My husband was tortured for my beliefs

Pro-democracy activist Ala’a Shehabi is speaking at this year's Trust Women conference. She tells her story here

‘Personal experiences change you to become someone who really fights for justice and political change,’ says Ala’a Shehabi, 32, a British-born Bahraini writer, lecturer and pro-democracy activist. She’s one of many pioneering women speaking at this year’s Trust Women Conference in London on 4 and 5 December, which will explore issues such as what the Arab Spring means for women.

Last year Ala’a’s husband Ghazi, a Bahraini businessman, was imprisoned and tortured because of Ala’a’s campaigning work. ‘On 12 April 2011 he was ambushed by security forces, beaten up and then arrested.’ The first time Ala’a saw him was 50 days later in military court. ‘It was even worse than I’d imagined. He just wasn’t the husband I’d known. He’d lost weight, his neck was scarred and he was completely disorientated. He later told me he’d just been blindfolded for six hours.’

For nearly ten months their baby son was left without a father. Ala’a later discovered that Ghazi had been made to stand up for four days and fellow prisoners hadbeen forced to beat him up. And what happened was a routine practice.
Ghazi’s release came out the blue while Ala’a was in the middle of a campaigning meeting. ‘I met him with tears of joy in my eyes, but could never forget the pain in the other wives’ eyes wondering where their husbands were.’

Ala’a continues to push for political change, explaining, ‘I just want people to be able to live in democracies where human rights are protected.’

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