In 2011 Bahraini human rights defenders were arrested for pro-democratic activism. Seven years on, monthly protests are reminders of ongoing injustice.
NGO’s gathered yesterday at the Bahrain embassy in London to call for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a human rights defender imprisoned for life seven years ago for organising peaceful protests against Bahrain’s government during the country’s Arab Spring uprising.
Al-Khawaja founded the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002 and is a founding director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, established in 2011. He was one of 13 human rights defenders to be arrested during the 2011 demonstrations.
Index on Censorship and other human rights organisations have called for his immediate release and for all human rights defenders jailed in Bahrain to be freed.
Monday’s protest not only signalled the ongoing persecution of al-Khawaja, but with repeated calls for his release, highlight Bahrain’s systematic imprisonment and targeting of human rights activists since the Arab Spring.
Front Line Defenders recently reported that all human rights defenders in Bahrain have been exiled, imprisoned or prevented from freely working or travelling. Here, we profile some of those targeted:
This human rights defender was imprisoned for five years in February 2018 for tweets and retweets perceived as inflammatory by the Bahraini authorities. The posts, from 2015, relate to torture in Bahrain’s Jau prison and the killing of civilians. He has been in and out of prison for peaceful human rights activism since 2012, with charges ranging from “incitement to non-compliance with the law” and “spreading false news” to “incitement to hatred against the regime”.
Head of women and children’s rights advocacy for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Al-Salman was stopped at Bahrain International Airport in December 2017. She was prevented from travelling and has since been banned from leaving the country. The same happened in 2016 when she was barred from exiting on her way to attend the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. In April 2017 Sharaf Al-Mousawi was also stopped on her way to a development meeting in Lebanon.
Al-Saegh, who works for Salam for Human Rights and Democracy, was one of 22 human rights defenders who were interrogated by the Bahraini authorities in April 2017. They had all supposedly attended an illegal meeting. Most were informed they were banned from travelling. Al-Saegh has been repeatedly targeted by the authorities, sexually assaulted and threatened with rape for her human rights advocacy.
Saeed Al-Samahiji, an opthamologist, used his medical expertise to help protesters injured in the 2011 Bahraini Arab Spring. In 2012 he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement but was released in 2013 following an appeal. He has since been repeatedly targeted, serving a year in prison in 2014 for insulting the king and being charged for tweets written in 2016. Charges included “threatening a neighbouring country (Saudi Arabia) for the purpose of threatening national security” and “publicly calling for participation in unlicensed demonstrations and marches”.
In March 2018 London-based Duaa Alwadaei was sentenced to two months in jail for insulting a police officer. Her trial was conducted without her present. The charge came after Alwadaei told of her mistreatment by security at Bahrain International airport in 2016. Her husband is Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy. He attended Monday’s protests at the Bahraini Embassy in London, calling for an end to the persecution of the country’s human rights defenders.