Bahrain: Young divorcee is threatened for speaking out against Sharia courts, politicized judges and the lack of a personal status law

A 29-year-old divorcee in Bahrain has been receiving death threats and anonymous phone calls after being interviewed about her case on Al Hurra television on November 25th 2006. During the interview, mother-of-three Suad Mohammed Fathalla spoke alongside Women's Petition Committee head Ghada Jamsheer and Bahrain Center for Human Rights president Abdulhadi Al Khawaja.
While speaking on Al Hurra television Ms Fathalla gave details of her case – she told how her eldest son chose not to live with his father. She also spoke about how he was told by an Interior Ministry employee that if he left his father he would be sent to a juvenile detention centre.

She criticised Sharia Courts and politicised judges for their handling of the case and the Interior Ministry for failing to take any disciplinary action against their employee (her ex-husband) for his illegal actions.

Backlash and Pressure

Following the television interview, Ms Fathalla started to receive threatening phone calls and messages. One example, she says, was a call asking her to choose the graveyard in which she would like to be buried, saying that she would be going there soon.

A case was filed at the Muharraq police over one month ago, but no action has been taken yet.

She is also now being accused of defamation.

On January 9 Ms Fathalla received an aggressive phone call from a Public Prosecution official. The official allegedly shouted at her and ordered her to attend a court hearing on the charges of defamation.

"Because I spoke to the media, they are trying to pressure me to shut my mouth," Ms Fathalla said. "What scares me most of all is that they may try to take my children away – or jail me on the charges of defamation and then take my children away as a result of that. But I will keep speaking."
In 1993, at the age of 16, Ms Fathalla (who is originally from the UAE) married a Bahraini man but the marriage ended 10 years later.

Ms Fathalla has previously said that her ex-husband was a violent and abusive drunk who used to beat her.[1]

She temporarily lost custody of her children after her ex-husband filed a court case against her accusing her of being a prostitute. Even though Ms Fathalla was acquitted of the charges the Sharia Court granted custody of the children to their father.

In September 2006 Ms Fathalla's husband, who is a policeman, threatened her at gunpoint.[2] Ms Fathalla, who has no close relatives in Bahrain, has also reportedly been physically assaulted by members of her ex-husband's family.

She has said she turned to the Women's Petition Committee because she had "no-one else" to help her, and traveled with the Women's Petition Committee to the United Nations in Geneva in April 2006.

[1]Custody row mum in court battle Gulf Daily News, July 15 2006

[2]Activist vows to take policeman's case to Interior Ministry Gulf Daily News, September 9 2006

Bahrain Center for Human Rights & Women's Petition Committee
14 January 2007
Ref: 07011401