11 Nov, 2013

Bahrain: Sajad AlAlawi (23 years old): Arrested, Reportedly Tortured, Facing Fabricated Charges

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses grave concern about the continued targeting of freedom of expression and the use of torture to extract confessions in Bahrain. Sajad Al-Alawi, 23 years old, was arrested, allegedly tortured and charges were fabricated against him for peacefully protesting in the capital Manama.

Sajad Al-Alawi was arrested on 22 September 2013 after he was surrounded by civilian cars belonging to the National Security Apparatus in Budaiya road. He first called his family from Budaiya police station to collect his car. Then he called twice from the Criminal Investigation Directorate (NSA), a location where there is reported systematic use of torture, where he stayed for three days. On the 26 September, Al-Alawi was transferred to the Dry Docks prison.

His family was able to see him for the first time after his arrest was on 30 September 2013. His father said that Sajad was not walking normally. He added that during the first days of Sajad’s transfer to the Dry Docks prison, other prisoners had to support him as he had difficulties walking. Sajad was a healthy young man not suffering from any physical difficulties prior to his arrest.

Lawyer Mohsen Al-Alawi stated that after more than a month and a half from Sajad’s arrest, he could finally meet his client on 7 November after obtaining an approval from the court which was rejected several times by the public prosecution office. Lawyer Al-Alawi added that his client told him in the visit that the officer who interrogated him reportedly told him "I know your case is participating in Manama's protests. However, it is a light sentence and you will be free quickly, so I will give you more than one charge." Al-Alawi also told his lawyer that he was subjected to torture. The lawyer added that he personally witnessed the [marks of] torture on Sajad’s back.

According to his lawyer, Sajad's charge is the creation of a terrorism cell to make explosions in vital areas. His case was transferred to court and he was ordered to 60 days pending investigation, a period given for those charged under the terrorism law. It is important to note that Sajad was a law student at the University of Bahrain and was expelled due to absence for the fear of being arrested in the recent events.

The BCHR believes that Al-Alawi was arrested because of exercising his right to peaceful assembly. He was arbitrary arrested, charges was fabricated against him and he was reportedly tortured to force him to sign confessions.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the United States, the United Kingdom, the UN, and all other close allies and relevant international institutions to apply real pressure on the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Sajad Al-Alawi as well as all other political prisoners for merely exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
  • End the practice of systematic torture as a tool to extract confessions.

'Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain' - human rights activist

24 Oct, 2013

Beware of the Middle East's Fake Feminists

We've all heard the story before: those Arab dictators may be mad with power, but at least they end up treating women better than Islamists do. The Arab world is sorted into states that are good-to-women and bad-to-women, with countries from Morocco to Qatar getting a pass for their supposed progressivism when it comes to feminist issues. In fact, this simplification masks the inequality that persists in these so-called "progressive" states. These authoritarian governments are tricking the world by showing off the few women found within their higher ranks as proof of their liberal stance on women's issues. But these women are the exception, not the rule.

Take, for example, Bahrain's Sameera Rajab, minister of state information and official spokesperson. Even as the Bahraini monarchy suppresses an ongoing uprising, it points to Rajab to insist on its inclusiveness and progressivism. Rajab's position within the Bahraini regime is a standard case of the way states typically embrace feminist causes in the Gulf region. Because of her role in Bahraini government, she defies the dominant perception of Gulf women, which centers on sociopolitical passivity, seclusion, and subjection to patriarchal dominance. At the same time, Rajab's position as the government's spokesperson grants her heavy national and international exposure, benefitting her, as well. And, to make this all worse, local and foreign media have done nothing to challenge this convenient narrative.

The Daily Beast recently offered a perfect example of this principle in action by printing an effusive profile of Rajab by columnist Souad Mekhennet. Mekhennet adopts a liberal discourse on state feminism that furthers problematic perceptions of what a "free" Arab woman embodies while disregarding the realities of privilege and power in a country where a monarch reigns absolutely. Seizing upon stereotypical and inadequate measures of liberty, Mekhennet casts Sameera Rajab as an "unveiled" and "Shiite" woman comfortably sitting in Bahrain's highest echelon. She fixates on Rajab's "strong voice," and points out that she wears her hair "uncovered" and chooses not "to wear makeup or high heels." She latches onto a superficial conception of a "liberated Arab woman" in the same way that similar characteristics are cited to glorify other former and current female state figures in the region, such as Asma al-Assad, Egypt's former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, Tunisia's Leila TrabelsiQueen Rania of Jordan, and Morocco's Lalla Salma, among others. This is exactly the type of rhetoric the Bahraini regime would love the Western world to hear.

But the true status of women in Bahrain contrasts dramatically with the image Mekhennet and the Bahraini government aim to convey. Thousands of Bahraini women continue to be victims of a state with paralyzing income inequality that has made no real moves to improve their daily reality.  Despite the characterization of Bahrain as a wealthy country, privilege and power remain deeply skewed along class lines. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights released a report that exposes the levels of poverty that plague Bahraini society. The report highlights that the income of the 5,200 wealthiest people in Bahrain averages $4.2 million. Meanwhile 200,000 of Bahrainis live in poverty, nearly half of the Bahraini population. Income inequality comes into heavy play in the context of an authoritarian state, such as Bahrain, where access to capital is jealously guarded by those in power.

Women are far from immune to this. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights' report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), "Women [in Bahrain] have been the victims of power struggles, sectarian differences, mismanagement of the government, and unfair distribution of national wealth and resources." Moreover, women in Bahrain have been victims of state repression, resulting in injuries and even deaths, such as the death of Bahiya Abdulrasool al-Aradi, who was shot on March 15, 2011 by members of Bahrain's military as she was driving her car -- a crime for which no one was held accountable. This is in addition to the ongoing detainment of women who oppose the regime's policies, such as Nafeesa al-Asfoor and Zainab al-Khawaja. Al-Khawaja, for example, is serving time for peacefully protesting against the regime on multiple occasions.


Read on: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/10/22/beware_of_the_middle_easts_fake_feminists?page=0,0


11 Oct, 2013

Bahrain: Death of Yousif AlNashmi: Arbitrarily Arrested, Tortured and Deprived of Adequate Medical Care