1 November 2017 – Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) spoke with CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation to discuss increasing repression in Bahrain and opportunities for international engagement. In the interview, “Closure of civic space constitutes an existential threat to independent civil society in Bahrain,” Michael Payne, Director of Advocacy, and Sam Jones, Research Associate, detailed recent violations of civil society rights and explained the history and trajectory of the kingdom’s current crackdown.
“As reflected by the CIVICUS Monitor rating for Bahrain [‘closed’], nearly every independent civil society activist or organisation in the country has faced some form of attack, from judicial harassment to outright forced dissolution,” Payne and Jones stated. “Labor unions, trade associations, religious organisations, political societies, and human rights groups have all come under assault. Many activists and organisations are simply unable to keep up the same pace of work, occupied instead with legal battles or avoiding reprisal. Others have left the country seeking asylum, hoping to continue their work from abroad.”
“Given today’s increasingly closed domestic civil society space, Bahraini human rights defenders and activists rely more and more on external protected spaces for furthering their human rights work. Access remains a key problem, both for international actors to enter Bahrain to carry out human rights work, and for Bahraini civil society to travel freely outside Bahrain without fear of arbitrary travel bans, or violent reprisals upon return. However, civil society still works to organise conferences, events and training programmes within their region and further abroad, and has relied increasingly on exiled or diaspora Bahraini communities to further their work from outside the country. ADHRB, and our Bahraini and international partners, will continue to work to support Bahrain’s human rights defenders and civil society activists in furthering their struggle for human rights, accountability, transparency and redress in Bahrain and in international forums.”