A protester gestures at the camera after passing a police patrol in Manama
A protester gestures at the camera after passing a police patrol in Manama

The Bahraini government has been accused of increasing the use of torture of women activists in prison as it hardens its stand against pro-democracy protesters.

With the first anniversary of protests approaching on 14 February, fresh accusations have surfaced about the government's treatment of opponents in the small island state. Activists said that the government has failed to implement most of the recommendations set be the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BCIC) into alleged human rights abuses.

Teachers, doctors, athletes and others seens as enemies of the regime continue to be arrested or are banned from work. A media blackout has been enforced ahead of the anniversary with numerous journalists refused visas.

More than 1,000 Bahrainis have been detained - 11 percent of them women - since a state of emergency was declared in March 2011 in response to the protests and stories of the torture of female prisoners continue to emerge.

"The use of torture is ongoing; we are still receiving reports of torture from detainees that are in prison," Maryam al-Khawaja, a Human right activist working for the BCHR told the IBTimes.

Among the victims are:

Bahiya Abdulrasool al-Aradi, a 51-year-old woman who went missing in March 2011. She was last seen driving her car and was on the phone with her sister when she heard gunshots. Aradi disappeared and her family were called by the authorities a few days later. and told that she was in a Bahrain military hospital on life support. The authorities said she died of "brain injury" but the BCIC said she had been shot from behind.

Jaleela al-Salman, thedeputy president of Bahrain Teachers Association, was arrested on 29 March after 40 masked security men broke into her home. During her detention she was beaten, threatened with rape and denied access to her family and her lawyer. She was only allowed to take her blood pressure medicines after five days and was forced to stand up, prohibited to go to the toilet or to drink water. As a result she had to be treated for kidney problems.

She was sentenced to three years in jail by a military court. She was released on 21 August only to be re-arrested in the same way on 18 October.

A group of 38 women protesters, including a 16-year-old, who were peacefully demonstrating in Manama city centre in September were arrested. They say they were handcuffed, thrown on the floor and tortured. Up to 15 are still in detention.

Teargas and Miscarriages

As security forces use teargas against protesters, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said that it had been told of an increasing number of cases of miscarriages - most caused by teargas inhalation or ill treatment of expectant mothers in detention.

"Twenty-one cases of miscarriage or spontaneous abortion that occurred between March and November 2011 were reported to the centre. Sixty-seven percent of the cases were due to excessive use of toxic gases, teargas and other forms, whether as a means of suppressing a protest or attacking a whole area," it added.

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