Thirty-four-year-old Dhaif spoke to Al Jazeera in Doha this past weekend about her career as a journalist and the recent government crackdown that has silenced her and many others in the Gulf kingdom.
Dhaif described herself as a "golden child" when she entered journalism in 2002, saying she had "everything it takes" to be a great journalist. Since then, Dhaif has become one of the most recognised and controversial personalities in
"I came with an aggressive approach to journalism," she said. "In
Dhaif, a Shia Muslim who comes from a "conservative" background, said: "I criticised the [Shia religious establishment] and I've been the target of my own people."
"And then I started to target the powerful and the elite, someone had to say something."
"For example, we have 21 sports unions in
"In the beginning I was smart, a little bit spoiled. I wanted to prove myself. When I put my hand deeper in my work and went for the first time to the villages and saw poverty and injustice, I started to despise myself for thinking that working in the media was something that could make me a star."
"I started addressing issues that made the powerful want to destroy me, I made many enemies," Dhaif said.
Dhaif described the government's campaign to ruin her reputation. Statements were made about her physical appearance and behaviour, claims she dismisses as rumours and attempts to "shrink" her in the conservative Gulf society.
Dhaif said these attacks backfired and "only made me more determined, and spreading the rumours made me more known".
However, lately Dhaif has been silenced since the government imposed martial law to suppress a protest movement that began in February of this year.
Bahrain, a key ally of the US and home to its Navy's fifth fleet, is controlled by a Sunni monarchy. Shia, who make up more than two-thirds of the population, lack rights and are excluded from most high-level political positions and the security forces.
The protest movement resembled those in
Since that time, more than 30 protesters have been killed and hundreds of protesters, human rights advocates, medical workers, journalists and others have been rounded up and imprisoned by the authorities. Rights groups have condemned the widespread detention and subsequent torture and abuse reportedly happening inside the prisons. At least four detainees have died in custody, and two have been sentenced to death. Amnesty International has condemned military trials in
Dhaif described how her family had come under threat for her work, and, encouraged by her relatives, she took a break from writing since martial law began. "I stopped [practicing journalism] because I didn't want to be arrested. If I'm arrested now, how can I document the others in jail? Everyone is arrested."
Since the crackdown began, many activists, journalists and others have gone into hiding to avoid arrest by authorities - which posted pictures of the "wanted" on various media outlets, including Facebook.
"We reached a point where we're scared to even write on our laptops because it's the first thing they take when they invade our homes. So, I keep all the stories in my head," Dhaif said.
"They can stop us from telling stories now, but they can't do it forever. Even the dead will tell their stories."
The government and state media in
According to Dhaif, in
It is not a civilised government, it is a dictatorship. We wish a better life for the people in
Unlike protests in other Arab nations, Dhaif contends that the majority of protesters in
"Bahrainis are peaceful and intelligent people, and we deserve a modern country. We deserve to be treated as citizens and partners, not followers and slaves. We don't want to rule, we don't want their palaces, their thrones, their Rolls Royces and their jets, we just want to be treated with dignity."
"If the government said 'let us keep our thrones, and we'll offer you the dignity you deserve' the people would accept," Dhaif said.
"If the government gives them real rights there would be no need to protest. [The government] should stop being so stubborn - they can't change the people, but the people can change them."