I would like to draw attention to my best friend, Maryam Al Sherooqi. She writes for a local newspaper, Al Wasat, and has gotten quite a following since she started there early last year or so....and she might be going to jail next month.
Last September she was with a co-worker (she is employed as a guidance counsellor at a govt school here as a govt employee) at Bahrains Civil Dept applying for another job within the Ministry of Educations system...while there she and her friend had a conversation with one of the employees...just a casual chat really to pass the time...but that conversation was the premise for an article she wrote soon there after...an article about discriminatory practices at the Civil Dept between Shiias and Sunnies...when it comes to employment potential.
Her article garnered a lot of attention an opened up a lawsuit against her by the Civil Dept...claiming that she flat out lied about the conversation...and that she had humiliated the Civil Dept by making such slanderous claims against it...that they discriminate against potential employees based on religious affiliation...etc.
Now heres the thing...she didnt lie obviously as her co-worker was there as well and was witness and participant to the conversation(she has been ordered to divulge the identity of the Civil Dept employee she chatted with...but has refused)...so she hasnt slandered anyone...and as far as I know...humiliating someone (if she in fact did that) isnt grounds for imprisonment ....is it? A fine maybe...but jail time?
She went to the Prosecutions Court the other day and faced a judge (and was fingerprinted) who stressed to her that if she "just apologized" everything would be over and she could get back to her life. He asked her if all this drama was "worth it". She replied that her integrity and self respect were worth it...and she would rather go to jail then apologize for telling the truth (incidentally EVERYONE in Bahrain KNOWS there is blatant discrimination between Shiias and Sunnis in the employment sector...so exactly what "lie" did she tell)...her court case is scheduled for March 3rd...and a 7 year jail sentence is hanging over her head. She is being called a traitor to her country(charges stated on her court documents)...for telling the truth.
Yesterdays Al Wasat had quite an article about her and a few others that are facing the heat for daring to believe the "Freedom of the Press" malarkey that has been trotted out now and again by the Powers That Be. http://www.alwasatnews.com/Yesterday/Issue-2356/LOC/LOC-0-/859462.aspx?newspaper_date=02-17-2009
So Maryam Al Sherooqi may be facing a lengthy jail sentence merely for stating an obvious fact that we all know to be true. She is basically being charged with "humiliating" the Civil Dept...which has turned into a charge of treason.
Now heres the thing that is REALLY upsetting...if that wasnt enough. Many "friends and family" that complain right along with her about the "unfairness of it all"...that "we need to do something to change this"...that sit in their coffee shops and living rooms declaring loudly what "they would do" if given a chance...have been given a chance...to support their family member...their friend...to support Maryam Al Sherooqi in her hour of need...and yet they have, for the most part, gone quiet...only speaking up to demand that she apologize so THEIR lives can continue much in the same vein it was until she came along and "stirred the waters"..."embarrassed the Sherooqi name...called attention to herself etc...in other words...humiliate herself and apologize...for their benefit.
Ive known her for 3 years....she is my best friend. Ive never met a more straight forward outspoken defiant and honest person as her. She tells the truth...she tells the truth in the face of daunting consequences...she tells the truth and constantly makes enemies because of it...she tells the truth and makes people angry and agitated and wanting to blame her for doing nothing more then "opening their eyes" to a fact they already knew...but refuse to acknowledge. She tells the truth and gets punished for her truth telling...and still she tells it.
She has been threatened ( her family as well..some of whom are in high positions in this country...and who have been subtly warned about a potential loss of position unless she backs down)...she has been made miserable in too many ways to count for that article...and some follow ups she has done...yet she has never wavered..never hesitated...never for a moment considered it would be easier just to drop her head and get back in line with all the other sheep....and for that she deserves an award in my opinion...not incarceration.
She has two little girls and a husband...and elderly mother...she has a job and responsibilities. She has so much to lose and not a whole lot to gain if she perseveres...and yet she only see herself stepping forward and doing the one thing she feels she has no choice but to do...tell the truth and hope justice is served.
I have only one thing to say about her...Im proud of her...and I wish I could do more to show her the support she deserves...and I wish I could tell all those men that are determined to shame this woman and send her back down "where she belongs" by imprisoning her...that they would do well to stand back and look at her...really look at her...maybe they will learn what it means to have integrity...self respect...and a back bone....and I wish I was half as brave as she is.
Im there for you girl...all the way. Truth shouldnt require an apology.
*to see articles she has written.... her "inflammatory" article was written last Sept. 08.
*update...Journalists Without Borders has called her and have offered her support on her trial day. Good news for sure.