US: Call for the Immediate Release of Bahrain's "Freedom Poet"
  • Petitioned Stephanie T. Williams

This petition was delivered to:

Chargé d’Affaires, US Embassy Bahrain
Stephanie T. Williams
Political/Economic Officer, US Embassy Bahrain
Steve Butler
Regional Security Officer, US Embassy Bahrain
Lance M. Bailey

US: Call for the Immediate Release of Bahrain's "Freedom Poet"

    1. Petition by

      Artists Speak Out

July 2011


Some called 20 year-old poet Ayat al-Gormezi the "Ai Weiwei of Bahrain" - sent to prison for simply reading a poem which, the government said, incited "hatred of the regime." 

But now after more than 2,300 of us from across the globe took action to up the pressure to free her, Ayat al-Gormezi has been released. 

"The release of Ayat al-Gormezi is a victory for human rights, a victory for sanity, a victory for the power of global pressure speaking justice to power," said Philip Bishop, Director of Artists Speak Out. "Pressure from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, groups like Amnesty International, and even the modest but meaningful work of Artists Speak Out and through this petition have all played a part in Ayat's release. We hope to hear her recite many a protest poem in the months and years to come -- and be free to do so."

Thanks for taking action everyone!

We the signatories of this petition call upon the United States' highest-ranking diplomat in Bahrain, Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams, to make a public statement calling for the immediate release of 20 year-old poet Ayat al-Gormezi who had a one-year prison sentence unjustly imposed on her 12 June 2011 for reading a poem.

Bahrain’s National Safety Court of First Instance claimed in sentencing Ayat that she was guilty of “inciting hatred of the regime and of being involved in a rally to commit crimes.” Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem critical of the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February.

Media reports indicate that since being in custody Ayat, a student teacher, has been beaten across the face with an electric cable, spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, and was forced to clean with her bare hands toilets just used by police. Almost certainly as a result of this brutal treatment, Ayat on 21 June 2011 made a televised apology to the Bahraini king and prime minster for what she had said and done.

No crime deserves such debasing and inhumane treatment -- and certainly not the "crime" of reciting a poem, no matter how critical it is of the ruling government or its leader. The United States must stand firmly on the side of free speech and the just treatment of detainees in this matter. There is also serious concern that Ayat may face additional charges and be returned to the prison where her abusive interrogation took place. In light of these grave developments, we call on Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams and the US government to make a public statement demanding that the Bahaini government comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all the norms of international law and provide al-Gormezi with a speedy release from her unlawful incarceration.

Recent signatures


    1. Bahraini Woman Who Recited Poems Critical of Gulf kingdom's Rulers Released

      "A Bahraini woman, jailed for reciting poems critical of Gulf kingdom's rulers during a wave of protests earlier this year, was released from prison on Wednesday, her brother said."

    2. A Freedom Poet: The Ai Weiwei of the Middle East

      Ayat al-Gormezi is a 20-year-old poet in the tiny Middle Eastern island kingdom of Bahrain who was recently thrown in jail.

      What for, you ask? For reading a poem.

    3. Reached 2,000 signatures
    4. OpEd on the way

      Artists Speak Out will be publishing an article about the call for Stephanie T. Williams to take a stand in a major US publication later this month! Stay tuned...

    5. Reached 1,000 signatures
    6. Contact made

      Artists Speak Out has reached out directly to the Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in Manama. We'll let me know what their response is.

    7. Reached 100 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • Don Bright TULSA, OK
      • over 3 years ago

      "For a country to have a great writer is like having a second government. That is why no regime has ever loved great writers" -- Alexander Solzhenytsin

    • Sayed Mosawi BAHRAIN, BAHRAIN
      • over 3 years ago

      This poet is one of many women prisoned in Bahrain (including pregnant women) only because they spoke their mind.

      Down with all Tyrants

    • Susan McCoy KEALAKEKUA, HI
      • over 3 years ago

      Women need extraordinary protection in many parts of the world. This young woman and others need our support. Please do what your can to help them, especially to protect them from rape and torture in prison. Imagine yourself or a female relative in their situation. Thank you for your help. Susan McCoy.

    • Kimberly Costello PLANO, TX
      • over 3 years ago

      Man's Inhumanity to Man must be stopped; this is the 21st century, and regimes still exist that are beyond brutal! Our American representatives need to step up to the plate! Get some backbone! Grow some real "balls", and stand up for this young lady. Stop hiding behind your diplomacy! Don't shame America by your silence!

    • kevin sharpe BLACKHEATH, AUSTRALIA
      • over 3 years ago

      poets need protection


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