Fourteen prisoners in Bahrain have started a hunger strike to protest against their sentencing and the detention of other activists involved in anti-government demonstrations in early 2011.
The prisoners, understood to include Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the hardline opposition party Al-Haq, began refusing food on 29 January. A statement by the Interior Ministry said the prisoners would be “treated according to iternational standards of human rights”.
Around 200 more prisoners have subsequently joined the hunger strike, in addition to other activists outside who have also joined the protest, according to Mohammed al-Mascati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.
Tensions are rising in Bahrain ahead of the first anniversary of anti-government protests on 14 February. Clashes between security forces and demonstrators are now occurring almost regularly. The protests are led by Bahrain’s Shia majority, which complain of discrimination by the Sunni-led government.
In 2011, about 40 people are thought to have died during the protests and violent crackdown by police. Bahrain’s King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, commissioned an independent investigation into those events, included allegations of torture by security forces. However, opposition groups complain that the government has failed to enact meaningful reform to address their demands.