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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Rebecca Hickman is a research intern at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
I am a citizen of the United Kingdom, and until recently, with the exception of fleeting mentions in school geography classes, I had never heard of Bahrain. When discussing the Arab Spring during university classes professors spoke, for the most part, of Tunisia and Egypt, the fight of the Bahraini people was silenced, rushed over and mentioned as a brief afterthought — if at all.
Now, I talk about Bahrain on a daily basis, I read and write about the cases of people imprisoned for expressing anti-government opinions, tortured for fighting for human rights, and forcibly disappeared for daring to expose government brutality. I help to tell the story of the Bahraini people, to raise the voices of those imprisoned, their families, and the Bahraini people.
My government is a friend of Bahrain, representatives of my country frequently visit the Gulf state, most recently my Queen was pictured laughing with the Bahraini King at the Windsor Horse Show. A year ago I would not have had a second thought about this picture, I would have skipped over it in the newspaper, and scrolled past it on my social media. This time, I was disappointed, disappointed in my country for failing to address the human rights abuses in Bahrain. That is not my country, not the one that I belong to, nor the one my friends and family call home.
The pro-democracy movement has been met with brutal and violent repression by the Bahraini government. The people of Bahrain have continued to take to the street to protest against the government; campaigning for human rights and democracy. The government brutally repress dissent. Peaceful protesters have been killed, activists have been tortured, and opposition leaders have been arrested and detained. Yet the Bahraini people continue to fight, they continue to protest, they continue to support activists who are detained, and they continue to expose allegations of torture, and instances of impunity.
There are around four thousand people in prison for their involvement in the pro-democracy movement. On 15 January 2017 three of these individuals, alleged torture victims, were executed. Two more men are at risk of imminent execution.
The Bahraini government want to silence the voices of the Bahraini people, yet they continue to fight for freedom, they continue to press for reform in the face of severe government repression, and it is integral that the international community come together to support them in this fight. It is our responsibility to ensure that prisoners voices are heard, to ensure that the world is unable to ignore what is happening in Bahrain, and to remind the Al-Khalifa regime that their actions are not going unnoticed.
Prisoners ask their friends and family to tell the world about what is happening to them. #WeHearYou is a campaign to raise the voices of those being silenced by the regime. After being arrested prisoners are blindfolded. The blindfold often stays on for days, weeks or months. By depriving detainees of their sight the Bahraini security forces are ensuring individuals cannot recognise their torturers, or see the confessions placed in front of them to sign.
We are asking people to wear a blindfold to show solidarity with prisoners of conscience who continue to sacrifice their freedoms for ideals we sometimes take for granted. We need to continue using our voices to raise that of those imprisoned.
I am lucky, I have human rights. I can criticise my government, I can take to the streets and protest without fear of being shot by birdshot pellets, I am at no risk of being woken in the night by security forces breaking down my door, and I do not have to worry that my actions, my fight for human rights and democracy, will result in retaliation being levied against members of my family.
We need to continue working for democracy and human rights in Bahrain and let the Bahraini people know that #WeHearYou.
Rebecca Hickman tweets @beccifelicia.
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In Bahrain, you are not allowed to call for freedom or democracy. If you do you will be punished by the monarchy who has been ruling the country for the last 230 years: The Al-Khalifa. The regime has killed and injured peaceful protesters, arrested thousands of people, tortured activists, and denied journalists entry to the country to silence any voice for freedom. When prodemocracy protesters, activists, bloggers and journalists get arrested, they get blindfolded. The blindfold stays on for days, weeks and sometimes months, so they cannot identify their torturers and interrogators, they would then be forced to sign confessions with blindfolds on and those confessions would be used against them in court where they are sentenced to years in prison.
Today around four thousand people are in prison in Bahrain for being involved in the pro-democracy movement. Three have been executed. The purpose is to silence them. ”Please tell the world” is what many political prisoners ask their friends and family to do after describing the conditions inside Bahrain’s infamous prisons.
Let prisoners know we hear them. Let dictators in Bahrain know that people around the world care about freedom and human rights. Wear a blindfold to show your solidarity with prisoners of conscience. Use your voice to give voice to those behind bars by saying: #WeHearYou
Join the campaign:
1) Take a photo with a blindfold on
2) Share it on social media using hashtags #WeHearYou and #Bahrain
3) Follow us to know more and to help us spread the word
Twitter: @TogetherforBH Instagram: @TogetherforBahrain Facebook: @TogetherforBH
To be more involved contact us on [email protected][/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1496837400908-4bd2c57b-b33a-3″ taxonomies=”716″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
The trial of prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab – president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights – has been postponed for a fourth consecutive time to enable the country’s high criminal court to hire a cybercrime expert to verify who manages his Twitter account.
A new trial date has been set for 15 December.
“Nabeel Rajab’s continued detention is clearly aimed at silencing him and punishing him for expressing his views. The reopening of his case seems to confirm the political motives behind Rajab’s prosecution. He should be released immediately and all charges must be dropped,” Melody Patry, senior advocacy officer for Index on Censorship, said.
BCHR said in a statement that the latest postponement “throws a light on the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing” by Rajab.
It continued: “Rajab is being prosecuted in relation to tweets and retweets about torture in Jau Prison and the human rights violations in the war on Yemen. The prosecution of Rajab is based on Articles 133, 215, and 216 of Bahrain’s Penal Code over charges of ‘false or malicious news, statements, or rumours,’ ‘offending a foreign country’ (Saudi Arabia), and “offending a statutory body” – for which he may be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.”
On 13 June 2016, Rajab was taken from his home. He was charged the next day and – on orders of the court – has remained in custody since while awaiting his trial, despite recurring health problems for which he was briefly hospitalised in late June after 15 days in solitary confinement.
Rajab served two years in jail between 2012 and 2014 for taking part in protests in the country.
Dear Mr. Hammond,
We are writing to you in light of your current tour of Gulf Cooperation Council countries regarding the arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders Nabeel Rajab, Zainab Al-Khawaja and Ghada Jamsheer in Bahrain for cases of peaceful expression.
Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and Deputy Secretary General of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), remains in prison following his arrest for a tweet in which he expressed his view about the role Bahrain security institutions play as “incubators of ISIS ideology”. Mr. Rajab had travelled to Bahrain from the United Kingdom following a European advocacy tour that included a panel at the House of Lords.
His detention has been criticised internationally. The United Nations has warned that it sends a “chilling message”. The Norwegian government has recently advised that the arrest of Mr. Rajab sends a negative message and has called for his immediate release. The European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights has voiced serious concerns over his arrest and detention and the United States State Department has called on Bahrain to drop the charges against him.
We urge the United Kingdom to add its voice to these universal calls. As a close ally to Bahrain, the UK has influence that could result in steps to release human rights defenders and political prisoners in Bahrain. You will recall that the UK signed a joint statement during the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council, which urged the government of Bahrain “to release all persons imprisoned solely for exercising human rights, including human rights defenders some of whom have been identified as arbitrarily detained according to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention”. We ask you to follow up on this statement by calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Mr. Rajab and Ms. Al-Khawaja who have been detained solely for exercising their human right to free expression.
Zainab Al-Khawaja is a prominent activist in Bahrain, who is facing serious charges of “publicly insulting the King” after ripping a photo of him during a court hearing. The case, which runs contrary to Bahrain’s international human rights obligations, was immediately transferred to the Higher Criminal Court in Bahrain meaning that she now faces up to seven years in prison for a peaceful act of expression. It is important to note that Ms. Al-Khawaja is eight months pregnant, and faces the possibility of going into labour in arbitrary detention.
Amnesty International has criticised the decision and called for her immediate release arguing”laws that prohibit insults or the disrespect of heads of state or other public figures are contrary to international human rights law and standards”.
Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the GCHR, is also facing prison on charges of assault brought against her after she arrived in Bahrain on 30 August to try to visit her father, jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, founder of BCHR and GCHR. She was released after two weeks but is due in court on 5 November.
In addition to these cases, women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer was arrested and imprisoned on 15 September, on charges of defamation on Twitter. She remains in detention and will face court prosecution on charges related to her freedom of expression on 22 October.
The arrest and ongoing detention of both Mr. Rajab and Ms. Al-Khawaja threaten to destabilise further an already unstable country. It is imperative that human rights advocates are not targeted for exercising their human rights peacefully. The work of human rights defenders often requires criticising governments as noted by the European Union Guidelines on Human Rights Defenders, which call for this role to be “recognised and supported”.
We urge the British government to demand the immediate release of all detained human rights defenders and activists in Bahrain.
Thank you for your consideration.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Index on Censorship