Campaigning 2020

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_video link=””][vc_column_text]Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei is a Bahraini activist currently living in exile in the UK. He was forced to flee Bahrain in 2011 after being arrested for taking part in anti-government protests. The Bahraini government revoked his citizenship and launched a smear campaign labelling him a terrorist. 

His family have also been subjected to numerous human rights violations by the Bahraini authorities, including arbitrary detention, unfair trial, ill-treatment and possible torture.

As the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, his work has become a vital resource for international media and NGOs such as Amnesty International. One such case was the discovery that institutions supported by UK taxpayers have been implicated in torture and other human rights abuses.

Despite the danger faced by him and his family, Alwadaei continues his work as a prominent critic of the Bahraini government.


“I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Index on Censorship for awarding me this prestigious prize. I am sorry not to be able to accept it in person, but I commend Index for taking the decision to keep us all safe during this crisis.

The price for expressing yourself in Bahrain remains very high. I myself ended up in prison  for speaking to the press during the Arab Spring and Bahrain has jailed members of my family to silence me.

During the coronavirus crisis, I would like to pay tribute to those imprisoned in Bahrain for speaking out against the regime. This award is very special to me because my dear friend, Nabeel Rajab, was awarded this prize in 2012. Nabeel is currently serving 5 years in prison for criticising the government on Twitter.

In these difficult times, it is more important than ever that freedom of speech is protected and that independent, critical voices are heard.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Protesters call for the release of Bahrain human rights defender seven years after his arrest

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]By Ciaran Willis, Lauren Brown and Samantha Chambers

Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja

Zainab and Maryam al-Khawaja

The daughters of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the co-founder of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, participated in a demonstration on Monday 9 April outside the Bahrain Embassy in London calling for his release on the seventh anniversary of his arrest.

Maryam and Zainab al-Khawaja joined NGOs and fellow supporters, as they chanted “free free Abdulhadi” and held placards with a picture of the Bahraini human rights activist.

It marked seven years since Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, founder of the 2012 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award-winning Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, was imprisoned for his involvement in peaceful pro-democracy protests that swept the country during the Arab Spring. On 9 April 2011 twenty masked men broke into his house, dragged him down the stairs and arrested him in front of his family.

Bahrain has a poor track record on human rights, with many reports of torture and human rights defenders in jail. Al- Khawaja was part of the Bahrain 13, a group of journalists and activists who faced unfair trials following the unrest.

During his time in prison, Al-Khawaja has been tortured, sexually abused and admitted to hospital requiring surgery on a broken jaw.

His daughter Maryam al-Khawaja was imprisoned in Bahrain for a year before leaving the country in 2014. She faces prosecution on charges including insulting the king and defamation. She told Index: “For me, this isn’t just about my dad, it’s a reminder that we have thousands of prisoners in Bahrain, and we need to remember all of them, and we need to be fighting on behalf of all of them. These are all prisoners of conscience.”

A number of prominent Bahraini campaigners took part in the demonstration.

Jawad Fairooz, a former Bahrain MP and president of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, said: “We’re here to support Abdulhadi as a symbol of the demand of the people of Bahrain who want to live in the country with dignity and freedom.”

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy and an activist who fled the country following torture, said: “I’m proud to belong to a nation that Abdulhadi is a part of. Abdulhadi to me is one of the most inspirational individuals.”

Cat Lucas, programme manager at English Pen’s Writers at Risk initiative, said that the government could be doing a lot more to challenge what is going on in Bahrain. She hopes the Bahraini Embassy will finally act, not just in the case of al-Khawaja, “but in the case of lots of writers and activists who are imprisoned for their peaceful human rights activities”.

Protesters have gathered outside the Embassy once a month since January 2018 to highlight the dire human rights situation and ask the UK government to take action.

Al- Khawaja’s daughter Zainab called on the UK to hold the Bahraini regime accountable: “Major governments are still supporting the Bahraini regime with weapons and political training. They’re the people behind them. I can feel as angry here as I would protesting in Bahrain, because I know what the government here is responsible for. I know one of the reasons people are being killed and tortured in Bahrain, including my father, is the support from the British and American governments.”

A group of NGOs, including Index on Censorship and Pen International, signed a letter last week calling on Bahrain to cease its abuse of fundamental human rights.They asked the authorities to immediately and unconditionally free Abdulhadi, provide proper access to medical care and allow international NGOs and journalists access to Bahrain.[/vc_column_text][vc_video link=””][/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:1523361455279-ef10ef07-647f-1″ taxonomies=”716″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Bahrain: UK-based rights activist’s family sentenced to three years in reprisal case


The Bahraini authorities on Monday 30 October sentenced the mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor Hasan (49), and brother-in-law, Sayed Nizar Alwadaei (18), of UK-based human rights defender Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei to three years in prison in reprisal for his work.

Mansoor Hassan and her son Sayed Nizar Alwadaei were not in court for the sentencing in a trial criticised by UN experts and Amnesty International for fair trial violations, including torture, and as a reprisal against his human rights work. Hajer and Nizar each received three years in prison on fabricated charges of planting a “fake bomb” in January 2017, while Mr Alwadaei’s maternal cousin, Mahmood Marzooq (30), was acquitted from the “fake bomb” case but sentenced to a month and half in prison and charged a 100 Bahraini dinar fine for obtaining a dagger.

The three family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), were arrested in Bahrain in March 2017. After days in detention, during which they were ill-treated and tortured into signing false confessions, they were presented with terrorism charges. During the interrogation, Mr Alwadaei’s family members were questioned extensively about his work in the UK.

Public prosecution evidence papers, seen by BIRD, found no physical evidence — DNA, fingerprints or otherwise — tying the Alwadaei family to the “fake bomb” they were alleged to have planted in January 2017. Their prosecution has depended entirely on confessions extracted under conditions of torture.

In September, six UN human rights experts expressed “grave concern” over the allegations of arbitrary arrest, detention, death threats and torture in relation to Mr Alwadaei’s family. The UN experts also expressed grave concern that the actions were intended to “intimidate and impair the human rights activities” of Mr Alwadaei. The UN Committee Against Torture has also raised significant concern over the “widespread acceptance by judges of forced confessions”.

The reprisals against the Alwadaei family began in October 2016, when Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei protested King Hamad of Bahrain’s arrival at 10 Downing Street to meet the British Prime Minister. Within hours of that protest, Mr Alwadaei’s wife, Duaa Alwadaei, who was travelling from Bahrain to the UK, was detained at Bahrain International Airport, interrogated for seven hours, barred from leaving the country and threatened. As reported by Human Rights Watch, an interrogator asked her, “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?” Duaa Alwadaei was able to leave Bahrain following international pressure and the intervention of the US embassy in Bahrain. Five months later, her mother and brother were targeted for reprisals.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy of BIRD said: “The lowest the Bahraini monarch can go is to come after my family because I protested his presence in the UK and dedicated my work to exposing his government’s horrific rights abuses. I was distraught to see my family suffer torture, persecution and interrogations about my activities. The judge relied on coerced confessions extracted under torture to convict them. I will not rest until they are freed and will do whatever I can to hold the perpetrators to account.”

Husain Abdulla, Executive Director, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain: “The ‘fake bomb’ charge is absurd, and today’s proceedings show how far Bahraini courts are willing to go to in jailing innocent people. The United States has encouraged this behaviour. When the Trump Administration drops human rights conditions and approves multi-billion dollar arms deals to Bahrain, they are saying that this abuse is acceptable in their eyes.”

Joy Hyvarinen, acting head of advocacy, Index on Censorship, said: “We call on the Bahraini government to immediately overturn its conviction of the family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei as punishment for his work as an activist and a critic of the regime. These are reprisals for nothing more than peacefully holding opinions.”

Hajer Mansoor Hassan

Hajer Mansoor Hassan did not attend today’s court hearing, as the authorities failed to transfer her from detention to the courtroom. Since March, she has been held in the Isa Town Women’s Prison. On 24 October, Hajer announced a hunger strike along with three other women prisoners, demanding more humane treatment and the removal of a new glass barrier in the visitation centre. The hunger strikers’ demands were met yesterday, 29 October, when they ended their strike after six days. Hajer was repeatedly hospitalised in the past week as her health faltered in the course of the hunger strike.

International Outcry over Alwadaei ’s family reprisals; UK Responds Noncommittally

Hajer was sentenced on 30 October, alongside her son and nephew, in a political trial which has been described by Human Rights WatchAmnesty International and six UN experts as a reprisal against the human rights work of BIRD’s Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei.

Last week, 16 NGOs sent letters to 11 state bodies, including the United Kingdom, United States and the European External Action Service, calling on them to take action ahead of the trial. Their voices are joined by 40 Members of the European Parliament, who have made similar calls to the European Union.

27 cross-party parliamentarians also wrote to the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, stating “Despite this attack on his human rights campaigning here in Britain, our government has taken no discernible action to support Mr Alwadaei or his family.” They added, “The UK must not condone the flagrant human rights violations committed by the Bahraini authorities against innocent civilians for human rights campaigns that take place on British soil.”

The UK’s Middle East Minister Alistair Burt was asked whether the Foreign & Commonwealth Office had raised this case with the Government of Bahrain. He stated that “we continue to follow these cases closely” but did not state whether the British government had indeed raised the case.

1.  16 rights groups’ letter to the 11 States:

2. Breaches of the International Law perpetrated by Bahrain against the family members of Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei,  prepared by Reprieve, (Attached)

3. 27 UK parliamentarians letter to Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson (attached)

4. The MEPs letter is available here:

5. Read Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s comment on the Guardian about the ordeal his family is facing here:

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_cta h2=”HOW TO HELP” h4=”Write to your representatives” style=”custom” css=”.vc_custom_1509363600769{background-color: #b7b7b7 !important;}” custom_background=”#919191″]Tell them to call on the Bahraini authorities to release Hajer Mansoor Hasan and her son Sayed Nizar Alwadaei and to unconditionally drop all charges against them. The right to free expression must be upheld and there must be no reprisals.

Theresa May, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
Office of the Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA
Tel: 020 7219 5206
Email: [email protected]

Boris Johnson, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 4682
Email: [email protected]

Simon Martin, British Ambassador to Bahrain
21 Government Avenue, Manama 306, PO Box 114 Manama, Bahrain
Tel: + 973 17574100
Email: [email protected][/vc_cta][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Protester arrested during demonstration at Bahrain Embassy in London

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Protesters joined Index on Censorship and others at the Bahraini embassy in London on Tuesday to stand in solidarity for the release of Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab.

One protester, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights and Democracy, stepped onto the embassy’s steps to hold a poster of Rajab’s face by the embassy’s door. Alwadaei was arrested a few minutes later and taken away in a police car.

Police told Index Alwadaei “overstepped the mark of peaceful protest and trespassed diplomatic premises”. He was taken to jail where he spent the night.

Alwadaei was released on Wednesday morning without charge.

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