Najah Yusuf became one of the first political prisoners released under a pardon in commemoration of the Eid AlAdha celebrations this past Sunday. This royal decree reportedly pardoned 105 prisoners who were to be released the same day.
Yusuf was arrested in 2017 under Bahrain’s counter-terrorism law after criticising the Formula One Grand Prix being held in the country. A mother of four, and previously a Bahraini civil servant before her arrest, Yusuf wrote an account of her experience titled “Every moment I spend in prison in Bahrain stains the reputation of F1”. In it she details the circumstances surround her arrests, and the following abuses that included sexual assault.
In April 2017, Yusuf arrived at the Muharraq police station under a false pretence to sign a statement related to her son. She was then interrogated, officers ripped off her hijab and attempted to strip off her clothes. Yusuf was tortured, threatened to be killed, and sexually assaulted while in custody.
After five days of repeated abuses, Yusuf signed a forced confession after further beatings and rape threats. The case of Yusuf is unfortunately not a unique one, as there are currently six female political prisoners at Isa Town Prison. One of these victims, Hajar Mansoor, has been investigated and declared in a UN report as being arbitrarily and unlawfully imprisoned.
Yusuf discusses not seeing her children for six months while in prison, a situation also not unusual to her cellmates. However, she also mentions children who will never see their parents again due to their parents being killed by the violence carried out against peaceful protestors.
The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) welcomes the release of Najah Yusuf and calls on the Bahraini to release the rest of political prisoners being held under forced confessions and false charges.