Jaleela Al Salman (left) and Rula AlSafar (right) start a hunger strike in protest of their illegitimate detention

4 August 2011

Since the brutal crackdown on the people of Bahrain on 16 March 2011, many activists, professionals and unionists have been targeted by being arbitrary arrested, physical and psychological abused, tortured, sacked from their jobs and prosecuted at military (and later civilian) courts.

Two female unionists, Jaleela Al Salman (Vice President of the Bahrain Society for teachers) and Rula AlSafar (President of Bahrain Nursing Society) who have constantly been working to defend the rights of employees in their respective fields remain in jail today. They have reportedly been ill-treated in detention and are expected to be sentenced with false accusations. On August 2 2011, both detainees went on a hunger strike in protest of their illegitimate detention. Their families reported that the two women plan to continue the strike until they are released.

Ms. Jaleela Al Salman, the Vice President of the Bahrain Society for teachers, 46 years old mother of three, was a deputy manager in Saba Secondary School who is known amongst her colleagues and students for her hard work and dedication to her role as an educator. Her school, Saba Secondary School, has been rewarded “Hamdan Award” and got an advanced position of the PM’s regard of distinguished schools in Bahrain. The school is a distinctive school with many projects and initiatives, independent from the Ministry of Education, to achieve excellence of the educational process where she was been either leading those projects or amongst the active members of the projects teams.

She has worked towards development and growth of education for both teachers and student through participation in nationwide projects, the training of teachers for ICDL certification program where she was a pioneer and was among the project team of His Majesty King Hamad Schools of the future, in e-learning. Because of her work in Bahrain Society for teachers as a Vice President, she has been facing pressure and warnings to leave the society and stop her work as an activist for teachers and students rights, in addition she got bypassed for promotions opportunity, but she continued to work for what she believed in and advocate for the rights of her colleagues and students.

After the start of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters on 16 March 2011 , the leaders of the teachers society has become targeted by the regime for their calls to strike, first on 20th Feb as a protest against the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in pearl roundabout and later on 14th March out of fear over the safety and security of the students and teachers after a series of incidents in schools that put the students at great risk.

Following the attack on the pearl roundabout sit-in on 16 Match 2011, and the start of mass arrest campaign, Jaleela was the first from the teachers society to be arrested on 29 March 2011 when her house in Northern Sehla was raided at 2.30am by around 40 officers from the security forces without any warning. They broke in, went to her bedroom where she was sleeping without giving her a chance to wear her veil and arrested her at gunpoint in front of her kids whom are still suffering of nightmares at night recalling their mother’s arrest where “big weapons”, as one of them, stated was held to their heads. She was held incommunicado with no access to family or lawyer for weeks before her family heard of her. They were only allowed two visits, and even so were allowed to speak to her for a very short time. Ms. Al Salman was reportedly ill-treated and tortured in her first weeks of detention as per members of her family and fellow detainees. She was beaten and kicked, verbally abused and insulted, made to stand facing the wall for nights and forced to cleanup toilets and floors.

The teachers society was dissolved by the Ministry of Social Development on 7 April 2011 and the society Head Mr Mahdi Abu Deeb along with the VP Ms Alsalman were referred to the National Safety court (military court) for charges of “calling for and inciting the overthrow and hatred of the ruling system, possessing anti-political system pamphlets, spreading malicious and fabricated news and taking part in illegal gatherings.”[1]

Jalila is the only woman to be charged of attempting to “overthrow the government by force”. She had 3 sessions in the military court on the 15th, 22nd and the last session was on 29th June 2011, before she was to be transferred to civilian court but no trial date or venue has been announced which is believed to be postpone until 15 September.

Ms. Jaleela Al Salman, a Bahraini hero and a figure not only for the sacrifices of Bahraini people for their rights to freedom and democracy, but for the suffering and injustice brought upon teachers for educating and informing the society of their rights and trying to protect the safety and wellbeing of their students.

Like teachers, medical staff were severely targeted, arrested, tortured and prosecuted for treating the injured and witnessing the brutality and violence used against protestors that resulted in more than 30 martyrs, 100s injured and the detention and torture of patients in Salmaniya Medical Complex.

Ms. Rula Al Saffar, (President of Bahrain Nursing Society) an example of a Bahraini unionist woman dedicated and devoted Bahraini to developing the medical sector and nourishing the experiences of many young aspiring Bahrainis through the rich knowledge and experience she gained during her different assignment and initiatives in numerous local and international societies, memberships in international organizations and representation of Bahrain in worldwide conferences and workshops.

She is a member of the following societies: • President of Bahrain Nursing Society – Kingdom of Bahrain • Head of Cancer Support Group and Executive Board member of Bahrain Cancer Society – Kingdom of Bahrain • Vice president of the Ministers’ Consultative Committee at the Ministry of Health – Kingdom of Bahrain • Member of the CPR Committee at the Ministry of Health – Kingdom of Bahrain • Member of the Registration and Licensure Office – Kingdom of Bahrain • Member of the Higher Training Committee at the Ministry of Health – Kingdom of Bahrain • Emergency and Disaster Preparedness – WHO consultant to Jordan and China • Participated as a collaborator in the Country Cooperation Strategy for World Health Organization and Bahrain

Also a member in the following International Organization: • Board of Nurse Examiners for State of Texas. Licensure: Texas, USA (#558263) 1990 – Present. • Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Pennsylvania, USA (#RN-352549-L) 1999 – Present. • State of Delaware, Division of Professional Regulation. Delaware, USA (#L1-0028334) 1998 – Present. • American Nursing Association • Oncology Nursing Society • Social Work Society • American Red Cross • American Society of Nurse Practitioner • American Association of Critical Care Nurses • Bahrain Nursing Society • Bahrain Cancer society • Emergency Nursing Association

Ms. Al Saffar has always been dedicated towards humanity and advocating of human rights. She visited Gaza after the war in 2008 alongside her colleagues, members of the Bahraini society against Normalization with the Zionist Enemy to provide moral and psychological support to the civil societies and in particular the children of Gaza. In 2009, she travelled to Egypt again to deliver medical supplies, joining an international coalition of protesters in the non-violent Gaza Freedom March which was organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. She went to represent the Bahraini Public Committee for Breaking the Siege and Support for the Palestinian People.

She not only fought for human rights but also fought her own battle of breast cancer and underwent very stressful treatment to survive her battle, which got her to becoming the Head of Cancer Support Group and Executive Board member of Bahrain Cancer Society and a spokesperson in several workshops of cancer support groups & breast self-examination in Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman. She has devoted most of her leisure time to people in need and to charity work, taking responsibility of dispatching donated money and clothes to the poor.

For her continues union activism she has been targeted for years. In Aug 2008 she was presented before an investigation committee based on false news published by a local pro-government newspaper which alleged the Society call to nurses’ strike, which was completely denied by Rula[2] . In the same year and for months she was prosecuted, along with her deputy with libel and insult[3] and was acquitted later in 2009 [4] . During this period the ministry of social development tried to have control over the society through appointing a governmental head, an act which was refused by the society [5] . In March 2010 the ministry of health locked down the HQ of the Bahraini Nursing Society to prevent a solidarity event with one of the society members who have been arrested to helping an injured protester [6] .

During the crackdown on protesters in Sitra on 15 March 2011 then the Pearl Roundabout on 16 March 2011, she was the motivation of doctors, nurses and medics, orchestrating everything to save lives. An eyewitness doctor said that she was all over the hospital running around checking on patients, organizing the hospital while all were panicking and stressful and working aside medical staff treating patients. The doctor says that he and a couple of friends were trying to sleep on hospital beds after spending all night and day treating patients but she stopped them saying “Don't sleep, these beds are for patients!”. I told her that we were here since 7am and that we needed to rest but she replied, “Get up I don't hear you. We are here to save lives not to rest.”[7]

Despite her dedication in saving lives, giving back to the community and promoting Bahrain internationally, she has been among the first to be targeted by the Bahraini security forces. Mrs. Saffar was called by the Bahrain security forces for interrogation on 4 April 2011 and since then she has been detained . Later on, she was charged with “The inexcusable refrain from aiding people”, “The possession of unlicensed weapons and ammunition”, “Refraining from carrying out their employment duties, in aims of hindering medical work, consequently endangering people’s health and lives”, “The attempt of forcefully occupying a public building” and “Participating in unlicensed protests and rallies”

In Rula’s first trial session, she reported to the judge that she has been subjected to torture in detention, however she was not listened to and instead she got carried out from the court while she was still screaming out about the abuse that her and other detainees have endured.

Find more information regarding arrest and trial of medical staff

Both Jaleela and Rula had to officially work as society activists rather than union activists for the simple fact that the Civil Service Bureau Act 1 in 2003 banned the establishment of unions in the governmental sector [8] . Therefore it restricted teachers, and nurses from forming their own unions and force them to work within societies.

BCHR believes the arrest of Jaleela and Rula, on political basis for the roles they played or the stands they took during the protests is a display of continuous violation to the rights of freedom of expression as stated on the universal declaration of Human Rights article 19 and a violation to their right in protection and support for their work as unionist and civil society workers.

BCHR calls upon the international society to put an end to the violations of human rights and based on the above demands:

• Release of both Rula and Jaleela immediately • Independent investigation into the torture and ill-treatment allegations, and the prosecution of anyone responsible for the torture. • Provide women activists with protection and safety to allow them to work freely and exercise their right to freedom of expression and assembly as stated in the universal declaration of human rights. • Cancel the Civil Service Bureau Act 1 from 2003, which banned the establishment of unions in the governmental sector. This act deprives a wide range of workers from their right to form unions alongside that of their fellow workers in the private sector. • Cancel the added Articles (103, 104, 105 and 106) to table of violations and sanctions by Civil Services Bureau as instructed by the civil services No. 22 issued on 28 July 2008 which restricts the political activities of public sectors employees[27] .

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[1]http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/462019 [2]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2156/news/read/160823/1.html [3]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2323/news/read/33255/1.html [4]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2421/news/read/48852/1.html [5]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2168/news/read/162185/1.html [6]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2756/news/read/387345/1.html [7]http://linda-considerations.blogspot.co.. [8]http://www.csb.gov.bh/csb/wcms/ar..