At the age of 56, Fawziya Mashallah Haji is currently being detained in Bahrain’s main women’s prison in Isa Town, making her the oldest female political prisoner in Bahrain. She has and continues to suffer from ill treatment in prison, including the denial of medical care by Bahraini prison authorities.
On 15 December 2017, a group of masked officers in plain clothing came to Fawziya’s house and asked her to present herself for interrogation later that day. When she arrived, she was interrogated overnight at the Ministry of Interior (MOI)’s Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) in Adliyah until the morning of 16 December 2017. On 17 December 2017, the officers took her to the Office of Public Prosecution, and then detained her for a week in the women’s prison of Isa Town. Her detention was renewed for another 15 days and she was charged with harboring a fugitive.
Fawziya suffers from severe health conditions such as chronic heart problems, low blood pressure, asthma, vertigo, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, chest pain and several digestive problems ranging from stomach to colon issues. Fawziya had recently undergone two surgeries and suffers from severe pain and headaches. Prior to her detention, she had also received mental health therapy. In spite of her serious health issues, the Bahraini prison authorities have not allowed her family to visit her in prison. Her family has submitted several complaints requesting that the CID release her immediately for treatment.
Due to a previous near-fatal heart attack, Fawziya is particularly vulnerable to serious declines in her health. On 11 March 2018, Fawziya suffered from a sudden drop in her blood pressure, a weak pulse and high blood sugar levels. She was transferred to al-Qalaa Hospital, yet was denied access to any medical treatment there.
Officials constantly harass and threaten Fawziya. She reported that a driver for the CID, responsible for transporting prisoners to hospitals, intimidates her by intentionally driving recklessly. The authorities also threatened Fawziya when she requested dental treatment. They told her to choose between “accepting the pain and signing a statement to reject dental treatment” or “having her teeth pulled out.” Fawziya shared a voice recording with activist Ibtisam al-Sayegh in which she complained about her tooth pain, offering to pay for her own treatment, citing the lack of adequate treatment offered in Bahrain’s Isa Town prison. However, the prison administration refused her family’s offer to pay for the treatment.
Around the beginning of 2018, guards at Isa Town prison told her that they would deny her the right to make phone calls if she told her family about her ill treatment during her detention. Additionally, the authorities have threatened Fawziya and forced her to sign a statement saying that she does not require any further treatment.
On 22 May 2018, Fawziya suffered from a drastic and sudden drop in her blood sugar levels. In order to transfer her to the hospital, prison officers forced her to sit on a broken chair on the bus, resulting in an injury which caused her to bleed excessively. As a result, she lost consciousness, and her condition worsened.
Bahrain’s actions against Fawziya violate its international obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (Article 12 – right to health) to which Bahrain is a party. Article 12 states that prisoners have the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. Moreover, refusing access to healthcare or withholding medication from a prisoner is forbidden by the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Mandela Rules.
On 26 September 2018, the First High Criminal Court sentenced Fawziya to one year in prison. According to the verdict, she still has three months to spend in jail with the previous nine months considered time served. Defenders of Medical Impartiality (DMI) calls upon Bahrain to uphold its international commitments by providing sufficient medical care and medication to Fawziya. We also call upon the authorities to maintain adequate living conditions in the women’s prison in Isa Town by granting its prisoners suffering from chronic diseases regular visits and transportation to the hospital, and to hold accountable those responsible for the violations.