15 August 2011: Global March has been concerned by information received in recent weeks from Education International (EI) and the Global Campaign for Education (GCE) over the on-going persecution and imprisonment of teachers and students for expressing their opinion in Bahrain. EI, together with Amnesty International, has called on its member organisations to appeal for the release of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, Vice-President and President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA), who were arrested along with several other board members of the BTA. While EI understands their colleagues have been released, Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb remain incarcerated awaiting trial in a civilian court. EI has also condemned government action to dissolve the BTA and replace its leaders with others more amenable to the regime.
Since March 2011, the Bahraini government has been carrying out a campaign of violent repression against its own citizens. The pro-democratic protests were largely brought to an end following a brutal government crackdown on 15 March 2011, with the help of troops from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Since then, the government has carried out widespread arbitrary arrests and there have been credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, unfair trials and mass dismissals of students from universities and workers from their jobs.
As well as Amnesty International and EI, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch (HRW) are among other international organisations raising awareness and campaigning for respect for human and trade union rights in Bahrain.
The charges against the two teacher union leaders include “inciting hatred towards the regime”, “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force”, “calling on parents not to send their children to school” and “calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations”. Amnesty International has reviewed the statements issued by the BTA and has listened to speeches delivered by its President Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and found no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind. Consequently, Amnesty International believes that they are likely prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leaders of the BTA. EI has issued the following demands based on these developments:
- EI calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb.
- EI calls on the Bahraini government to cease its persecution of teachers and students.
- EI urges the Bahraini government to reverse its decision to dissolve the BTA.
- EI urges the Bahraini government to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers, students and their unions, and to begin a reform process that not only allows but enables freedom of expression and freedom of association for its citizens.
In solidarity with its members EI and the ITUC and with the GCE, Global March is lending its voice to support these demands and other legitimate demands for respect for fundamental freedoms in Bahrain. Furthermore, it calls on its members and partners to take whatever action they can as follows:
In addition, members could write independently urging the Bahraini authorities to:
- Release immediately and unconditionally Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Deeb; protect them from torture or other ill-treatment; immediately set up a full, impartial and independent investigation into the reported ill-treatment of Jalila al-Salman and bring those responsible to justice.
- Reinstate the teachers dismissed and the students expelled, together with their salaries and scholarships.
- Respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers, students and union activists in accordance with international standards.
- Engage in respectful dialogue to bring about a peaceful transition to democracy and a fair resolution of the current impasse and legitimate claims of the Bahraini people.
These appeals should be sent to:
- His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
P.O. Box 555, Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 17664587
- Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister
Fax: +973 17533033; +973 175 32839
- H.E. Majid bin Ali al-Naimi, Minister of Education
Fax: +973 17273656; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is recommended that copies of these appeals be sent to diplomatic representatives of Bahrain accredited to members’ countries. In addition, EI has asked if copies of appeals could be sent to its secretariat in Brussels for its files: email@example.com or fax +32 2 224 0606.