Category Archives: Bahrain

Supporting humanity, dignity and equal rights

Dear friends and supporters,

I am so grateful for your support. You make possible all that we do at donkeysaddle projects.

2014 has brought into stark relief how much critically important work must be done, and how interconnected are so many struggles for freedom, equality, and dignity, whether in Ferguson, Palestine, or Bahrain.

The racism inherent in our country’s state violence (be it the death penalty or police killings), the utter disregard for human life that enabled the recent devastation in Gaza, the continued targeting of human rights defenders from Bahrain to Brazil…these all serve as powerful and painful reminders of how vital it is to highlight everyone’s equal humanity, and to insist on the protection of everyone’s rights and freedom.

In 2014, your generosity helped donkeysaddle projects in the struggle for human dignity and human rights by supporting our ability to:

I will be in Israel/Palestine when you receive this letter, perhaps in Gaza, assessing the impact of war and siege on Gaza’s health and education systems; with Israeli friends in Tel Aviv or Haifa as they struggle to dismantle their country’s structures of power and privilege and replace them with structures of true equality and justice; at the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp, filming artists who bravely continue in their path of cultural resistance to oppression; or in Jerusalem, documenting the boiling-over tensions of the city, and examining the conditions that led there.

In 2015, your support can enable donkeysaddle projects to continue this ongoing work in Palestine/Israel, in Bahrain, and in the U.S.

Here’s what we have planned in the year ahead:

Your contribution allows donkeysaddle projects to have impact for years to come and supports a vision of the world in which every person’s humanity, dignity and rights are equally respected and equally protected.

Please support donkeysaddle projects with a contribution that feels meaningful to you this year!  For online donations, including monthly donations, please click here. For info on donations via check, please click here.

With warm wishes for a New Year that brings us closer to peace with justice, dignity, freedom and equality for all,

Jen Marlowe
donkeysaddle projects


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Filed under Asel Asleh, Bahrain, Brazil, Criminal Justice, Death Penalty, Human Rights, Palestine/Israel, Troy Davis

Ali’s Unused Camera

(Ali Jawad Al-Sheik would have been 17 years old had he not been killed by riot police in Bahrain 3 years ago today. Below, is what I wrote on the Witness Bahrain blog two years ago when I was in Bahrain, after meeting his family.)


Ali Al-Sheikh loved playing sports, swimming, and taking photographs. Photography was a growing passion of his. At age

Ali and his camera

Ali and his camera

fourteen, he was already on his fourth camera, constantly begging his parents for bigger and better ones.

Ali’s little brother, twelve-year-old Ahmad, seems to have inherited his brother’s interest in cameras. In his home two nights ago, he motioned for me to hand him my video camera so he could film his mother (Um Ali) showing me Ali’s possessions in their small apartment in Sitra, Bahrain.

Ahmad scrambled onto the bed to get a good angle and opened the view finder as Um Ali buried her face in a pile of Ali’s sports shirts, breathed in their odor, and began to cry.

She has been smelling Ali’s clothes and blanket every night before she goes to sleep since August 31, 2011, the day that her son was shot and killed by a tear gas canister to the back of his head.

Ali had been active in the protests since the beginning of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising, in the Pearl Roundabout days. After Ali’s friend was killed, his participation intensified. Ali went to every funeral/demonstration for every shaheed (martyr). He witnessed the impact of the crackdown, seeing homes in his neighborhood raided nightly. Ali was also no stranger to the poverty and unemployment that protestors say are a result of sectarian discrimination. Ali, Ahmad, and their two sisters all slept in one bedroom, long past the age when Islamic tradition considers it acceptable.

Yet despite their modest means, Ali’s parents did all they could to encourage his development. In fact, his mother bought Ali a new camera as a gift for Eid (the festival at the conclusion of Ramadan).

She never gave him the camera.

On the morning of the Eid, Ali went to pray and then returned home briefly, only to turn around and start to head out of the door again.

“Ali, where are you going?” his mother asked. “Take a shower and put on your new Eid clothes.”

“I’ll be right back, Mom,” the boy insisted.

“Don’t be long. We have to get to your grandmother’s house before they block the roads.”

Ali and Ahmad, then eleven years old, scurried out of the apartment. Shortly after, Um Ali heard tear gas being fired—a sound she had grown accustomed to.

Ahmad rushed inside moments later. “They attacked us!”

This, too, had become “normal” yet Um Ali’s heart constricted. “Where’s Ali?”

Ahmad held out Ali’s cell phone. “When the shooting began, he told me to take his phone and run home.”

Ali’s father (Abu Ali) received a call on his cell phone. Ali was slightly injured, the caller said, and had been taken to the Sitra medical clinic. Abu Ali rushed there right away while Um Ali remained at home, panicked, trying to call her husband and anyone she could think of for an update, but no one answered. Finally, she reached one of Ali’s friends.

“Where is Ali? Why is no one answering me? Where is Ali? Tell me!”

“Ali is a martyr,” the friend told her. “He is with God.”

Um Ali screamed and hung up the phone, going into a state of extreme shock and denial. Groups of mourners who gathered in the apartment found her lying on the sofa, wailing, “Bring Ali to me! I want my son back!”


Ali Jawad Al-Sheikh, killed August 31, 2011

The disbelief continues ten months later. The Al-Sheikh home is a shrine to Ali. Ali’s image, with full lips and brown, soulful eyes, adorn every inch of wall space. Pre-school aged Ali with his baby brother. Ten-year-old Ali bobbing in the swimming pool. Twelve-year-old Ali proudly holding a certificate of achievement from school. Fourteen-year-old Ali standing defiantly at the Pearl Roundabout with his not-yet-martyred friend just behind him. It still feels like a bad dream to his mother, a dream she still believes she’ll wake up from, and find her son at her side again, helping her with the computer or showing her how to send a text message, as he always did. Ahmad and nine-year-old Fatima try to coax their mother out of her tears, and encourage her to get over the loss of Ali.

I have known too many mothers of martyred children, whether killed in Palestine/Israel, Bosnia or Northern Ireland, and I know: Um Ali may be able to eventually continue her life, but she will never recover. The family will carry the gaping wound from the place Ali once occupied long after his photographs go back into albums and his clothes and notebooks are packed into boxes.

Um Ali prays that those responsible for her son’s murder will be held accountable. She wants them to know the same pain she is experiencing. She wants them to understand the depth of the tragedy of a young teenaged boy, demonstrating for his freedom and his future, cut down before he had the chance build that future.

Before taking a single photograph with his new camera.

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Filed under Bahrain, Uncategorized

3 years ago today: Popular uprising in Bahrain

Today marks the 3-year anniversary of the popular uprising in Bahrain, led by pro-democracy and human rights activists in the small Gulf Island Nation.

The uprising was brutally suppressed by the Saudi and U.S. backed Bahraini monarchy, a reality I became all-too-personally acquainted with during my 3 weeks in Bahrain during the summer of 2012, embedded with the activists who continued to find ways to nonviolently call for democracy and human rights.

To mark the three-year anniversary of uprising, I am re-posting here some of what I wrote during and about my time in Bahrain:

Women Join Bahrain’s Uprising

The Progressive, November, 2012

Terror and Teargas on the Streets of Bahrain, September 18, 2012

Bahrain Imprisons Human Rights Leader
The Progressive, August 17, 2012

Stitching Up Our Injured Children
Witness Bahrain, July 13, 2012

The Last Tweets Before Prison: Interview with Nabeel Rajab
Witness Bahrain, July 10th, 2012

Ali’s Unused Camera
Witness Bahrain, July 7, 2012

I join my voice with the Bahraini people in their call for self-determination, and I wish them continued Sumoud (or, endurance) in their pursuit of it.

In solidarity,

Jen Marlowe


The father of Ali Jawad al-Sheikh, sitting at the grave of his 14-year old son, killed by riot police in Bahrain.


Filed under Bahrain, Human Rights