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Shouting In The Dark: Al Jazeera Bahrain Documentary Shows The Bloody Fight For Democracy

5 August 2011

On February 16, 2011 thousands of demonstrators hit the streets of Bahrain to protest against the ruling Khalifa family. In the wake of protests in Tunisia and the revolution in Egypt, many felt that Bahrain, too, was ready for reform. On February 21st, a quarter of the Bahraini population came out on the streets and gathered in the Pearl-roundabout.

Yet what followed was a brutal government crackdown on a peaceful civilian movement, that resulted in massive killings and arrests.

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera aired "Shouting In The Dark," an astonishing account of the pro-democracy protests in Bahrain. The film follows the unraveling of the Bahraini revolution from its first days in February 201 and documents the the ruthless handling of the uprising by government, military and police.

Filmed by an undercover film crew, "Shouting In The Dark" gives a rare insight into an uprising that was hidden for the world, banned from the camera's, unaccessible to foreign press. The cameras catch protesters being teargassed, beaten and shot. After the February 16-demonstrations, men are lying on the street, some unconscious, others bleeding. An order from the Ministry of health forbade doctors and ambulances access to the scene.

Yet according to Al Jazeera, the crackdown took place as much through the media as on the streets. The network found that during the Saudi invasion, the government disabled cell-phones in anticipation of the army clearing the roundabout. The film narrates how national television launched a campaign to "name and punish prominent Bahraini's." A presenter called a national football star on television and shamed him on tv.

Facebook, too, became a site to name and shame anti-government protesters. Pages such as "Together to unmask the Shi'a trators" asked Bahrainis to disclose the names and workplace of those who participated in the protests, "and let the government take care of the rest."

"State agencies appeared to have used these sites to solicit evidence from the public," Al Jazeera says.

As time passed, the repression gained in brutality. Doctors who spoke out on what they had seen were jailed and tried, accused of fabricating injuries. Prisoners were killed without trial. In April, the Bahraini government started a campaign to destroy Shi'a mosques. A journalist who went to a local police station to report his home had been raided was tortured to death, Al Jazeera reports.

Watch "Shouting In The Dark" Here: http://youtu.be/xaTKDMYOBOU

huffingtonpost.com

The Telegraph: Facebook 'used to hunt down Bahrain dissidents'

A new documentary suggests that Bahraini loyalists used social networks to trace anti-government protestors during the recent period of social unrest in the country.

By Suzi Dixon and agencies 04 Aug 2011

In a stark contrast to the way in which social media played a pivotal role during the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia in rallying support among anti-government protesters, a documentary called Shouting in the Dark - to be screened on Al Jazeera English this evening - claims that forces loyal to the Bahraini government used social media to find a 20-year-old anti-government protestor, identified as Ayat Al Qurmezi.

Visitors were told "write the traitor's name and work place" and, according to the film, masked commandos then arrested her and took her to prison. According to reports, Ms Al Qurmezi’s mother said: "This is the first time something like this has happened. Young girls taken from their homes, arrested and we don’t know where they are." The film also alleges that many Bahraini protesters are now wary of using social networking sites due to fears that the government may be monitoring their activities.

They say activity in other uprisings leaves them frightened of using Facebook or Twitter.

The 50-minute special was produced by an Al Jazeera journalist who spent three months undercover in the country.

Paul Eedle, director of programmes at Al Jazeera English said: "This is a remarkable film which tells for the first time the full story of Bahrain's crushing of democracy protests. Our reporter took great risks to continue filming for several weeks after Bahraini authorities expelled international journalists. World attention may now have moved on, but Al Jazeera has stayed with this story."

Al Jazeera English "Shouting in the Dark" is available to view online on youtube.com/watch?v=xaTKDMYOBOU

telegraph.co.uk

Ebrahim Sharif’s account of his arrest, torture, and a visit by the National Institute of Human Rights


2 August 2011

The following three articles were written by Ebrahim Sharif (originally in Arabic, translated by his family) from inside Grain Prison, concerning his arrest, torture, and the visit of the National Institute of Human Rights.

The Arrest of Ebrahim Sharif By Ebrahim Sharif

Arrest:
The arrest took place around 1:45 AM on the morning of Thursday, March 17th, 2011 when the doorbell rang. I went outside with my wife and found a group of masked investigators in addition to armed and masked policemen. They were accompanied by a National Security officer who was unarmed and dressed in civilian clothing. The officer asked me to open the front gate of the garden, and I asked him if he had an arrest warrant. He answered by saying no arrest warrant is required in the case of “National Security”. I opened the door and was arrested and placed in a civilian car where I was handcuffed and blindfolded. My house was not searched. Three people witnessed my arrest: My wife, Farida Ghulam, my neighbour, Mohammed Al Zeera, and his wife, Aisha Ghuloom. The car arrived at a building where I was taken to a room for a medical check up, after which some pictures of me were taken. I was blindfolded during the entire process except during the photographic session.

Next, I was taken out of the building, where my blindfolds were suddenly removed and I found myself surrounded by many masked men that pushed me around and cursed at me with swears such as “Your mother’s pussy”, “bastard”, and other degrading swear words. I was then blindfolded again and put into a van with other people, including Mr. Hassan Mushaima, who I recognized when I heard the security men call his name as they placed him into the van.

We later arrived to “Grein” prison at around 5 AM and were escorted out of the van. We stood in an area blindfolded as authorities and wardens directed threats and profanity at us. I heard them also curse at Mr. Hassan Mushaima, saying phrases such as “To hell with you and your 12 imams”. Afterwards, we were taken to one of the rooms where we were stripped from our clothes and then asked to wear the clothes again after removing our watches, belts, shoes, and eyeglasses. I was then taken to a cell. The treatment was poor and rough the entire time, with no shortage of insults, curses, threats and light beatings.

In prison:

I was put in building No. (4) along with five other prisoners. Sheikh Saeed Al-Nouri was put in cell number (1). Dr. Abdul Jalil Singace was put in cell number (2), Ibrahim Sharif in cell number (3), Sheikh Abdul Hadi Almukhaidher in cell number (4) and Alhurr Youssef Alsumaikh in cell number (5).

After less than an hour I was taken blindfolded to an office where an officer told me that he had met me previously, in the nineties in the State of Kuwait, and asked me if I knew where I was. I told him I do not know, he said, “You are in a place outside Bahrain,” and asked me to cooperate with him and place my hands in the King’s hands and give up my earlier positions. I told him, “My hands are in the king’s hands, but in my own way which is the way of reform,” and I added that the conversation with him could not be sustained without talking face to face by removing my blindfold so that I could explain my point of view and exchange opinions. We did not reach a result and I was taken back to the cell.

Torture By Ebrahim Sharif

That same evening of the arrest the torture sessions began… at first, cold water was poured on my bed, mattress, pillows, blanket, and myself while the air conditioning was running. The room was cold and sleep was impossible especially with all the water the mattress, pillows, and blankets had absorbed. Afterwards, a group of around 5-6 masked men barged into the room and asked me to stand in a corner where they took shifts slapping, boxing, and kicking me, in addition to cursing me. They asked me to repeat after them praises for the King and especially the Prime Minister. The same torture cycle continued for a week where they’d torture and hit me twice or three times daily as well as pour water on my mattress, blanket and myself. And since the cells were all close to one another, I was able to hear the screams of other detainees and the orders and profanity of the wardens.

No tools were used for torture except on 3 or 4 occasions, where a hose was used. The hose beatings were not used to extract specific confessions, but were used as a form of punishment and revenge, as well as to prepare the detainee for the interrogation process that did not start until 4 to 5 days after the arrest.

Initially, I was asked to write all I knew about the February 14th movement and my role in it. After two days, I was investigated by an investigator while I was blindfolded. The torture was continuous for almost two months and continued until a little before the court hearings, while the profanity and cursing continued until the month of June. On the 13th day of my arrest, the Military Prosecution wanted to investigate me and record my sayings without the presence of a lawyer, so I refused. I later got a lawyer and submitted my sayings and told the prosecution that I was beaten the day before and asked for judiciary protection. I was reassured that beatings are not allowed and they will make sure that I will not be beaten or cursed at. However, the next day I was beaten twice as a result of my complaint, once in the morning from one of the military employees, and once in the evening by two masked men who I presume were from the National Guard. I was threatened to be beaten more severely than I was that day if I complained again. Additionally, the torture included standing for several hours with my hands stretched in the air.

The Trial:
On the 52nd day of the arrest we were notified of a trial for us that was to begin the next day. Before midnight, a lieutenant from the army came to us and presented a case file for case 124 of the year 2011, where I was listed as the fifth defendant accused of toppling the regime and calling for a republic. It’s important to note that we were not allowed to meet our lawyers until the day of the court hearing and despite my repetitive demands, we were only able to meet the lawyers for 15 minutes after each hearing and could not receive any copies of the case files. We also were not given any pens or papers to contribute to our defense.

The Quick Visit of the National Institute for Human Rights By Ebrahim Sharif

Date of visit: Thursday, July 14th at 12 in the afternoon. Place: Building (1) in Grein prison where the 14 defendants of the alleged overthrowing of the regime by force case were held at. A committee of the National Institute for Human Rights came to visit. The committee was made up of 4 individuals: Issa Al Khayat, president of the association, Ahmed Al Farhan, the Secretary General, Rabab Al Arrayedh and Ali Al Aradi. The newspapers disclosed the news of the visit without any specifics a few days after the visit took place. The committee was accompanied by military officers from the military prosecution, amongst them was the Military Prosecutor, Yousif Flaifel, and the Prison Director, Basil Seyadi.

12 of the detainees were praying when the committee arrived, but the committee came across two of the detainees in the hallway. One of them was Ebrahim Sharif, Secretary General of the National Democratic Action Society (better known as WAAD). The members of the committee asked Ebrahim Sharif about the general atmosphere in the jail and he responded that treatment was better lately (but only lately), and that the prisoners have faced all kinds of torture, ill-treatment, and profanity for the past three months (since the arrest of March 17th). Then Sharif asked them furiously about the committee’s whereabouts in the past few months and why they have only visited now after the torture and ill-treatment had stopped. He asked them their position on what happened. The committee members showed signs of nervousness when one member replied that the society has been monitoring the situation and has issued statements and is in the process of sending a report to the King. The committee then left the building quickly after they took some photos which included the prisoners praying together without asking the prisoners for their permission. One member also asked Mr. Sharif who was in charge of the prison in the past few months and Mr. Sharif replied that he believed that it was the National Security and also the Military Intelligence. The committee only asked a few questions with the presence of a military staff from the defense forces and did not respect the privacy that the professional standards expect of a committee investigating into the treatment of prisoners and prisons.

Note:
We noticed that a few weeks prior to the visit, there was a considerable and gradual improvement in the conditions of the prison. Firstly, solitary confinement was gradually ended by placing two detainees in one cell and then opening the cells to one another all day. We were allowed to leave to an outside area for two hours and eat meals from the cafeteria where we could watch the television. Also, the visitation time for family lasted longer starting from the 12th of July and we were given daily newspapers (except for Al Wasat newspaper). Additionally, pictures of the political leaders were removed from the cells (they were initially placed after a month of our arrest to humiliate the prisoners and make them repeat praises to the leadership or face harsh beatings and punishment). We also all got new air conditioning units. All of these improvements were an indication of future predicted visits by international or local investigation committees.

Ebrahim Sharif’s account of his arrest, torture, and a visit by the National Institute of Human Rights

Al Jazeera: Bahraini politician's wife tells of fear

02 Aug 2011

Amal Matar tells Al Jazeera that arbitrary arrests have made people scared of testifying before investigating panels.

The government of Bahrain insists human rights experts are being given unrestricted access to investigate allegations of abuse during protests earlier this year.

However, hundreds of protestors remain in prison as stories circulate of torture and arbitrary arrests.

Al Jazeera's Charles Stratford spoke to Amal Matar, the wife of Matar Ibrahim Matar, a jailed opposition politician.

Watch the video report on aljazeera.net

AFP: Bahrain says raided MSF centre was illegal

5 August 2011 DUBAI — Bahraini authorities said Thursday police had raided a medical centre operated by the Paris-based Doctors Without Borders (MSF) last week because it was "unlicensed."

MSF issued a statement on Wednesday condemning the July 28 "armed raid," saying police had confiscated medical equipment and detained a volunteer working as a translator and driver. But the health ministry said on Thursday it was "disappointed by the serious allegations" made by MSF, insisting the organisation was "operating an unlicensed medical centre."

"As MSF was aware, a licence was required to provide health services in Bahrain in the current normal circumstances. The existence of this centre was not known to the relevant Bahraini authorities," the statement said.

It also said the volunteer, Saeed Mahdi, was arrested and charged with "providing health services without a licence and providing false information to the police and the public prosecutor."

Mahdi had called emergency services after the centre failed to provide sufficient treatment for a patient who was seriously injured, but he initially reported the incident as a bystander to hide the fact the wounded were treated by the unlicensed centre, the ministry said.

"While the government of Bahrain routinely welcomes international humanitarian organisations, Bahrain cannot allow any such organisation or individuals involved with such an organisation to breach Bahraini law," it said.

MSF said the patient was provided with first aid by a doctor at the centre, charging the raid constituted a "breach of the sanctity of an office maintained by a neutral medical humanitarian organisation," and claimed it has been open about its operations in the Gulf kingdom.

"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," the organisation said.

But the ministry responded by saying Mahdi has not been denied access to his family which it said visited him on Wednesday. MSF said that since February, when month-long Shiite-led protests broke out, the organisation treated some 200 injured and ill patients who feared being arrested if they sought care at government facilities.

"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.

google.com/hostedne...

JAMA: Human Rights Report Details Violence Against Health Care Workers in Bahrain


By M. J. Friedrich

3 August 2011

When antigovernment protesters marched in February and March of this year on the streets of Manama, the capital of Bahrain, peacefully calling for political and economic reforms, a brutal response by the country's security services followed.

The majority of the injured and dead were brought to Salmaniya Hospital in Manama. Rather than being a safe haven for the wounded, however, this facility, the largest modern medical facility in the country, was declared by the government to be a stronghold of opposition protesters. Security forces occupied the building. According to human rights organizations such as Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), patients were beaten and abused. Physicians, nurses, and other health care workers who treated the civilian protesters were systematically abducted, detained, and interrogated, and many now are facing trial for allegedly using the hospital as a base to try to overthrow the royal government.
Several human rights organizations such as PHR and Doctors Without Borders have reported abuses against patients and health care workers.
Richard Sollom, MA, MPH, deputy director at PHR and forensic pathologist Nizam Peerwain, MD, chief medical examiner, Tarrant County, Texas, carried out medical evaluations of torture survivors and spoke with people who witnessed physician abductions. They described their findings in a report released by PHR in April, Do No Harm: A Call for Bahrain to End Systematic Attacks on Doctors and Patients ( https://s3.amazonaws.com/PHR_Reports/bahrain-22April_4-45pm.pdf). The report also documents the use of medical transport for military purposes, the destruction of medical facilities and medical records, and the obstruction of medical care and treatment.
When reports about the injured protesters hit the international media, Sollom said, the Bahraini government put its own spin on the information, claiming that physicians were instigating political unrest, fomenting violence, turning the hospital into a political headquarters, and depriving thousands of people of treatment.
Many of the physicians targeted are the country's leading medical specialists, physicians with 20 to 30 years of experience and impeccable medical credentials, said Sollom. “It strains credulity to believe that these physicians would suddenly, out of the blue, start deliberately harming patients rather than helping them, as Bahrain's government has alleged,” he said.
At press time, dozens of physicians, nurses, and paramedics who were arrested for treating protesters were on trial before a military court. The government's use of a military trial for these cases calls into question whether the rights of the accused can be adequately protected. Families of the defendants have reported to PHR and other human rights organizations that the defendants have been tortured and forced to sign false confessions in detention.
Sollom noted that he and other human rights observers speculate that the Bahraini government has systematically targeted physicians and other health care professionals because these caregivers, who treated protesters taken to the hospital, have firsthand evidence of the excessive force used by the government security forces. “This is one of the most egregious sets of violations of medical neutrality and breaches of international law that I’ve seen personally and we as an organization have seen in decades,” said Sollom. Medical neutrality refers to the ethical duty of medical professionals to care for and treat those in need without regard to race, religion, or political affiliation and to have a neutral and safe space provided by the state to carry out their work.
It is important for those in the medical community in the United States and other countries to fully appreciate what is happening in Bahrain and to speak out against the violation of medical principles, said Susanna Sirkin, MEd, deputy director at PHR. Imagine reporting for work in the midst of a crisis, she said, trying to deal with large numbers of injured people pouring into your hospital, only to be charged with outrageous allegations, denied access to lawyers, or whisked away from your family and kept in prison for months to face trial and possibly a life sentence.
The response from the international health care community has been quite powerful, with many nations and health care associations calling for Bahrain to respect medical neutrality and either to throw out the charges against the physicians and nurses on trial or, at the very least, to ensure a fair trial.
These Bahraini health care professionals are relying on the international medical response to save their lives, said Sirkin.
The World Medical Association (WMA) and the International Council of Nurses (ICN) issued a joint statement in June calling on Bahraini authorities to ensure fair trials for health care workers. Mukesh Haikerwal, AO, professor in the School of Medicine at Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia, and chair of the council of the WMA, said the WMA is asking all its member associations to issue similar condemnations of this treatment, not as a political statement but in support of the human rights of health care professionals.
“In a civilized society, health care professionals have a very important role in the healing and recovery of a nation in trouble,” said Haikerwal. “While personally I don't think these men and women ever should have come to trial in the first place, we need to stand back and call for a fair and open trial,” he said. “The neutrality and independence of these professionals should be respected. This could happen anywhere, to any of our compatriots doing humanitarian work, and they must be protected.”
Haikerwal said that at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in May, Bahrain's Acting Minister of Health, Fatima Al-Beloushi, EdD, EdM, MA, gave a spirited defense of the regime. “She basically denied that there were any abuses, a patently false assertion,” he said.
David Benton, CEO of the ICN, met with Al-Beloushi at the assembly and said that she told him that the Bahraini government was surprised and concerned about the level of international interest in the situation. International pressure may be having some effect, he said, given that Bahrain has allowed a few international observers to attend the trials.
“Until recently Bahrain has been one of the peaceful countries in the region, a gateway of sorts to the area and one visited regularly by tourists,” said Benton. Continued scrutiny could affect the economy, providing more leverage to address the situation, he said.
In May, Bahrain's King Hamad lifted the 2-month state of emergency. But while a number of physicians have been released and some of the missing have reappeared, this does not mean that Bahrain has been responsive to all the requests, appeals, and demands of the international community, said PHR's Sirkin.
The US government has exerted some pressure on its long-term ally, which is home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. In early June, President Obama met with Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who, while not in charge, is considered a progressive member of the royal family who is in favor of a national dialogue to resolve the crisis in his country.
The American Medical Association recently provided a sample letter for US physicians to use to write to Bahraini officials and urge for the fair treatment of the health care professionals detained in Bahrain ( http://tinyurl.com/69v45yh).
PHR's Sollom noted that his organization is in touch with contacts in Bahrain who report that medical professionals are still being targeted. PHR continues to name people who have been targeted because the appearance of their names in the media provides them some protection. A list of names can be found at the PHR Web site.
Sollom returned from Libya in June and is preparing a report on violations of medical neutrality there as well as war crimes in general. He pointed out that although in Bahrain, there's been a systematic attack on health professionals as individuals, in Libya attacks are focusing on hospitals and medical transport, but not on individual health care workers.
“But there are indiscriminate attacks on civilians that are war crimes, and we’ve documented allegations of rape in Libya, torture, mass disappearances, and detention, all of which will be coming out in our report sometime in late July, I hope,” said Sollom.

Human Rights Report Details Violence Against Health Care Workers in Bahrain

Irish Medical Times: Human rights concerns make the teaching of ethics impossible


3 August 2011

Letter to Dr David Smith, Associate Professor of Health Care Ethics, Department of General Practice, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Dear David,
Thank you for your recent email about next year’s teaching on the MSc course in Healthcare Ethics and Law. I am afraid that I must join the ranks of those who are expressing their disapproval of the College’s links with the Bahraini regime.

I remember writing many years ago in the Irish Medical Times that the RCSI was getting into bed with very unpleasant company following the forging of initial links with Bahrain. Gallingly, at that time, the IMT (under ownership and editorship wholly different from the current management) disassociated itself from my article, asserting (wrongly) that Bahrain was a democratic country. I stood firmly by my position at that time and did not subscribe to the paper’s quasi-apology.
The Bahraini regime did briefly pull its socks up at the very beginning of the last decade and, among other apparently positive steps, released most political prisoners (I remarked on this positive development at the time in a further IMT article, conceding that some of my earlier criticisms no longer stood). However, the Emir and the ruling elite soon reverted to their old ways, notwithstanding occasional positive noises on human rights and sporadic releases of small numbers of political prisoners (who are invariably replaced by new batches of detainees).
Not only is the recent government orchestrated violence, harassment and repression reprehensible, it has further disquieting undertones of targeted oppression and suppression of Shi’ite Muslims. Foreign journalists and human rights observers are being expelled or being denied visas, reducing the chances of accurate reportage. As of last week, 14 arrested clinicians (including nine doctors) still languished in jail. All of the arrested doctors appear to still be facing charges relating to nothing more than the provision of medical care to protesters. Allegations of torture during detention have been made by the detained clinicians.
Recently, teachers have also been jailed for going on strike and peacefully protesting against the government.
On June 29, Reuters reported that Bahrain University now requires its students either to sign a loyalty pledge to the government or to give up their right to higher education. I hope that no such pledge is being compelled from RCSI-Medical University of Bahrain students.
For the College to maintain its links with the regime and to ostensibly play down the Bahraini state’s continuing and serious mistreatment of doctors during the ongoing popular dissent is most regrettable. The College’s public statements on the matter were, in my view, too little, too late, self-serving and inadequate.
I think therefore that it would be impossible for me to teach — of all things — ethics and law in the College at the present time and I must therefore decline the offer to contribute to next year’s MSc.
Dr Simon Mills, Barrister at Law, Law Library, Four Courts, Dublin 7.

Human rights concerns make the teaching of ethics impossible

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] .

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

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.

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[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