Government officials in Bahrain would like to make it clear to citizens that what happened in Tunisia and Egypt will not be taking place in their country. That's why a 20-year-old woman will be spending the next year in jail, simply for reading a poem at a rally.
Yesterday, a security tribunal sentenced Ayat al-Qurmezi for reciting poems that criticized Bahrain's king and prime minister during protests in the capital's Pearl Square, the Associated Press reports. The demonstrations against the Sunni monarchy, which were led by Shiite groups, started in February in response to the uprisings in other Arab nations. One section of Qurmezi's poem was addressed to King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and read:
"We are the people who will kill humiliation and assassinate misery. Don't you hear their cries? Don't you hear their screams?"
In March, Qurmezi turned herself in after authorities raided her home and threatened to kill her brothers. She says that while she was in police custody she was beaten and given electric shocks.
Qurmezi was found guilty of several anti-state charges, including inciting hatred. Amnesty International condemned her conviction, and her mother says they plan to appeal. She added, "My daughter did nothing wrong. She didn't raise her hands in anger. She used words to express how they felt. She was only using her rights of free speech." The world may have been temporarily distracted by a persecuted Middle Eastern woman who doesn't really exist, but sadly there's no shortage of people who actually are demanding their rights, and paying the price for it.