Bahraini women anti-dictatorship photographers


This video is about Bahrain police shooting at photographers.

By Chloe Kems on the Human Rights First site:

Image Rights in Bahrain

6-21-2013

Anonymous amateur photographers document the Bahraini revolution in all its forms. Photos have become a potent—and efficient—tool for frontline activists, who are able to quickly publish their shots online thanks to new technology. Despite public appearances, many of these young photographers are women and their shots are instrumental in documenting Bahrain’s revolution. …

The Al Wefaq political opposition organizes daytime rallies that draw huge crowds, sometimes in the tens of thousands. This is the primary venue for participants in Bahrain’s resilient protest movement, which remains largely peaceful. … Female photographers are mainstays at the daytime rallies, and although women are discouraged from attending violent nighttime clashes, some have managed to document them. …

Hawra*, in her mid-twenties, takes photos at every major Wefaq rally. “You can see,” she says, gesturing to the mass of people walking down the highway, “we are not here with weapons or molotovs. If it was not peaceful, we would not bring our babies, our mothers, our elderly women.” …

At both Al Wefaq and 14 Feb protests, women are told to steer clear of teargas and Molotov-ridden clashes, and they usually do—but not always. During a large sit-in last month organized by Al Wefaq, violent clashes broke out less than 50 yards from where tens of thousands were peacefully gathered. Some women in abayas took their chance, coughed their way through the tear gas, and photographed what was happening.

Women are also managing to photograph nighttime clashes—sometimes from their bedroom windows—and posting them online. Anyone with Blackberry can send photos to the Blackberry pin operated by their local village 14 Feb. The account operators in each village then select a number of submissions to publish on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. The central 14 Feb organization gathers photos from each of these village accounts to republish to its more than 60,000 Twitter followers.

“The world sees my pictures now,” says Hameeda, age 19, whose photos have been chosen and circulated by 14 Feb. Hameeda explains that she produces shots that boys do not: aerial-type photos that show a different perspective. …

Hameeda proudly displays aerial shots she took from her bedroom window. The first is a Twitter classic: a tan, beaten down village street, blotted out with clouds of teargas, pictured from above. She flips to a new photo, another already-famous shot of helmeted riot police storming the small street carrying tear gas guns.

Because of her activism, the government threatened her in 2011 and she missed a year of school. But she says “there is no fear anymore.” Marching back to her mother’s car after an Al Wefaq protest, Hameeda holds up one of her photos: “I take pictures so the world will know what happens in Bahrain…but more so [King] Al Khalifa will know what happens in Bahrain.”

Wafa*, a photographer in her early 20s, attends every major opposition march and uploads her photos daily to her accounts on both Twitter and Instagram. She says the government targeted her Twitter account in 2012, accusing her of “instigating hatred against the regime.” But she kept at it: “I created a new account, and Tweet under a fake name. I continue because I have to.”

Last month the Bahrain government sentenced six people to a year in jail for similar “crimes,” charging them with “misusing the right of free expression,” according to a government statement. On World Press Freedom Day last month, Minister of State for Information Affairs Sameera Rajab denied that there are any journalists imprisoned in Bahrain, and that “the alleged cases concern mere individual cases of amateur photographers who have flouted the law.”

*not her real name

Human rights record in Bahrain still abysmal – Europe must act: here.

Human rights groups are calling for the United States and the European Union (EU) to exert more pressure on Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, to seriously engage its opposition and end its repression of its majority Shi’a population: here.

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