A letter to my sons: one friend’s sacrifice

Dear Alexandre, Dear Sam,


After the battle at Hogwart’s Castle in the final Harry Potter novel, there comes a point when Harry chooses to confront Lord Voldemort on his own in the forest. He knows he will likely die, but it’s a decision he feels he must take because too many of his friends have suffered and died protecting him. Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice, and for a brief time, we do think he has died.


I have a friend who is making a sacrifice that is not all that different than what Harry chose to do. He has seen his friends, family and people he does not know suffer as a result of fighting for their rights. He himself was arrested, tortured, and sentenced to life in prison last year only because he asked for these rights. His sentence was unfair and criticized the world over, yet still he remains in jail. About a couple of months ago he came to a decision that would, in one way or another, end his sentence: he would either be set free or die. He chose to stop eating, and has not eaten anything for the past 76 days. The people who put him away have no intention of letting him go.


He did nothing wrong. Like me, he has fought for the rights of others, but he has done so in a country where human rights are selectively applied: some people have rights, while others who protest against the government risk getting arrested, hurt by the police, killed or sent to prison.


There are a lot of people in his country, Bahrain, who are trying to set him free. His wife, his daughters, his friends and former colleagues have all tried to let the world know that his life sentence is unfair. And he’s not the only one: many other people are also facing the same fate as him, all because they demanded the government to respect the rights of the people living there.


It’s hard to imagine that something like this can actually be true. This is the kind of stuff Lord Voldermort would do to Harry Potter and his friends. The only difference is that this is real, and there won’t be anyone around to wave a magic wand and zap my friend free. The people in Bahrain asking for my friend’s freedom are not alone: millions of people around the world are asking for his release. Lots of people from human rights organizations want him set free. Their appeals for his freedom are always ignored.


My friend is a stubborn man. He has said that his hunger strike will be “freedom or death,” and I know he means it. He’s playing a game of chicken with his government, and he won’t give up. If they don’t release him, he will die. It’s been hard for me to accept this, but I realize he’s doing this for greater freedom of the people of Bahrain. He is an unwilling hero, and he is prepared to sacrifice his life to let the world know that his government is committing human rights violations and doesn’t care what anybody thinks. I feel for him, I feel for his family. And I’m filled with anger and sadness at the plight my friend is in. No one should have to suffer like this. The decision to go on his hunger strike was his own, but the conditions that led him to do this were created by mean-spirited people in positions of power who are afraid of him. What they don’t realize is that, even if he does die, others who believe in the same things as he does will continue his struggle. One way or another, there will be a day in Bahrain where everyone has the same rights. I just don’t want my friend to pay the highest price imaginable for that day to be a reality.


I’m sorry I wrote a letter that isn’t uplifting – some days are harder than others to find happiness.



Je t’aime Alexandre, je t’aime Sam. 

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