Free Anna Day, her colleagues, and all political prisoners of the Bahraini regime!
Update 17/02/2016: Anna and her colleagues have been freed and returned to the United States. Anna’s family wishes to thank everyone who supported her and called for her freedom.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa had a Valentine’s Day present for American journalist Anna Day and three of her colleagues: jail.
Anna and her so-far unnamed colleagues were arrested yesterday and are currently being held by the dictatorial regime, famous for the brutal repression of 2011 Arab Spring protesters. They were reportedly in the country to cover the anniversary of the protests. According to al-Jazeera, the regime once again made use of its long-standing, police-state tactics to violently quell the protest and part of that repression was the arrest of four foreign journalists present at the demonstration.
Anna is no stranger to, or friend of, the Bahraini government. She’s traveled there several times, interviewing the regime’s torture victims and once even got into a public spat with Condoleezza Rice about US support for the murderous, psychotic king and his crooked team of fascist police. The king and the country’s various and widespread human rights abuses are well documented, and Reporters Without Borders ranks the country a God-awful 163 out of 173 for press freedoms.
An unknown (but high) number of journalists and peaceful activists are held in abominable conditions in the country’s Jaw prison, only a 35-minute drive from a sparkling $150-million Formula One racetrack completed in 2004. Equally morally shocking as the arrest of the four journalists yesterday—probably more so, in fact—was the one-year prison sentence given to Bahraini demonstrator Zainab al-Khawaja for the “crime” of tearing up a picture of the king.
Al-Khawaja’s sister, Bahraini journalist and human-rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja, has called for Anna’s release, as well:
— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) febrero 16, 2016
It’s probably a good time to mention that I know Anna personally. She’s a good friend of mine, a great person, and an even better journalist.
I met Anna at the School for Authentic Journalism in Mexico, where her infectious energy and constant smile lit up the classrooms. She later invited me to join her and several colleagues in Palestine, where she was trying to get a “Palestinian press corps” started. The press corps didn’t work out, but I ended up staying in the country for nearly two years, reporting on the occupation for outlets like VICE and al-Jazeera. I have Anna to thank for that. She selflessly provided me with everything from a place to stay to local contacts to a ride from the airport, and I couldn’t possibly have spent as much time as I did there without Anna’s invaluable help early on.
Anna’s an absolutely fearless journalist who has reported from conflict zones including Egypt, Mexico, and Syria, where the FSA convoy she was riding in was chased by a bomber plane and narrowly managed to hide down a side street before Assad’s flying pigs could attack. She interviewed ISIS members in 2013, before most people had ever even heard of them, and somehow lived to tell the tale despite being a blonde, white, female nonbeliever.
And the funny thing about Anna is, she does all this in a bubbly, sorority-girl persona that completely disarms the targets of her vicious-but-righteous critiques. In Palestine, we were all constantly amused by her ability to catch Israeli soldiers, businessmen, and politicians off-guard with her knowledgeable, angry, and loud condemnation of the illegal Israeli occupation. They would all take one look at her and assume she just wanted a glass of champagne, and she would quickly make them look and feel like idiots for their sexist dismissal of a young blonde journalist.
In the interest of full disclosure, she was also a founding member of ImportantCool (and nominated me for membership in the group) but left before the site launched due to personal differences with some other IC members. Every one of us at IC fully supports her and we demand her immediate release.
We also demand the US government actually pressure their close friends the Bahraini monarchists for Anna’s release. The Department of State issued a despicable and embarrassing non-statement, telling the Daily Beast “We are aware of reports that U.S. citizens have been arrested. We have no comment due to privacy considerations.” I know Anna well enough to state with confidence that she’s going to be extremely pissed off about this when they let her out. She wants out of jail, not fake hand-wringing about privacy concerns from the world’s number-one violators of privacy. As noted earlier, she’s already publicly pissed off at the US government for their shameful support of the Bahraini dictatorship, and their public abandonment of her cause certainly isn’t going to help matters. In fairness, it’s possible the State Department is currently working behind the scenes to secure the journalists’ release, but these public statements matter too, and their refusal to condemn the obviously bullshit detention of four American journalists is, well, obviously bullshit.
Free Anna Day. Free her three colleagues. Free Zainab al-Khawaja and all of Bahrain’s many, many political prisoners. Justice for the victims of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.