Bahrain frees Head of Nursing Society and Deputy Head Teachers Society
On 21 August 2011 Bahraini authorities released Rola al-Safar, the country’s top nursing official, and a teachers’ union official, Jalila al-Salman, after several jailhouse meetings with the head of an international panel investigating alleged abuses in Bahrain. They were detained for over five months during crackdowns on Shiite-led protests.
The charges against both activists are not dropped. Next Sunday 28 August 2011 Ms Rula AlSafar along with more than dozen doctors and nurses will appear at military court again as their trial resume, and despite the royal decree no 62 last June to transfer all cases to civilian courts. Latest information published today indicate a new decree with a law that amends the first one and orders misdemeanor cases to be transferred to civilian courts while the felonies to be resumed at the military court (National Safety court).
The trial of Ms Jalila AlSalman along with the head of the Bahraini Teachers Society Mr Mahdi AbuDeeb (still detained) should resume in Sep.
CS Monitor: Bahrain government fires hundreds of employees for political views
Banner reads: "My father is suspended from work since 3 months for no crime"
More than 100 government employees have been dismissed in recent weeks, joining 2,500 workers – nearly all Shiites – who have been fired since Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising.
By Kristen Chick, Correspondent / August 19, 2011
More than 100 Bahraini government employees have been fired in recent weeks for their political views, signaling an ongoing campaign to crush dissent in the wake of a pro-democracy uprising this spring.
They join 600 workers who have already been forced to leave government ministries and universities and about 1,900 workers sacked by private businesses this spring. While the Ministry of Labor has reinstated about a fifth of those fired, the most recent dismissals challenge official portrayals of the kingdom as going back to normal following the government's brutal crackdown, in which at least 30 people were killed and hundreds detained.
An independent commission appointed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to investigate the crackdown could lead to more workers regaining their jobs. But some are losing confidence in the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry (BICI), which has become a focal point for angry protests.
Sayed Salman, head of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions (GFBT), says he appreciates the efforts of the Labor ministry so far to reinstate employees who were unfairly fired, but says the proportion of workers reinstated is too small and has taken too long. He also rejects government arguments that dismissals, such as those taking place at government ministries currently, are disciplinary measures carried out according to law.
“When you talk about the dismissal of 10 or 15 people, that is one thing," says Mr. Salman. "When you talk about the collective dismissal of hundreds of people from different ministries, it is a systematic dismissal to get rid of anyone who is suspected of having supported the political unrest.”
19 Shiite academics fired last week
Last week, 19 academics and 40 staff members were fired from the University of Bahrain, including Abdulla Al Derazi, who has been an English language professor at the university for 20 years and is also head of the Bahrain Human Rights Society. He says the university accused the academics of participating in protests, expressing political opinions critical of the government, and talking to the media. The university also accused Prof. Derazi of civil disobedience for being absent from work during protests – which he denies.
“There’s no grounds for what they did because it’s all unconstitutional,” says Derazi. “The decision was based on political and sectarian reasons.”
All 19 academics are Shiite, as are most of the more than 2,500 workers who have so far been dismissed, according to the count of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions. Bahrain’s population is about 60 percent Shiite.
Though Shiites made up the majority of the protesters demanding democratic reform from Bahrain’s Sunni monarchy, the movement's aims were democratic rather than sectarian. But the government has largely targeted Shiites in its efforts to quell the uprising, which began in February inspired by the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. The government called in Saudi and other Gulf forces to participate in a violent crackdown in March.
'Is sending an e-mail a crime?'
In recent months, the government has sought to portray the crisis as over. It held a national dialogue billed as a gathering to address political problems, and released some of the hundreds it had detained during the crackdown, including two former members of parliament from the largest opposition bloc, Al Wefaq.
But activists and opposition members say the national dialogue didn’t address Bahrain’s real problems, and point out that those who have been released still face politically motivated charges.
The private sector firings largely took place in April, targeting Shiites and employees who had participated in protests. Many companies attempted to justify the dismissals by saying employees were absent. But some of the government institutions seem to be more open about the political reasons for the dismissals.
One man who worked for the University of Bahrain says the university told him he was fired because of emails he had forwarded to colleagues that contained articles critical of the government.
“Is sending an e-mail a crime? It’s a right of expression,” says the man, who did not want to give his name for fear of harming his chances of being reinstated through an appeal. “I have a family, I have kids. Things are difficult without a job.”
One employee recently fired from the Ministry of Municipalities was told he was dismissed for participating in protests at Pearl Square, the focal point of the demonstrations. Another fired University of Bahrain employee said his superiors showed him a photo of himself at Pearl Square. This employee was recently reinstated, and did not want to give his name for fear of losing his job once again.
The total number of public sector firings, which are concentrated in the ministries of Health, Education, and Municipalities, has seen a recent uptick because many employees who were suspended in April or May have recently been notified of their terminations after investigations were completed.
503 workers reinstated
Some workers have been reinstated; the Ministry of Labor said Monday that 503 workers have regained their jobs.
“Persistent efforts have been exerted ... to encourage corporate managements so as to comply with legal criteria and requirements and adopt the right lawful procedures in order to reconcile the outcomes and recommendations of legal teams, ministry and corporate investigation committees as well as to explore any likely difficulties or problems which may still obstruct workers reinstatement to their jobs,” said the Ministry’s statement.
Government officials were unavailable for comment.
The commission shut its office Monday after hundreds of sacked workers gathered there, angry over an article in a local newspaper that reported the head of the commission, respected international war crimes expert Cherif Bassiouni, said he had found no evidence of crimes against humanity during the government’s crackdown. The commission said that hundreds of protesters forced their way into the office, yelling and threatening the staff.
The BICI said in a statement that Bassiouni had made no such determination about crimes against humanity, the commission was still gathering evidence, and that Bassiouni would give no more interviews after “certain media outlets and activists have misrepresented” his comments.
The offending interview, published in Al Ayam newspaper, which has ties to Bahrain’s government, was the second interview given by Bassiouni that raised concern among activists. In a Reuters interview Aug. 8, he praised the cooperation of the Interior Ministry and said his investigation, which had just begun, led him to believe that “there was never a [government] policy of excessive use of force or torture,” a point that activists have heatedly contested. After an uproar, he stated he had not yet come to conclusions.
A bid for the Guinness Book of World Records
Activists say that some Bahrainis are now less likely to go to the commission and report instances of torture or mistreatment they endured.
Others are taking matters into their own hands, forming a group to advocate for the rights of sacked employees. One of the group’s leaders, who asked to remain anonymous for his protection, said the group is collecting resumés of those fired, with plans to submit them to the Guinness Book of World Records to set a record for most workers collectively sacked for political reasons.
“We think that this kind of activity will not only make pressure to return the sacked people, it will also be a spotlight for the issue of Bahrain and what happened after the protests in February and March,” says the group leader. “There are still many kinds of crisis for the people of Bahrain. But maybe nobody cares.”
VOA: Pakistani Veterans Beef Up Bahrain Security Forces
A protester waves the Bahraini flag as anti-riot police storm Duraz village, north of the capital Manama, Bahrain, as anti-riot police move in [EPA Photo]
18 Aug 2011 Gary Thomas
Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, made a one-day visit to the Middle East kingdom of Bahrain this week. Substantive details of his meetings with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa were not made public. But Bahrain has been gripped by anti-government protests, part of the “Arab Spring” sweeping across the region. The Bahraini government has been soliciting help from Pakistan to put down demonstrations.
According to analysts and Bahraini human rights activists, Bahrain's government has been recruiting former soldiers and policemen from Pakistan at a steady rate to bolster the security forces.
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel, who has extensive experience in South Asia, says Bahrain has been recruiting Pakistani veterans for decades. But he says the eruption of the pro-democracy demonstrations in the Gulf state in March has sparked a sharp increase in the recruiting.
"This winter, when the very serious demonstrations began and it looked like the regime might even be toppled at a certain point, their hiring of mercenaries went up substantially," said Riedel. "And they began sending out basically want ads in major Pakistani newspapers advertising well-paying jobs in the Bahraini police and the Bahraini National Guard for any experienced soldier or policeman in Pakistan."
The ads placed in Pakistani newspapers call for ex-riot police and riot control instructors, military police, non-commissioned officers, and other military and security specialists - as well as cooks and mess hall waiters - for the Bahrain National Guard. The ads were placed by the Fauji Foundation, an organization set up to help veterans and their families. Calls to the foundation seeking comment were not returned.
A senior Pakistani source says President Zardari and King Hamad discussed the issue of recruitment during the Pakistani leader’s visit to Bahrain Wednesday. But asked to comment on the matter, a Pakistani embassy spokesman said the recruitment of veterans is done through private channels and has nothing to do with the Pakistani government.
Riedel says hundreds, if not thousands, of unemployed Pakistani military and police veterans were hired. Most have come from the province of Baluchistan in southwest Pakistan.
Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, says the Pakistani recruits have behaved with a heavy hand toward demonstrators.
"They’re uneducated," he said. "They’re told they are going to go to a holy war in Bahrain to kill some non-Muslims or kafir [infidel] or Shias. They are paid well, maybe. They are staying in isolation in Bahrain. They have their own settlement, away from local citizens. And those are maybe responsible for a lot of killing and a lot of systematic torture and human rights violations committed in the past months and years."
Asked how he knew they were Pakistanis, he said the recruits speak Urdu instead of Arabic. In fact, he says, demonstrators would insult the policemen and guardsmen in Urdu.
Rajab says that although the government has lifted the state of emergency and instituted a commission of inquiry into the human rights abuses, the anti-government protests have continued.
Bahrain is a monarchy ruled by Sunni Muslims, a minority in the kingdom. Shi’ite Muslims make up the majority of the population and have been in the forefront of the pro-democracy protests, calling for reforms and more equitable treatment.
Nabeel Rajab, who also serves as deputy secretary-general for the International Federation for Human Rights, says Bahrain's government is wary of Shi’ites serving in security positions.
"Because of their Shia religious background, the government or ruling family, they don’t employ them in the army," he said. "So always they have a gap in the army or the police. They need to employ somebody. The second thing is that to deal with the protesters, to deal with those democracy and human rights protests, the government of Bahrain imports or brings in mercenaries from several countries, mainly from Pakistan."
Bruce Riedel, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, says the Bahraini policy has aggravated the Shia-Sunni sectarian divide.
"The fact that the [ruling] Khalifa family is importing Sunni Pakistani mercenaries to repress the Shia majority only underscores the perception of the Shia majority that the regime is not interested in genuine reforms, not interested in building a constitutional monarchy, but interested in repressing the majority simply because they are Shias," he said.
Repeated calls and e-mails to the Bahrain Embassy in Washington seeking comment got no response.
Riedel adds that for Bahrain's rulers, there is a side agenda to the recruitment.
"Many of these Sunni Pakistani troops, if they’ve served well and served long enough, will also be offered Bahraini citizenship at the end of their career - an offer that is intended to try to increase the demographic size of the Sunni minority on the island. And that only intensifies Shia frustration with the way things are governed in Bahrain," he said.
The issue also has diplomatic repercussions. Iran, a Shi’ite nation, has voiced concern about the Bahraini government’s response to the demonstrations. In March, a 1,600-man Gulf Cooperation Council force, led by another Sunni monarchy, Saudi Arabia, went into Bahrain. In April, Iran summoned the Pakistani ambassador to hear official concern about Bahrain's recruitment of Pakistani mercenaries to help put down the protests. According to Iranian press reports, Iranian officials warned of “serious ramifications” for Pakistani-Iranian relations if the recruitment continued.
BYSHR: Bahrain: Injured testimonies confirm that the hospital turned into prison
(AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarev)
August 16th, 2011
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights-BYSHR has documented testimonies of some injured of the protests that started on 14 February 2011. BYSHR representatives met with the injured after they had been released from jail. They were arrested from Salmaniya Hospital, the main governmental hospital, and were detained for more than three and a half months.
BYSHR sought the assistance of an independent physician, to examine the patients and report the injuries they suffered. On 16 March 2011 the army and the National Guard took over of Salmaniya Hospital and arrested the protesters whom gathered in the hospital building. Later a number of doctors were arrested on charges of hospital occupation and the confiscation of Medical equipment.
Salmaniya Hospital is considered one of the witnesses to the human rights violations that took place against protesters since the 14th of February uprising, as thousands of the injured got medical treatment in Salmaniya Hospital due to the suppression of riot police using rubber bullets, tear gas, sound grenades and shot guns. Also, the military used live ammunition to disperse protesters on the 16th of March 2011 – the BYSHR have documented cases where live ammunitions were used.
An injured told the BYSHR: ” I was on the 4th floor in Salmaniya Hospital where I was being treated from a shotgun injury in the head and face – left side – when they transferred me to the 6th floor, and there I was mistreated, insulted, tied to the bed, eye folded and they used offensive words against the Shia and asked us to curse and insult the political opposition leaders”. (1)
And he continues: “I was taken later from the hospital to Noaim Police Station and then to Isa Town Police Station where I was tortured there too.”
Another protestor told (BYSHR)’s representative: “my right eye is injured because of a shotgun explosion besides me; I was taken to the hospital after the army and police took over, I tried to escape but I was arrested in a checkpoint near the hospital gate and I was tortured in an external room – the room of ambulance care assistants and ambulance drivers (attached Picture) – other injured were with me too.” (2)
A wounded by birds gunshots informed BYSHR: “I was injured on 15 March in my back by the ant-riot police. I was transported to Salmaniya Hospital. I was on the fourth floor, afterwards I was transferred to the sixth floor where I was mistreated, tied to the bed, and blindfolded. The doctors avoided talking to us about our cases for fear of the security forces. I was removed in a police car to Isa Town Police Station and was forced to sing the National Anthem and insult the opposition political leaders.”. (3)
The injured refused to mention their names because the charges against them are still valid even after their release.
BYSHR expresses its concern about those allegations and it demands urgent investigation in subjecting the injured to the allegations of mistreatment and torture at Salmaniya Hospital. BYSHR demands the Special Rapporteur on torture the urgent action and investigation of those accusations against the anti-riot police.
(1) Medical examination: Multiple bird shot to the left side of the scalp and face.Cartilaginous damage to the left pinna.Missing segment of upper pinna and scarring and possible retained shot within the ear.Normal ear drum.Unable to fully open jaw due to pain.TMJ appears to be moving in a normal fashion but without full range of movement.
(2) Medical examination:Patient has a bird shot within the upper lid of the left eye on the nasal aspect.Bird shot on the temporal aspect of the upper lid of the right eye.Healing laceration to the right cornea on the lateral border of the iris.Acuity to finger counting only.Fundoscopy looks normal.
(3) Medical examination: Multiple bird shot entry wounds on the back from upper shoulder area to the feet.More evident on the left side of the body.Laparotomy scar.Tenderness on the left mid axilla chest area .
BCHR Second Open Letter to Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI)
Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni Chair, Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry
18 August 2011
Dear Sir, Thank you for your letter dated 9 August 2011, in which you outlined the position of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
Whilst we, at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), are of course pleased that the government has demonstrated “extraordinary willingness... to listen to anything we bring to his [minister of interior] attention and act on it”, the main issue raised by our previous correspondence with you was your statement that this willingness from the minister “leads me to believe that on his part there was never a policy of excessive use of force or torture.” It was this last statement which we sought clarification about, since we did not understand how you had reached this conclusion at such an early stage. Your letter in response was noticeably silent on this point. You did note that you believed it was “premature to reach any conclusions”, which we are certainly in agreement with.
Whilst appreciating the difference between individual criminal responsibility and the responsibility of superiors, there is a wealth of evidence confirming that, at the very least, the government and the ruling establishment had knowledge and condoned the actions of the security forces.
The most notable examples of this are the speeches of Marshal General Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Commander in Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force, and the actions and speeches of Nasser Al Khalifa, the son of the reigning monarch. Khalifa bin Ahmed threatened protesters in remarks made to BNA in May, saying, "I say to those who did not get the message, 'If you return we will come back, stronger this time'". In a public forum, on state television, Nasser Al Khalifa threatened retribution to all those involved in the protests regardless of their position in society and their profession. In a telling final statement, Nasser Al Khalifa noted that, as an island state, those involved in the protests in Bahrain had “nowhere to escape to”. Within a few hours of this statement, the systematic targeting of athletes involved in the protests commenced. To compound this, Nasser himself became personally involved in the torture of at least two opposition leaders, Abdulla Isa Al-Mahroos and Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, both of whom have provided testimonies which have been sent to the BICI.
Other witnesses have come forward to testify that they were beaten by different members of the Al-Khalifa family, such as Fatima Al-Bagali, who was tortured at West Riffa detention center on the 9th of May by the General Director of Southern Province Police, Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, because of a speech she had made at Pearl Square. Ayat Al-Qurmezi, also arrested for an anti-government poem she had read at Pearl Square, and Dr Fatima Hajji, have also claimed to have been tortured in detention by Noura Al-Khalifa.
These testimonies are, worryingly, the tip of the iceberg. In these circumstances, I hope you can appreciate that your comments to Reuters that “there was never a policy of excessive use of force or torture”, even if taken out of context, were highly prejudicial and created much anxiety and anger amongst the victims of this policy.
The actions of Bahrain’s ruling elite have consistently reinforced the message that dissent, in any form, is simply not to be tolerated in Bahrain. The targeting of individuals, both physically and economically, has been systematic. State television has pursued an agenda akin to the McCarthy witch hunts; naming and publically humiliating those involved in the recent protests. Indeed a number of state sanctioned websites have sprung up in which people are encouraged to name “traitors” to the regime. This state-sanctioned pressure has been compounded by the mass expulsion by state entities of employees who have been “tainted” through their association to the opposition.
It is in this context that it becomes difficult to believe that those in authority did not have knowledge of the persecution being effected through state apparatus. We would be happy to provide a range of evidence to confirm the assertions made in this letter and look forward to working with the BICI to achieve its stated goals and bring to light the situation in Bahrain.
Nabeel Rajab President Bahrain Center for Human Rights
HRF: Female Teacher on Hunger Strike in Bahrain Hospitalized
17 August 2011
By Human Rights Defenders Program Human Rights First
In July, Human Rights First profiled Jalila al-Salman, a Bahraini teacher who has been detained since March for her alleged role in coordinating a teachers’ strike. We are very concerned to hear from local human rights defenders that Jalila was hospitalized today for chest pains following 10 days on hunger strike. Among the handful of women still in detention in Bahrain, Jalila and fellow prisoner, Roula Al Saffar, the Head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, have undergone a joint hunger strike to protest their continued detention and ill treatment. There are reports that Jalila has been severely tortured.
While there were hopes that the women detainees would be released pending a transfer to civilian courts at the start of Ramadan, so far there have been no improvements to their situation. Another female detainee told HRF staff in Bahrain what happened to her, Her account is consistent with what has happened to other female detainees:
I was taken from the hospital where I was working during the middle of the day. Four masked men came and took me for an interrogation. They blindfolded me and took me to the investigations office. They were verbally abusing me, saying the doctors at the hospital were sectarian, only treating Shiite patients.
Then they moved me to another room – I was blindfolded the whole time and a policewoman pushed me along the corridor for more questioning.
They wanted me to say that doctors took injured people for operations unnecessarily, they had very minor injuries but doctors made these injuries worse and caused death on purpose in two cases.
They said we wanted to make Bahrain look bad, to hurt its international reputation. I said no, patients were really bleeding badly, some from live ammunition wounds, and we didn’t make their wounds worse.
The policewoman started to beat me and she said ‘You have to go to the boss, they know how to get a confession out of you.’ They took me to another office – I was standing the whole time, about three hours. It was so terrifying I was hoping I’d die. You don’t know how long it will continue or what they will do next. You’re blindfolded the whole time – they repeat the same questions over and over and if they don’t get the answer they want, they beat you.
So they took me to ‘the boss’ and he alleged that I took drugs from the hospital to the medical tent at Pearl Roundabout [where there was a makeshift medical center for the injured protestors]. I said I didn’t – he said I was a whore and my mother is a whore, and I was beaten very badly by the same lady. I could hear several men laughing and shouting at me not to cry. He gave me back to the policewoman and she continued the interrogation, all night long. They made me sing the national anthem and other songs saying the opposition leaders are crazy – they sang it and forced me to repeat it.
In the early hours of the morning, they let me lift my blindfold just enough to sign something, though I wasn’t allowed to see what it was. The next day they took me to the military police and it was the same thing – interrogation and then I had to sign something else I couldn’t read. When I was being interrogated, the man in charge kept giving instructions to the typist – ‘delete that, paste that there, cut that bit and move it,’ and so on.
I was finally moved to jail where the other detainees were. At first we were separated from each other, and put with the common criminals, but then they put us together. They didn’t allow me to call my family. For one week I was begging them to call my children, as they were alone since their father was also detained but they refused and allowed me to call only after a week.
After some weeks, they told us one evening about 5 p.m. we all had to go back to the Investigation Office. We were all terrified – we called it the House of Horror. They took us there, more than a dozen of us together, and we were called one by one. I had to sign a document to say I hadn’t been beaten. Then, about midnight, I was released.
To learn more about their detention and the continuing human rights crackdown in Bahrain, you can read the < ahref="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Bahrain_Speaking_Softly_2011.pdf">May and < ahref="http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/Bahrain_A-Tortuous-Process_July-2011.pdf">July on-the-ground reports from Human Rights First.
- BCHR Report: Activists women under fierce attack: detained, tortured and prosecuted for political reasons
- Front Line Defenders: Bahrain: Jalila Al Salman and Rula Al Saffar go on hunger strike in protest at ongoing torture and ill treatment in custody
- Amnesty International: Bahrain: Imprisoned activists on hunger strike
Scholars at Risk calls for letters on behalf of Prof. Masaud Jahromi
August 16, 2011
Scholars at Risk (SAR) is gravely concerned about Professor Masaud Jahromi, Chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Ahlia University, Manama, Bahrain, who has been arrested and detained for four months. SAR asks for letters, faxes and emails urging the appropriate authorities to intervene to ensure his well-being pending his earliest release, including ensuring regular access to the legal counsel of his choosing, to family and to medical treatment.
Scholars at Risk is an international network of over 250 universities and colleges in 31 countries dedicated to protecting the human rights of scholars around the world and to raising awareness, understanding of, and respect for the principles of academic freedom and its constituent freedoms of expression, opinion, thought, association and travel. In cases like Professor Jahromi's involving alleged infringement of these freedoms, SAR investigates hoping to clarify and resolve matters favorably.
Dr. Masaud Jahromi holds a PhD in Telecommunication Networking from University of Kent at Canterbury in the United Kingdom, and he is Chairman of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Ahlia University’s College of Mathematical Sciences and Information Technology. Scholars at Risk has learned that Professor Jahromi was arrested and taken from his home at 2:30 am on April 14, 2011. Scholars at Risk understands that Professor Jahromi was held first in Al Galaa Prison and then transferred to the Dry Dock Prison, where he has been since the end of April. According to reports, the police broke into his house in the middle of the night, threatened and harassed members of his family, confiscated the family’s laptops, and beat Professor Jahromi before taking him away to an undisclosed location. He was denied access to his family for over one month. Reports also indicate that Professor Jahromi is not receiving medical treatment for serious and diagnosed conditions, including Hepatitis C.
The nature of Professor Jahromi’s arrest and his detention without access to medical care and family suggests apparent disregard of international standards of due process, fair trial and detention as guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain has acceded. Taking into account reported arrests of scholars in Bahrain following the pro-democracy protests in February and March, Professor Jahromi’s detention suggests a wider attempt to intimidate intellectuals and to limit academic freedom in Bahrain—a suggestion Scholars at Risk finds particularly distressing and unfortunate given the current tensions in the region and the world, which appear to warrant more rather than fewer exchanges and discussions among scholars inside and outside Bahrain.
Scholars at Risk therefore urges authorities to ensure that Bahrain’s obligations under international law are upheld with regard to Professor Jahromi and respectfully urges authorities to intervene in his case and to ensure his well-being—including regular access to family, to legal counsel of his choosing and to medical treatment—pending his earliest release.
Scholars at Risk invites letters, emails and faxes be sent:
-respectfully urging authorities to ensure that Bahrain’s obligations under international law are upheld with regard to Professor Jahromi; and
-respectfully urging authorities to intervene in his case and to ensure his well-being—including regular access to family, to legal counsel of his choosing and to medical treatment—pending his earliest release.
PLEASE WRITE TO:
His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa Prime Minister Ministry of Foreign Affairs P.O. Box 547 Government Road Manama Kingdom of Bahrain Email to: firstname.lastname@example.org Fax to: +973 1-753-6343
His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa King of Bahrain Office of His Majesty the King P. O. Box 555 Rifa’a Palace, Kingdom of Bahrain Fax: + 973 1-766-8884
His Excellency Dr. Majid Bin Ali Al Nuaimi Minister of Education Ministry of Education Building Al Istiklal Street P.O. Box 43 Isa City Kingdom of Bahrain Fax: +973 1-768-7866 Email: email@example.com
Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni Commission Chair Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Honorable Hillary R. Clinton United States Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520, USA
The Right Honorable William Hague Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Foreign and Commonwealth Office King Charles Street London SW1A 2AH United Kingdom
The Honorable _________ Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to [YOUR COUNTRY] [POSTAL ADDRESS] [FAX] [EMAIL] (See right-hand column at http://www.mofa.gov.bh/Default.aspx?tabid=75&language=en-US for a list of Bahraini embassies worldwide.)
The Honorable _________ Ambassador of [YOUR COUNTRY] to the Kingdom of Bahrain [POSTAL ADDRESS] [FAX] [EMAIL]
Scholars at Risk New York University 194 Mercer St., 4th floor New York, NY 10012 USA Fax: +1 212 995-4402 Email: email@example.com
Some members of the Bahraini royal family beating & torturing political prisoners
Swedish Citizen tortured by Nasser Alkhalifa, son of King Hamad
16 August 2011
The BCHR expresses grave concern and is alarmed to learn that members of the Alkhalifa family have personally been involved in beating and torturing pro-democracy protesters. After the crackdown on the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain the Center has been receiving reports from victims that they were subjected to severe beatings and torture by people they identified as members of the Bahraini royal family. Five members of Alkhalifa have been specifically mentioned by victims, they are: Noura Bint Ebrahim Alkhalifa, Khalifa Bin Ahmed Alkhalifa, Khalifa Bin Abdulla Alkhalifa and sons of the King, Khaled Bin Hamad Alkhalifa and Nasser Bin Hamad Alkhalifa. One of the victims subjected to torture by Nasser Bin Hamad Alkhalifa is Swedish citizen, Mohammed Habeeb Al-Muqdad, currently imprisoned at Al-Gurain military prison.
The first victim to speak out was poet Ms Ayat Al-Qurmuzi, who was imprisoned for reading a couple of anti-government poems during the pearl roundabout peaceful protest. Ayat was arrested by masked civilians and blindfolded, after her release she spoke of being tortured by men and women. One of the women she claims tortured her was Noura Bint Ebrahim Alkhalifa. Ayat gave a detailed account of what she was subjected to on the hands of Noura. Among other things Ayat said Noura cursed her, spat on her, and slapped her many times across the face. Noura threatened Ayat that her tongue would be cut off, when Ayat refused to open her mouth, Noura hit her with a broom on her mouth. Noura also spat into Ayats mouth and used electric shocks on Ayats face. As Noura Alkhaifa tortured Ayat she repeated slurs against shias and said “the people you criticize are your masters, and they will remain in power forever, whether you like it or not”.
Another victim is doctor Fatima Hajji. On the 17th of April Noura Alkhalifa and 25 masked men attacked Dr. Fatimas flat in the village of Bani Jamra and arrested her. During interrogations Noora demanded that Fatima confess, when Fatima said she had done nothing but treat patients Noura replied “If you do not confess I will have to torture you the way I tortured Doctor Ali Al-Ekri.” She added that detainees Roula Al-Saffar and Ghassan Dhaif had already confessed.
Noura started slapping and cursing Fatima continuously for about 25 minutes. Then she used a hose to beat her on her feet. When Noura Alkhalifa looked through Dr. Fatimas blackberry and saw two emails, one to Human Rights Watch about her suspension and the other about Martyr Ahmed Shams she shouted at Dr. Fatima “How dare you ruin the image of our government”, then electrocuted her on her face. Fatima was told to confess that she had pretended to cry in front of foreign media, and that she had stolen 100 bags of blood from the blood bank and given it out to protesters to spill on themselves and pretend to be injured. She was forced to sign a confession after being threatened with rape. Fatima was also sexually harassed by men under the supervision of Noura. She was forced to stand on one leg, make animal noises, sing and dance.
Fatima Al-Bagali who is a student at the teaching college in University of Bahrain was arrested on the 9th of May 2011. She was blindfolded and taken to West Riffa detention center. Where Khalifa Bin Ahmed Alkhalifa The center director interrogated her about a speech she had given on Pearl Square, and about antigovernment comments she had made on facebook. Khalifa beat Fatima, slapping and kicking her as he said “You shia are ungrateful to your masters the Al-Khalifa”. In addition, some of the police officers threatened to rape Fatima if she dared to speak about what she had been subjected to.
Another victim also testified that he was interrogated by Khalifa Bin Ahmed AlKhalifa, who had a picture of the victim in a peaceful protest by the Ministry of Information. The victim says he was asked repeatedly about his participation in that protest, then was blindfolded, beaten and electrocuted on his genitals.
In another case, three of the activists arrested and sentenced for attempting to overthrow the regime also reported that they had been beaten by members of the royal family. The first, Abdulla Isa Al-Mahroos, said he was beaten by Nasser Bin hamad Alkhalifa, and that Nassar forced him to open his mouth then spat in his mouth. Al-Mahroos was also beaten by Head of the Security Apparatus Khalifa Bin Abdulla Alkhalifa. Who kicked him repeatedly in the stomach and ordered the prison guards to walk over his stomach which caused internal bleeding in the abdomen. Afterwhich Al-Mahroos was transferred to the military hospital where he had two surgeries.
The second is Swedish citizen Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, who was detained in an underground prison in the National Security Apparatus in the Fort. Al-Muqdad recalls that while being tortured suddenly everybody was silent. He heard his torturers say “your majesty” someone asked him “do you know who I am?” When Al-Muqdad said no, his blindfold was removed and the man infront of him said “I’m Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. When you protested outside our castle in Safriya, only a wall separated us”. Then Nasser asked Al-Muqdad what chants he had said that day at the protest. When Almuqdad said “Down Down Hamad” Nasser slapped Al-Muqdad who fell to the ground, then with the help of torturers beat him severely.
There is a wealth of evidence confirming that, at the very least, the government and the ruling establishment had knowledge and condoned the actions of the security forces. The most notable example of this is the actions and speeches of Nasser Al Khalifa , the son of the reigning monarch. In a public forum, on state television, Nasser Al Khalifa threatened retribution to all those involved in the protests regardless of their position in society and their profession. In a telling final statement, Nasser Al Khalifa noted that, as an island state, those involved in the protests in Bahrain had “nowhere to escape too”. If any doubt could be attributed to his unequivocal assertions, such doubt would be obliterated by the actions of the government and the personal actions of Nasser Al Khalifa. Within a few hours of this statement, the systematic targeting of athletes involved in the protests commenced. To compound this, Nasser himself became personally involved in the torture.
Mohammed Hassan Jawad (64 yrs old) was blindfolded and handcuffed when Nasser Bin Hamad asked him “do you know who I am, its Nasser with you” Then the son of the king started interrogating Mr. Jawad about the Safriya protest and accusing him of organizing the protest. To force him to confess, Nasser beat Mr. Jawad with a hose on his head until he fell to the ground. Then Nasser started kicking him mostly on his back, while swearing at shia clerics and imams.
Different victims beaten at tha Al-Safriya checkpoint (close to the palace of the king) gave their testimonies but asked we do not share their names out of fear for their safety. The first is a bus driver who was driving high school students when he was stopped under gun point by the Bahraini army at the checkpoint. He was shocked when Nasser Bin Hamad, son of the King, came wearing a military uniform and started beating him. The victim says Nasser never used his hands but kicked him, in sensitive areas, in his head and chest, and mostly on his face until he started bleeding. When soldiers told Nasser that they would beat him, Nasser replied “No leave him to me”. After severe beating the victim was arrested for two weeks until the marks on his body faded.
The second victim was stopped at the same checkpoint, where Khaled Bin Hamad, son of King Hamad, ordered him to get out of his car and lie down on the ground. Khaled ordered that the victims car and phone get searched. When an anti government message was found on his phone, Khaled started kicking the victim. The beating continued for two hours and a half, by Khaled and other soldiers with him, until the victims nose and mouth bled. The victim was then forced to kiss Khaleds shoes. While beating the victim Khaled asked him how many times he had been to Pearl Square and swore at shia, and their leaders. This victim was detained for 2 months with no charges or trial.
In the third case at Al-Safriya checkpoint, an older man with two sons were stopped. The older man was told to put his head down in respect to the “Sheikh” (member of royal family), his sons were dragged out of the car and thrown on the ground infront of Khaled Bin Hamad Alkhalifa. Khaled was wearing a military uniform, and started beating the two boys using his gun. Khaled asked the boys about a sticker on their car which read “Sunni and Shia are brothers” he made them read it out loud then said “We are not brothers, all shia are homosexuals.” The boys said they were beaten severely by Khaled and Saudi soldiers. When a Saudi soldier called the victims “dogs”, Khaled said “These are not dogs, they’re pigs. At least our dogs are loyal”.
These are a few of the reports brought to the BCHR about torture and mistreatment by members of the royal family. Many other victims came forward but were afraid they would be targeted if they spoke out and asked us not to include their accounts in our report. Putting members of the royal family in the positions of torturers and interrogators will only lead to more mistrust and anger towards the monarchy. The BCHR also observes that most of the victims tortured or beaten by members of the royal family, were subjected to insults directed towards one sect of the population.
The BCHR demands an investigation into the crimes of the five members of the the royal family mentioned in this report and that all those responsible for mistreating and torturing prisoners be brought to justice.
Bahrain Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Statement on events at their offices
15th Aug 2011
In light of recent allegations that the Bahrain Commission of Inquiry (BICI) has reached a determination on its investigation, as well as verbal and physical attacks on its staff, the BICI wishes to make the following statement.
Despite misleading headlines in recent news articles claiming that the Commission has determined that the government of Bahrain committed no crimes against humanity during the demonstrations that have occurred over the last several months, the Commission would like to clarify that it has not made any such determination. The Commission’s investigation is ongoing and will continue until all relevant evidence has been gathered. Its staff is still in the process of interviewing victims and witnesses, collecting evidence, and evaluating the circumstances. The Commission will not make a determination as to the extent of human rights abuses in Bahrain until its investigation is complete. Because certain media outlets and activists have misrepresented the comments of the Commission Chair, Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, in order to support their political positions, for the time being, the Commission will no longer entertain interviews to the media. Should the Commission decide that a public statement is necessary, it will provide this information on its website, www.bici.org.bh. The Commission will not allow itself to be used as a political tool for any group.
Additionally, the Commission’s office is hereby closed until further notice. This is due to the fact that today, hundreds of people forced their way into our office, having been angered over what they believed to be the Commission Chair’s “conclusions” on the investigation, and additionally having been directed by activists on Twitter and through mass texts to come to the office to report their complaints. The Commission believes its doors should be open to anyone who wishes to come forward and provide information on human rights abuses. However, as we have advised on our website and on Twitter, appointments must be made in order for our investigators to best serve the witnesses and victims. After attempting to accommodate the crowd by offering to take down their information in order to schedule appointments, some in the crowd became restless and verbally and physically threatened the staff. Individuals yelled insults, posted threatening messages on the office walls, sent threats via text and email, and even physically shoved and spat at a member of staff. Individuals also continued to photograph and video record people in the office, despite advice from staff that such actions undermine the confidentiality and safety of the many witnesses and victims coming forward. While the Commission’s staff is committed to conducting its investigation, it will not jeopardize the security of the individuals that work at and patron the office. While the office remains closed, investigators will continue to accept statements submitted by email.
The Commission is concerned about the attacks upon the integrity of its Commissioners and staff. Its Commissioners are comprised of the foremost international criminal law and human rights experts. To learn more about their backgrounds, please visit our website. Similarly, the Commission’s staff is comprised of international judges, human rights lawyers and advocates who have established reputations in their fields. The staff has worked tirelessly to hear evidence from all witnesses and victims who have contacted the Commission to tell their story, including by visiting prisons, hospitals and demonstration sites, as well as by staying at the office until well past midnight in order to accommodate the high volume of interview requests.
The Commission remains committed to its mission to investigate the events in February and March. We would like to assure the public that none of its staff have resigned as a result of recent events. Though our office is temporarily closed, the work will continue. Our staff will continue its investigation and will issue a report with recommendations as scheduled, as per our mandate. We ask the people, organizations, institutions and government of Bahrain for their cooperation in making this investigation a fair and successful one. As the Commission continues its work, anyone who would like to reach us may contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mid East Posts: What to do About Bahrain? A Headache For Both Obama and Blatter
Written by James M. Dorsey
US president Barak Obama and Sepp Blatter, the head of world soccer body FIFA, share the same headache: what to do about Bahrain?
So far, Messrs. Obama and Blatter have essentially shied away from confronting the issue of the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators, including some of the country’s most prominent soccer players. The protests in February and March that started with Shiites and Sunnis standing shoulder to shoulder were an expression of frustration about years of failed dialogue over the need for more equitable housing and land policies, fairer representation in parliament and constitutional reform.
The crackdown and the government’s insistence that Iran had instigated the protests aided by a Shiite fifth column transformed the situation into one of sectarian tension. To be sure, there was violence on both sides of the sectarian and political divide during the protests but healing of the wounds is likely to prove difficult if not impossible without a genuine dialogue and members of the security forces being held accountable.
The US has been quietly but unsuccessfully urging King Khalifa for years to engage in a dialogue that would lead to democracy. Mr. Obama in May cautioned that it was difficult to conduct a national dialogue with people who have been incarcerated. Bahrain has since released a number of its detainees, including opposition members of parliament and national team players, but referred some of them to security courts.
Mr. Blatter has questioned the Bahrain Football Association (BFA) about credible reports of retribution against the soccer players and officials who allegedly had participated in the anti-government demonstrations as well as predominantly Shiite Muslim clubs. The FIFA president however appears to have accepted at face value the BFA’s statement that no sports players or officials were disciplined or harassed because of their association with the people power uprising earlier this year that was brutally crushed – a statement that flies in the face of reporting in Bahrain’s state-controlled media and reports by people involved in Bahraini soccer.
For both Mr. Obama and Mr. Blatter, the issue is what is the price of postponing the inevitable?
The widespread sense of discontent remains with a deeper than ever sectarian divide that makes the status quo in Bahrain unsustainable. The crackdown has pushed the uprising out of the capital and reduced it to street skirmishes in villages. A government-inspired national dialogue has all but failed. An independent investigation into the crackdown has yet to prove its integrity and independence but is credited for some of the prisoner releases.
Mr. Obama’s reluctance is strengthened by the fact that he does not want to put at risk the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet base on the Gulf island. Nor does he want to cross what is a red line for Saudi Arabia: a push for the introduction of a constitutional monarchy in one of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the spread of people protests in the Gulf and last but certainly not least, the emergence of a Shi’a majority government.
Similarly, Mr. Blatter has seldom sought to rock the boat in the Middle East and North Africa despite the region’s violation of multiple FIFA rules and regulations. The wearing of the hijab or Islamic headdress by Iranian and deeply religious Muslim women players has been the one exception, and only because, according to Western FIFA officials, it clashes with Mr. Blatter’s strong Catholic beliefs.
The coming months are likely to highlight the pitfalls of the choices Messrs. Obama and Blatter have so far made with regard to Bahrain.
The trials against members of parliament, medics, and democracy and human rights activists put on public display the government’s repressive measures as well as the lack of straightforwardness on the part of Bahraini institutions like the BFA and raise serious questions about the choices made by Messrs. Obama and Blatter.
The recent recruitment of additional Sunni Muslim Pakistanis for Bahrain’s special forces, riot police and particularly the National Guard that led the crackdown, can only serve to deepen cleavages in a Sunni-ruled predominantly Shiite society. Shiites are reportedly barred from joining the security forces – a clear sign of the regime’s lack of confidence in its own citizens. That is reinforced by a widespread belief that the Pakistani recruits will ultimately be granted Bahraini citizenship.
The cleavages are visible across society and nowhere more so than in soccer. They cut, for example, straight through Al-Ahli SC, the one Bahraini club that was non-sectarian, neither Sunni nor Shiite, and won the kingdom’s top league title last year.
The government’s decision to suspend the island’s league during the protests to ensure that the soccer pitch did not become an opposition rallying point didn’t stop players and others involved in soccer from taking sides in a confrontation that has left Sunnis and Shiites deeply divided about the relationship between their communities and the future of their country.
Shiite brothers A’ala and Mohammed Hubail, who also played for Bahrain’s national team, joined the protests. Two of their Sunni fellow players meanwhile hooked up with pro-government gangs that roamed the streets attacking the protesters with clubs and pickaxe handles.
Al-Ahli is owned by Bahrain’s wealthy Sunni merchant Kanoo family. Most of its players and its fans are Shiite, “We are one family. We never thought about whether you are Sunni or Shia,” said Al-Ahly chairman Fuad Kanoo in an interview with The Economist.
Once the protests had been violently suppressed, some 150 Shiite players, referees and officials were dismissed or arrested on the orders of a committee led by King Kahlifa’s son, Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, in a bid to root out athletes who had participated in the protests. Among those penalized were six Al-Ahli players.
The Hubail brothers were detained as they were training and allegedly mistreated in prison after first being denounced on state-run television. Muhammed Hubail was sentenced in June to two years in jail, but released on bail after FIFA questioned the Bahrain association.
Mr. Obama’s dilemma has been for much of this year his struggle to reconcile US principles and values with his country’s short-term interests. So far, he has been able to reasonably manage that in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Yemen. Bahrain, however, could well prove to be his litmus test. For Mr. Blatter too, Bahrain could turn out to be a public display of failing to in the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton get on the right side of history.
James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
- Human Rights First Urges FIFA, U.S. World Cup Team to Condemn Bahrain’s Attack on Athletes , July 2011
- The Times: Bahrain's soccer stars tortured in custody , July 2011
- Bahrain: Arrest, military trials, & suspension from sport activities, for athletes who practice their legitimate rights , July 2011
- BYSHR Report: “Sports” defendant in Bahrain, because of freedom of opinion and expression , April 2011