facebook twitter youtube blogger flickr rss Previous Next Left Arrow Right Arrow alert

Bahrain: Jalila Al Salman and Rula Al Saffar go on hunger strike in protest at ongoing torture and ill treatment in custody

3 Aug 2011 Front Line is deeply concerned for the safety and well being of Mrs Jalila Al Salman, vice president of the Bahrain Teachers's Society and Mrs. Rula Al Saffar Assistant Professor at the College of Health Sciences and the Head of Bahrain Nursing Society, following reports received to day that they have gone on hunger strike in protest at their continuing torture and ill treatment while in custody. Further Information

There had been hopes that they would at least be released on trial pending the transfer of their trial to civilian courts to mark the start of Ramadan but so far there has been no improvement in their situation.

Jalila al-Salman Vice President of the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA) is among several board members of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) arrested in Manama after the group called for a teachers’ strike amid wide-scale pro-reform protests in March.

Prisoners who had been held in custody with her and then released have spoken of how she was particularly targeted for torture and ill treatment. She is the only woman prisoner facing charges of plotting to overthrow the government even though according to reports received she never made any political speeches or took part in strikes or demonstrations.

Mrs Al Saffar is a cancer survivor and founder of the National Association for Cancer Awareness. She had also been an active member of the Break the Blockade campaign in support of the Palestinian people of Gaza and had worked to deliver medical supplies and treatment to the people of Gaza

The Public Prosecutor's Office accused Mrs Al Saffar of publicly defaming officials from the Salmaneyya Medical Complex, the main public hospital in Bahrain, in articles published in local newspapers. She has consistently denied the charges against her. According to Osama Al-Osfoor, the director of the Public Prosecutor's Office, a complaint was received from some senior members of the medical complex's staff against Al-Saffar and Al-Demistani, claiming that they had published articles in the local press containing a smear campaign and defamatory language against them.

Front Line is calling on the Government of Bahrain to take immediate steps to guarantee the safety and well being of Rula Al Saffar and Jalila Al Salman and to release them on bail pending the resumption of their trial.

frontlinedefenders.org

Activists women under fierce attack: detained, tortured and prosecuted for political reasons.

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] .

--

[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..

Students paid the price of belonging to the majority sect and were targeted along with their teachers in a vengeance campaign pr

BCHR: The abuses that targeted students, teachers and the educational environment were terrifying and did not stop after the end of the academic year.

Minister of Education Majid Al Nuaimi is accused of carrying out discrimination and cleanse with the support of sectarian associations who dominate the top positions in the ministry

Right to left: Majid Al Nuaimi - Minister of Education MOE, Abdulla Al Mutawa - Under-secretary for the MOE, Isa Al Kooheji, Head of the Scholarships and Student Attache Department at MOE.

30 July 2011

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its deep concerns regarding the abuses and systematic discriminations experienced by Bahraini schools students since the start of the popular demonstrations on 14th February 2011 and until this date where they were systematically discriminated against, arrested, beaten, expelled, tried and deprived from seeking education in violation of a number of human rights and in particular the child’s right to education and the safety from arbitrary arrest, torture and discrimination. Discrimination and “cleansing” was practiced by the Ministry of Education for decades and reached its peak with the help of security forces and the sectarian powers in leading positions at the Ministry; and of late the distribution of scholarships to secondary school graduates which can only be described as a public sectarian crime where the Ministry secretly handled the distribution of scholarships and deprived many outstanding students from their right in a scholarship and to pursue what they worked hard for years.

BCHR have previously documented a number of violations against the rights of children in Bahrain in general in the previous months (See previous report). This report will focus on the violations committed against school students in particular.

The violations against students were not limited to schools but targeted teachers as well. Several reports indicated the arrest of many teachers (male and female) and both mental and physical torture was used just as was done to students during end-of-year exams (See BCHR detailed report on the subject).

Introduction:

On the 20th of February 2011, Bahrain Teachers Association headed by Mahdi Abu Deeb issued a statement [1] calling for an open strike starting from 20th of February for a full week expandable as necessary in protest to the violence practiced by the regime in their crackdown on peaceful demonstrators which resulted in the killing of 7 and the injury of tens of demonstrators especially following the bloody attack on demonstrators at Lulu Roundabout at dawn of Thursday 17th February 2011 and the mobilization of military units on the streets. The Ministry of Education replied on 22nd February by announcing their need for volunteers to fill the gap made by striking teachers who were demonstrating at Lulu Roundabout. Volunteers were brought in quickly, their education and qualifications were not taken into consideration and they were not interviewed [2]. After the passing of 4 days of strike, the Teachers Association announced the suspension of the strike and the continuation of study after security was established as stated in their statement and so the educational faculty and students returned to their schools [3] on Thursday 24th February 2011.

The Problem of Unqualified Volunteers:

Reports indicated that the policy employed by the Ministry to handle the teachers’ strike situation by quickly employing unqualified volunteers was the beginning of unrest at schools. The reports indicated “the existence of tension at schools between the primary teachers and volunteers in one area and between students and volunteers in another. One female teacher indicated that the environment at school was not prepared for study due to the objection of having volunteers at school especially those who do not hold any qualifications. She said: “One volunteer teacher brings her young son to class and we deliberately took pictures to take it to the press. Where is the Ministry from all of this?”. Another teacher - condemning what the Ministry did by employing a number of teachers without an employment competition - said: “The number of volunteers in our school reached 21; only 4 of them had Bachelor degrees.”. She added: “some of the volunteers were school students, others were housewives, trainees at Bahrain Institute as well as pensioners” [4].

In protest to unqualified volunteers, some students demonstrated inside and outside of schools against the Minister of Education Majid Al Nuaimi. All demonstrations were peaceful and did not involve the use of sticks, stones or any other tool. In some schools, students sat at the school yard and refused to study and enter the classroom [5].

Moreover, students and parents complained of having unqualified volunteers teaching in Bahraini schools and asked this policy to stop [6]. Female students complained in several schools including Qurtuba Intermediate School for Girls [7] and Saar Secondary School for Girls of verbal abuse that was sectarian and political in tone by their teachers [8]. Parents demanded that officials provide a safe environment for study at schools [9]. Some Members of Parliament demanded that as well [10] but the authorities at the Ministry of Education did not take any measure to correct these tense situations.

اعتصام أولياء الامور أمام أحدى المدارس اعتراضاً للإساءة لبناتهم A Parents’ protest in front of one school against the abuses to their daughters 10-03-2011.

Violence in Schools:

The situation gradually got complicated in all Bahraini schools without exception particularly after the inclusion of politics such as loyalty to the ruling figures of the government and the Prime Minister and forcing such concepts on students. Since 14th of February, the official media started a campaign of sectarian agitation [11] which left its marks on the events at schools.

On the morning of Thursday 3rd March 2011, two students from Al Imam Al Ghazali Intermediate School for Boys were injured after being beaten by police forces. Abdulla Adel (14 years) - one of the injured students - said that he was surprised after leaving school that anti-riot police were heavily surrounding the school parameter who attacked him by beating him with their fists and feet, and insulting him with obscenities. His fellow student Zaheer Mohammed (14 years) said that he was kicked on his head and all over his body and asked the concerned official entities to investigate the incident especially since students who were outside the school were not involved in creating any form of unrest which necessitated the violence by the security forces [12].

Students from Hamad Town Secondary School for Girls said that they were subjected to beatings, insults and attempts to drive over them with cars by some parents and other intruders on 3rd March 2011 after peacefully demonstrating inside and outside the school in the previous days. In another incident, they said that some men entered the school on 1st March during a protest they made inside school repeating peaceful slogans and calling for a national unity of all the people. They were attacked with sticks and said: “we were insulted by some Arab parents with obscene words and some of them said to us: I will turn this school to a blood bath for all of you” [13].

Some academic and administrative members of staff at Yathreb Intermediate School for Girls, which experienced a chaotic day on the morning of Thursday 10th March 2011, said that Bahrain Radio complicated the situation by broadcasting in one of its morning programmes calls by some parents talking about the situation at the school and claiming that doors were broken and students were beaten which resulted in allot of parents going to the school to take their daughters after hearing the rumors on the Radio. The situation got complicated and resulted in several students fainting due to fear which required calling Ambulances to take two students who fainted [14].

Saar Secondary School for Girls had the biggest share of chaos after fighting between pro-democracy students and pro-government students erupted on 10th March 2011 after which pro-government parents and recently naturalized parents intervened and started beating students which resulted in the injury of 8 students some of them with broken bones in the legs and hands and bruises on their backs. Many students fainted due to the level of fear and terror they experienced and most of them were crying out of fear. This resulted in the Ministry of Education issuing an order to close the school and to investigate the incidents that happened at this school [15]. After that, the Ministry of Education issued an order to close any school that experiences similar incidents [16].

After the events at Saar School and the lack of security at schools, Bahrain Teachers Association decided to strike on 14th March 2011 in all educational establishments which was the second strike by the Association [17]. The Association demanded that the authorities provide security and insure the safety of students before the return of students and teachers to schools at a time when the Ministry of Education could not provide such assurances. To the contrary, the Ministry in some instances supported the acts of violence and destruction inside schools at a time when parents said: “our children must be educated but they should be assured of their safety and create a suitable environment for study. Schools must not be involved in the political situation. They demanded that the Minster of Education Majid Al Nuaimi takes decisive measures to insure the safety of students” [18].

The declaration of the State of National Safety (Martial Law) on 15th March 2011 and what followed with the brutal crackdown and the second attack on Pearl Roundabout on 16th March 2011 and the campaign of arrests and night raids on the educational cadre and the leaders of the Teachers Association resulted in the Association suspending its strike on 24th March 2011. In a statement, they said: “The Association calls teachers to go back to school and the government and the Ministry of Education will take the full responsibility to the safety and the dignity of teachers on their way to and from their schools and any assault by the administrations at schools and their employees. They must insure that the situation be observed in the coming days to insure safety before making any decisions.” [19]

Violations on Students During the State of National Safety (Martial Law):

Raids by Security Forces on Schools and the Assault and Arrest of Students:

Some arrested students - right to left: Ali Hasan Abbas (17 years), Ahmed Abdul Nabi Shamloh (17 years), Mahmood Samir Ahmed (17 years) GPA %98

“State Parties shall ensure that: a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age; b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;” [UN Conventions on the Rights of the Child (20 November 1989)]
With the increase of sectarian agitation at schools and in the official media, and with the increase of acts of vengeance on everyone who was proven to have participated in demonstrations against the ruling regime or went to Lulu Roundabout, and with the ignorance and conspiracy of the Ministry, the danger to school students was real.

More than 12 girls schools were continuously raided by the security forces where students aged between 11-17 were taken from their classrooms, beaten, taken to detention centers, tortured, humiliated and detained for days with no access to a legal representative during interrogations. Yathreb Intermediate School for Girls, Al Ahd Al Zaher Secondary School for Girls, Umaima Bent Al Noman Secondary School for Girls, Al Qairawan Intermediate School for Girls and Hajar Primary School for Girls were continuously raided with arrests of students and teachers in addition to boys schools such as Ahmed Al Omran Secondary School for Boys, Saar Secondary School for Boys and Al Naeem Secondary School for Boys (Video) and other schools in Bahrain as well.

Right: Anti-riot police outside Hajar School 17-4-2011, Left: Anti-riot police in Ahmed Al Omran 12-4-2011

On 12th April 2011, female student Hawra Kadhem Buhameed (14 years) was arrest from her school (Yathreb Intermediate School for Girls) without any reason and she was severely beaten to the degree where beating marks were apparent on her arms for a week after her detention. After several days and on 18th April, more than 50 students from the same school were arrested and beaten with rubber hoses. Their teachers were arrested as well due to the incitement of some pro-government students.

Female student Hameeda (insisted on using an alias for fear of rearrest and torture) at Yathreb Intermediate School for Girls spoke of what happened to her when she was arrested from school: “On Monday 18th April and during the morning assembly at Yathreb Intermediate School for Girls, a male band played the national anthem and after that some students started dancing and making provocative movements to me and to other students who refused to participate with them. Then a demonstration against the regime started and I participated in it. At the same time another demonstration supporting the regime started and both parties started shouting slogans against each other. After that, the school was surrounded by anti-riot police and parents were prevented from entering the school. Then policewomen raided the school and arrested me with other fellow students. We were taken by force and severely beaten as well as insulting us. Moreover, they took photographs of us and we still do not know why. Almost 60 students aged 11-14 were taken by force using several buses to the Police station at 17th Roundabout in Hamad Town. In the bus we were forced to repeat pro-government slogans such as “long live Bu Salman”. At the police station, they made me stand while lifting my hands up for almost 8 hours. They would come to us every now and then and beat us on the hands with metal rulers. Not to mention the insults, obscene words and mocking us “we will take away your nationality and make you leave to Iran or Iraq or Lebanon”. They interrogated me to open an investigation and asked me questions such as ”Did you participate in demonstrations against the regime?” “Did you go to Pearl Roundabout?” and when I deny doing so they beat me. During interrogation, one police women came and wrote on my shirt and scarf “Long live Bu Salman” after that she hit by head to the wall. Before releasing me, they took me to the toilet and asked me to wash off the words they wrote on my clothes. I was released after my father signed a pledge to bring me to the station the next day. On Tuesday, I went with my mother to the station at 7.30 AM. The torture and interrogation continued for the second time. I was released then at 10 AM.”

Heba (17 years) (under an alias to prevent her re-arrest) spoke of her ordeal and said that she was arrested from her school with 3 other fellow students. She was detained and beaten for 3 continuous days on April 2011. At the bus that took them from school to the police station, she was threatened with rape and was insulted by saying that she was not a real Muslim. She said that a police man forced her to remove her head scarf and hit her on the head with the wall several times severely and he would intensify the beatings when she does not scream. He beat her with a thick rubber hose on her head until she started bleeding and fell on the ground. She said that threats of rape continued at the police station and she was terrorized with her fellow students that they will be taken to the Saudi Military to deal with them which was so terrifying to them that they fainted. They were also forced to witness the beating of other girls while they were blindfolded. She is still afraid of being rearrested after they threatened to do so (listen to Heba in this Video).

On 12th May, Eman Alaswami (15 years) student at the first secondary grade at Khawla Secondary School for Girls was called for interrogation and spent 11 hours in interrogation for her participation in the demonstrations and her writings on her personal page at the social networking website Facebook. She was interrogated without allowing her parents to be present and in the absence of a lawyer and a child specialist. She was interrogated by male officers and was not released until very late and after signing a pledge to come to the station the next day.

On 22nd May 2011, two 17 years old students were arrested from their schools (Zainab Al Satrawi and Noof Al Khawaja) while they were doing the final exams. They were released after hours of severely beating them.

On 29th May 2011, students Marwa Sayed Ahmed, Maryam Abdul Aziz and Maryam Abdul Jabar were arrested after they completed their final exams. A video and voice recording showed up with the policewomen arresting Marwa while insulting her and threatening her with beatings. After their arrest, they were taken to Al Gudaibiah Police Station for interrogation which lasted for hours before releasing them.

(video of the arrest) (the complete voice recording)

Policewomen inside Al Ahd Al Zaher School arresting students and teachers 21-4-2011

The raids continued until the last days of the term which made both the parents and the students in a constant state of fear and anticipation of beatings and arrests.

These violations at schools were not limited to students but included their teachers as well. Several reports documented the arrest of teachers and the mental and physical torture they experienced just as did their students (see BCHR detailed report on the topic).

Trials:

Student Mohammed Ebrahim Khatim

Even though the UN Convention on Child Rights states in article 40 that “State Parties shall seek to promote the establishment of laws, procedures, authorities and institutions specifically applicable to children alleged as, accused of, or recognized as having infringed the penal law”, and even though there is a special court that deals with juvenile cases, the authorities brought some arrested students before military courts during the State of National Safety and the normal criminal courts after that. Minor Mohammed Ebrahim Khatim [20] (15 years) was brought before a military court in May 2011 in clear violation of the convention signed by the government. Khatim was arrested from his home on a midnight raid at 1:30AM on 4th May 2011 and was accused of participating in acts of riot and unlicensed demonstrations.

Another minor aged 12 years was arrested at a police station and tried for participating in unlicensed demonstrations after his detention at the police station [21].

Abdulla Swar (15 years) was arrested in June after the end of the State of National Safety and he was accused with participating in unlicensed demonstrations and rioting. He was brought before a criminal court in and he was sentenced to 3 months in jail on 2 Aug 2011. His lawyer requested the change of punishment from imprisonment to public service , in accordance with the law which gives this option to those sentenced to less than a year, but the court has not accepted the request yet.

Depriving from Education:

“Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit”. - Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

An expulsion order on 8 female students at Hamad Town Secondary School for Girls

The regime imposed penalties on students by depriving them from their right to basic education. Several were temporarily or permanently expelled from school due to sectarian or political reasons. Most of these expulsion orders happened during April 2011. Several students from Al Dair Primary School for Boys, who were not over the age of 11, were expelled on 17th April 2011 because of “their chants to down the King” and several students from Shahrakan Primary School for Boys were expelled for chanting “Down Hamad” in the school bus. Tens of female students were expelled from Yathreb Intermediate School for Boys who were not over the age of 15 - some of whom were arrested before in the incidents that happened at their school such as (Zainab Yousif, Duaa Al Sayed and Maryam Naser). A wave of expulsions to students from Isa Town Intermediate School for Girls happened including students Zainab Ahmed Talaq (13 years) and the reason for her expulsion was markings found on the picture of the king that fronts all the academic books. At least 8 students were expelled from Hamad Town Secondary School for Girls and at least 11 students were expelled from Al Hora Secondary School for Girls. Other schools with reports of expulsion include Ahmed Al Omran Secondary School for Boys and Al Estiqlal Secondary School for Girls. The authorities did not make any official statement regarding these expulsions.

A suspension order on a student for a full term on 17-4-2011

The Closure of Shahrakan School:

In the previous month of June, the Ministry of Education announced [22] the closure of Shahrakan Primary School for Boys (serving around 300 students from neighboring villages) which is located close to the King’s Safiriya Palace where a major demonstration occurred in March. While the Ministry of Education justified this measure with the old age of the school, it is not expected that another replacement school be built to serve the area especially since the neighboring schools and particularly Shahrakan School were not present in the Ministry’s plans for development in the past 50 years. There are no plans to build new schools despite the shortage as stated by the Municipal Representative [23]. It seems very apparent that the closure of this school at this time is in vengeance and continues the discriminatory policy employed to deprive areas with Shia majority from services.

Discrimination in the Distribution of Scholarships:

The last item in the chain of violations that affected school students is the discrimination against them in the distribution of scholarships for secondary school graduates. For the first time, the Ministry of Education used a new mechanism for distributing scholarship which focuses more on personal opinions of the student and less on the competence of said student. As a requirement for gaining a scholarship, they allotted %60 to academic achievement and %40 to a personal interview. Some female students said that questions asked during the interview were not related to the scholarship or their future aspirations , as they were asked in the interview, which didn’t exceed 15 minutes about the meaning of national and what Bahrain means to them and how will they represent it abroad, and whether they have detained relatives (the answer was ready at the student's file), which seem to be indirect political questions [24].

The ministry did not announce or publish the results of the distribution of the scholarships in the Official newspapers as required to maintain the transparency, and as was the custom for years, but guided the students to see their personal results on the website of the ministry, in an attempt to conceal the results. However, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has received numerous complaints of unfair distribution of scholarships, and some published reports indicated [25] that the top students (from affiliates belonging to the opposition) were given scholarships which are not consistent with their requested subjects, in an attempt to force them to refuse taking the scholarship because it is not inline with their aspirations. Some students did not receive a scholarship even though they had outstanding academic achievements and only received a grant of BD 400 per year which is not enough to cover the cost of their university education. This was at a time when 2426 scholarships were made available which is enough to cover all outstanding students if it was distributed based on competency.

Zainab Isa - for example - which achieved a GPA of %99.3 and is ranked fifth Bahrain-wide and even though she had outstanding academic achievements, she did not get her first choice of studying medicine. Instead, she gained her tenth choice of studying Banking and Finance at a local University [26]. Another couple of students who have a GPA above %97 said that they got their eleventh choice (the one before the last) and they put these choices just to fill the gaps and not based on their aspirations. Another female student who has a GPA above %96 said that she only received a grant and the “interrogation” style she experienced during her interview was apparent after the interviewers discovered that she was at a school which had disturbances before moving to another school.

The issue of discrimination in the distribution of scholarships in Bahrain is one of the issues that were always raised by human rights activists [27]. Bahrain became one of few countries in the world which grants scholarships on bases other than equality and competence. The way scholarships were distributed confirms the authorities stance in pursuing discrimination through governmental establishments.

In a statement by BCHR president Nabeel Rajab, he said: “Discrimination is one of the main reasons for the wave of unrest and the February 14th revolution. This discrimination which the authorities always played a leading role in and the Ministry of Education was one of its most important tools in addition to the official media and security forces. Any form of discrimination is very dangerous and if it does not stop, surely the social fabric and social peaceful harmony in Bahrain will be destroyed. We should learn from experiences in other countries which practiced discrimination and entered into wars such as the racial discrimination in South Africa. Discrimination is against all rules, international regulations and human morals.”

BCHR is deeply concerned with the security deterioration at schools and classrooms and the assault on students and their teachers (see BCHR report regarding teachers) through beatings, humiliations, discriminations, detentions and suspensions. That in addition to the systematic discrimination policy being practiced against students and depriving them from their basic rights in education. The center is deeply concerned with the fate of students who were expelled, arrested and/or tried without justification to their expulsion other than expressing their opinions in a peaceful and legitimate way.

The Ministry of Education represented by the Minister Majid Al Nuaimi (an ex-military official at Bahrain Defense Force) is fully responsible for all the violence and disturbances that were witnessed in Bahraini schools due to the policies and bad decisions made by the Ministry which contributed to the complication of the situation. As a result of the use of the security solution in dealing with students who are considered minors under the age of 18, and at a time when the school as an educational establishment should be the first to implement more respectful solutions and a commitment to upholding the child’s right to safety in education; it is apparent that the way the authorities handled the situation at Bahraini schools in a way that violated a number of human rights and particularly a number of articles related to children’s rights with respect to torture, violence, arbitrary detention, and rights in trials and detention in special facilities made specifically for children. Moreover, the Ministry of Education practiced a policy of completely blacking-out the media in relation to the events that took place at schools and the expulsion of students after announcing the State of National Safety in a time when official reports were published in relation to the University and the expulsion of its students. This blackout could be due to the Ministry’s attempt to prevent information from getting to United Nations’ committees at a time when the annual review on child rights was due in June 2011.

The Child’s Rights Committee at the United Nations in Geneva expressed it concerns that some violations to children’s rights happened during the recent events in Bahrain. Moreover, it expressed its concerned due to not providing enough protection to children. The committee demanded the protection of children from the effects of the political unrest on the streets and to insure that the security forces and health care workers deal with children with respect and to uphold international treaties. The committee pointed out that whilst the Bahraini constitution assured the freedom of expression and the freedom to establish associations and the right to protest, it is concerned that these rights were not always respected including the time of the recent events in Bahrain and particularly in relation to children [28].

According to Article 19 to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”. However, Kingdom of Bahrain clearly violated these rights to students by subjecting them to all forms of punishment merely because they expressed their opinions.

Based on the above, BCHR demands that the Bahraini authorities: 1) Release all detained students and their teachers and to drop all the false charges against them; 2) Put an end to the unfair trials that have no legal basis; 3) Commit to International treaties related to Human Rights which states that the right to education is ensured to all students particularly those at the basic education level without discrimination and without politically motivated acts. 4) Return suspended students to their schools immediately in addition to their suspended teachers and to compensate them accordingly in line with educational, moral and material loss. 5) Start an independent investigation into the events that happened in Bahraini schools and particularly the attacks on students inside and outside their schools with beatings and humiliation. 6) Uphold all articles of conventions and treaties signed by the Kingdom of Bahrain in relation to Children’s rights - particularly in relation to the protection from torture, arbitrary arrest and the conditions of trials and detentions in specialist establishments. 7) Stop the systematic discrimination policy practiced and to start an independent investigation into the discrimination practiced at schools against a certain majority sect starting with the circumstances and the policy that managed the distribution of scholarships. 8) Commit to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in relation to freedom of expression, and not to arrest students and their teachers based on the fact that they expressed their opinions. 9) Redistribute scholarships, cancel the personal interview and take what was practiced before which only takes the GPA of students into consideration. 10) Stop all those involved in sectarian discrimination at school administrations and other positions at the Ministry of Education. 11) Immediately release the president of the Teachers Association Mr. Mahdi Abu Deeb and his vice-president Ms Jalila Al Salman. 12) Isolate the Minster of Education Majid Al Nuaimi and holding him responsible for the deterioration of the situation at schools, the inability to provide a suitable environment for education and his role in sectarianism which complicated the situation at schools. 13) Investigate school administrations who were involved in sectarianism or practiced sectarian agitation and targeted teachers and students due to their political opinions or sectarian affiliations. 14) Immediately stop all forms of punishment against teachers and students due to their participation in the demands movement.

---

[1]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3089/news/read/528111/1.html [2]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3091/news/read/528371/1.html [3]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3093/news/read/528659/1.html [4]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3098/news/read/529825/1.html [5]same as previous one [6]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3099/news/read/530000/1.html [7]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3107/news/read/531554/1.html [8]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3108/news/read/531720/1.html [9]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3110/news/read/532135/1.html [10]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3099/news/read/530035/1.html [11]http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/ar/node/4099 [12]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3101/news/read/530373/1.html [13]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3103/news/read/530769/1.html [14]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3108/news/read/531720/1.html [15]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3108/news/read/531709/1.html [16]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3111/news/read/532303/1.html [17]http://www.bhteachers.org/portal/news.php?action=view&id=61 [18]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3112/news/read/532411/1.html [19]http://www.bhteachers.org/portal/news.php?action=view&id=62 [20]http://byshr.org/?p=518 [21]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3108/news/read/531735/1.html [22]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3228/news/read/571760/1.html [23]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2996/news/read/510816/1.html [24]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3225/news/read/571265/1.html [25]http://bhmirror.hopto.org/article.php?id=1470&cid=74 [26]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3242/news/read/574006/1.html [27]http://www.alwasatnews.com/2769/news/read/393934/1.html [28]http://www.bahrainrights.org/ar/node/4307

Amnesty International: Bahrain: Imprisoned activists on hunger strike

3 August 2011 Two Bahraini women activists detained for their involvement in pro-reform protests have begun a hunger strike to demand their freedom.

Roula al-Saffar, head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, and Jalila al-Salman, vice-president of the Bahrain Teacher’s Association (BTA), have been held for several months near the capital Manama. Both women allege they were tortured in detention.

"Jalila al-Salman and Roula al-Saffar’s decision to go on hunger strike is a desperate attempt to protest against their imprisonment and the way they have been treated," said Philip Luther, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

Jalila al-Salman (left) and Roula al-Saffar (right)

"Amnesty International is concerned that they are being held solely because they took part in protests, in which case they would both be prisoners of conscience who should be released immediately and unconditionally.”

They are the only two women in Bahrain awaiting trial in connection with the protests who remain in prison. They currently share a cell at a detention centre in ‘Issa Town, south of Manama. Other women protesters are also awaiting trial, but have been released on bail.

Jalila al-Salman was among several board members of the BTA arrested in Manama after the group called for a teachers’ strike amid wide-scale pro-reform protests in March.

Roula al-Saffar was among a group of health professionals accused of committing felonies during the protests, including theft of medicines. The group strongly denies the accusation.

Jalila al-Salman was allegedly beaten during the first days of detention while Roula al-Saffar has said she was subjected to beatings, electric shocks and verbal abuse during the first 11 days of her detention.

“The Bahraini authorities must fully investigate these reports of torture without further delay, particularly because they appear to be part of a disturbingly widespread pattern of ill-treatment against protesters in detention,” said Philip Luther.

Jalila al-Salman faces trial on charges that include “inciting hatred against the regime” and “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force”.

Amnesty International has been told that the two women have gone on hunger strike to protest about the fact that they still remain in prison, while others have been released on bail, as well as the torture they say they were subjected to in detention.

At least 500 people have been detained in Bahrain since pro-reform protests began in February and four have died in suspicious circumstances in detention. Almost 2,000 people have been dismissed or suspended from work.

Scores of detainees, including medical professionals and prominent opposition activists, were brought before military courts for leading the protests and in some cases calling for a change of government.

amnesty.org

Related

MSF condemns armed raid on its office and detention of its staff in Bahrain

03 Aug 2011 “MSF has been transparent about its work and its intentions with the authorities in the country, including the Ministries of Health and Interior,” said Jerome Oberreit, MSF director of operations in Brussels. “As such, we find the violation of MSF facilities and the detention of our volunteer both unwarranted and unacceptable.”

BRUSSELS - The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today condemned an armed raid on its premises in Bahrain and the subsequent detention of one of its staff members.

On July 28, armed security personnel violently raided MSF’s premises in Manama, damaging office property and confiscating all medical and office equipment and supplies. A Bahraini MSF volunteer, Saeed Mahdi, who works with the organization as a translator and driver, was arrested.

Since February, when demonstrations began in Bahrain, MSF has seen almost 200 injured and ill patients who did not seek care in health facilities because they feared being arrested for any involvement in the protests or for any affiliation with the protestors. The MSF team has seen patients in villages across the country who have refused urgently needed hospitalization due to the high risk of arrest, and others who were severely beaten in jail.

“MSF has been transparent about its work and its intentions with the authorities in the country, including the Ministries of Health and Interior,” said Jerome Oberreit, MSF director of operations in Brussels. “As such, we find the violation of MSF facilities and the detention of our volunteer both unwarranted and unacceptable.”

Last week, a patient with a serious head injury arrived at the MSF premises. An MSF doctor provided first aid and an ambulance was called to transport the patient to the Salmaniya Medical Complex. It is MSF’s obligation to provide treatment regardless of a patient’s ethnicity, religion, or political affiliation.

Despite only assisting MSF and a patient by calling an ambulance, Saeed Mahdi remains detained. Repeated requests by MSF, his family, and his lawyer to have access to him have been denied. MSF has also not been able to obtain any information about the original patient, even after visiting Salmaniya to inquire about him.

Though MSF had been open about its work in the kingdom over the past several months, these events constitute a breach of the sanctity of an office maintained by a neutral medical humanitarian organization, and a violation of the rights of a patient to receive medical care. MSF has a raised its concerns following these incidences in a letter to the Bahrain Ministry of the Interior.

In March, MSF proposed establishing an emergency medical response in Bahrain, whereby MSF teams would provide first aid and accompany patients to health facilities to ensure that care is not obstructed or used as bait, that patients regain trust in health services, and that health workers are again able to conduct their duties impartially and without fear of reprisal. To this day, however, MSF has not been able to secure guarantees that patients would not be targeted.

It now appears that in Bahrain today, acting within the common boundaries of the duty of care principle—in this case, providing first aid and calling an ambulance for a critically ill person—is no longer possible without negative repercussions on MSF’s ability to work in the country

MSF calls on the Bahraini authorities to respect the integrity, security, and privacy of its premises and personnel, and to allow the lawyer and family of its detained staff immediate access to him.

msf.org

Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) begins investigations, Meanwhile Bahraini regime continues violations

2 Aug 2011

In a move supposedly intended to end the crises in Bahrain, King Hamad Al-Khalifa funded a commission to look into crimes committed against the people of Bahrain since February of 2011. The BICI headed by Mr. Bassiouni has just recently started its work and opened their doors for complaints and testimonies. However, they are welcomed with a mixture of skepticism and fear by the people of Bahraini.

One of the reasons people are not more hopeful about this commission is that while the BICI looks into crimes committed in previous month, more crimes are happening on the streets. The most serious of which is the death of Zainab Jummah, caused by excessive tear gas used by riot police to attack not only peaceful protesters but also homes in the villages where protests take place. On the 16th of July, Mrs Jummah a 42 year old mother, who was already ill, died after her house was attacked by tear gas. There are several videos with disturbing footage showing riot police intentionally shooting tear gas into the homes of unsuspecting civilians. There have been other similar cases of suffocation by tear gas in earlier months, what makes this case unique is that it happened during a time the Bahraini regime was preparing for the commission which they claimed would be a transitional move.

On the 23rd of July, the night before BICI's opening press conference, an 18 year old protester was beaten severely by riot police in the village of AL-Eker. Five riot police kicked and hit him with their guns mostly on his head which resulted in a head injury, then left him on the street. When the protester was found he had a wound in his head and was covered in blood. Fearing that if police identified him he would get arrested, the victim has asked not to be named in this report.

Al-Eker injured protester

While investigators are now interviewing victims who have come forward despite the security issues, riot police are still attacking peaceful protesters in the villages, sometimes causing serious injuries. On the 27th of July, Mahdi Hassan Al-Eskafi (24 years old) from Bilad Al-Qadeem got a direct hit to the head with what is believed to be either a stun grenade or a tear gas canister. Because injured protesters are targeted by the regime, Al-Eskafi was taken to the office of MSF (Doctors without Borders). However, MSF soon realized his condition was too critical and he needed to be hospitalized immediately. An ambulance was called and Al-Eskafi was taken to Salmaniya Hospital where he is now in a coma.

Mahdi Hassan Al-Eskafi

This incident led to more violations by the government of Bahrain; MSF office was attacked the next day and Saeed Ayyad the local Coordinator of Doctors Without Borders was arrested. Mr Ayyad is still imprisoned and being charged with aiding fugitives, and opening an illegal medical office amongst other things. Fearing for their safety, the MSF foreign staff have left Bahrain.

A third case is the kidnapping and severe beating of Ammar Madan by police officers. On the 30th of July Ammar was picked up from the streets of Al-Daih, while he was on his way to attend his brothers engagement. Mr. Madan was taken to the exhibition center police station, beaten severely for two hours and urinated on by two officers. After which he was thrown on the street beside AL-Daih garden where he was threatened that if he told anyone he was attacked by police, he would be kidnapped again. Ammar is now in the hospital suffering from broken ribs, both his arms, jaw and wrist fractured, an injured lung and trauma to his back. [X-rays photos at bottom]

Ammar Madan

These incidents have also convinced many that speaking to the BICI could put their lives in danger. Many victims, who have already been subjected to a myriad of abuses, are still living in fear and have received no guarantees for their safety if they do speak to BICI. In a press conference Mr Bassiouni said that the commission had no capabilities to ensure peoples safety but have faith in the kings promise to ensure the safety of all who cooperate with the commission. However, having faith in the kings promise is much more risky for victims than it is for Mr Bassiouni and his team. The fact that many released detainees have ongoing legal cases against them also makes them more vulnerable and at risk for repeated detention and torture. Therefore, for the time being many victims are not willing to give their testimonies to the BICI commission.

The violations committed by the Bahraini government at the time of BICI's investigation shows an obvious contradiction, and raises many questions about the intentions of King Hamads decision in bringing an investigation committee to Bahrain.

The BCHR demands that human rights violations by the Bahraini regime must stop immediately, that the cases mentioned must be investigated and those responsible for these crimes held accountable.

X-Rays photos of Ammar Madan

Broken right arm


Broken ribs 6-9 (left)
Broken right leg

Irish Examiner: Findings of the recent humanitarian mission to Bahrain

Irish Press Conference, Dublin: Pictured (l-r) Senator Averil Power, Marian Harkin, MEP, David Andrews, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Professor Damian McCormack and Professor Eoin O'Brien. Picture Conor McCabe. © copyright 2011

Posted on 2011/08/02

Professor Eoin O'Brien writes in todays Irish Examiner on the findings of the recent humanitarian mission to Bahrain to offer support to imprisoned Bahraini doctors and their families.Three of the imprisoned doctors, Dr Ali Al Ekri, Dr Basim Daif and Dr Ghassan Daif studied in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. HIPPOCRATIC OATH

The delegation was led by Professor Damian McCormac, who was also joined by Ms Averil Power TD (member of the Irish Parliament). Ms Marion Harken MEP, Mr David Andrews former Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Front Line representatives Andrew Anderson and Khalid Ibrahim. The full text of the article is published below.

"I went home from my work as usual following a day of work as an oncologist at the Salymaniya Medical Centre. I was awoken from sleep at 3 a.m. when the door of my apartment was kicked open and I was pulled form my bed by two men who then ransacked the flat, shook and searched my four-year old child, packed my personal papers and computer, and then dragged me from my flat to an a van surrounded by police cars. I protested that my child was alone and young and was told she would be looked after.

I was taken to a room blindfolded and handcuffed with my hands behind my back. After hours of standing against a wall I was verbally insulted and then placed in solitary confinement for 10 days in a small dirty cell, during which time I was tortured, sexually molested by both male and female interrogators and beaten with a hose on the back and neck. I was then moved to a gaol where I could hear other prisoners being tortured and I was interrogated repeatedly. I was filmed signing many papers the content of which no longer mattered to me, but among which was a confession that I had stolen drugs from the Hospital and that I had incited disturbance.

This harrowing account is typical of many similar reports from imprisoned doctors who have been released form prison, and from the spouses and children of doctors who remain in prison that I have heard first-hand during a recent visit to Bahrain as a member of delegation consisting two doctors, Damian McCormack and me; three politicians, Averil Power, Senator of the Irish Parliament, David Andrews, former Minister for Foreign Affairs for Ireland, and Marian Harkin, Member of the European Parliament; two members of Dublin based international human rights organisation Front Line Defenders, the Deputy Director, Andrew Anderson, and Khalid Ibrahim; and a freelance photo journalist, Conor McCabe.

During a two-day visit we met close to 100 people from all sides of Bahraini life. We were brought to the house of a family, which had suffered dearly in the aftermath of the protests, where 27 women and men were gathered representing doctors who had been released from prison to await trial, and the spouses and children of doctors detained in prison. We were brought to a secret suburban location at night to meet ambulance drivers who had been taken from their ambulances, imprisoned and tortured, and medical students, some of whom have been prevented continuing their studies.

At our meeting with the doctors and their relatives their fairness in acknowledging what had been good in the Bahrain health care system, their affection for Salmaniya Hospital where so many of them had served for many years, and their regard for the previous Minister of Health, who had resigned because he had failed to protect doctors, was in contrast to their sense of betrayal by RCSI-Bahrain and the fact that none from the many representatives of both RCSI or RCPI, who had visited the country recently for the conferring of doctors, had made any attempt to contact the families of imprisoned health care workers.

Our delegation was invited to separate meetings with the management of the Salmaniya Medical Complex, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The views expressed by these officials were largely repeated but in greater detail by Dr. Fatima Al Balushi, Minister of Human Rights and Social Development and acting Minister of Health. Dr. Al Balushi, was erudite, confident and particularly concerned about the public image of Bahrain. In our preamble to all meetings the similarities between Ireland and Bahrain were acknowledged – island communities, relatively small populations, religious conflicts (Catholic versus Protestant in Ireland, Sunni versus Shia in Bahrain), and the close medical ties between the islands for a quarter of a century. These niceties aside we pointed out that Ireland differed in that freedom of speech was a cornerstone of our democracy, and most importantly persons accused of felonies and crimes were ‘innocent until proven guilty’. We stressed that nowhere else in the world had so many doctors and medical personnel been held incommunicado and allegedly tortured as in Bahrain and that this was totally unacceptable to the ideals and principles of European democracy.

Dr. Al Balushi stated that she was proud of the human rights achievements in Bahrain, and she saw Bahrain as a model for the Middle East and a champion for humanitarian issues, such as women’s rights and religious freedom; the Arab Spring had hit Bahrain like a tidal wave for which it was not prepared and which brought the country to the verge of civil war; the protests, which had started peacefully, had soon escalated into chaos with Salmaniya Hospital being captured by demonstrators; a number of doctors have been implicated on film and the guilty doctors would be subject to legal process for subverting the primary code of providing care to the wounded. Asked if the allegations of kidnapping, detention and torture were true she answered that if such was found to be the case the perpetrators would be duly prosecuted; mistakes had been acknowledged by the King and redressed by the appointment of an independent commission to investigate violations of human rights, the transfer of trials from military to civilian courts and the release of most of medical detainees but the doctors remaining in custody could not be released because they present a threat to national security. However she agreed to approach the King with a request form us for their release.

At the end of our visit each member of our delegation was in no doubt but that doctors had been subjected to human rights abuses that included kidnapping, detention without trial in solitary confinement, and the extraction of confessions under torture. The failure of the Bahrain authorities to recognise the importance of restoring the medical profession to its former status will have far-reaching consequences for the island. We left Bahrain moved by the gratitude of the doctors and their families for our support from outside the country, and embarrassed that we were offering so little in the face of the enormity of their suffering and courage, and knowing that we would return soon to the security of democracy leaving them to endure sleepless nights in anticipation of the unknown vicissitudes that may beset a country denied the right of democratic expression."

Professor Eoin O'Brien is former president of the Irish Heart Foundation, and professor of molecular pharmacology at the Conway Institute of Biomolecular and Biomedical Research in University College Dublin

frontlinedefenders.org

If You’re a Pro-democracy Activist, Make Sure it’s in the Right Country

Photo: Ali Khudhair, 53years old, was killed with 91 pellets on his chest and side after the dawn attack on the pearl roundabout on Feb 17, 2011 (AFP/Getty Images)

By Brian Dooley Director, Human Rights Defenders Program , Human Rights First

28 July 2011

Shooting at unarmed protestors isn’t what U.S. government money is supposed to support, and so this week the U.S. announced it was freezing $350 million in aid to Malawi because of its violent crackdown on peaceful dissent.Senior American official Sheila Herrling said they were “deeply disturbed” about how protests had been suppressed by the Malawian police. The UK government also suspended aid. Too right, and good for the British and Americans for standing up for human rights.

Now, a word about Bahrain. There too the police have been shooting at unarmed protestors and even at random civilians in the street (I know – they shot at me on July 7). The U.S. and U.K. governments know all about these shootings, about the seizure and torture of hundreds of people since pro-democracy demonstrations began in February, about at least four deaths in custody, about the targeting of ambulances and medical personnel, about mass sackings of workers and mass expulsions of students. But their response has been very different.

Writing in the current edition of the Bahrain British Business Forum, UK Ambassador Jamie Bowden says “It was a great relief to all of us when the [Bahraini] government was able to re-establish order on the streets in March.” Probably a bit less of a relief to those hundreds of families whose loved ones were one of the hundreds tortured or dozens killed in the name of re-establishing order.

The U.S., meanwhile, has been busy supporting Bahrain’s discredited ‘National Dialogue,’ set up by the Bahraini King to give the veneer of talking to the opposition. President Obama called it “an important moment of promise for the people of Bahrain. The United States commends King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for his leadership in initiating the dialogue.” Which confused many Bahrainis I spoke to because only six weeks earlier he told the Bahraini government in a speech on the middle east “you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail”.

A middle-aged Bahraini man told me, “Our family was watching Obama’s speech on TV and we were whooping – literally jumping off the sofa when he said that…but then no action. The Americans endorsed the phony dialogue anyway, even though our leaders are still in jail.”

The National Dialogue flat-lined from the moment it opened, and the U.S. failed to disassociate itself from the farce even when the main opposition party, Al Wefaq, pulled out halfway through. When pro-democracy Bahrainis see the U.S. pick and choose when it stands up for democracy it baffles and angers them. They see strong rhetoric on Syria, they see action on Malawi, but America’s ‘strategic interests’ seem to trump everything else in Bahrain. The U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the smallest country in the middle east sits uneasily between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

It’s hard to see how it’s really in America’s strategic interest to alienate democracy activists in Bahrain though, to be seen as the guys who arm the riot police who shoot at civilians. Human rights defenders in Bahrain complain that the U.S. invariably opens any statement on the country with the reminder that the countries are key allies or strong partners. “This sounds like whatever they do, whatever the government does to us, the U.S. will be its friend, unconditionally,” said one.

If the U.S. wants to be on the side of the good guys, it could start by showing that relationship is conditional, like in Malawi.

Human Rights First

Updates: Serious injuries of protesters, medic arrested and student arrested on arrival at Bahrain Airport

Left: Ammar Madan , Right: Hasan AlEskafi

Update 1 Aug 2011

Ammar Madan is still in the hospital. This video shows when he was arrested, and after he was found. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IT8jVXURAMo

Ammar's testimony as relayed by Nabeel: "Ammar was kidnapped by riot police on street at 9:30, then taken to Exhibition center police station in Sanabis. He was then tortured & beaten by 2 officers. One of the officers undressed & exposed his privates then urinated on Ammar as he lay in his blood on the floor. They threatened Ammar that if he spoke of what had happened 2 him, he will be tortured again. After fainting Ammar was thrown in the street by the same people who had kidnapped him. Ammar s now in hospital suffering from broken ribs fractured arms jaw & wrist, an injured lung & trauma to his back."

Nabeel Rajab with him when he went to get his testimony:

Ministry of Interior said in a statement: Man attacked by unknown assailants, not security forces.

50 year old Isa AlTaweel died yesterday (31 July 2011) due to teargas suffocation. A teargas canister was shot under his AC which filled his room with smoke. AlTaweel uses a wheelchair and thus was unable to leave his room quickly. Several days later the excess of teargas inhalation caused complications and caused his death yesterday. His family was threatened not to speak about the cause of death. For more related accidents check this report

14 year old boy, Ali Mahdi, beaten and burned with cigarettes yesterday (31 July 2011) was rescued by one of the BICI members who happened to go to the police station

Larger photos

He was called in for questioning today. His 18 year old brother who was arrested with him amongst others last night, is still in detention. Those arrested: Sadeq Abdulla Alghasra, Zuhair Abdulameer Abulwahab, and Hadi Ebrahim Al-arab are in hospital. Hussain Ali Mohd Shakar, Hussain Jaffar Ali Fateel, and Ahmed Habeeb being held in detention. Ali Mahdi was released. Hassan Mahdi, his brother, is still being held.

Following is the testimony of Zainab Alkhawaja who accompanied Ali Mahdi to the police station:

"Just met 14 year old Ali from Banijamra, he was arrested last night and beaten. They burned him with a cigarette on his chest. He has been called now to go to the public prosecution for questioning, I am going with him. This 14 yr old with bruises all over his body is very frightened, his 18 yr old brother arrested with him is still in detention. Ali was released this morning at the time of morning prayer, and is still in shock. His family are trying to re-assure him, telling him "your name is Ali, you are brave, don't fear them". We just saw Hassan, Ali's brother. You should have seen their mothers face as she called for them. Ali and other who were arrested yesterday from Bani Jamra will be released. They're being taken 4 a medical exam now. The group will be taken to Budaiya police station to sign pledges then will be released. I think they were 6 who are taken for medical exams, I hope all arrested yesterday will be released. We're following them to medical examination center. Ali and Hassans elderly aunt wanted to go on the police bus with them. Ali's mum now callin their dad who became ill after hearing both his sons had been arrested last night. We are now at General Directorate of Forensic Science Evidence. We can see hassan from behind a glass door. Hassans brother telling police "look at his innocent face, how can they torture him?" We're in, Hassan said they took them to the fort, they used electric shocks on them in the car. Boys telling us: Sadeq Abdulla Alghasra, Zuhair Abdulameer Abulwahab, and Hadi Ebrahim Al-arab are in hospital. Hussain Ali Mohd Shakar, Hussain Jaffar Ali Fateel, and Ahmed Habeeb are also here with the 2 brothers. The boys have slippers on even tho they were arrested barefoot, they say its from other detainees. Despite the beating and torture, the boys are fasting today. Their lips dry from thirst."

One of the injuries in Aali yesterday: yfrog.com/h7c3wohj

This morning, despite the heat and people fasting, those dismissed from their jobs gathered at the Ministry of Labor demanding to be reinstated. yfrog.com/gyqaetcj

There was a royal pardon for release of a number of prisoners in celebration of Ramadhan, most cases were those held for criminal charges.

Video of riot police breaking a car window: http://s890.vuclip.com/48/65/486..

A compilation of videos from yesterday: http://feb14.5gbfree.com/events..

A new video from March showing one of the head injuries: www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGP92B08Oqc



31 July 2011

There were several protests on 30 Jul 2011 in solidarity with the female detainees, and they were attacked by the security forces.

Hassan AlEskafi after he was shot, in what appears to be a direct shot to the head: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSbbsVHAeA8 AlEskafi was taken to a clinic set up by Doctors without Borders which was operating under the radar to take in patients afraid of going to the hospital. A very short time after AlEskafi was brought into the clinic; the security forces stormed it, taking AlEskafi and arresting the man running the clinic Saeed Ayyad. BYSHR: Bahrain: The Targeting of Employee and Office of "Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières"

Ammar Madan was kidnapped by the security forces 29 July 2011 and found later severely beaten. He was visited today by the BICI (Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry) who said his condition is bad. He has broken ribs, fractures in both his left and right forearms, fractures in the face, fractures in his humerus, injured lung and bruises on his back. This is his before picture: Before and this is his picture after he was found beaten: After (at hospital)

Student Abdulhadi Nabeel Diwani was arrested upon arrival from his studies in the UAE. This shows the continuation of targeting of students and the continuation of arrests in Bahrain.

Video about expelled Polytechnic students: www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yiHipcEcdI

Abdulhadi Alkhawaja told his daughter Zainab during last visit: "They brought us from Ras elbarr in car without AC. With sacks on our heads, guantanamo style, felt like we were suffocating". To read more: facebook.com/note.php?note_id=10150267916072235

29 July 2011 witnessed one of the biggest demonstrations since mid-March, under the title "the people are the source of authority": Video

Hiring Pakistani mercenaries for Bahrain's security forces: english.aljazeera.net/inde..

HRF: Widener President Urged to Press for Bahraini Alumna’s Release

July 28, 2011

Chester, Pa. – Human Rights First today urged Widener University President Dr. James T. Harris III to call on the United States and Bahraini governments to free an alumna who remains in captivity following the Bahraini Government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy activists. Roula al-Saffar, who received a master’s degree from Widener University in the late 1990’s and is now head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, is the only female medic still held in detention since Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa launched a series of brutal measures to silence dissent, including widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. She has been in captivity for more than 100 days.

A letter sent to President Harris from Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from a mission Bahrain that included a meeting with al-Saffar’s family, notes, “We are asking you to contact the Bahraini Government (there is an embassy in Washington, DC) to ask for her immediate release, and to urge them to release all detainees who are still being held for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression during protests earlier this year. We also urge you to contact the U.S. Government to ask that it intercede with the Bahraini authorities to ask that she be released and charges against her dropped, or that she be given a trial which meets international standards.”

Earlier this month, Human Rights First issued “Bahrain: A Tortuous Process,” a report based on research conducted by Dooley during his second fact-finding mission to Bahrain from July 6 -12. In May, the organization issued “Bahrain: Speaking Softly,” a report capturing the findings of Dooley’s May 2011 trip to the region, his first since the Bahraini Government’s violent anti-democracy crackdown began. Both reports contain a series of recommendations for the U.S. Government and its officials, as well as for the Bahraini leadership.

humanrightsfirst.org