A Tiny Kingdom’s Worldwide Warrior
With her country in crisis and her father in prison, a twenty-six-year-old exile becomes the international face of Bahrain’s restive uprising.
Photo by Ditte Lysgaard Holm
On August 8, 2013, Maryam Al-Khawaja walked up to a check-in counter at London’s Heathrow airport to pick up her ticket home. The woman who put Al-Khawaja’s information into the computer gave a confused look before informing her that she was not allowed to board the flight to her native country of Bahrain.
The government of the small, Persian Gulf island had contacted the airline and requested that Al-Khawaja not be allowed on this — or any other — flight to the country. The airline had no choice but to comply.
In that moment, at the age of twenty-six, Al-Khawaja officially became an exile. But her life had been heading in that direction for a long time. Born into a family of activists, the uprisings of the Arab Spring in 2011 thrust Al-Khawaja into the role of high-profile human rights defender. Now, as the Bahraini government has cracked down on dissidents, she can no longer return home.
For the three years since protests began in Bahrain, as the regime tort…
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