In November 2005, during the dead of night, five black cars pulled up in front of the home of Moosa Abd-Ali Ali. The doors opened, and a group of men stepped out. They could’ve been officers, or maybe they were just hired muscle — such distinctions aren’t always clear in Bahrain. But Moosa knew they were sent by the government, and they had come for him.
Moosa was just 24 at the time, but he had already become a prominent anti-government activist within the small kingdom of Bahrain. He’d spent years protesting for equal employment rights and had been jailed and tortured on several occasions. When the cars pulled up outside his home that night, he had just served a nine-month prison sentence on charges that were never revealed to him.
The men barged into Moosa’s house and dragged him out into the streets of Al-Akar, the seaside village where he lived with his wife and young son. They took him to a quiet, darkened alleyway and took turns beating him. Then they raped him. If he didn’t stop his activism, they told him, they would do the same to his family.
Moosa didn’t leave his house for a week after the assault. On December 21st, 2005, he fled for London, after narrowly sliding by Bahraini security forces at the airport. “If I stayed in Bahrain I would have died in prison,” he says. “I am sure of it.”
He hasn’t been home since.