Maryam al-Khawaja is a Bahraini human rights activist and the current head of the foreign relations office for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and for the Gulf Center for Human Rights. An outspoken voice during the protests against Bahrains repressive monarchy, al-Khawaja routinely exposes state violence against peaceful demonstrators. The target of death threats and government harassment, she campaigns for an end to discrimination against religious minorities and the crushing of political dissent, and for the release of political prisonersincluding her father Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
Commitment to equality and the struggle for human rights are rooted in al-Khawajas family. Her father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, is a prominent human rights activist currently imprisoned for his work. Born in Syria after the continuous persecution of her father by the Bahraini government for his activities as a human rights defender, she and her family were granted political asylum in Denmark, where she lived for 12 years before returning to Bahrain.
Al-Khawaja personally witnessed her father return home from peaceful demonstrations many times with signs of torture and beatings, usually inflicted by the Bahraini Special Security Forces. After her father was imprisoned, al-Khawaja peacefully protested for his release and the amnesty of other political prisoners. She observed first-hand the brutality of the Special Security Forces as they physically beat and verbally assaulted many of her fellow demonstrators.