24 Feb, 2009

Press TV:Nabeel Rajab:Discrimination and sectarian oppression in Bahrain, a systematic reality

Mon, 23 Feb 2009 16:47:39 GMT By Nabeel Rajab

Is there a Shiite-Sunni dispute in Bahrain?

First of all, I have to clarify that the current dispute in Bahrain is not a sectarian Shiite - Sunni dispute or an ideological dispute at all. On the contrary, the dispute is between the Shiite sect, and they are the largest portion of the indigenous people in Bahrain and the regime because of its policy in sectarian discrimination, segregation and apartheid. The authority tries hard to picture the dispute as if it were a dispute between Shiites and Sunnis, It even drives it to be so.

The Bahraini society has a high degree of religious tolerance among all its segments, despite their religious, sectarian and ethnic background. We as Bahraini people are proud of this combination of beliefs and ethnic homogeneity which contributed and enriched building the prevailing civilization and culture in the country since hundreds of years. This even distinguishes our citizens from the others in the [Persian] Gulf region.

Shocking BCHR Report

Days ago, we released the results of our second report on sectarian discrimination, and before that, there was our first report for the year 2003 and which was one of the reason for closing down the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

As for the main results, which were included in the second report, that while the Shiites form approximately two thirds of the population, they only fill 13% of the senior position in Bahrain, and most of these posts are based in service institutions or the non-prevailing institutions.

In many important ministries and government institutions, the Shiite citizens fill 0% of the senior posts and these institutions are:

1. Ministry of Defense 2. National Guard 3. Ministry of Interior Affairs 4. Ministry of Cabinet Affairs 5. The General Organization for Youth and Sports 6. The Royal Court 7. The Crown Prince Court 8. The Central Informatics Organization 9. Survey and Land Registration Bureau And Finally 10. The Supreme Defense Council

This Supreme Council is regarded as the highest security body in the country, meant for decision-making during crisis. This council is formed of 14 members of the ruling family only, and is headed by His Majesty the King and includes in its membership the Prime Minister who is the King's uncle and the Crown Prince who is the son of the King and the heads of the important ministries.

Based on the report of the former adviser Dr. Salah Al-Bandar, the Supreme Council is responsible for laying out a secret plan that considers the Shiite citizens as a threat to the regime, and upon that, a secret network was established headed by member of the ruling family in order to isolate them from all aspects of life.

It was also noted that the Shiite sect form 5% of the judiciary corps, 16% of the diplomatic corps, 7% of the Ministry of Transportation, 18% of the Constitutional Court, 10% of the Ministry of Finance and 6% of the Ministry of Information.

As for the ministerial positions, there are only five ministers of the Shiite sect in the current government among 25 ministers and 3 of those are ministers without ministries . This percentage is the lowest representation of the Shiites in the government since the independence and establishment of the first executive body for the government in January 1970.

Is there a relation between the marginalization of the Shiites and between their level of education or lack of efficiency?

The ruling elite at first absolutely denied the existence of sectarian discrimination; however, the report that was published by the BCHR in 2003 created a shock to the Bahraini society and a surprise to the government, due to it consisting figures and information on sectarian discrimination. Since that time, the ruling elite has been changing its defense strategies in this regard. After it was denying the existence of discrimination in first place, it started justifying it in attempt of proving the saying that there is a lack of qualified people in the Shiites sect, and their low level of education. This is what the authority is trying to let pass lately to its visitors of foreigners and regional and international institutions, as we have noticed through our work at the international level or through some of the column writers that are close to the authority.

In the meantime - as human rights activists - we do not accept these justifications or arguments that contradict logic. We, however, looked into that matter as well and have found that the percentage of Shiites in the lists of honour graduates of boys and girls from high schools for the years 2006 and 2007 are approximately 78%, and that the Shiites form 70% of college students. This conflicts the government's claims of them being incapable or inefficient to fill government posts. The results actually confirm that there is a big gap between the percentages and numbers of educated citizens of the Shiites sect and between their employment in government institutions.

The aspects of discrimination in Bahrain are numerous and are not limited to what we mentioned. There is, in addition, marginalization in the distribution of scholarships, and in building mosques, and in the services provided to their areas and in dealing with the case of the people deprived of the citizenship.There are still many families deprived of the citizenship and They have not received a Bahrain citizenship only due to their sectarian background, noting that they and their parents were all born and grew up in this country, and where the country openly and without shame brings tenth of thousands of members of tribes from some of the Arabic and Asian countries and grants them the Bahraini citizenship in an illegal way.

Why was this period chosen to bring forth the sectarian discrimination issue?

In our previous report for the year 2003, we warned of slipping into violence and counter-violence, as the ruling elite did not put an end to the discrimination policy. In a related context, the International Crisis Group issued a report in the year 2005 in which it also warned of the seriousness of the situation if the government continued in its marginalization policy against the Shiites. However, the Bahraini government responded by closing down the BCHR and ignored all the warnings. Here we are today witnessing what we warned of in the past of almost daily clashes and confrontations between the people of the Shiite towns and villages and the special forces, who are brought as by the Bahraini government as foreign mercenaries.

Now, after 5 years of issuing the first report, and under the King's so-called reform project and with the existence of a parliamentary institution, it became clear that the situation has worsened significantly. The percentage of Shiites representation in the country's institutions is deteriorating and on the decline. After the figure was 18% in the year 2003, it became now 13%, which is equal to a deterioration of 5% in the last five years.

The BCHR is following and with deep concern that clarity that the ruling elite is ensuing in the policy of marginalization on the educational, economic, political, cultural, religious, social and civil level, neglecting all international appeals and recommendations, including the ones issued by the United Nations.

Introducing this report was a result of us being aware of the seriousness of the current situation in Bahrain, and the probability of it turning into a conflict more violent than ever.

We wonder, are we asked to wait for Bahrain to turn into an area of civil conflicts and war? As is the situation in Iraq or Darfur, until we begin to act to set the situation right?

The cleansing crime in Bahrain which is practiced today by the ruling elite sets the foundations, basis and fuel to these clashes, paving the way for a civil war between the citizens.

The Accusation of the Shiites being politically loyal to Iran

If these claims were true, then that means that the regime in Bahrain suffers from a legitimacy crisis, as the Shiites who are more than two thirds of the Bahraini population would be disloyal to it. The account is not so, the ruling elite is working on taking advantage and manipulating the international disputes and contradictions to firmly continue the marginalization of the Shiites. The ruling elite works on taking advantage of the bad relations between Iran on one side and the US and Israel on the other side, in order to publicize to the world the issue of the Shiites' loyalty to Iran to gain sympathy and support from those countries to its policy towards the Shiites.

However, the question is, until when will the ruling elite depend on those international disputes and contradictions, to justifies its oppression against the people? Is there anyone who can guarantee that the map of international relations always remains the same?

The discrimination issue against the Shiites is not a new phenomenon, it started when the rulers of the country invaded Bahrain, more than two centuries ago, and has no relation with Iran who only formed its modern state in the last 30 years.

The British colonizer's existence in Bahrain helped in reducing the discrimination policy against the Shiites at the beginning of the last century. However, since its independence in the early 70's and the return of the reign in the hands of the ruling elite, the policy started gradually once and again. This policy became even more aggressive, systematic, organized since the King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa came in power.

Are Shiites threatening the regime in Bahrain as is alleged?

It is absolutely apparent that the ruling class in Bahrain is living a state of fears and delusion, that the Shiites forms a threat to the Ruling family. However, the reality is not so, up till this moment there are no political opposition forces in Bahrain - Shiite, Sunni, or National - that threat the regime, or that fight over the reign. All the demands are limited to the participation in decision-making, the justice in distributing the wealth, equal citizenship, criminalizing discrimination, equality in opportunity and respect for human rights.

Nevertheless, the continuous of this unjust policy pushes some groups of citizens - out of frustration - to carry out extreme means in expressing their demands, or it may drive others to ask for help from other countries. If we do not want these matters to move into this direction, we should reform our home, now and not tomorrow. Time, in the light of international changes, is beginning to run out.

However, we totally believe that one of the main reasons for the spread of sectarian discrimination, is our negative attitude ignoring to present it, and being ashamed of indicating it even by those groups affected by it, in fear of being accused by the authority and its associates that we are sectarian and work for Iran.

We, in the BCHR, have a moral, ethical, legal and humane commitment that the campaign against the sectarian discrimination is one of our priorities in the coming months or years, on the local, regional and international level.

The author is the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

Note: Articles published in this section do not necessarily reflect Press TV's views.

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=86562§ionid=3510303

24 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: A Hunger Strike That Might Turn to a Civil Movement

A hunger strike by eight prominent figures in Bahrain, which started on February 13th, has attracted several thousands of supporters who visited the place where the strike is held in Nuwaidrat, a village South West of the capital Manama.

Abdul-Jaleel Al-Meqdad (a senior Shiite religious scholar), Abdul-Wahab Husain (well-known political activist), Abdulhadi Alkhawaja (former president of the Bahrain Center for Human rights), AbdulJaleel Al-Singace (head of the human rights committee at Haq-movment), and four other Bahraini figures started the hunger strike as a protest against the general deterioration of human rights conditions in Bahrain and to demand the release of around 100 detainees. These detainees are said to be arrested due to their human rights activities or for practicing there rights in freedom of opinion, freedom of organization and freedom of assembly.

The participants in the hunger strike announced that it is only one of a series of steps to be taken and announced yesterday that they intend to end their hunger strike on Tuesday, February 24th, in a rally where they will announce their following move. Two of the participants, AbdulJaleel Al-Singace and Abdulhadi Al-Mokhodar, were transferred to Al-Salmania Medical Complex (SMC) to receive medical treatment due to severe hypoglycemia, hypotension, and generalized fatigue.

Several hundreds of people visited the place of the hunger strike every day showing support to the participants including several delegations representing different Shiite cities and villages in Bahrain. Scores of well-known figures and delegations of opposition political groups and non-governmental societies including human rights groups also attended to show their support. Three parallel rallies organized in the same area to support the strike attracted thousands of supporters on the 23rd, 17th and 20th of February. Speeches and statements during rallies and meetings were discussed, amongst other issues, turning this wide support into the start of civil movement.

For more information, please contact:

Organization committee, Tel: +973 39121674

Direct contact to participants:

In Arabic:

· Abdul-Wahab Husain: Mobile: + 973 39400 720

In English:

· Abdulhadi Alkhawaja: Mobile: + 973 39400 720

· Abdul-Jaleel Al-Singace: Mobile: + 973 39668179

More information on the detainees and human rights situation could be found on: www.bahrainrights.org

23 Feb, 2009

ARTICLE 19 concerned about upcoming trial of activists Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad and Abdul-Jalil Alsingace

Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 concerned about the upcoming trial of Bahraini Activists

ARTICLE 19 has been following with concern the cases brought against three Bahraini activists in relation to their publishing activities and speeches about the political situation in Bahrain. Mr. Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad and Dr Abdul-Jalil Alsingace are due to appear in court on Monday, February 23 2009, for charges related to violating anti-terrorism and criminal laws.

The three activists, arrested on January 26, 2009, have been charged with several offences under the Bahrain Penal Code (Articles 160 and 165) and Article 6 of the Bahrain Terrorism Code of 2006, that carry a penalty of up to five years and life imprisonment respectively. These are "forming an organisation, outside the provisions of the law, which disrupts the provisions of the Constitution or prevents any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duties", "provoking hatred of the regime" and "inciting violence and the overthrow of the political system". Mr. Mushaima and Mr. Al-Muqdad are still held in custody, while Dr. Alsingace was released on bail but officially banned from travel out of Bahrain.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned about the vagueness of the provisions of the Penal and Terrorism Codes that are being used as a basis for the prosecution of the three Bahraini activists. On the face of it, these provisions are overbroad and include illegitimate restrictions on the rights of freedom of association and of freedom of expression. The anti-terrorism provisions have also been a subject of criticism by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.

ARTICLE 19 welcomes Bahrain's commitment to introduce political and democratic reforms in the country and the steps the country has taken in this direction. We call on the Bahraini authorities to further strengthen this commitment by bringing its legislation to compliance with international human rights law and standards on freedom of expression and the right to assembly. We also urge the Bahraini authorities to ensure that the trial of the three activists meets international standards of fairness and transparency, in particular, the right to challenge the lawfulness of the detention, the presumption of innocence, the right to examine or have examined all witnesses and the right to a fair hearing.

Updates the Hasan Mushaima, Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad and Abdul-Jalil Alsingace cases: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100645/

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information, contact Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer, ARTICLE 19, 6-8 Amwell Street, London, EC1R 1UQ, U.K., tel: +44 20 7278 9292, fax: +44 20 7278 7660, e-mail: hoda@article19.org, info@article19.org, Internet: http://www.article19.org

OTHER RELEVANT ALERTS:

PREVIOUS ALERT(S):

- JOINT ACTION: Twenty IFEX members around the globe denounce jailing of activists for expressing their views

21 Feb, 2009

The Public Prosecution charges human rights defenders with serious accusations based on Terrorism Law

Human rights defender Abbass Omran brought to trial without investigation The Prosecution faces one of the detainees with fabricated confessions taken from Omran The Public Prosecution charges human rights defenders with serious accusations based on Terrorism Law 16 February 2009 The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concern for including the name of its board member, the human rights defender Abbass AbdulAziz Al-Omran amongst the indictment which the Public Prosecution brought to the Grand Criminal Court on 10 February 2009 in case number 1403/2008, with charges relating to the alleged reveal of a “terror plot”[i]. This is not the first time that Abbass Al-Omran gets targeted because of his activity in the human rights field, especially in the committees he helped the BCHR to establish, among them the Unemployed and Low-waged Committee, the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee, and the Families of the Detainees Committee. Noteworthy, Abbass Al-Omran carries a membership in the BCHR since the first year of its establishment in 2002, and he became a member in the BCHR’s administrative board since October 2008. The BCHR believes that targeting Abbass Al-Omran goes back to his continuous and effective activity in the human rights field. The Center is stunned by the Public Prosecution, who arrested a large number of people who were accused in this case and interrogated them since the last December, 16, however, did not at any time summon Abbass Al-Omran for interrogation or even call him. He travelled normally through Bahrain’s Airport to London twice on 18 December 2008 and another time when he was sent by the BCHR on 28 January 2009. The Prosecution did not make any contact with him before he found his name being published among the indictment dated on 10 February, to be brought to trial with the others on Februray 23, 2009. The BCHR is surprised that the Public Prosecution – according to one of the lawyers – faced one of the detainees, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, with a “confession” against him by Abbass Al-Omran, while the fact is that Abbass Al-Omran was neither arrested nor interrogated, which indicates the kind of methods that the prosecution office resort to in order to pressurize the detainees. According to the indictment, the Public Prosecution accused the detainees, among them Abbass Omran, of the charge that they: “Joined a group that was established against the provisions of the law, its aim is to disable the provisions of the constitution and laws and to prevent the public authorities from practicing their work, and to abuse personal liberties and the public rights of citizens, while terror is one of its means in achieving its aims; and that they joined the mentioned group to carry out terrorist operations that target important sites, public facilities, and the populated places in the Kingdom and to assault officers and members of the Police Force, with the purpose of undermining security and public order and to cause instability in the country and to cause damage to the economic viability with their knowledge of that group’s aims”. It is an accusation based on law number 58 of the year 2006, regarding protecting the community from terrorist acts and it is the law that was condemned by the UN’s Special Rapporteur and several international non-governmental organizations. The indictment includes the names of 35 activists and human rights defenders, among them; 1. Thirteen Bahrainis whom the indictments says are fugitives, among them – in addition to Abbass Al-Omran – two other human rights defenders who have recently obtained political asylum in Britain and they are Abdul-Raoof Al-Shayeb, the former president of the Martyrs and Victims of Torture Committee, and Ali Hassan Mushaima the administrative member in the Unemployed and Low-waged Committee. 2. Nineteen Bahrainis who were arrested during the past two months. The indictment said that they are still imprisoned, among them Hassan Mushaima, the General Secretary of the Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (Haq), the cleric defending human rights Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, and the human rights defender Abdul-Ridha Al-Saffar, the activists in the Families of the Detainees and the Unemployed Committees[ii], 3. Three Bahrainis who were released after ending the investigation with them, among them Dr. Abdul-Jalil Al-Singace, president of the human rights committee in Haq Movement, The charges in this case were based on: 1- the Penal Law for the year 1976 which restricts liberties and punishes practicing them, and 2- the Terrorism law for the year 2006, in which sentences reach life imprisonment, such as article 6 of the law. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights urgently demands the following: 1. The release of all detainees in this case, specially Abbas Omran and other human rights defenders, as the facts indicate that the motives of their arrest is due to their work in defending human rights and/or them practicing their basic rights to freedom of association, assembly and freedom of expression. 2. Drop all the charges, and stop the trials which will not provide the conditions of a fair trial, because the terrorism and penal laws oppose the international standards, and the lack of impartiality and independence of the judiciary. 3. Stop targeting human rights activists, by smearing their reputation, or accusing them of terrorism, or arresting them and exposing them to torture and ill-treatment. 4. To annul the terrorism law and to amend the Penal Law in accordance with the international conventions and obligations. 5. To bring anyone involved in those violations to trial, and to compensate the affected.

20 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: The Authorities gravely violates the UN Convention on the RIGHTS of PERSONS with DISABILITIES

Disabled rights activist Alsingace faces prosecution next February 23rd for charges punishable by life imprisonment for exercising right of freedom of expression and association

Alsingace was arrested from his residence at dawn, held in solitary confinement, interrogated and later banned from travel after release

19th February 2009

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) is seriously concerned about the potential punishment of Dr Abduljalil Alsingace- disabled rights activist- of ban of travel, redundancy from his post as an academician and imprisonment, mounting to life duration.

Dr Abduljalil Alsingace (47years) suffers from Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, in the upper limb of the left leg, resulting in permanent disability. As per the knowledge of the BCHR, Dr Alsingace was infected with this viral disease since childhood and since then he has been using crutches for movement. In recent period, Dr Alsingace has been dually using a wheelchair after carrying a surgery in his two rests to release the stress in his both hands after catching the Carpel Tunnel Syndrome. Dr Alsingace, a professor at the Mechanical Engineering Department of the University of Bahrain (UOB), is a graduate of the University of Manchester-UK in 1995 and since then has been involved in teaching. The UOB has recently provided Dr Alsingace with all logistic means to conduct deliverance of lectures and other academic duties, which include an electric wheelchair and a tablet labtop personal computer, in consideration for his recent medical condition.

Dr Alsingace and other two activists- Mr Hasan Mushaima- Secretary General of Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ) and Mr Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad – A scholar and social activist, were arrested just before dawn time (Between 2-3am) of Monday 26th, January and were kept in solitary confinement until transferred to the Public Prosecution (PP) at about 5:30pm of the same day. They were deprived from all contacts with their families, lawyers and the rest of the world. After almost nine hours of interrogation, Mr Mushaima (61yrs) and Mr Al-Muqdad (47yrs) were remanded in custody, while releasing Dr Alsingace on bail and officially banning him from travel and leave Bahrain. The PP has already passed the case to the Higher Criminal Court scheduled on February 23rd.

During interrogation, Dr Abduljalil Alsingace was faced with his speeches and articles addressing public issues and which were considered inciting hatred of the regime and inciting provoking violence and the overthrow of the political system. These two charges are based on the internationally denounced Penal code of 1976 and punishable by imprisonment of up to 8 years. However, the most severe punishment is the third charge, based on the Bahraini counter terrorism law which has been condemned by many international organizations including the UN. The penalty of that charge is punishable to life imprisonment for “forming an organization, unlike the provisions of the law, which disrupt the provisions of the Constitution, laws or prevent any of the State enterprises or public authorities from exercising their duty”. Dr Abduljalil Alsingace denied all the allegations and considered it malicious and politically motivated.

Based on the hostile attitude of the Authorities against Dr Abduljalil Alsingace and other activists, BCHR believes that his arrest, detention and prosecution are related to practicing legitimate and peaceful public activities (Electronic articles, speeches, seminars and presentations). Moreover, the atrocious charges are phony and meant to silence him from expressing his thoughts and performing any peaceful related to democratic reforms and promotion of human rights and civil liberties specially freedoms of expression, assembly and association.

Recently, the Authorities has blocked the electronic blog of Dr Alsingace who uses it to post news, human rights reports, poems, adverts, and articles (published by others and himself), as well as links to Human Rights Watch news, questionnaires about the role of NGOs and other blogs.

In another stance, Dr Alsingace has stated earlier that his personal privacy has been infringed through tapping his phones, emails and posts. Furthermore and in official statement, he reported that his voice and other activists have been replicated by the local Authorities using voice changer software, expressing his concerns about the possibility of using the voice reproduction as means criminalization or basis for indictment.

It is to be mentioned that in addition to other activists, Dr Alsingace was the subject of smear and defamation media campaign waged by the Authorities aftermath his participation in a human rights activity held last October in the US Congress.

On 25th June 2007, the Bahrain Government signed the UN Convention of the Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities which entered in force on May 3rd, 2008 . Out of the human rights of the disabled persons, among them Dr Alsingace, are the followings and the relevant article of the Convention:

1) The right for freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, as per Article 15. 2) The liberty of movement and nationality, as per Article 18, which includes the right to the freedom of movement of disable persons and leave any country, including their own. 3) Freedom of Expression and opinion, and access to information, as per Article 21. 4) Respect for privacy, as stated by Article 22, which focus on arbitrary or unlawful interference with the disabled privacy, family, home or correspondence or other types of communication or to unlawful attacks on his or her honour and reputation. 5) Work and employment, as per Article 27, which includes the right to gain a living by work in a suitable environment. 6) The right to participation in political and public life, as secured by Article 29, which includes effective and full participation in the conduct of public affairs, participation in non-governmental organizations and associations concerned with the public and political life of the country, and in the activities and administration of political parties.

Demands and appeal:

The BCHR reiterates its concerns on the health and wellbeing of Dr Alsingace after the Authorities move to indict him and other activists in Bahrain. The BCHR, therefore appeals to the international organizations concerned with the rights of disabled to intervene and exert necessary efforts to:

1- The dismissal of charges made against the disabled rights activist Dr Alsingace, and any subsequent reprisals. 2- Respect the right of Dr Alsingace to freedom of expression and opinion, remove travel ban against him, maintain his privacy, and his right to participate NGO’s and associations concerned with pubic affairs. 3- Abide by the articulations in the UN Convention of Human Rights of Disabled Persons. 4- Introduce the required legislations to the promotion and protection of rights in the said convention.

Kindly: Find below more information submitted by Dr Abduljalil Alsingace himself.

Statement of AJ Alsingace Bahrain: 18th February 2009

After almost two years of birth in January 15th 1962, I was infected Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis, in the upper limb of the left leg, resulting in permanent disability. Since childhood, I have been using crutches for movement and daily activities.

I am a PhD graduate from the University of Manchester-UK in 1995, in the field of Mechanical Engineering (ME). Since then, I have been employed by the University of Bahrain (UOB), promoted to associated Professor in 2001 and headed the department of Mechanical Engineering for three years since 2002. I have been involved in teaching, academic research and society service.

Because of my activities (Among others; defending detainees, participating in human rights seminars, writing human rights reports, traveling and meeting with human rights organizations and think tanks, petitioning, participating in rights popular protests like sit-ins and demonstrations) and travel to Washington DC (USA), London (UK) and Geneva (Switzerland), I was penalized by the Bahraini Authorities and dismissed from his administrative post at the UOB and retained his academic post as associate professor. Prior to his dismissal, the President of the UOB, Shaikha Maryam Al-Khalifa a member of the ruling family, explicitly told me that had I been to Mozambique, it would have been OK but going to Washington is not acceptable.

I was subject to smear campaign through SMS messages as well as defamatory media campaign after participating in a human rights activity in the US Congress last October.

At the UOB address, I received, twice, threats from the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) threatening to take me to court for leading “Committee of Activists and Detainees of Conscience”.

I was involved in the formation as well as the activities of, non-exhaustively: - Unemployed and Underpaid Committee - Committee of Detainees - Committee Against 1% - Committee to Combat High Prices - Committee of Activists - Committee of Victims of Torture - Committee of Stateless (Without nationality) - Committee of Detainees of Conscience

I opened my house for a public event to conduct weekly seminars on human rights and public issues. I was asked about this event at the public prosecution and, more over, one of the speakers was officially banned by Authorities from participation.

In a peaceful authorized demonstration calling for the release of detainees, I was publicly hit by member of Special Forces (made of different nationalities) using a plastic batons resulting in grounding me and using abusive language against me.

Two years back, I suffered from Carpel Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) causing numbness in the two hands, which necessitated a surgical operation in his two wrests to remove the caused stress. This has caused that I opt to the use of wheelchair inside and outside his residence when possible, to ease loading on his hands and decelerate resumption of the Syndrome. The CTS is back and I have to go on surgery once more in due course.

After the first surgery, the UOB provided logistics for me to perform teaching while he is seated, which includes electric wheelchair, a tablet labtop and assignment of a classroom in the ground floor of the ME department in UOB.

I and two other activists; Mr Hasan Mushaima- Secretary General of Movement of Civil Liberties and Democracy (HAQ) and Mr Mohamed Habib Al-Muqdad – head of Orphan society, were arrested and facing charges because of expressing views and joining association concerned with public affairs issues. For more details on the case; some of the links are below: - http://www.omct.org/index.php?id=&lang=eng&actualPageNumber=1&articleId=8351&itemAdmin=article - http://www.article19.org/pdfs/press/bahrain-article-19-condemns-the-targeting-of-human-rights-activists-and-call.pdf - http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100743/ - http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=3975 - http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100767/

15 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: ARTICLE 19 Calls for the End of the Harassment of Ghada Jamsheer

ARTICLE 19 has written to Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, King of Bahrain, asking him to ensure that women’s rights activist, Ghada Jamsheer, is protected from harassment and guaranteed her right to free expression.

Jamsheer is leader of the Women’s Petition Committee which works to protect women and advocate for improved women’s rights in the country’s sharia courts. She has been repeatedly harassed in the course of her work and has been effectively banned from the country’s media since 2007.

In November 2008, while attending the AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) Conference in South Africa, Jamsheer’s home was reportedly entered by a state security agent and detailed photographs were taken of her residence. Her house phone, mobile phone and email account were also reportedly put under surveillance.

After reporting this incident to the police, Ms Jamsheer’s 74-year-old mother and sister were then accused by the police of attacking the state security agent. They are now facing court proceedings. Rather than the legitimate process of justice, this appears to be another attempt to intimidate Ms Jamsheer.

Ghada Jamsheer and her family have also received threatening text messages and have allegedly been followed by a car.

Jamsheer is unable to publish any articles or obtain any media coverage under a reported media ban issued by His Excellency Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, Minister of the Royal Court.

“The harassment campaign and the media ban against Ghada Jamsheer are directly related to her legitimate work in the defence of women’s rights in Bahrain and is a clear violation of her right to freedom of expression and of the freedom of the press in Bahrain,” comments Dr Agnès Callamard, Executive Director, ARTICLE 19. “It undermines much needed debate in Bahrain and, in particular, silences women’s voices and discourages their participation in civil society.”

In the letter to the Bahraini monarch, ARTICLE 19 expressed its concerns about the physical and psychological welfare of Ghada Jamsheer and her family, and urged the authorities to restore freedom of expression, including freedom of the press, by lifting the ban and putting a stop to all intimidation of human rights defenders in Bahrain.

NOTES TO EDITORS:

• For more information, please contact Hoda Rouhana, MENA Programme Officer at hoda@article19.org or +44 20 7278 9292 .

ARTICLE 19

ARTICLE 19 is an independent human rights organisation that works globally to protect and promote the right to freedom of expression. It takes its name from Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees free speech. For more information on ARTICLE 19 please visit www.article19.org

6-8 Amwell Street London EC1R 1UQ United Kingdom Tel: +44 2... - Fax: +44 20 7278 7660 - info@article19.org - www.article19.org

*If you would like to edit your preferences (name, organisation, region, etc) or edit which mailing lists you currently subscribe to, please visit this link *If you would like to unsubscribe from the ARTICLE 19 mailing lists, please visit this link

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13 Feb, 2009

Activist Abduljalil Alsingace's blog blocked by authorities

Date: 12 February 2009 Source: Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)

(BCHR/IFEX) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) confirms that the authorities have taken measures to effectively block local access to the electronic blog of Abduljalil Alsingace, ( http://alsingace.katib.org ). This is the first blog, a personal homepage, to be blocked by an administrative ministerial order, as part of a censorship campaign initiated over a month ago by the newly appointed Minister of Information, Mai Al-Khalifa, a member of the ruling family.

Alsingace's blog, "Al-Faseelah", which is named after a young palm tree, is posted on Katib "Writer in Arabic", a program aimed at "providing an opportunity for intellectuals, rights activists, young people and the Arab world to publish on the web without restrictions except for hate speech" (see http://www.katib.org ). Katib is sponsored and maintained by the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information ( http://www.anhri.org ), a non-Bahraini site also blocked by the authorities.

Alsingace uses the "Al-Faseelah" blog to post news, human rights reports, poems, advertisements, videos, portraits as well as articles, published by him and others. "Al-Faseelah" contains links to human rights organizations, questionnaires about the role of non-governmental organizations, and adverts calling for the prosecution of torturers.

On 27 January 2009, Alsingace was officially banned from traveling and leaving Bahrain after bogus allegations were issued against him, accusing him of being involved in a "terror" plot, being a member of the HAQ movement for Liberty and Democracy, and suggesting that his articles were provocative and had "incited hatred against the regime". Alsingace, as well as other activists, are facing charges based on the Barhaini Terrorism law of 2006 and the Penal Code of 1976, a punishment which could amount to life imprisonment.

BCHR president Nabeel Rajab stated: "This is a red blink signal marking an ominous deterioration in human rights in Bahrain, particularly in the level of freedom of expression by activists and dissidents". He added: "The authorities, launching many electronic projects, should realize by now that people can easily circumvent any blocked site, and further censorship on site of dissident voices will do nothing but tarnish its image".

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Send appeals to the authorities: - asking them to respect freedom of expression, particularly for human rights defenders, whose views are important for the maintenance and protection of general rights and liberties - calling on them to stop preventing human rights defenders from accessing the media and blocking their means of communications to the public.

APPEALS TO: His Highness Shaikh Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa King of Bahrain Riffa, Bahrain Fax: +97 31 766 4587

His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa Cabinet Prime Minister Fax: +97 31 721 1363

Mrs Mai Al-Khalifa Minister of Information

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

For further information on the travel ban issued against Alsingace, see: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/100645

MORE INFORMATION:

For further information contact Nabeel Rajab, President, BCHR, Manama, Bahrain, tel: +973 3963 3399 / 3940 0720, fax: +973 1779 5170, e-mail: nabeel.rajab@bahrainrights.org, info@bahrainrights.org, Internet: http://www.bwhrainrights.org; Facebook: English Group: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=44138766349, Arabic group, http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=50727622539

13 Feb, 2009

Menassat: Bahrain hit by mass web censorship campaign

BEIRUT, February 2, 2009 (MENASSAT) - On January 14 this year, local newspapers in Bahrain made public a ministerial order by Bahrain’s new Minister of Media & Culture, Shiekha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa that called on telecommunications companies and Internet service providers to tighten their measures on preventing access to web sites previously banned by the ministry.

According to rights groups like the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), whose web site has been blocked, “This was the first resolution issued by the minister this year…..to give sharp and clear instructions to telecommunications companies and Internet service providers” to prevent “all the customary ways to access blocked sites," whether through Internet addresses or through the use of alternative servers (proxies) or any other way.

The text of the minister's resolution read, “Lifting the block on any site should only be on the instructions of the minister herself."

BCHR claims that the former Bahraini Minister of Information, Jihad Bu-Kamal, was replaced by Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, after a television talk-show program criticized the ruling elite of corruption.

Bu-Kamal’s “crime” was allowing for the program to air on TV.

Al-Khalifa's crusade

Al-Khalifa's renewed vigilance against formerly banned sites is being billed as an action against "pornographic websites and public morality,” but activists cite several examples of censored or banned web sites belonging to human rights organizations, religious and non-religious groups, and political groups which clearly fall outside Al-Khalifa's edict.

Nabeel Rajab of BCHR told MENASSAT in an email conversation that the majority of the blocked sites in Bahrain are in fact web sites dealing with human rights and political issues in the country and “village chat forums”.

Some of the sites now inaccessible in Bahrain reportedly include independent newspaper Bahrain Times, the online current events forum Montadayat, and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI).

Even the party Al-Demokrati, a legally registered party, has now had its site blocked, sources tell MENASSAT.

While the exact number of sites blocked in the most recent wave of Internet censorship remains unknown, some put the number as high as 100 while other sources quote between 40-60 sites.

Ali Abdulemam is the administrator of a news engine for political and social affairs in Bahrain - Bahrainonline. He told MENASSAT that the authorities have been playing a censorship "cat and mouse game" with his web site for the past seven years.

Abdulemam claims Al-Khalifa's campaign to censor and ban sites is more aggressive than before, pointing to the fact that ministry has even blocked Google Translation because it can be use as proxy to surf his site.

New forms of government intimidation

Several online sources are also accusing Al-Khalifa of using strong-arm tactics to shut down activists like Abdulemam including arrest, physical intimidation and the threat of potential legal actions.

“Whenever we open a new URL (for the site) they (the government) close it once they discover it. But this time it has been a very concerted war against all of the opposition web sites. Three activists who support of Bahrainonline - including me - were arrested for two weeks this year. And we all face charges of insulting the king and his family, which could mean 10 years in jail,” Ali told MENASSAT.

Abdulemam said Bahrain’s web censorship has reached new dimensions of sophistication, and that the authorities have started to block access to certain search words.

“There is censorship for words like 'proxy.' So if you type in proxy in Google and try to visit any link from the result you will face the 'site blocked' message,” Abdulemam told MENASSAT.

That “message” is a pop-up alert from the Ministry of Culture and Information apologizing to the visitor that the site he or she is attempting to visit “has been blocked by ministerial order."

At first the ministry provided a contact number in case the surfer felt that “the requested page should not be blocked” out of courtesy.

That phone number, says Abdulemam, has now been removed from the ministry’s revised message.

But the question remains whether the work of Bahrain’s censorship committees is actually helping to increase traffic on the offending sites

According to Rajab, BCHR’s site has even become more popular after its blocking.

Banning sites, nothing new

Rajab has also diverted what he calls his “electronic resistance and struggle” onto the popular social networking site Facebook where he has set up a group for his organization where one can access statements and reports from the BCHR.

BCHR argues that the recent actions taken by the Bahraini authorities violate freedom of expression as stipulated in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights signed by Bahrain in September 2006.

This does not, however, mark the first time the Bahraini authorities have practiced web censorship.

In 2004, Bahraini activists protested in front of the Bahraini Communications Company (Betelco) -which has a monopoly over Internet connection service in Bahrain-to express their opposition to Internet censorship by then Bahraini Minister of Media, Nabil Jacob Al-Hamra.

Al-Hamra was quoted at the time as saying the Bahraini government banned and blocked access to those web pages it found “dissatisfactory” because the government was the country’s “defender of morality” and claimed “that certain websites are responsible for creating "domestic turmoil.”

In 2006, the Financial Times reported the Bahrain government blocked Google Earth as means of limiting the actions of opposition cyber-activists who were using Google Earth views of estates and private islands belonging to the ruling al-Khalifa family as a means of highlighting the inequity of land distribution in the tiny Gulf kingdom before November parliamentary elections that year.

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Source URL: http://www.menassat.com/?q=en/news-articles/5904-bahrain-hit-mass-web-censorship-activists-say

12 Feb, 2009

INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND SECURITY NETWORK :Bahrain's fraught sectarian divide

Feb 2009 Bahrain's fraught sectarian divide Bahrain flag As Bahrain prepares for the trial of alleged militant plotters, ISN Security Watch's Dominic Moran speaks to government opponents concerning recent unrest and sectarian relations.

By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch

Sectarian violence has again flared in Bahrain following a wave of arrests associated with an alleged plot to attack national day celebrations.

Described as a fraud by government opponents - who allege the strengthening of repressive mechanisms and measures and moves to promote discrimination in recent years - the alleged terrorist conspiracy and rioting in predominantly Shia areas underlines the fraught nature of sectarian relations in the Gulf kingdom.

The ongoing crisis has raised questions about the civil and democratic reform process enshrined in the National Action Charter, which won almost unanimous popular support in a 2001 referendum for a shift from absolutism to a constitutional monarchy and establishment of representational government through a bicameral legislature.

A series of ancillary reforms promoted by King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa included important moves to ease related inter-communal tensions through the return of exiles, freeing of political prisoners and allowing the formation of political movements. The enfranchisement of women and moves to ease press restrictions and security strictures followed.

Government opponents charge that the impact and implementation of reforms has been limited and that a regression has in fact occurred in recent years, in particular through the re-imposition and extension of security restrictions and discriminatory measures targeting the Shia majority.

While they have succeeded in drawing most opposition groups into the political process, the reforms have had little impact on the overall authority of the monarchy. The monarchy is guaranteed through the royal appointment of members of the upper house of the legislature, selection of judges and appointment of the prime minister and his cabinet.

Clashes

Hundreds of rioters clashed with police in the capital Manama on 30 January in the wake of a 12,000-strong peaceful demonstration, called to protest alleged discrimination against Shia.

According to AP, the motivations of the rioters were unclear, though some carried posters referring to the arrest of three prominent members of the predominantly Shia opposition Haq political society, including leader Hassan Mesheima.

Police arrested Mesheima, al-Haq spokesperson Dr Abduljalil Alsingace and cleric Mohammed al-Moqdad on 26 January after they refused to respond to Public Prosecution summons.

The highest Shia authority in the kingdom, The Islamic Council of Ulemas, responded to the detentions by calling for the trio's immediate and unconditional release, warning of a "grave escalation which will aggravate [sectarian] tensions."

Speaking to ISN Security Watch by phone, Alsingace described his arrest last month. Police raided his home in the early hours of the morning, taking him to a detention center where he was held in solitary confinement before being moved to the Public Prosecution service later that day.

"The Public Prosecution interrogated me on my writings; use of the internet; the addresses of people; what I believe [concerning] the 2002 constitution; involvement in […] the Haq movement; my travel to Washington DC, London and other cities; my activities abroad; and my participation in public demonstrations, etc. and then decided to release me but banned me from travel."

The Haq trio are accused of promoting a coup "through terrorism" and are to appear in court on 23 February.

The Manama violence came after rioting in Shia villages outside the capital earlier in the week.

"In the villages you can see almost an uprising going on," Bahrain Human Rights Center Nabeel Rajab claimed in an 11 February interview with ISN Security Watch. "If you go to the roads and streets outside Manama […] you see government militias which have been brought from outside, from Jordan and Syria and Yemen and Balochistan in Pakistan," he said. ISN Security Watch was unable to verify this claim.

The alleged plot

The detention of the three Haq activists came in the wake of the16 December arrest of 14 Bahrainis in connection with a purported conspiracy to launch a series of militant attacks.

The plot allegedly involved the ambush of police and attacks on shopping malls, markets and hotels with homemade explosives. The suspects' confessions were subsequently aired on national television.

According to Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, the militants in custody received training in bomb-making and the booby-trapping of cars in July-August 2008 from two British-based Bahrainis, having traveled to the Baathist state on the pretext of a Shia religious pilgrimage.

"If you see the confessions you will learn there are many basic contradictions that tell you this is all bogus," Alsingace said. "There are contradictions on the dates; some of them have not been to Syria."

Torture claims

According to Alsingace, "This time they used electrocution to not only have a quick extraction of confessions but also not to leave any future trace of torture." He alleged. that "some of them were even electrocuted on their genitals."

Referring to the torture claims, Rajab said, "I'm afraid if this does not stop in the coming weeks and months the situation is going to deteriorate more and more," he said.

The Public Prosecution strongly denies allegations of prisoner mistreatment and that confessions were extracted under duress.

Diverging Shia trends

October 2006 elections to the lower house of the bicameral national legislature saw the emergence of a strong Islamic bloc led by the Shia Islamic al-Wefaq party.

The party, which boycotted the previous parliamentary poll in 2002, won 17 of the 20 seats in which it stood candidates in 2006, emerging as by far the largest political group in the kingdom, but falling short of an overall majority in the 40-member Chamber of Deputies. With the 12 deputies of the pro-government Sunni Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist, el-Wefaq has promoted socially conservative legislation, sometimes at odds with the palace's promotion of women's rights and the stances of liberal legislators.

Haq broke away from al-Wefaq in 2005 over the latter's decision to participate in the political system and, with a Sunni Salafi splinter, led calls to boycott the 2006 elections. A leading figure in the movement at the time, Abdulwahab Hussain, reportedly called on Bahrainis in July 2006 to draw arms against the government should peaceful measures fail to bring reforms.

Alsingace avers: "What we did in Haq is to peacefully demand a democratic constitution to be drafted by the people of Bahrain."

He said this was "looked at by the authorities to be a true challenge to their legitimacy because what they did in 2002 was to nullify the only socially binding constitution in Bahrain and unilaterally replace it with a constitution which was drafted by a secret committee."

In a second referendum, the group called "for the resignation of the prime minister allowing for the peaceful exchange of power through the people and ensuring that none of the al-Khalifa [are] in executive power as per the […] National Charter."

"In Haq we have Sunni people. The vice-president is a Sunni sheikh. He was leading a press conference last week and […] he was not mentioned in the press." That "just gives you an idea of how they want to present us; that "It is all Shia and nobody else.""

Discrimination

The focus of many of the banners carried in the 30 January demonstration in Manama was reportedly on the controversial bestowal of Bahraini citizenship on Sunni immigrants - a move that opponents charge is designed to tip the demographic balance against the 60-50 percent Shia majority.

Najab accuses the government "of sectarian apartheid where they are separating Shia and Sunni cities and towns," adding "they are playing with the demography of the country by naturalizing tens of thousands of tribal Arabs from other countries to make sure that the number of Sunnis becomes more than the indigenous Shia."

To Alsingace, discrimination "used to be in jobs, higher jobs; then it went more to the exercise of political rights. They [Shia] were marginalized, misrepresented using gerrymandering; the use of the politically naturalized to undermine their power."

Now the discrimination is becoming more "focused" he claims, impinging particularly on the rights of Shia to formal religious education and institutions. "Their children are forced to be educated in jurisprudence other than Shia theology, which is really against basic religious rights," he alleged.

The government strongly denies systematic discrimination, pointing to such measures as the creation of a 500-strong Shia police force to work in Shia areas.

The kingdom has appeared to move towards the extension of security force prerogatives in recent years, through such measures as the August 2006 Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts bill. The bill was criticized at the time by a UN special rapporteur as containing too wide a definition of terrorism and terror-related activities.

Article 1 of the act prohibits acts that "damage national unity" or "obstruct public authorities from performing their duties," while the law also allows for extended detentions without judicial review, Human Rights Watch notes.

Najab explained that in 2004 the number of Shia in high-ranking public sector positions "had reached 18 percent. We revised that report again in 2008, two months ago, and that 18 percent has [been reduced to] 13 percent."

Outside influences

The Bahraini government is deeply concerned at the extension of Iranian influence in the Gulf and wider region, with crown prince Sheikh Salman ibn Hamad Al-Khalifa the first prominent member of a gulf royal family to openly accuse Iran of seeking a nuclear weapon.

As the only Shia-majority Gulf state, Bahraini concerns have been further piqued by the rise to power of Shia parties in nearby Iraq, though relations with the Nouri al-Maliki government do appear to have improved in recent months with Bahrain naming its first ambassador to Baghdad since the US-led invasion in July 2008.

Bahrain is a key US ally in the region and hosts the US Fifth Fleet - facts that opponents of the al-Khalifa point to as preventing the effective imposition of significant US pressure for further reform and the politicization of human rights concerns recognized by the US State Department in its annual reports.

"The United States government is quiet so far as they see their interests maybe lie with the ruling elite," Najab said, adding that annual US government reports criticizing the Bahraini human and civil rights record were probably raised in private meetings. "It doesn't seem that they [US] want to anger them."

Asked to directly address government claims of Iranian influence amongst the Shia opposition, Alsingace argued that the government was "using the Iran phobia; the West considering Iran a threat; and making a correlation which is not substantiated."

Prospects

With sporadic clashes continuing and genuine progress towards a full constitutional monarchy in question, there appears a real danger that the important moves by the monarchy to promote representational government and the involvement of Shia in decision-making processes could founder.

A regression towards the imposition of tighter security strictures and a seeming failure to systematically address the perceived sectarian structuring of access to land, state resources and jobs lie at the heart of decades-old tensions.

A failure to further promote sectarian harmony could ultimately have wider repercussions, Najab believes:

"The situation is deteriorating and we are afraid to see violence spreading in this country," he said. "It is not only Bahrain and the Bahrain government that is going to lose but [also] those countries that have interests in this country."

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Dr Dominic Moran, based in Tel Aviv, is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East and the Director of Operations of ISA Consulting.

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Publisher International Relations and Security Network (ISN)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Creative Commons "Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported

10 Feb, 2009

Bahrain: Arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, Mr Ali Hassan Salman and Mr Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim

Published on Front Line (http://www.frontlinedefenders.org)

Front Line is concerned following reports that human rights defenders, Mr Ali Hassan Salman and Mr Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim, were arbitrarily arrested on 4 February 2009. Both human rights defenders have worked for the Committee of Activists and Prisoners of Conscience since December 2007 and have helped to organise peaceful marches and protests for the rights of detainees. During an Amnesty International visit to Bahrain in 2008, Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim coordinated meetings between families of detainees and Amnesty International. Further Information On 4 February 2009, at approximately 2.45 a.m., the houses of both Ali Hassan Salman and Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim were raided by security forces. Ali Hassan Salman was arrested and beaten in front of his family during the raid, causing his mother to faint. His glasses were also broken. Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim, who lives in the same area, was arrested within 15 minutes. No arrest warrant was shown and no reasons were given for either of the arrests. Since their arrests, Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim have not been allowed to communicate with their families and lawyers.

Front Line believes that Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim have been arrested because of their legitimate and peaceful activities in the defence of human rights, in particular their work to coordinate meetings between Amnesty Intenational and families of detainees. Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Ali Hassan Salman and Jafaar Kadhim Ebrahim while in detention.

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Source URL: http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/1791