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[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=”https://youtu.be/HNYN5IHfDgE”][vc_column_text][socialpug_tweet tweet=”Happy Birthday @NABEELRAJAB! Bahrain must #FreeNabeel #OpinionsAreNotCrimes!” display_tweet=”Happy Birthday @NABEELRAJAB! Bahrain must #FreeNabeel #OpinionsAreNotCrimes!” remove_username=”yes”][/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Have you expressed disapproval of your government? Called for more democratic decision-making in your country? Criticised prison conditions or criticised a country allied with your government? Retweeted a comment that included #opinionsarenotcrimes?
You are a criminal. You could be facing up to 15 years in prison for simply expressing your point of view if you lived in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab, just like you, thinks his country could be better. And he has made those views public. He speaks out against poor prison conditions and argues for more freedom of speech in Bahrain.
Friday 1 September 2018, marks his third birthday in prison, where he has been since 13 June 2016. He has been subjected to harsh treatment in often appalling conditions that have exacerbated his health issues.
Rajab is in prison for tweets and retweets about the war in Yemen in 2015, for which he is charged with “disseminating false rumours in time of war” (Article 133 of the Bahraini Criminal Code) and “insulting a neighboring country” (Article 215 of the Bahraini Criminal Code), and for tweeting about torture in Jau prison, which resulted in a charge of “insulting a statutory body” (Article 216 of the Bahraini Criminal Code).
What’s worse, it’s just the latest in a long line of actions taken by the Bahraini government against Rajab, one of the Middle East’s most prominent human rights defenders.
Rajab has been subjected to ongoing judicial harassment, physical intimidation and imprisonment for his non-violent advocacy of democracy and for his calls for an end to endemic corruption. Police officers have beat him up, the country’s press have published the government’s accusations against without his side of the story. He has been imprisoned, pardoned, banned from travelling, rearrested and held in solitary confinement.
Despite the huge personal cost to himself and his family, Rajab continues to speak out.
His activism began during protests in the 1990s and grew with his involvement with the Bahrain Human Rights Society, which he helped found in 2000.
In 2002 he partnered with Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is now serving a life sentence for his human rights work, and others to launch the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, which was awarded an Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award in 2012. BCHR has consistently spoken out for non-violent resistance and the peaceful struggle for social justice, democracy and human rights.
Rajab has also been outspoken in working for the protection of the Gulf’s migrant workers, founding, in 2003, one of the first committees in the region to advocate improved conditions for them.
When the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East in 2011, Rajab participated in the pro-democracy protests that were focused on the Pearl Roundabout in the country’s capital Manana. His vocal criticism of human rights violations and outspokenness — even after the government issued a state of emergency and invited foreign intervention to help maintain control — brought him into frequent conflict with security forces.
Born 1 September 1964 to a middle-class family, he went to university in India to study politics, before returning to work in Bahrain. Rajab is married and has two children. He is a nephew of Mohamed Hasan Jawad, one of the “Bahrain 13” — political figures imprisoned for participating in the Arab Spring protests, and a cousin of Hussain Jawad, a prominent human rights activist arrested in February 2015.[/vc_column_text][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1535714923645-bfdcebc4-5f38-6″ taxonomies=”3368″][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Join us on 11 September outside the Bahraini embassy in London to mark human rights defender Nabeel Rajab’s latest hearing. If found guilty, he could face up to 15 years in prison for comments made on Twitter. Please join us to show your support for Nabeel and for free expression in Bahrain.
Amnesty International Bahrain Team
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD)
Index on Censorship
Reporters Without Borders
Nabeel Rajab – President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Founding Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and a member of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Division advisory committee – has for many years been harassed and persecuted for his human rights work.
Last year, on 13 June 2016, Bahraini authorities rearrested Nabeel and began prosecuting him on a variety of charges based solely on his exercise of the right to free expression, including comments he made in tweets and media interviews.
Nabeel’s health declined significantly during more than a year of arbitrary pretrial detention in extended isolation. He was unable to attend his court hearing on 10 July 2017 due to ill health, but was nevertheless sentenced to two years in prison despite his absence, and could still face a further 15 years in prison.
Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab has been in prison in Bahrain for a full year for expressing opinions. During this time, he has been primarily held in solitary confinement and suffered health issues while facing repeated hearing postponements.
Representatives from Index on Censorship, English Pen, Reporters without Borders, Amnesty International, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and former SNP MP Margaret Ferrier, were present to show support for the 2012 Freedom of Expression Campaigning Award-winning Rajab in the face of his continued detainment. Protesters brought signs with photos of Rajab to display as they stood outside the embassy. When asked about the reason for their support, protesters mentioned Rajab’s work as a human rights defender as someone who speaks for the voiceless.
At the protest, supporters expressed their solidarity with Rajab and the desire that news of this demonstration would reach him and his family and give them hope even after a year in prison of mostly solitary confinement. Over the last year, Rajab suffered poor health in prison and underwent major surgery, to then be returned to prison quickly against medical professionals’ recommendations.
Two of Rajab’s four legal cases have been postponed over 20 times without clear explanation. One of the charges against Rajab is for a tweet about the war on Yemen and torture in Jau Prison. Evidence against Rajab includes a tweet from Index on Censorship calling for his release. Protesters on Tuesday told Index they were demonstrating against this lack of freedom of expression.
Former MP Margaret Ferrier reflected on her interactions with Rajab and her experiences standing up for freedom of expression rights in Parliament. She explained the importance of standing up for human rights, whether through protests or reaching out to MPs who can directly affect policy. She said, “Today proves that Nabeel has not been forgotten.” She continued stating the oppression of expression “is wrong, its got to stop.”
During the protest, director of advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, approached the doors of the embassy to hold up a picture of Nabeel Rajab to the embassy sign. He was arrested for trespassing.
Rajab’s next hearing is set for 14 June in Bahrain.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1497944040779-a20a5204-913b-2″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row_content_no_spaces” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”91122″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center” onclick=”custom_link” link=”https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2017/05/stand-up-for-satire/”][/vc_column][/vc_row]
[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]