dead and wounded were brought to Salmaniya medical center, where their loved ones were met by an energetic girl in jeans and a head scarf, hopping from floor to floor directing foot traffic, doling out information to worried families, and escorting aid workers. 

Around 3 a.m., with the screams of a grieving mother echoing down the corridor, Maryam delivered a denunciation indictment of the U.S.’s silence on what was going on around her, calling Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s criticism of the regime a mere wrist slap. By May, she had found a bigger audience, having left Bahrain for the U.S. and Europe, her anecdotes and big brown eyes humanizing Bahrain’s faltering opposition for a West that did not fully understand it. 

From Brown University to the Oslo Freedom Forum to Voice of America, she preached the gospel that had been violently muted on Manama’s streets — the regime, she repeated, was doing grievous things, and the U.S. and its allies needed to step up their rhetoric. 

Last week, her work took on a new urgency, when father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the country’s best-known opposition activist, was marched into a closed-door military tribunal and sentenced to life in prison for anti-government propaganda. 

That a 24-year-old girl has become the face of one of the most repressed Arab Spring revolutions comes as a surprise only to those who don’t know her lineage. Maryam’s was born in Denmark to then-exiled Abdulhadi and his wife, Khadija, who had been banned from Bahrain in the mid-1980s. They lived in Denmark until returning to Manama in 2001, as soon as they were allowed re-entry. Maryam was 14

Read more at The Atlantic

[Image: Maryam in Manama before leaving the country / Twitter]

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