Detained Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab writes to IFEX from prison
In a letter read out during the IFEX general meeting, detained Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab thanked IFEX members for their support and encouraged them to continue fighting for free expression:
Colleagues, heads and members of regional and international organisations that defend freedom of opinion and expression and human rights, my friends from the members of the IFEX network, activists and advocates, and leaders of civil society groups,
Dear friends, the unknown soldiers, the managers, administrators and workers at the IFEX office in Canada,
It's saddening to be away from your important meeting for the second time and, as you know, this absence is out of my control.
I was banned from travelling during the previous IFEX general meeting in 2011 without any given reason. My absence this time is because I have been behind bars for more than a year as I am serving an unfair and arbitrary sentence as revenge for my struggle and activities which aim to defend freedom of opinion and freedom of expression in my country Bahrain and in the whole of the Gulf region.
I would like to inform you, my dear friends, that despite the bad and difficult circumstances I have been suffering from since my arrest, my beliefs have not changed at all and my spirit is still very strong. These circumstances have not weakened me or caused any despair or lack of hope. This injustice has motivated me to continue fighting for freedom of opinion and expression and for human rights, and to stand by all oppressed peoples whose rights have been violated, and to enable them to look forward to a better future.
Dear colleagues, the dissemination and promotion and protection of human rights principles and moral values and virtues in our communities which live under oppression and injustice is not an easy job, but we must, as activists and human rights defenders in this region of the world, be prepared to pay the price of this struggle, and this price is often painful and it is the punishment I serve out today, which has kept me away from you and from this valuable meeting.
What makes me strong, brave and respectful is the stance and support given by you and the free people of the world to me and to all people who are detained because of their opinions and human rights work in the Gulf region. It is because of the good feelings you have given us, which made clear that we as Bahraini and Gulf activists are not alone in the battle for gaining freedom. You are standing by us.
The continuous urgent actions and the incredible work you have done through IFEX in recent months was brilliant and clear to all in our country and the whole region and also to regional and international human rights institutions. The fast professional development of the network (IFEX) would not have happened without these unknown soldiers who work tirelessly at IFEX's offices day and night. These people became like members of my family who communicate on a daily basis and the youngest of my children now knows the names of the staff and managers of IFEX as a result of this constant communication and the care that is shown.
Certainly our network has a global position today, developing in a few years as one of the leaders of the major struggles in defending human rights and freedom of opinion and expression in the world. And so we feel proud when we tell people that we are members of IFEX which takes up the fight and has contributed to spreading human rights education and the awareness of freedom of opinion and expression in our Gulf region and also publicising and uncovering the ongoing violations against freedom of expression worldwide in different languages. Also, the network has offered professional, technical, moral and organisational support available to us at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and also for many regional and international organisations which work on similar issues.
I call on you to carry on with your work for a better future for our rights of freedom of opinion and expression and all human rights worldwide and especially in our region, towards which most countries turn a blind eye in order to protect their interests in the oil-rich region.
Finally, I must lift my hat and bow my head in respect and appreciation for your struggle for rights and send a kiss and hug for each one of you.
God bless you,
Jaw prison, Manama, Bahrain