DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Hundreds of prisoners suspended their monthlong hunger strike in Bahrain, an advocacy group said Tuesday, just ahead of a visit of the island nation's crown prince to the United States.
The strike will pause until Sept. 30 as some prisoners suffered health problems and to see if promised changes by Bahrain's government at the Jaw Rehabilitation and Reform Center will materialize, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, an advocacy group.
The promised changes include limiting isolation, expanding visitor rights, extending the hours of daylight inmates have and improving health care at the prison, the group said. If the changes are not implemented, the strike will resume.
The group linked the decision to Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa's visit to Washington this week. He is scheduled to meet Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday and sign a security and economic agreement.
Bahrain's government acknowledged the stop of the hunger strike in a statement to The Associated Press, though it contended the strike had fully ended after spending weeks trying to downplay the protest and the number of prisoners taking part. It said that the suspension came after “visiting hours were reorganized, the hours of open air access were increased and the number of contacts that could be contacted was increased too.”
The monthlong hunger strike had been one of the longest sustained demonstrations of dissent in the decade since Bahrain, aided by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, violently suppressed its 2011 Arab Spring protests.
Maryam al-Khawaja, the daughter of the long-detained human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, plans to travel to Bahrain in the coming days with activists including the head of Amnesty International. She plans to advocate for her father's release, though she herself faces prison time in Bahrain, the home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.