Bahraini activists commemorate the 12th anniversary of the democratic movement in Bahrain, with participation from British parliamentarians

On 7 February, On the 12th anniversary of the democratic movement in Bahrain, Bahraini opposition activists held an event in the halls of the British Parliament, with British parliamentarians, Bahraini opposition activists living in London, and human rights activists from several organizations in attendance. The event was conducted by Husain Abdulla, the executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.

Francie Molloy, a member of the British parliament, maintained his continued refusal to accept the human rights violations, especially during the democratic movement anniversary in Bahrain. He also expressed his faith that the Bahraini people will overcome repression and will reform society based on democratic foundations, despite the authorities’ human rights record.

Molloy called upon the British government to take a stand against the violations in Bahrain. He also compared the Irish experience of struggle to Bahraini one, hoping that Bahraini people will overcome the government’s human rights violations.

John McDonald, a member of the British parliament, evoked the memory of the democratic movement that resulted in extreme repression, expressing his complete solidarity with all people striving to establish fundamental freedoms and human rights. “The Bahraini regime is one of the most repressive regimes in the world,” he said. He called upon the parliament to speak against their relationship with Bahrain, mentioning that the United Kingdom has a special relations with Bahrain and other repressive regimes that prioritize strategic and economic interests instead of human rights and freedoms. He also called upon the British government to support civil freedoms instead of regimes, and especially the Bahraini people in their struggle for basic and democratic human rights to expose the violations in Bahrain.

“If our role isn’t highlighting violations around the world and defending human rights, then what is it for?” Claudia Webb, a member of the British parliament, wondered in turn. “The Bahraini authorities have a long history of violations derived from unsuitable support from the British government, which has increased the violations and led to this crisis.”

Deputy Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party, participated in the event, saying, “My connections with the Bahraini movements are old.” He recalled a meeting with one of the activists in 1986 who gave him a coffee grinder that he still keeps, and reiterated his solidarity with Bahraini people and continued support to the movement to maintain freedom and justice.

Sima Watling, a member of Amnesty International, stated, “For 12 years, Bahrain has silenced its civil society, parties and associations like Al-Wefaq association were dissolved, only independent newspapers were shut down, prisoners were submitted to unjust trials, and the prevention of the special decision concerning torture and the UN staff concerning arbitrary detention to enter the country has continued. In June 2011, the independent Bahraini fact- finding committee was established and reached its results after five months. The Bahraini government has amended some laws and developed new institutions, including Special Investigations Unit and General Secretariat Ombudsman. In 2014, the inefficient work of the National Human Rights Institution began, so Amnesty International has found that those organs were inefficient and failed to provide accountability.”

Watling shed light on at least 12 political prisoners that Amnesty International has addressed, stating that they shouldn’t have been arrested since they are suffering from long-term diseases and medical negligence, including Abduljalil Al-Singace and Mr. Hasan Mushaimaa.

“Dr. Singace is currently on a hunger strike since July 8, 2021 as a response to the confiscation of his writings that took years to work on. He was transferred to Kanoo Health Center, and there was a delay in giving him the proper medication as a pressure to end his hunger strike.”

“Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is still suffering from the signs of torture and he needs proper health care. He has recently had a trial and was convicted of insulting a public officer, it took a long time to assign a lawyer, and when he had one he could not lodge an appeal.”

“Mr. Hasan Mushaima, who is serving a life sentence, was transferred to Kanoo Health Center because of his long-term disease. He is still not getting any medication and was not released with an alternative penalty.” Watling urged at the end of her speech for the international community to call upon UK authorities for accountability and to end the support for Bahraini violations.

Madalina Beldean, a member of the European Centre for Democracy & Human Rights (ECDHR), stated that the Bahraini government has increased the misuse of systemic repression to silence opposing voices. Ms. Beldean compared the situation to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, showing how, while western governments were quick to condemn Russian violence, so they remained silent against similar acts in Bahrain.

“It is a failure in adopting attitudes and pressuring to respect human rights, and a failure in imposing sanctions on some people like the interior minister of Bahrain, who has committed several violations and is still doing arbitrary detention campaigns, murdering, and raping,” she added.

Dr. Sayed al-Shehabi, a leader in the Bahraini opposition party, said in his speech, “After an exhausting case that took a long time to achieve justice, the High Court in London has accused the Bahraini government of hacking the computers of British-Bahraini activists. This sentence has achieved little justice in the face of the brutal repression in Bahrain. This sentence is also a proof on the psychological torture the authoritarian regimes are practicing, and there should be a clear consensus on criminalizing the cross-border hacking in international law.”

Al-Shehabi continuedm “The decision of opposing a penalty on the hackers of the computers of Bahraini activists in other countries a firm message that dictatorial regimes aren’t capable of targeting opponents wherever they want.”

Husain Abdulla, the executive director of ADHRB, ended by shedding light on the government’s violent response to the movement in Bahrain, which resulted in the death of many people. At the end, the attendees stood for a minute of silence mourning the victims of the earthquake in Syria and Turkey.