By Nicholas Kristof

9 August 2011

I wrote recently about an old friend, Hasan al-Sahaf, a Bahraini artist who had been imprisoned –nominally for economic offenses, but in reality for standing up to the regime. My column was an appeal to King Hamad to release him, and recently Hasan was indeed released. He telephoned with the good news, and I invited him to write a post on my blog about what happened. He courageously agreed, and here’s what he wrote:

I’d like to thank everyone how’s written to the government of Bahrain to demand my release from prison. Of course I write this note here hoping heartily that the Bahraini Minister of Interior will read it. And here’s what went on.
On May 13th at 2 am while everyone was asleep, the Bahraini security forces attacked my house with more than 30 armed men. They pulled me from my bed half naked and arrested me, and then they took me outside, where I was astonished by the number of armed forces, backed by two black tanks and seven armed jeeps. There were armed men on the roof of the house, boundary walls and around my car. They blindfolded me with a black cloth and drove me for three hours. I felt that we had left Bahrain for Saudi Arabia, and that was probably a way to make me horrified and scared. Finally I found myself in a prison cell at a police station. No one spoke to me at all that day. I could not go to sleep. For three days I was in a solitary cell, not allowed to talk to anyone or call anyone. No one told what my crime was.
After a week or so, I was transferred to another prison called Jaw where men are dehumanized, insulted, and hurt. A Bahraini officer named Jowder interrogated me. He asked me about politics and things like: What is your relationship with the American press? Do you communicate now with the American press and with whom? What are your political tastes? Why did you go to the roundabout (a center of protests)?
Just days before my release a Bahraini prosecutor visited me in prison. He asked so many questions concerning my leaving the University of Bahrain, about my business life, the reasons I am at prison, and asked about my current financial situations. At the end he told the reason for the interrogation: a U.S. journalist wrote an article calling for the King of Bahrain to release me from prison. He added that the writer accused the state of treating me this way because I am a Shiite, saying that this was a claim without a justifiable basis, and merely an opinion haphazardly stated. He asked then if I agreed with what was stated in the article. I told him I hadn’t read the article and I didn’t know who wrote it.
At the end, I told the prosecutor that I am ashamed to know that a person of another country is fighting for me, whereas my own government is torturing and humiliating me.
In the past when I had been in prison in Bahrain, I had been tortured and beaten from behind – they weren’t courageous enough to hit me face to face. This time they were more open in their torture, they punched and kicked me face to face. I was hit in the face and kicked on my legs.
There are so many people tortured: beaten by hands, sticks, shoes, etc. I saw people beaten before my eyes and screaming loudly. I also heard police calling for killing the Shia.

What Happened to My Bahrain Friend