MESA - Middle East Studies Association

Letters on Bahrain

6 December 2016

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA) of North America and its Committee on Academic Freedom concerning the comprehensive travel bans imposed by Bahrain’s Public Prosecutor and Ministry of Interior on at least twenty-eight members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), including several working and retired academics. These bans violate the basic human rights of freedom of opinion, freedom of movement, and freedom of conscience of these individuals, all of whom are citizens of the Kingdom of Bahrain. We are very concerned that this action on the part of Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior and Public Prosecutor sets a dangerous precedent that threatens civil society in the country.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

The travel bans were imposed in June and August 2016. On June 12, 2016, three members of the BCHR, journalist Hussain Radhi, nurse Ibrahim al-Demistani, and BCHR staff member Ebtisam al-Sayegh, were stopped at the Bahrain International Airport and prevented from traveling to Geneva, Switzerland, to attend the thirty-second session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), which took place on June 13-July 1, 2016, with an additional meeting on July 8. Two days later, on June 14, BCHR president Jalila al-Salman, who is also vice president of the Bahrain Teachers Association, was prevented from traveling to Oslo, Norway, to attend the awards ceremony for the Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, which she herself had won in 2015 for her work with the Bahrain Teachers Association. And on June 18, BCHR member Abdulnabi al-Ekry, a retired pediatric orthopedic surgeon, was stopped at the same airport and prevented from leaving the country. None of these individuals had been formally informed of the travel bans before going to the airport.

Furthermore, when they were informed of the bans at the airport, they were not told the reason for the bans or what branch of the Bahraini government had issued them. Only later was it understood that most of the bans were issued by the Public Prosecutor’s office while the rest were issued by the Ministry of Interior. When several of those barred from travel appealed to Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, they were not even received by ministry representatives.

Again, in August 2016, several individuals were prevented from traveling. On August 22, Enas Oun, head of the BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation Department, was banned from traveling to a human rights workshop outside Bahrain. On August 23, Hussain Radhi was again prevented from leaving the country under the travel ban imposed on him in June. The same day, lawyer and former BCHR member Mohamed al-Tajer was barred from leaving the country, while on August 27, Ebtisam al-Sayegh was once again prevented from traveling, and BCHR member Ahmed al-Saffar, head of the Monitoring and Documentation Unit of the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights, was barred for the first time. On August 29, Nedal al-Salman, the BCHR’s Head of International Relations and Women’s and Children’s Advocacy, was prevented from traveling to Geneva in connection with the thirty-third session of the UNHRC, which took place September 13-30. And on August 31, Jalila al-Salman, who had been prevented from leaving the country in June, was stopped on the King Fahd Causeway leading from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia and informed that the Public Prosecutor had ordered a comprehensive travel ban against her.

Bahrain’s government appears to be using travel bans, as well as imprisonment and revocation of passports, as instruments to inhibit the important work of the BCHR. Furthermore, these travel bans violate basic human rights of these individuals, notably freedom of movement, freedom of conscience, freedom to form associations, and freedom of assembly, which are enshrined in the Kingdom of Bahrain’s 2002 constitution. More specifically, the bans violate Article 19 of the constitution, which states, “…nor shall the residence of any person or his liberty to choose his place of residence or his liberty of movement be restricted, except in accordance with the law and under the supervision of the judicial authorities.” In addition, the bans are comprehensive, prohibiting travel outside Bahrain for any reason whatsoever and for an indefinite period. Thus, these restrictions could threaten the health and well-being of the individuals concerned.

We call on the Government of Bahrain, and specifically its Public Prosecutor’s Office and Ministry of Interior, to lift the travel bans on all twenty-eight of the affected BCHR members, and to refrain from using travel bans to hinder the work of these and other human rights-oriented organizations in Bahrain. The members of these organizations, and all citizens of Bahrain, should be allowed to travel abroad freely and without constraints.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Beth Baron
MESA President
Professor, City University of New York

Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director
Associate Professor, University of Arizona

cc:

His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa
Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs, and Awqāf
Fax +973 1753 6343

His Excellency Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Minister of Interior
Fax +973 1757 2222

His Excellency Shaikh Khaled Bin Ahmed bin Mohamed Al Khalifa
Minister of Foreign Affairs
contactus@mofa.gov.bh

His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Khalifa
Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States
Fax 202 362 2192
ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

5 December 2016

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our strong objection to the ongoing detention of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab on what appear to be political grounds, and to urge the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

One of the most prominent advocates for human rights in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and founding director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. At our 2011 annual meeting, we had the honor of meeting Mr. Rajab, who accepted our Academic Freedom Award on behalf of faculty, students and staff at Bahraini institutions of higher education who had spoken out against state abuses, including arbitrary arrests, suspensions and terminations of university personnel.

For his tireless work peacefully promoting human rights and speaking out against injustices, Mr. Rajab has been repeatedly targeted by the Bahraini authorities. He was imprisoned from 2012 to 2014, from April to July of 2015, and has remained in custody since June 2016. Moreover, he has been subject to a travel ban since November 2014. Uponhis most recent arrest, on June 13, 2016, about which we wrote to you on June 16, 2016, Mr. Rajab was charged with “spreading false rumours in time of war,” “insulting public authorities [the Ministry of Interior]” and “insulting a foreign country.” His trial began on July 12 and has continued since then, with several postponements. Mr. Rajab has denied the charges, all of which appear to stem from comments (posted in 2015 on Twitter and retweeted) relating to the Saudi-led war on Yemen and the mistreatment and torture of inmates in Bahrain’s Jaw prison. While he was arrested in 2015 because of these comments, he was released without trial, but the authorities did not drop the charges against him. In our letter of June 16, we requested that you intervene personally to secure his immediate and unconditional release and the dismissal of all charges against him. At the most recent hearing, on October 31, the High Criminal Court in Manama rescheduled the hearing for December 15 to allow a court-appointed cybercrimes expert to further investigate Mr. Rajab’s Twitter account.

It is important to note that a letter printed under Nabeel Rajab’s name appeared in the opinion pages of the New York Times on September 4, 2016. The “Letter from a Bahraini Jail” describes his own treatment and that of several thousand political prisoners and rights advocates by the Bahraini authorities. It urges the Obama administration to use its influence to both promote human rights in Bahrain and resolve the ongoing conflict in Yemen. The day after the publication of this letter, the Public Prosecutor in Bahrain interrogated Mr. Rajab about the letter and charged him with “spreading false news and statements and malicious rumours that undermine the prestige of the state.” We understand that this latest charge is to be adjudicated at a separate trial.

We are truly dismayed by the ongoing harassment of Nabeel Rajab and many other Bahraini human rights advocates. Indeed, under separate cover, we have protested to you regarding the systematic and unwarranted travel bans imposed not only on Mr. Rajab but also on other members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. We call upon you to desist from pursuing those who peacefully exercise their rights. We urge you and your government to uphold the constitutional rights of Bahraini citizens and repeal laws that criminalize the peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly We appeal to you to haveNabeel Rajab released immediately and unconditionally, have all charges against him dropped, and allow him to continue his important work.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Beth Baron
MESA President
Professor, City University of New York

Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director
Associate Professor, University of Arizona

cc:

His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa
Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs, and Awqāf
Fax +973 1753 6343
 
His Excellency Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa
Minister of Interior
Fax +973 1757 2222

H.E. Shaikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Khalifa
Ambassador of Bahrain to the United States
Fax 202 362 2192
ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

Mr. Maina Kiai
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association
Fax + 41 22 917 9006
freeassembly@ohchr.org

16 June 2016

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom in vigorous protest of the arrest of Nabeel Rajab, the prominent human rights defender, on what appear to be political grounds amidst a far-reaching crackdown on advocates for freedom of thought and expression in your country. We urge the Bahraini authorities to release Mr. Rajab without delay and to remove the restrictions on his activities and those of his colleagues.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Nabeel Rajab is one of the best-known advocates for human rights in the Arab world. He is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and founding director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. At our 2011 annual meeting, we were honored to welcome Mr. Rajab, who accepted our Academic Freedom Award on behalf of faculty, students and staff at Bahraini institutions of higher education who had spoken out against state abuses that year, including arbitrary arrests, suspensions and terminations of university personnel.

Mr. Rajab was arrested in the early morning hours of June 13. He is charged with “spreading false information over social media.” As of this writing, the precise meaning of this allegation is unclear, though he was previously arrested in 2015 on the basis of critical statements he made on Twitter about the maltreatment and torture of inmates in Bahrain’s Jaw prison and the Saudi-led bombardment of Yemen. For the first statement, Mr. Rajab was accused of “insulting a statutory body” and, for the second, of “disseminating false rumors in time of war.” Mr. Rajab was let go before trial, but the authorities did not drop the charges, so it is possible that this most recent arrest is a continuation of that prosecution. 

Such a prosecution would be clearly political in nature. International and regional human rights organizations have documented numerous and severe violations as a result of Saudi-led airstrikes in Yemen and at Jaw prison. We have also written to you several times about one of the prisoners in Jaw, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain who was arrested as part of the mass roundups of pro-democracy activists in 2011. Dr. Al-Singace remains jailed on a life sentence despite his poor health and after being designated by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience. 

Nabeel Rajab’s arrest coincides with a new campaign of state retribution against Bahrainis who are working for greater democracy and respect for human rights in your country. The police took Mr. Rajab into custody on the first day of the thirty-second session of the UN Human Rights Council. The preceding day, six other activists were prevented from boarding a plane to Geneva to attend the session and informed that a travel ban had been imposed upon them. The previous week, another prominent advocate, Zainab Al-Khawaja, was compelled to leave Bahrain for de facto exile in Denmark after she was threatened with re-arrest and indefinite detention. She had been arrested in March and released in May on “humanitarian grounds.”

We call on Your Majesty to intervene personally to secure Nabeel Rajab’s immediate and unconditional release and the dismissal of all charges against him. We renew our pleas for the prompt release of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace. We further appeal to Your Majesty to affirm publicly that state harassment of Bahraini human rights defenders will cease and that freedom of thought and expression, including academic freedom, will henceforth enjoy the full protections they are guaranteed by international law.

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Beth Baron
MESA President
Professor, City University of New York

Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director
Associate Professor, University of Arizona

cc:

H. E. Ambassador Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain


24 February 2016

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

We write on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) and its Committee on Academic Freedom in vigorous protest of the decision of the Bahraini authorities to deny entry to Professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla. Professor Abdulla, a prominent Emirati political scientist who chairs the Arab Council for the Social Sciences, was turned back at the Manama airport on February 18, 2016 on his way to the annual conference of the Gulf Development Forum. He was told he was persona non grata and directed to take the next flight back to the United Arab Emirates. No reason was given for these measures. We respectfully urge Your Majesty to take immediate action in order to secure the reversal of this arbitrary and unjustified decision and to ensure that such incidents do not recur.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Professor Abdulla is a retired professor of political science at Emirates University. He is a distinguished scholar with a long record of publication on Gulf security and international relations as well as on socio-political issues in the Gulf and the Arab world writ large. He was lead author of the Arab Knowledge Report 2008. He has lectured around the world, including in Bahrain on previous occasions, and is a frequent media commentator on Arab and world affairs.

Since no reason was given for the denial of entry and persona non grata declaration, these measures are clear violations both of the principles of academic freedom and of the fundamental right to movement and mobility guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We do not know why Bahraini authorities would take these actions. But, given that Professor Abdulla has written articles about the repercussions of the 2011 Arab uprisings in the Gulf, including Bahrain, given that other Gulf countries have denied entry to academics writing on this general topic, and given the very serious violations of academic freedom at Bahraini universities in recent years, we cannot help but suspect that Bahraini authorities are retaliating against Professor Abdulla for something he has written or said in the past. Whatever the case, these measures against Professor Abdulla have a chilling effect on free speech in Bahrain and among those scholars living in the region and around the world who are interested in Bahrain and the Gulf.

We call on Your Majesty to intervene personally to rescind the decision to declare Professor Abdulla persona non grata in Bahrain and to welcome him to visit the country again, should he wish, in order to pursue his scholarly endeavors. We further appeal to you to affirm publicly that there will be no further Bahraini state interference in scholarly travel and interchange, and that the principles of academic freedom will henceforth be protected in your country.

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Beth Baron
MESA President
Professor, City University of New York


Amy W. Newhall
MESA Executive Director
Associate Professor, University of Arizona

Cc:

H. E. Ambassador Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain


1 May 2015

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express profound concern over the continued and very serious maltreatment of Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, a Bahraini citizen and political prisoner serving a life sentence in your country. Our Committee wrote to you about Dr. Al-Singace’s case in 2013 and 2014. We are following up again now based on reports that Dr. Al-Singace is on hunger strike to protest the dire conditions at Jaw prison. We urge you to intervene personally to arrange his immediate release or, at the very minimum, to guarantee that he receives proper medical care.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Dr. Al-Singace was as a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain from 1995 until his unjust incarceration for his part in the 2011 protests for greater democracy and respect for civil rights in your country. We share the long-standing assessment of Amnesty International, Scholars at Risk and other prominent organizations that Dr. Al-Singace is a political prisoner. His life sentence has no basis in law, but is intended to punish and intimidate political dissenters in Bahrain.

Exacerbating this already intolerable situation is the fact that Dr. Al-Singace suffers from numerous health problems that are worsening while he is in jail. These problems include respiratory and musculoskeletal ailments.

Most outrageous, Dr. Al-Singace reportedly has two ruptured eardrums caused by beatings at the hands of his jailers. As we have written previously, this abuse of our colleague meets the international legal definition of torture.

Dr. Al-Singace began a hunger strike on March 21 to bring attention to his own case, as well as the cases of his fellow political prisoners. His protest occurs against the backdrop of press reports that on March 10 riot police bombarded prisoners at Jaw with tear gas, beat them, doused them in cold water and forced them to remain naked outdoors for three days. This assault, which also qualifies as torture, was allegedly prompted by unrest at Jaw’s Building 4, where some 1,000 prisoners are held in a space meant for just 450 persons.

It is urgent, Your Majesty, that there be a full investigation of these and other reported injustices at Jaw prison and that any allegations found to be correct be redressed. We appeal to you to lift the charges against all political prisoners, including Dr. Al-Singace, and to ensure that the rights to free expression and peaceable assembly are henceforth protected in your country. Indeed, Your Majesty, Articles 1719 and 1722 of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry prescribe precisely these measures. Your government has endorsed and pledged to implement the BICI’s findings. At the very least, we call upon you to see to it that Dr. Al-Singace gets regular visits from doctors and his family, in accordance with Bahrain’s own prior commitments and its obligations under international law.

We look forward to your timely response.

Yours sincerely,

Nathan Brown
President
Professor, George Washington University

Cc:

His Excellency Khaled Bin Ali
Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

Diplomatic Area
, PO Box 450
Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain
Email: minister@justice.gov.bh
Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali

His Excellency Ali Bin Fadhi al-Bouainain

Attorney General of the Kingdom of Bahrain

Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Diplomatic Area

Manama, PO Box 450

Kingdom of Bahrain

Ambassador Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain

3502 International Drive NW

Washington, DC 20008

Fax: 202-362-2192

His Excellency Thomas C. Krajeski

Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Bahrain

Embassy of the United States of America

Bldg 979, Road 3119, Block 331
Kingdom of Bahrain

Via email to: ambsecretary@bahrainembassy.org

Fax: +973 1727-0547

11 February 2015

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) in vigorous protest of the decision of the Bahraini Ministry of Interior to revoke the citizenship of Dr. Masaud Jahromi, a professor of telecommunications engineering at Ahlia University. Dr. Jahromi is one of 72 Bahraini citizens whose nationality was revoked without credible explanation on January 31. He is facing the threat of having to leave his home country within days. We urge you to intervene promptly and personally to reverse the Ministry’s decision.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

The Interior Ministry statement announcing the withdrawals of nationality accuses the 72 individuals of “illegal acts,” including espionage, material support for terrorism and “defaming the image of the regime.” It is a blanket accusation—there is no indication of which person committed which “illegal act” and there are no details of the “illegal acts” in question. This vagueness belies a deeply disturbing lack of due process in a decision to denaturalize 72 people.

In addition, the Interior Ministry’s decree lacks a reference number. Under the Bahraini judicial system, a government decision cannot be appealed in court without such a reference number. Owing to this and other failures of proper procedure, Dr. Jahromi and many others could be rendered stateless.

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality.” Since there are no specific charges leveled at Dr. Jahromi, and since he has had no day in court, we conclude that the Ministry of Interior’s decision to revoke his citizenship is arbitrary and thus a violation of customary international law.

We strongly suspect, in fact, that the revocation of Dr. Jahromi’s citizenship is political in nature, related to his past advocacy for greater democracy and respect for civil rights in your country. Dr. Jahromi was arrested in April 2011 amidst the countrywide unrest of that time. He was detained for nearly six months, frequently incommunicado and without access to counsel, and dismissed from his academic post. No charge was ever filed, and he was reinstated at the university in March 2012.

We are very concerned as well about Dr. Jahromi’s wife, whose residential visa in Bahrain is based on her husband’s citizenship. She could be deported, and the family separated, if the Interior Ministry decision is allowed to stand. In view of the circumstances, separation of the Jahromi family would violate Article 17 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states, in part: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence.” Bahrain ratified the Covenant in 2006.

Your Majesty, on both legal and humanitarian grounds, we appeal to you to rescind the Interior Ministry decree of January 31 and restore Bahraini citizenship to Dr. Jahromi and the 71 others. We further call upon you to affirm that international norms of due process and civil rights will henceforth be adhered to in your kingdom.

We look forward to your timely response.

Yours sincerely,

Nathan Brown
President
Professor, George Washington University

Cc:      

Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa
Ministry of Interior
P.O. Box 13, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1723 2661
Twitter: @moi_Bahrain

22 January 2014

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
PO Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express our deep disquiet over the serious maltreatment of one of your citizens, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, a political prisoner serving a life sentence in Bahrain. Our Committee wrote to you about Dr. Al-Singace’s case last November. We are following up now because we understand that his health has worsened dramatically. We urge you to intervene immediately and personally to arrange his release from jail or, at the very minimum, to ensure that he receives proper medical care.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Dr. Al-Singace has served as a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain since 1995. His record of scholarship and professional service is exemplary, as we detailed in our previous letter. He is in jail, not for any wrongdoing, but because he is one of the “Bahrain 13,” advocates for greater democracy in your country who were arrested for the peaceful expression of their political views. In November, Dr. Al-Singace was the first “champion for justice” featured in the eponymous campaign run by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. Amnesty International has also highlighted Dr. Al-Singace’s case, designating him as a political prisoner.

We are especially disturbed by news of Dr. Al-Singace’s intensifying medical problems. He suffers from paralysis in one leg, but has been given no treatment, not even an appropriate wheelchair or walking stick. Most worrisome, Dr. Al-Singace is now afflicted with kidney stones that we understand cause him extreme pain. He badly needs an operation; medications are of no use. His lawyer says he has submitted a request to this effect but that the government has thus far been unresponsive.

As we wrote in November, what is being done to our colleague meets the international legal definition of torture.

The gravity of the abuse is exacerbated by the fact that Dr. Al-Singace should not be incarcerated at all. He certainly should not be held as he is—in an overcrowded cell, isolated along with the rest of the “Bahrain 13” from other prisoners, without blankets, hot water or clothing appropriate for the chilly winter months. The warden demands that he wear a prison uniform during family visits. When he refuses to endure this indignity in front of his wife and children, he is barred from seeing them. The duration of their visits has been reduced to only one hour twice a month. Meanwhile, Bahraini officials have decided that he may not see his lawyer at all, on the grounds that his final appeal was denied.

Your Majesty, we note as we did in November that Bahrain is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We ask that you honor your commitments under this and other instruments of international law and release Dr. Al-Singace from prison, drop all charges against him and reinstate him as a productive member of the faculty of the University of Bahrain with compensation for the time he lost while in prison.

We also implore you to implement the recommendations of the very Commission that your government established, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). Particularly pertinent to Dr. Al-Singace’s case is the BICI recommendation in chapter VI, Section E, to the effect that “all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of the advocacy of violence, [should] have their convictions reviewed and sentences commuted or, as the case may be, outstanding charges against them dropped.” And in Chapter VI, Section D, the BICI’s report urges proper protection for persons in custody. The continued imprisonment of Dr. Al-Singace is, in fact, impossible to square with Your Majesty’s public pledges to respect the BICI recommendations.

Your Majesty, the maltreatment of Dr. Al-Singace in Jaw prison is nothing short of an outrage, particularly given his ill health. His situation—most immediately the kidney stones—demands urgent redress.

We look forward to your timely response.

Yours sincerely,

Nathan Brown
President, Middle East Studies Association and
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

    cc:
    Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior
    His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
    His Excellency Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the U.S.
    His Excellency Thomas C. Krajeski, Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Bahrain
    Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi, Bahrain Minister of Education & President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain
    Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, President, University of Bahrain

 

21 November 2013

Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O. Box 555
Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 1766 4587

Your Majesty,

I write to you on behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) to express our deep concern about the well-being of one of your citizens, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace. He has served as a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Bahrain since 1995. 
MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Dr. Al-Singace has had an illustrious academic career. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Technology in the United Kingdom. He has been a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Bahrain Society for Engineers. He has been a Board member of the Bahrain Academic Society, has published more than twenty articles in established journals and has served as referee for technical journals. He has served on several service committees in the UOB Department of Mechanical Engineering, including the Academic Committee, Promotions Committee and the TAG Solid Group Committee.

Dr. Al-Singace, a noted human rights activist, was arrested on March 17, 2011 amidst the popular demonstrations of that time. According to Scholars at Risk, the reason for the arrest was his “reported involvement in peaceful protests and calls for democratic reform.” He was subsequently tried before a military court and sentenced to life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. We share the assessment of Scholars at Risk that Dr. Al-Singace is a prisoner of conscience, a man jailed solely for the non-violent expression of his political beliefs.

Dr. Al-Singace is currently serving his sentence in Jaw prison. He is significantly impaired physically. He is partially paralyzed and suffers from poliomyelitis as well as heart, eye and sinus problems. He relies upon a cane and a wheelchair for mobility. We understand that he has repeatedly been denied access to critical medical care from the state of Bahrain because he would not wear prison clothing. Bahraini citizens are entitled to health care regardless of the clothes that they wear.

We have received credible reports that Dr. Al-Singace has been held in a tiny cell, often in solitary confinement, and that he has been subjected to repeated verbal and sexual assault, as well as beatings. In spite of the fact that he depends upon the support of a wheelchair, he has been forced to stand upright for prolonged periods. This maltreatment is unconscionable. It meets the international legal definition of torture.

We further understand that Dr. Al-Singace’s attorney has been unable to see him for more than ninety days amidst reports that his client’s health is deteriorating. Apparently, prison administrators will not replace Dr. Al-Singace’s walking cane with a cane that is more appropriate to his physique. Dr. Al-Singace is 51 years old. His wife and daughter are denied visits. The Bahraini state has incarcerated his son, Husain, in the same prison as his father—for no reason other than his family ties to this jailed, frail academic.

We urge you, at the minimum, to provide Dr. Al-Singace with immediate medical care, including an adequate cane and wheelchair. Allow his family and attorney to visit him.

The larger concern, however, is the false pretense of Dr. Al-Singace’s imprisonment. We note that Bahrain is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which documents protect the right to peaceful political expression. We ask that you honor your commitments under international law and release Dr. Al-Singace from prison, drop all charges against him and reinstate him as a productive member of the faculty of the University of Bahrain with compensation for the time he lost while in prison. 

We also implore you to implement the recommendations of the very Commission that your government established, the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). In Chapter VI, Section D, the BICI’s report urges proper protection for persons in custody. We ask you to implement the BICI recommendation in chapter VI, Section E, that states that “all persons charged with offences involving political expression, not consisting of the advocacy of violence, have their convictions reviewed and sentences commuted or, as the case may be, outstanding charges against them dropped.” In Chapter VII, Section B, the Commission’s report enjoins the government of Bahrain to “ensure that remaining dismissed employees have not been dismissed because of the exercise of their right of freedom of expression, opinion or association or assembly.” 
Article 7 of the Bahraini Constitution states, “The State guarantees the inviolability of the places of learning.” In your September 10, 2011 speech on the occasion of the new school year, Your Majesty reaffirmed that “education is the master key to fight the battle of life, and has been a trend since the beginning of the modern renaissance in Bahrain in the thought of our wise leadership and citizens, positioning our country among the vanguards of countries who give education much attention.” The continued imprisonment of Dr. Al-Singace is an affront to the very principles you profess, and severely undermines Bahrain’s international standing.

We therefore urge Your Majesty to intervene personally to secure the release of Dr. Al-Singace from jail, at the earliest possible opportunity, and certainly no later than his upcoming birthday on January 15.

We look forward to Your Majesty’s timely response. We urge you to protect the sanctity of the system of higher education in Bahrain, a sphere of activity that ought to be cherished and protected by the state.

Yours sincerely,

Nathan Brown
President, Middle East Studies Association and
Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University

cc:
Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Interior
His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs

His Excellency Ali Bin Fadhi al-Bouainain, Attorney General of the Kingdom of Bahrain
 & Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the U.S.
Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Jones, U.S. Department of State

Acting Assistant Secretary Uzra Zeya, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor,
U.S. Department of State

His Excellency Thomas C. Krajeski, Ambassador of the United States to the Kingdom of Bahrain

M. Cherif Bassiouni, De Paul University School of Law
Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi, Bahrain Minister of Education & President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain 
Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, President, University of Bahrain
Dr. Abdullah Yousif Al-Hawaj, President, Ahlia University

 

11 December 2012

His Excellency Lieutenant General Shaikh Rashid Al Khalifa
Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
P.O. Box 13
Kingdom of Bahrain

Your Excellency Shaikh Rashid,

I write to you on behalf the Middle East Studies Association and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our deep concern over the revocation of citizenship on November 7 of thirty-one Bahraini nationals. We are especially concerned that this punishment was extended to academics, particularly to Professor Abdulhadi Khalaf. Dr. Khalaf is a MESA member.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching of the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members
worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Professor Abdulhadi Khalaf, a native Bahraini, is a Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Lund. His academic publications are numerous. Outlets include the Arab Research Institute, Gulf Research Center, Civil Society and Democratization in Bahrain, British Society for Middle Eastern Studies, ORIENT, Civility Review, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies European University Institute, Middle East International, Research Reports in Sociology, and Arab Reform Bulletin. He has also published a book with the Bahrain Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs on Working Women in Bahrain.

Professor Khalaf's ability to conduct scholarly research is seriously impeded by the revocation of his citizenship, as he is unable to travel to Bahrain, the other five member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and perhaps other states in the Middle East. His professional work is thereby interrupted by the resultant lack of direct contact with his colleagues, his inability to participate in regional conferences, and the obstruction of his access to conduct fieldwork. Article 23 of the Bahraini constitution guarantees freedom of opinion and scientific research.

We understand that Article 10(c) of the Bahraini Citizenship Act of 1963 -- namely that "citizenship may be deprived by His Majesty the Governor from whomever enjoys such nationality...if he causes harm to the security of the State" -- was cited in justification of this action. We caution strongly that the free discussion of one's political viewpoints in scholarly publications cannot be equated with harming the security of the State. Treason is a serious charge that requires the marshaling of evidence in support of the accusation. To date, no such evidence has been offered in Dr. Khalaf's case.

We are also deeply concerned regarding the absence of due process in the revocation of citizenship. None of the Bahrainis who lost their citizenship were formally notified of the decision nor were they officially charged with criminal activity or prosecuted for damaging the security of the state. Dr. Khalaf learned that he was no longer a citizen of Bahrain through an article published by the Bahrain News Agency. Not even minimal procedural standards were met.

Dr. Khalaf does have Swedish citizenship. The Bahraini Constitution, however, clearly states that before stripping the nationality of someone holding dual citizenship, the government must afford him/her the right to choose which citizenship to retain. Then, only His Majesty the King of Bahrain has the authority to grant or revoke citizenship. The recent decision was issued by the Ministry of the Interior, and therefore contravenes Bahraini law.

Moreover, this action is a clear violation of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides that "everyone has a right to nationality. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality." Nationality is a fundamental right of all human beings. It enables them to enjoy a connection and identity with their society and the protection of their state.

We are heartened that the article in the 1963 Bahraini Citizenship Act on the basis of which Professor Khalaf lost his citizenship rights is immediately followed by Article 11, which states: "Citizenship of Bahrain may be restored to any person who has lost citizenship by virtue of the above three articles." We, therefore, strongly urge you to restore his citizenship as well as the citizenship of the other 30 individuals.

We look forward to your timely response. Mostly, we urge you to restore the sanctity of the higher educational system in Bahrain, a sphere of activity that ought to be protected and cherished by the state.

Yours Sincerely,

Peter Sluglett
MESA President
Professor, Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore

cc: Information Affairs Authority President HE Shaikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the U.S. HE Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain Thomas C. Krajeski
Bahrain Minister of Education Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi
M. Cherif Bassiouni, De Paul University School of Law

31 August 2012

Dr. Abdullah Mohammed Al-Rubaish
President, King Faisal University
via email aalrubaish@kfu.edu.sa; president@ud.edu.sa

Dr. Waleed Albu-Ali
Dean, College of Medicine, King Faisal University
via email wbuali@kfu.ed.sa

Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi
Minister of Higher Education, Bahrain
via facsimile +973 1768 0161

Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad Al-Saud
Minister of Higher Education, Saudi Arabia
via facsimile media@mohe.gov.sa; dmea@mohe.gov.sa

Dear Sirs,

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our deep concern over the sustained interruption of study for four medical students at King Faisal University in Dammam, Saudi Arabia.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching of the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

A travel ban was imposed on Zainab Maklooq, Aalaa Sayed and Zahra Zabar effectively preventing them from going to school. All were on full scholarships based on exemplary performance in high school. We understand that they were arrested by Saudi Arabian authorities and extradited to Bahrain where they were accused of inciting hatred towards the Bahraini regime and criticizing government symbols, and detained for about three weeks.

Although they were acquitted in June due to lack of evidence, they have not been allowed to resume their studies. Two of the students were in their final semester of a six year program of study. The other was in her fifth year of study. King Faisal University will neither confirm nor deny their expulsion, but they are no longer allowed into Saudi Arabia. They have contacted authorities in both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to no avail. Further, they are unable to obtain university transcripts. With no access to these documents, they are effectively barred from resuming their education anywhere else. Other universities have informed the students that they would be required to repeat at least three years of study if they were to enroll.

Zahra was recognized as the best student in the northern governorate of Bahrain, won a physics competition, won best project for an Autism in Health Education competition, and represented Bahrain in the Arabic World Speech competition. Zainab has volunteered her skills and energy in a health care center. Aalaa’s grade point average is 4.09 out of 5. She was previously nominated for participation in the Crown Prince Outstanding Leadership and Development Foundation. All three have worked very hard to pursue their goal of becoming physicians.

We are also concerned about a fourth medical student at King Faisal University, Mahmood Habib. Also in his final year of study, he was prohibited from taking his final exam by the university administration without explanation. He learned later during a university investigation that he had been accused of “inciting hatred towards the Bahraini regime.” He was not given the opportunity to prove otherwise. He has been informed that he is permanently expelled from the university though he was never charged with any offense.

We ask that you allow these four students to complete their university medical education and receive their medical degrees, that you protect their scholarships, lift the travel ban and ensure that they are not hindered in any way as a result of these events in their quest for professional employment.

Education is integral to national development. Both Bahrain and Saudi Arabia have expressed their commitment to nurture young citizens who are capable of nation building and contributing to the community. King Abdullah has repeatedly said that giving young people a better education is at the heart of his plan to build a modern state. He stated, “Undoubtedly, scientific centers that embrace all peoples are the first line of defense against extremists.” The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Higher Education “seeks to fulfill the potential of the greatest resource – people.”

Bahrain’s commitment to education is explicit in its Constitution, which affirms that “The State guarantees the inviolability of places of learning.” King Hamad recently confirmed this stance when he called education “the cornerstone of national development.”

These four students have all proven their professional credentials and are future leaders in a critical field of national development. We urge you to ensure their access to academic programs and to support them so that they may fulfill their academic and societal potentials.

We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Fred M. Donner
MESA President
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago

cc:
H.E. Sheikh Humoud Bin Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahraini Ambassador to Saudi Arabia
H.E. Ambassador Houda Ezra Nonoo, Bahraini Ambassador to US
Dr. Abdulmohsen Fahad Almarek, Ambassador Saudi Arabian Ambassador to Bahrain
H.E. Adel A. Al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the US
Prince Mohammed bin Fahd, Governor of the Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia

11 April 2012

David L. Phillips, Chairman of the Board
Aida Araissi, Founder, President & Managing Director
Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce
P.O. Box 571870
Houston, Texas 77257-1870

Dear Mr. Phillips and Ms. Araissi,

On behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) I am writing regarding the 2012 version of Teachers Educating Across Cultures in Harmony (TEACH), a program described by your promotional materials as aimed at cross cultural exchanges and increased knowledge between educators in the United States and the Arab World. As we understand, from June 8th to June 15th, 2012, the Bilateral US-Arab Chamber of Commerce is hosting the 5th annual educator trip to the Kingdom of Bahrain and State of Qatar “to raise awareness, understanding, and cooperation between educators in the United States and the Middle East.” As educators ourselves, devoted to the teaching of Middle East studies, we certainly applaud these goals, and we write with the hope that your program will indeed introduce its participants to the situation of the educational sector in Bahrain. For the last 14 months, it has been a very ugly picture.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. It is the preeminent organization in the field. The Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Since the spring of last year, our committee has written four letters to Bahraini ministers, university presidents and other high officials expressing first our grave concern, but more recently our outrage at the wide range of abuses committed against faculty, administrators, staff and students at all levels of Bahraini educational institutions. Accompanying this letter are copies of our previous letters, which outline in detail the dreadful record of arrests, dismissals, physical abuse, harassment and intimidation that have characterized official policy since last February. In June 2011, the Ministry of Education issued five amendments to university bylaws that contravene the 1997 UNESCO principles regarding treatment of higher education personnel, in addition to flouting the basic protections laid out in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006.

All of these matters were addressed in the November 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), whose recommendations His Majesty King Hamad promised to follow. On March 20, 2012 the National Commission tasked with carrying out these recommendations said that subsequent reforms had “touched all aspects of Bahraini life.” Yet it is clear to us that people working in the domain of higher education remain subject to abuse by the state. Just to cite a handful of examples, faculty who were dismissed have been reinstated but at inferior rank, students have been handed sentences and fines disproportionate to the crimes of which they were found guilty (and that on the flimsiest of evidence), and new broad and vague restrictions on professors’ expression make a mockery of the notion of academic freedom.

At its 2011 annual meeting, MESA was proud to give its Academic Freedom Award to all faculty, students, and staff of Bahraini institutions of higher education who had documented and spoken out against state abuses in the course of the preceding year and resisted various attacks upon the autonomy and integrity of those institutions.

While we are not privy to the program planned for this year’s participants in TEACH, your promotional page simply states that “The Kingdom of Bahrain consists of 33 islands and has been one of the Gulf's most cosmopolitan crossroads for over 4,000 years. Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to start education for both males and females. Today a striking skyline and a rich way of life are seen in Bahrain.”

As educators committed to respect for human rights and for academic freedom, we appeal to your sense of ethics and morality by asking that your program provide access to a representative set of Bahraini educators and students, so that their American counterparts may come away with an honest picture of the state of the educational sector in Bahrain today. If members of our committee specializing in Bahrain can be of help by providing additional contacts in Bahraini educational institutions, or by offering a phone briefing to your group on the current situation in the kingdom before they head to the Gulf, please let us know.

We look forward to your response.

Fred M. Donner
MESA President
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago

06 April 2012

His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa
Minister of Justice
Kingdom of Bahrain


Your Excellency,

On behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), I write to register grave concern about the ongoing state prosecution and harassment of university faculty, staff, and students in the Kingdom of Bahrain. I urge you to intervene personally to put an immediate halt to these abuses of power.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. It is the preeminent organization in the field. The Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3,000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

CAF began following events in Bahrain closely in the spring of 2011. The committee has written to Bahraini officials three times since then to protest the rash of arrests, suspensions, dismissals, and other arbitrary punishments of faculty, staff, and students at Bahraini institutions of higher education. My colleagues and I were heartened to hear that on March 19, 2012 Dr. Masaud Jahromi was reinstated to his position at Ahlia University. Many other injustices, however, remain to be redressed.

All of these matters were addressed in the November 2011 report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), whose recommendations His Majesty King Hamad promised to follow. On March 20, 2012 the National Commission tasked with carrying out these recommendations said that subsequent reforms had “touched all aspects of Bahraini life.” Yet it is clear to us that people working in the domain of higher education remain subject to abuse by the state.

We have learned, for instance, that six university students have been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment and hefty fines despite the BICI’s finding that their “confessions” were obtained under torture. Even if the guilty verdicts were warranted, which we highly doubt, these sentences are grossly disproportionate to the alleged offenses and rob these students of their peak productive years in adulthood.

It has been reported as well that 141 other university students were tried on ambiguous security-related charges and received fines of different amounts and jail sentences of varying duration. We particularly deplore the fact that none of these students knew the identity of the witnesses against them or the nature of the state’s purported evidence of wrongdoing. At the least, there were serious infringements upon due process in these proceedings. And indeed, we find there is ample reason for skepticism of the state’s case in toto: The BICI said in its report that it “did not see any photographs in the university‘s investigative files that established that a particular student had participated in a violent, criminal, or disruptive act on the university campus.” In addition, the court has told the students that it would suspend their convictions for a “bail” payment of 500 Bahraini dinars, a measure that sounds oddly like this particular court’s judgments are for sale.

The appalling maltreatment of these university personnel is part of what we are forced to conclude has been an orchestrated campaign of assaults upon academic freedom in the course of the past year in Bahrain. In 2011, numerous academics from the University of Bahrain and other institutions were arrested for exercising their right of free expression, including at least nine who were rousted from their homes by masked police. Several staffers at the University of Bahrain were also arrested and remain suspended from their jobs. Twelve professors at the University of Bahrain, who had been arbitrarily suspended from their jobs, were told to go back to work in February, only to find that administrators had placed draconian “final warnings” in their personnel files, the last disciplinary measure before termination. Contrary to the BICI’s recommendation that all faculty members be reinstated in full, some professors have been assigned to lower-ranking jobs. None of the reinstated professors have received the back pay they missed while under suspension.

It appears, meanwhile, that the government intends to subject university faculty to ongoing intimidation. In June 2011, the Ministry of Education issued five amendments to university bylaws that contravene the 1997 UNESCO principles regarding treatment of higher education personnel, in addition to flouting the basic protections laid out in the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Bahrain ratified in 2006. Among the deeply disturbing aspects of these amendments are the ban on “political” activity by professors; the restriction of professors’ freedom of association on campus; and the prohibition of “any act that is prejudicial to national principles, standing of the State or University, the Bahraini community or the faculty member himself, whether inside or outside the University.” The wording of this last measure is so vague as to license completely arbitrary, if not capricious, discipline and harassment of faculty by the authorities. We hear reports that university campuses are under intense surveillance by security agents.

We note as well that article 52 of the university bylaws continues to block the possibility of promotion, research grants or professional accolades to faculty members “against whom a disciplinary decision has been made.” In view of the amendments above, it seems that Bahraini faculty may be denied future opportunities for professional advancement simply for running afoul of the government. Finally, the government of Bahrain itself violated article 49 of the bylaws, which provides for due notice by registered mail to faculty referred to the Disciplinary Council. The faculty members who were suspended in 2011 were not so informed.

We stand with our brave colleagues in Bahraini institutions of higher education in demanding an end to these state intrusions into their lives and livelihoods.

At its 2011 annual meeting, MESA was deeply proud to give its Academic Freedom Award to all faculty, students, and staff of Bahraini institutions of higher education who had documented and spoken out against state abuses in the course of the preceding year and resisted various attacks upon the autonomy and integrity of those institutions. We were honored to welcome Nabeel Rajab, the distinguished director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, who accepted this award on behalf of his fellow citizens. Lately, we have learned that he, too, faces trial on transparently political charges.

We now call on the government of Bahrain to undertake a prompt review of all the sentences imposed on the students, to revise the university bylaws in accordance with international norms, to remove the “final warnings” from faculty members’ files, and to reinstate all these people at their respective institutions without penalty or further harassment. We further encourage the government of Bahrain to dismiss the charges against Rajab and to order thorough investigations of the very serious allegations of torture and other violations of human rights that have come to light as a result of the BICI inquiry and the work of Bahraini civil society organizations. All of these measures, in fact, are required so that the government of Bahrain may uphold its own laws and respect its obligations under international law.

Sincerely,

Fred M. Donner
MESA President
Professor of Near Eastern History, University of Chicago

cc:
Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi, Minister of Education, President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain
Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, President of the University of Bahrain
Dr. Abdullah Yousif Al-Hawaj, President of Ahlia University
Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
His Excellency Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al-Khalifa, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Kingdom
Dr. Yousif Al-Bastaki, Vice President for Administrative Affairs, Finance and Information Technology of the University of Bahrain

20 September 2011

Your Excellency Dr.  Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi
Minister of Education
President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain

Dear Dr.  Naimi,

On behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), we are disheartened that we must write yet again to protest the ongoing abuses against faculty, staff, and students at Bahraini educational institutions, as well as Bahraini students studying abroad.     

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa - the preeminent organization in the field.  The Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide.  MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

As a committee of MESA charged with monitoring infringements on academic freedom, on two earlier occasions we have expressed serious concern over the ongoing assaults, arrests, and dismissals of individuals connected to academic institutions in Bahrain.  In particular, we have highlighted the arrest and mistreatment of Professor Masoud Jahromi, the suspension of over 600 students, the dismissal of dozens of faculty members, and the revocation of scholarships of a number of Bahraini students living abroad.  Most recently, we have learned that 78 individuals from the Ministry of Education and 19 faculty members at the University of Bahrain have been dismissed for reasons unrelated to their professional responsibilities. We have also learned that although King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has authorized the return of 389 suspended students to the University of Bahrain, these students have not been allowed to resume their studies, and are uncertain about the exact date of their official reinstatement.  Additionally, over 38 students are still awaiting trial.

Such actions constitute colossal infringements against academic freedom in deed and spirit.  Not only do they contravene international human rights laws and standards, including Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they also betray Article 7 of the Bahraini Constitution which states, “The State guarantees the inviolability of the places of learning.”  In your 10th of September, 2011 speech on occasion of the beginning of the new school year, Your Excellency, you reaffirmed, “…education is the master key to fight the battle of life, and has been a trend since the beginning of the modern renaissance in Bahrain in the thought of our wise leadership and citizens, positioning our country among the vanguards of countries who give education much attention.”  These continued offenses are an affront to the very principles you profess, and severely undermine Bahrain’s international standing.

We call on the government of Bahrain to reconsider these policies.  We ask that you immediately reinstate all faculty, students, and staff who have been dismissed from academic institutions in Bahrain, and that the students be allowed to resume their studies without delay.  We also ask that Professor Jahromi’s pending trial be addressed in accordance with international legal standards, and that these continued abuses be halted immediately.

Yours Sincerely,

Suad Joseph
MESA President
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies
University of California Davis

cc:
Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, President of the University of Bahrain
Dr. Abdullah Yousif Al-Hawaj, President of Ahlia University
Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
His Excellency Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al-Khalifah, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Kingdom
Dr. Yousif Al-Bastaki, Vice President for Administrative Affairs, Finance and Information Technology of the University of Bahrain
Prof. M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, De Paul University School of Law

07 July 2011

Your Excellency Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi
Minister of Education of the Kingdom of Bahrain and
Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain

Dear Dr. Al-Naimi,

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our continuing concern over an unprecedented number of assaults, arrests, dismissals, and punishments affecting faculty, students, and staff from several educational institutions in Bahrain as well as numerous Bahraini students studying abroad. 

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching of the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

In our letter of April 21 we expressed serious concerns regarding the arrest of Professor Masoud Jahromi; the many student, faculty and staff dismissals from the University of Bahrain; the firing of 111 civil servants in the education sector; and the revocation of scholarships from students studying in the UK. Since then, the violations of academic freedom in Bahrain have continued. Indeed, evidence suggests that they have increased. As educators concerned not only with academic freedom but also with basic human rights, we are compelled to write again. 

To rehearse the list, even of only the most fully substantiated violations, would consume pages. Hence, we draw attention here, in a brief summary, to the multiple abuses at the university level:

  1. The whereabouts and condition of Professor Jahromi remain unknown. 
  2. Over 600 students have been expelled from Bahraini universities, including many academically outstanding students.  
  3. More than 78 students have been arrested.  Many remain in jail. 
  4. The homes of other students have been violated and ransacked, and their families have been threatened.
  5. Ten students studying in Auckland University, New Zealand have recently reported having their scholarships revoked.

As egregious as these actions are, we are particularly disturbed by the recently announced requirement that students sign loyalty oaths.   The implicit suggestion made by Ministry of Education spokesperson Lubna Selaibeekh (www.moe.gov.bh) that students owe their loyalty to a particular government in exchange for their education is contrary to the universal mission shared by educators worldwide:  the pursuit of knowledge to nurture young citizens capable of critical thinking and nation building.  Indeed, the Universal Declaration for Human Rights states, “Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace” - Article 26 (B).

In a further indication of the deterioration of the academic environment, specifically at the University of Bahrain, Vice President Yousif Al-Bastaki affirmed in Al Wasat that the university has taken a series of measures to strengthen security.  Hundreds of surveillance cameras have been installed across campus, buildings have been surrounded with barbed wire, and checkpoints have apparently been set up targeting and humiliating certain students.  Any one of these measures would have a deleterious effect on the day-to-day rhythm of student and faculty interactions and discourse.  Taken together, however, they constitute a stifling environment, hostile to any serious academic inquiry or learning.   

Moreover, for university officials to suggest that students who choose not to continue to matriculate in such an environment can simply transfer elsewhere is particularly problematic given the substantial evidence indicating that over 600 university students have not only been expelled, but have also been denied their transcripts.  With no access to these documents, they are effectively barred from resuming their education anywhere else. 

Regarding faculty and staff, both the multiple investigations into their activities, undertaken apparently by three-member Commissions of Inquiry formed for this purpose, and the disciplinary boards that have sanctioned faculty are also extremely troubling.  New regulations reported on June 7 stipulate that academics are not allowed to participate in any political activity inside or outside of the university environs.  Anything deemed damaging to the reputation and prestige of the Bahraini state, the academic community, or Bahraini society in general is considered liable to prosecution.  Such limitations on the activity of faculty are sweeping and ambiguous and hence open the way to arbitrary implementation by state authorities.

Nor is the growing litany of violations of academic freedom limited to the campus of the University of Bahrain.  It has been reported that more than 60 students have been expelled from Bahrain Polytechnic. We have also received credible reports of professors from another institution having been blindfolded, handcuffed, interrogated, lined up against the wall and subjected to barrages of verbal insults as well as physical assaults at a police station. The Bahrain Teacher’s Society was summarily dissolved by the government. Bahraini students studying in the UK were forced to sign a pledge of loyalty to the ruling family or face losing their scholarships. Further, on July 1, MSNBC reported that the government has asked Bahraini students abroad to spy on their fellow citizens and report back to the government.  Multiple sources report that Bahraini students pursuing education in the United Sates have been pressured to attend pro-government rallies. 

Finally, and just as disturbing, these egregious violations of academic freedom have extended below the post-secondary level: similar reports of intimidation and dismissals have been reported at the elementary and secondary levels as well. Taken together, these violations and abuses paint a dreadful picture of a severely compromised educational sector, one which intimidates and demeans students and faculty alike and which can in no way fulfill its pedagogical mission.  

Article 7 of the Bahraini Constitution states, “The State guarantees the inviolability of the places of learning.” We therefore respectfully request that you reexamine the cases of all those who have been arrested, fired, or expelled. If legitimate cause exists for such action, it should be conveyed to each individual through formal channels. If not, we urge you to respect the fundamentals of academic freedom and to reinstate all the students, faculty, civil servants and administrators who have been unjustly dismissed. We also ask again that you address the arrest of Professor Jahromi according to recognized international legal standards. 

We further urge that you revoke the requirement that students, whether within the kingdom or abroad, sign loyalty oaths and that you lift the wide-ranging limitations on activities of faculty and staff related to freedom of speech and conscience both on and off campus. 

In sum, we ask, in keeping with the commitment in Article 7 of the Bahraini Constitution, that you allow Bahrain’s universities, its elementary and secondary schools, and other educational training institutes once again to serve the kingdom and its future as “inviolable places of learning.”

We look forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Suad Joseph
MESA President
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies
University of California Davis

cc: 

Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi, President of the University of Bahrain  
Dr. Abdullah Yousif Al-Hawaj, President of Ahlia University
Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
His Excellency Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al-Khalifah, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United Kingdom
Dr. Yousif Al-Bastaki, Vice President for Administrative Affairs, Finance and Information Technology of the University of Bahrain
Prof. M. Cherif Bassiouni, Distinguished Research Professor of Law, De Paul University School of Law

21 April 2011

Your Excellency Dr. Majid bin Ali Al-Naimi
Minister of Education 
President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain 
Fax: +973 1768 0161, 1768 4493
info@batelco.com.bh, akhbar-alterbia@maktoob.com

Dear Dr. Al-Naimi,

I write to you on behalf of the Middle East Studies Association and its Committee on Academic Freedom to express our deep concern over the widespread, on-going intimidation of the educational sector in Bahrain. The current atmosphere of dismissals, firings and threats to professors’ and staff members’ employment as well as students’ continuing matriculation undermines the intellectual vibrancy of the academy not to mention the educational future of the next generation of citizens.

The Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA) was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching of the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, MESA publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has nearly 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

As examples of the ongoing intimidation of the professorate we note first the case of Professor Masoud Jahromi, Chair of the Department of Engineering at Ahlia University, who was arrested at his home on the night of April 14, 2011. His whereabouts are unknown. His students describe him as a “role model who taught us to respect and be kind to all people and to share knowledge.” We ask that you ensure Professor Jahromi be granted full access to his lawyer and that due process of law be upheld in this case. If he is charged with an offense, we ask that he be tried before a court that meets fair international standards. If he is not charged, we urge that he be released promptly, accorded his full right to self-expression, and allowed to resume his professional responsibilities without conditions or limitations on his academic freedom, and without professional sanction or penalty.

In another case, on April 6, 2011, some 19 faculty members from Bahrain University were summarily fired from their teaching and research positions in various departments; 25 administrators were dismissed; 62 students expelled and 8 others suspended for a year.

Third, 111 civil servants were summarily fired from the Ministry of Education on April 17 and are threatened with legal action. Again, such a massive dismissal raises serious questions about cause. Each of these government employees deserves to have notification of the reasons behind their firing.

Such a broad wave of firings and dismissals is unprecedented and appears to be motivated by political, not academic, concerns. We ask that you adhere to generally acknowledged standards of employment in academic institutions and, where warranted, issue official letters that state explicit reasons for the dismissal or expulsion of each.

Finally, in the United Kingdom, Bahraini students who are pursuing university education were photographed while participating in peaceful demonstrations to support democracy. It has been reported in The Guardian that the Bahraini government subsequently harassed their families in Bahrain, and that the stipends of nine of students were withdrawn.

Taken together, these activities appear to constitute a serious assault on the system of higher education in Bahrain—its faculty, staff and students. It is through education that a productive, vibrant national future is ensured; indeed, a quality system of education is a precious national asset. As noted explicitly in Article 7 of the Bahraini Constitution, “The State guarantees the inviolability of the places of learning.” We therefore respectfully request that you reexamine the cases of all those who have been arrested, fired, or expelled. If legitimate cause exists for such action, it should be conveyed to each individual through formal channels. If not, we urge you to respect the bases of academic freedom and to reinstate all the students, faculty, civil servants and administrators who have been unfairly dismissed as well as to address the arrest of Professor Jahromi according to recognized international legal standards.

We look forward to your response.

Yours Sincerely,

Suad Joseph
MESA President
Professor of Anthropology and Women’s Studies 
University of California Davis

cc:

Dr. Ebrahim Mohammed Janahi 
President, University of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1744 9900

Dr. Abdullah Yousif Al-Hawaj
President, Ahlia University
aalhawaj@ahliauniversity.edu.bh 
Fax: +973 1729 0083

Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: 202 362 2192

His Excellency Ambassador Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali Al-Khalifah
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
London, UK
Fax: (+44) 0207 201 9183

21 September 2009

Dr. Ebrahim Ahmed Aljanahi
President, University of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1744 9900

Dear Dr. Aljanahi:

On behalf of the Committee on Academic Freedom (CAF) of the Middle East Studies Association of North America (MESA), I am writing to you to express our concern at the disciplinary action taken against Ms. Noor Abbas, a student at the University of Bahrain. Earlier this year, Ms. Abbas circulated a statement on behalf of the Student Union List criticizing some policies and facilities at the University.

MESA was founded in 1966 to promote scholarship and teaching on the Middle East and North Africa. The preeminent organization in the field, the Association publishes the International Journal of Middle East Studies and has more than 3000 members worldwide. MESA is committed to ensuring academic freedom and freedom of expression, both within the region and in connection with the study of the region in North America and elsewhere.

Universities, their administrators, and their faculty, have a special obligation to encourage free inquiry and discussion on their campuses. We should lead by example. CAF, a committee composed primarily of university faculty members (many with administrative experience), therefore strongly urges your university to reconsider the disciplinary action you have taken in this case. The statement circulated by Ms. Abbas, while critical of some University policies, was well within the bounds of reasoned discourse. It would seem to be more worthy of a reasoned than a punitive response. We look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Virginia H. Aksan
MESA President
Professor of History, McMaster University

cc:
Dr. Majed Ali Al-Nuaimi
Minister of Education and President, Board of Trustees of the University of Bahrain
Fax: +973 1768 0161, 1768 4493
Email: info@batelco.com.bh, akhbar-alterbia@maktoob.com

Her Excellency Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Washington, DC 20008
Fax: 202 362 2192

Mr. Nabeel Rajab
President, Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +97 31 7795170



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