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To silence dissidents, Gulf states are revoking their citizenship

SINCE the small Gulf states became independent from Britain in the latter half of the 20th century, their ruling families have sought fresh methods to keep their subjects in check. They might close a newspaper, confiscate passports or lock up the most troublesome. Now, increasingly, they are stripping dissidents, and their families, of citizenship, leaving them stateless.

Bahrain is an energetic passport-stripper. Its Sunni royals have dangled the threat of statelessness over its Shia majority to suppress an uprising launched in 2011, during the Arab spring. In 2014 it deprived 21 people of their nationality. A year later the number was up tenfold. Last year the spiritual leader of Bahrain’s Shias, Isa Qassim (pictured) lost his. “Gulf rulers have turned people from citizens into subservient subjects,” says Abdulhadi Khalaf, a former Bahraini parliamentarian whose citizenship was revoked in 2012 and now lives in Sweden, as a citizen there. “Our passports are not a birthright. They are part of the ruler’s prerogative.”

 

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Bahrain Continues Targeting Women Human Rights Defenders - A Briefing Of The Situation

Marking the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses grave concerns over the continued targeting of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) in Bahrain. In the past few weeks, BCHR has noticed a rise in the number of women who have been summoned for interrogation over vague charges all relating to “illegal assembly”, jailed, or banned from leaving Bahrain. In line with BCHR’s WHRD campaign on twitter, we strictly condemn this pattern of targeting women human rights defenders.

On 15 November 2016, Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations and Women and Children Advocacy at BCHR, was interrogated on charges of “illegal assembly,” after being summoned by the Public Prosecution. Additionally, Enas Oun, Head of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Section, was summoned on 13 November 2016 and accused of organizing an assembly on 20 June 2016 in the Al-Dair area, around 11:45 pm. Both have been subsequently released. It is not the first time that Nedal Al-Salman and Enas Oun have been targeted for their human rights work. On 29 August 2016, when Al-Salman was about to travel to Geneva to participate in the United Nations Human Rights Council’s 33rd session, the authorities at the airport informed her that she was not allowed to leave the country. The decision was based on an order by the public prosecution. On 22 August 2016, Enas Oun was also stopped by the authorities at Bahrain’s international airport when she was intending to travel to Tunisia to participate in a human rights workshop. The authorities informed her that the decision was also based on an order issued by the Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID).

Ghada Jamsheer, blogger, writer and President of the Women’s Petition Committee (WPC) - a network of women’s rights defenders that campaign for a reform of family laws in Bahrain, was also targeted by the authorities. She was detained and arrested upon arrival at Bahrain International Airport on 15 August 2016. On 22 June 2016, a ten-month combined prison sentence was upheld against her for charges relating to criticism she allegedly made on Twitter regarding corruption at King Hamad hospital Up to this day, she is still detained at the Isa Town Detention Center for Women, known for ill-treatment and poor health conditions.

In April 2016, Taiba Darwish, a Bahraini citizen, was convicted and sentenced to five years in prison over charges of “harbouring wanted suspects.” According to the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR), Darwish was subjected to ill-treatment while being detained. She was also forbidden from having contact with her family and the outside world for prolonged periods.

The Bahraini government’s attempts to shatter women’s voices are not new. During the 2011 uprising period, many Bahraini women activists exposed human rights violations via Twitter, blogs and other social media platforms. The authorities tried to silence activists through the use of detention, arrests and sometimes, imprisonment. Since 2011, BCHR has documented the arrest of more than 300 women. Some women, such as prominent journalist Nazeeha Saeed, have been subjected to torture while in prison. Zainab Al-Khawaja and Maryam Al-Khawaja, daughters of jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, were both targeted by the bahraini authorities for engaging in human right activism. Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to two years and four months in jail, and fined 3000 Bahraini dinars (USD$ 7900) for tearing up a photo of the king, an offense made criminal by article 214 of the 1976 Penal Code. She was released on humanitarian grounds. Both sisters now live in exile in Denmark.

In the past years, BCHR has monitored the process in which the right to freely exercise freedom of expression has been criminalized. Most arrests were motivated by comments made on Twitter, or through other social media platforms, and materialized into charges of “insulting the king,” “inciting hatred against the regime,” or “insulting the Ministry of Interior.”

By arresting women for engaging in human rights activism, the Bahraini government also breaches Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of expression on any platform “every individual has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of the frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.”

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights calls on the Bahraini government to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release Ghada Jamsheer, and all other women jailed for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;
  • End the politically-based targeting of women human rights defenders in Bahrain; and
  • Abide by international human rights standards.

Bahrain drops charges against politician held after Prince Charles visit

reported nine days ago that the Bahraini authorities had arrested politician Ebrahim Sharif following a visit to Bahrain by Prince Charles.

He was charged with “inciting hatred” against the Gulf monarchy’s rulers, and therefore facing a possible three-year jail sentence.

Now I’m delighted to report that the charges against him have been dropped, according to a tweet issued by Bahrain’s UK embassy.

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Video: UK MP Margaret Farrier: We Are Forming a Parliamentary Group on Human Rights in Gulf

Bahrain Mirror: UK Member of Parliament Margaret Farrier said that she, in addition to other MPs, are working on establishing a human rights parliamentary group concerned with human rights affairs in the Gulf. She clarified that she is "just waiting for the confirmation that I can go ahead" and launch its work.

In an exclusive interview with Lualua TV (Saturday November 19, 2016), MP Farrier said that the group is "an all-party parliamentary group on democracy and human rights in the Gulf". She added, "As the name suggests, I reached out to other member of parliament from all parties and so we got together, and it's basically to discuss these issues of human rights abuses and the revocation of citizenship in some of the Gulf countries as well." "We're just at the very beginning but hopefully in the next few weeks we'll have our first meeting and being together some NGOs and some good speakers," she went on to say.

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UK gov't urged to call for release of Bahraini activist

The UK government should call for the release of a prominent Bahraini political activist who was charged with “inciting hatred of the political system” after he criticiced the recent visit to the Gulf kingdom by Britain’s Prince Charles, a rights group has said.

Human Rights Watch said in a statement that Ebrahim Sharif, former leader of the National Democratic Action Society, could face a prison term of up to three years, adding that it is a "clear violation of his right to free expression".

Sharif, whom authorities released pending trial, told Human Rights Watch that officers from the Cyber Crime Directorate called him in for questioning on the morning of November 13. He said they questioned him about his comments in the Associated Press article, after which a public prosecutor charged him with violating article 165 of Bahrain’s penal code.

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Amnesty slams UK for whitewashing Bahrain human rights abuses

In a 55-page report which was published yesterday, the human right’s organisation has accused the British government of attempting to distemper human rights abuses in Bahrain by “cheerleading” the Bahraini government’s “woefully inadequate reforms”.

“Amnesty International has documented serious human rights violations, including torture and other ill-treatment and excessive use of force by security forces with little accountability. The government has continued to severely restrict the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, to imprison critics and opponents as prisoners of conscience,” the report said.

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Amnesty: UK 'utterly disingenuous' about human rights in Bahrain

British ministers have acted like overexcited cheerleaders for Bahrain’s woefully inadequate human rights reforms, Amnesty International has said, ahead of an expected visit next month by Theresa May on the sidelines of the annual Gulf Cooperation Council summit.

Ministers ought to be confronting the awkward reality that the institutions set up in Bahrain with UK support “are seriously flawed and widely seen as a PR exercises”, Amnesty said.

 

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