Tag Archives: Bahrain

Nabeel Rajab in prison (again) for Tweeting

Dear friends,

There has been a lot of pain in the last weeks. Between fatal attacks in Baghdad and Istanbul, the massacre of predominantly Latinx and Black Queer folks in Orlando, and the recent murders of two young, Black lives by agents of the state…it has been difficult to keep going, let alone to hold space for everyone who is suffering, everyone who is experiencing repression, everyone who is in pain.

I’m asking you to take a moment to learn about, and hold space for, those suffering in the tiny Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, where my friend Nabeel Rajab, prominent human rights defender, was re-arrested a month ago because of his audacity to Tweet criticism of the regime. If found guilty, Nabeel could spend up to 13 years in prison.

The U.S. and the U.K–who enable the Bahraini regime–hold direct responsibility.

I hope you will read my op-ed (in the Huffington Post), and consider the connections between the pain of Nabeel and his family to the pain of all those experiencing–and resisting–injustice, all over.

Baba, sumoud!” (“Daddy, stay steadfast!”)

Ten-year old Malak Rajab called out these words as Bahraini police led her father, prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, from his home to waiting police vehicles in July 2012. His crime: insulting the Prime Minister in a tweet.

I filmed Rajab and his young daughter in their front yard from the upstairs window of their house; I had to film clandestinely, as I had entered the country under false pretenses—Bahrain was denying entry to nearly all journalists and human rights defenders. But I captured the girl’s defiant resistance as she trailed after the police who had her father in tow. Later that day, I witnessed her fear as the reality settled in: she did not know when her father would come home.

Read the rest HERE

In solidarity and in struggle,

Jen Marlowe


Malak making the sign for “Sumoud” or “Steadfastness” in front of a poster of her father, the day he was arrested in 2012 for a Tweet he sent which criticized the regime. Rajab is now re-arrested on similar charges

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Filed under Bahrain, Human Rights

Call to Action: Witness Bahrain and There Is A Field

Dear friends and supporters,

The coming months bring two important anniversaries.

February 14 is the 5-year anniversary of Bahrain’s uprising, when hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets calling for democracy and human rights in Bahrain–and were met by violent repression from the Bahraini regime, repression which continues until today.

March 30 is the 40-year anniversary of Land Day, an annual commemoration of land dispossession and the killings of Palestinian citizens of Israel in 1976.

Donkeysaddle Projects is inviting you to participate in global actions to mark both events!

FEBRUARY: Host a screening of our new award-winning film, WITNESS BAHRAIN!Witness Bahrain Poster LoRes

MARCH: Participate in the Land Day Tour of our new play, THERE IS A FIELD, by organizing a performance, rehearsed reading, or “living room reading” of the play!

More information on WITNESS BAHRAIN can be found here, and information about organizing a screening can be found here.

TIAF one-pageMore information on THERE IS A FIELD can be found here, and information on organizing a performance or reading can be found here.
Or–email Jen Marlowe for more information on both initiatives!

Looking forward to your participation in marking these two significant anniversaries, and in organizing events that support human rights and equality!

And–ways to help support both initiatives, along with all our work at Donkeysaddle Projects, can be found here!

In solidarity,
Jen Marlowe
Director, Witness Bahrain
Playwright/Producer, There Is A Field
Founder, Donkeysaddle Projects


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Filed under Asel Asleh, Bahrain, Palestine/Israel

Witness Bahrain honored with Audience Award at STIFF

Dear friends,

What a weekend.

Witness Bahrain premiered at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival to two sold-out audiences.

–Charles Mudede of The Stranger (Seattle’s preeminent alternative weekly newspaper called it “one of the best documentaries I have seen this year” and said the film is “fearless, insightful, and has a big heart for those who are in this long but beautiful struggle.” (Full review below.)

–Before both screenings, we hosted a photo exhibit of Bahraini child prisoners, courtesy of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain. And, a lively discussion/Q&A was held after both screenings with Witness Bahrain Co-Producer Nada Alwadi, Director/Producer Jen Marlowe and donkeysaddle projects Project Manager Amer Shurrab.

–Mike McCormick interviewed Nada Alwadi and Jen Marlowe about the film and the freedom struggle in Bahrain on KEXP’s Mind Over Matter. (Link to interview here.)

Hedgebrook hosted a Tweet Chat about the film, and about Bahrain with Nada and Jen. You can read the transcript here.

–And, to top it all off–Witness Bahrain received the Audience Award at STIFF.

It is tremendously exciting that Witness Bahrain was recognized with this award right out the gate.  But, the credit for this award goes to the audience. We are so moved by how many of you came out, supported, and showed enthusiasm for this film and, most importantly, for the struggle for freedom, democracy and human rights in Bahrain.

We hope that many many more of you will have the opportunity to see the film in the months to come. If you want to help organize a community screening, please contact Amer Shurrab. And, you can support the film’s ability to screen world-wide by clicking here.

In solidarity, and with gratitude,
Jen Marlowe, Director/Producer, Witness Bahrain
Amer Shurrab, Project Manager, donkeysaddle projects

Twitter: @donkeysaddleorg
Blog: View from the donkey’s saddle

Photo 1: Review of Witness Bahrain in The Stranger
Photo 2: Amer, Jen and Nada after the premiere at STIFF


Filed under Bahrain, Human Rights

Tweet Chat today for #WitnessBahrain! (3pm PST/6pm EST)

Dear friends,ali looking up

Tonight and tomorrow night, at the Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival, my documentary film Witness Bahrain will be premiering.

For those of you in Seattle, I hope you will join me tonight at 8pm at the Grand Illusion Cinema, or tomorrow night at 6pm at the Lucid Lounge to watch the film and to participate in the post-screening Q&A with myself, Bahraini Co-Producer Nada Alwadi, and Project Manager for donkeysaddle projects, Amer Shurrab. (Though officially sold out, the Festival is releasing some extra tickets, so you can get them at the door!)

For those of you NOT in Seattle, you have a unique opportunity to participate in the conversation around the film by taking part in a Tweet Chat today at 3pmPST/6pmEST. Hosted by Hedgebrook, this TweetChat is an opportunity to ask questions of Nada and myself: about the film, about the ongoing repression happening in Bahrain, about the connection between the regime in Bahrain and the U.S. government.

Just use the hashtag #WitnessBahrain to follow and participate in the discussion!

I’m so very glad to be finally sharing with the world the stories of the inspiring Bahrainis that I met, struggling for democracy and human rights in the face of great repression and brutality.

Hope to see you online today at the TweetChat, and the premiere screenings tonight!

In solidarity with all those struggling for basic human rights,

Jen Marlowe

Director/Producer, Witness Bahrain

(BTW–watch our trailer here!)

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Exciting updates about WITNESS BAHRAIN World Premiere at STIFF!

Dear friends,Witness Bahrain Poster LoRes

The World Premiere of Witness Bahrain  at Seattle’s Transmedia and Independent Film Festival is just a week away, and I am so looking forward to sharing the film with you!

Here are some exciting updates about the premiere:

–The first screening sold out days after tickets went on sale, and the second screening that was added (Friday May 8, 6pm at the Lucid Lounge) is on its way to selling out as well! DON’T WAIT! BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

The Seattle Times AND the Seattle Weekly named Witness Bahrain as one of the highlights of the STIFF Festival!

Nada Alwadi, Bahraini journalist and co-producer of Witness Bahrain, will be at the premiere, and joining me for the post-screening Q&A. Nada was arrested by the Bahraini regime shortly after the uprising and had to flee the country. This will be a rare opportunity to hear directly from a Bahraini about the uprising and the subsequent repression.

Amer Shurrab, the new Project Manager at donkeysaddle projects will be at the premiere as well. I am delighted to be able to introduce Amer to donkeysaddle projects‘ Seattle community, and for you to hear a bit from him about what donkeysaddle projects has planned in the coming months.

–A moving exhibit of letters from children prisoners in Bahrain, along with their photographs, will be displayed in the lobby of the cinemas, courtesy of Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain.

I’m so glad that Witness Bahrain is going to be shared with you.  Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights advocate who is featured in the film, was recently re-arrested by the Bahraini regime and faces an unknown amount of time back in prison. Nabeel’s arrest underscores the importance and timeliness of this film. I hope Witness Bahrain will draw some critically needed attention to the ongoing repression taking place in this small Gulf nation, home of the U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet—repression that the U.S. government is tacitly supporting.

See you at the premiere!

With excitement,

Jen Marlowe

Event info:

Thurs May 7 at 8:00pm (sold out)

The Grand Illusion Cinema, 1403 NE 50th St. Seattle, WA 98105

(PS–If you have tickets for the Thurs screening but would rather go Friday, or vice versa, email me ASAP. I may be able to facilitate some sort of exchange.)

Fri May 8 at 6:00pm (less than 20 tickets left)

Lucid Lounge, 5241 University Way NE, Seattle, WA 98105

About the film:

Witness Bahrain is a piercing look into Bahrain two years after the Arab Spring, and documents a reality that is as relevant (and as under-covered) today as when filmmaker Jen Marlowe was shooting the film. The film uncovers stories of doctors arrested and tortured for treating wounded protesters, nurses caring for injured youth at underground clinics, and children who were killed or arrested by riot police. Marlowe also filmed while hiding upstairs in the home of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab as the police came to take him to prison because of Tweets he sent that the regime objected to. (Rajab was just re-arrested weeks ago, again for his Tweets.)

The government of Bahrain is denying entry to all but a few journalists and human rights defenders, so Marlowe had to enter the country under false pretenses and film clandestinely, and was ultimately deported by the Bahraini regime. The result is a one-hour documentary film cut from guerrilla style footage shot with a small, hand held camera, capturing the most intimate, in-depth portrayal of the Bahraini government’s violent repression of Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement to date.

 Film trailer available here: https://vimeo.com/124181698

Witness Bahrain is produced by donkeysaddle projects, and co-sponsored by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture. Donkeysaddle projects is partnering with Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain to promote the film.

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Witness Bahrain World Premiere in Seattle!

WB logo and tag

Dear friends,

I am thrilled to announce that the World Premiere of my new documentary film, WITNESS BAHRAIN, will be in Seattle on Thursday, May 7 at 8:00pm at STIFF (Seattle Transmedia & Independent Film Festival)!

Tickets are on sale here. I will be at the premiere and will hold a post screening Q & A, and, will be joined by Nada Al-Wadi, the Bahraini co-producer of the film!

Watch the film’s trailer by clicking on the image below, or by clicking here!


About Witness Bahrain: The Arab Spring uprising the world forgot:
Witness Bahrain is a piercing look inside Bahrain, two years after the start of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising. The film follows an investment-banker-turned-activist as she travels all over Bahrain, uncovering dozens of stories, including doctors arrested and tortured under trumped up charges, nurses treating injured protestors at underground clinics, the family of a child killed by riot police, and the arrest of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab. Women explain why they protest, people pray on the remains of their demolished mosques, and youth clash daily with riot police. The government of Bahrain is denying entry to all but a few journalists and human rights defenders, so filmmaker Jen Marlowe had to enter the country under false pretenses and film clandestinely, and was ultimately deported by the Bahraini regime. The result is a one-hour documentary film cut from guerilla style footage shot with a small, hand held camera, capturing the most intimate, in-depth portrayal of the Bahraini government’s violent repression of Bahrain’s Arab Spring to date.

(Witness Bahrain is co-sponsored by the City of Seattle Office of Arts & Culture.)

Help us get Witness Bahrain out in the world widely!

Want to organize a screening in your community? Contact Amer Shurrab for details!

Want to help maximize Witness Bahrain‘s impact and reach? Consider making a contribution to donkeysaddle projects today!

And–stay tuned for info about more screenings in more cities in the upcoming months!

On a somber note, Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender who is featured in Witness Bahrain, was recently re-arrested by the Bahraini regime and faces an unknown amount of time back in prison. Nabeel’s arrest underscores the importance and timeliness of this film.

I’m so glad that Witness Bahrain is finally ready to be shared with you….and with the world.

In solidarity,

Jen Marlowe

Director, Witness Bahrain, http://www.WitnessBahrain.com
Founder, donkeysaddle projects,  http://www.donkeysaddle.org
Twitter: @donkeysaddleorg
Blog: View from the donkey’s saddle

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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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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
Tomdispatch.com, 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