Sheikh Ali Salman in a letter to his Daughter Naba’: I am in Prison for a Country whose Gifts are Open to all the People without Discrimination
To the fruits of my heart,
My dear son Mojtaba,
My dear daughter Naba’,
You are the joy of my heart and you know how much I love you, long to see you, and dream about the future I desire for you.
Allow me, dear Mojtaba, to address your little sister in this letter, to answer a question that is keeping her innocent mind busy: “Why were you detained, dad?” Since she is still not aware, like you are, of the situation we are living in.
My beloved daughter Naba’
One day, you were blowing the candles on your seventh birthday. Our warm house was filled with your smiles, filling and coloring every corner on its way. I still remember how we took pictures together, while you were making sure that the number of candles counted your age, which I would compare to the age of our country since February 14, 2011.
I also remember the look of fear on your face when you heard the loud knocks on the door. Your eyes were filled with tears when you asked me, “Why would the police come to our house on my birthday daddy? We haven’t even opened the presents yet. What do they want?”
When I said goodbye before leaving, I made a promise to myself to come back and open your beautiful presents in the evening, and then you will sleep in my arms like every night. My promise, along with the promises of other fathers, is still hanging between two seas; that of the earth and the skies, and there are still many presents sleeping in the dark.
My beloved Naba’,
My little one, you know I do not want to leave you and go to prison, but the regime took me there against my desire. Why did they do this? This is a story I hope to tell you completely, someday. Perhaps your young age prevents you from understanding everything I will say now. But a few years from now, you will definitely understand and realize faster than you think.
For now, what I can tell you is that I am in prison because, many children like you cannot open their birthday presents with their fathers, some cannot open them alone, while others do not get presents at all.
Many fathers wrote to their children, and I am not the only one writing to you. Some write their letters in forms of children marching to the freedom square, and becoming martyrs. Some write their letters in the form of children going to the Pearl Roundabout, and never coming back. Some write to their young children through their older children, who spend the best of years of their lives in prison. I’m writing two letters to you, this one, and another in the form of a father who was detained the night of his daughter’s birthday; missing out the joy of opening gifts together.
One day, my gift to you will be a country whose gifts are open to all its people, without discrimination.
My dear Naba’,
I don’t know how many years I will have to stay in prison before I get out and hold you in the light again. Yet, what I want you to know is that I am in prison because I love seeing the sun rise in my country and enlighten its darkness, and I would love my country to be joyful and prosper.
The sun is a great blessing that Allah created for all people, and not one can monopolize it and deny others from enjoying it. No one has the right to block the sun from anyone by imprisoning him or her. This country is like the sun, it is a blessing from Allah, and a right for everyone, and its resources are bound for everyone, without any monopolization or discrimination.
I am in prison, because the beach that I know lies behind this building that I am locked up in, but nobody is able to being able to see it. The sea is one of the most attractive views that distinguish our small beautiful island. However, people are not allowed to reach it today, and children your age and older are not allowed to swim in it or play on its beautiful shores like we used to do when we were young. The sea has become a property of a certain faction of people, and not for everyone. Like this country, the sea is a blessing granted by Allah to the people, and it is a right to all people who like it, without any discrimination.
I am in prison because I love you, and I want to protect you, so that no one hurts you or denies you your right in your country as a full citizen, so that no one threatens your freedom or imprisons you, your father, your brother, your husband, or child, just for having an opinion opposing that of the regime.
I am in prison because I am trying to make your mother “Alia” feel safe in her house, without having to be afraid for any of you now or tomorrow.
I am in prison because I want you to have the best education in public schools.
I am in prison because I want to guarantee you an opportunity for a scholarship based on your score in high school. I want your opportunity to depend on your education merit rather than your sect or political stance.
I am in prison so that you and your sister “Sarah” get a job that fits your certificate when you grow up and graduate from college.
I am in prison, my precious child, for your future and Sarah’s future, that of all the girls and boys of your age in your school, your friends, and all the children of Bahrain.
I am in prison because something is taking away your joy; I want every child in Bahrain to be happy, and have his /her parents reassured about his/her future.
I am in prison because I love Allah, I love the people of Allah, I love serving them, and I do not settle for dictatorship over them.
My darling Naba’
Are you still wondering how these reasons are behind my imprisonment? Briefly, I am trying to fix the wrong things in our country.
Perhaps, with all your innocence and curiosity, you ask, “What are the wrong things in our country?”
There are many things my dear daughter, and I shall list the most important, knowing that you will not understand them now.
The monopolization of a minority from one tribe to control the country’s affairs and people, while the rest of the nation is marginalized from the actual participation in political decision-making.
This is hard for you to understand now my dear.
The presence of so many poor people in our country, since profiteers and exploitive people took their money, and took control on the expense of these poor people.
The presence of grave mistakes; most significant is the discrimination between people based on the tribe or sect, the spread of administrative and ethical corruption, due to the regime’s sovereignty and failure to have various sources of income. The increase in public debt, the drop in public health and education services, the poorly built roads, gardens, infrastructure, the increase in unemployment, and the low income per capita. The absence of freedom of expression, freedom of press, freedom of gaining information, freedom of forming societies, freedom to form political parties, the lack of peaceful exchange of power, the lack of judicial independence, the spread of human rights violations, the control of the state over the civil society and its organizations… and a lot more.
I know what I have said is hard for you to understand. Consider this another letter for you for when you grow up. When you start your primary years at school you will discover some of what I said, and by the time you are in college, everything I said will be crystal clear with the moment you look for a scholarship for a major your deserve, a job you seek, or a decent life you desire.
When things in your life go wrong, go back to my letter, I might not be with you, I might still be in prison, or there may be other circumstances, which I do not know now.
My dearest Naba’,
Pray to Allah that I would be out of prison and with you, and pray to Allah that all detainees in our beloved country are set free, since the prayers of a child alone can connect the sea of earth to that of the skies. Allah loves to give children gifts that bring joy to their hearts; gifts that no one can take away or prevent them from opening on their birthdays.
My dear children Mojtaba, Naba’, and Sarah… I love you.
And until we meet again, at a time when everyone is happy.