Bahrain Releases Activist Zainab al-Khawaja And Her Infant Son


But Zainab al-Khawaja’s sister told BuzzFeed News she still “remains at risk of arrest at any time”.

AFP / Getty Images
Bahrain has released a prominent human rights activist and her infant son following international pressure.
Zainab al-Khawaja, 32, was taken into custody in March with her 17-month-old son over several charges, including tearing up a picture of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the country’s leader.
The charges have not been dropped, however, and she still faces up to three years in prison.

Her release was confirmed by Bahrain’s state news agency and by her family.

Her sister, Maryam al-Khawaja, told BuzzFeed News: “It’s great for Zainab to be going home to her children, but as far as we know the [charges] have not been dropped and she remains at risk of arrest at any time.
“What Bahrain needs isn’t only for prisoners of conscience to be released, but for the system that puts them in prison to begin with to be changed. Otherwise all releases are temporary, and people will continue to be arrested and imprisoned for practicing basic rights.”
The arrest of al-Khawaja – known on social media as Angry Arabia on Twitter, where she has tens of thousands of followers – had prompted outrage on social media with mounting pressure from the international community.
In February the US secretary of state John Kerry was told by Bahrain’s foreign minister that she would be released on humanitarian grounds, while the British Foreign Office was also known to have raised the case “at the highest levels”.
News of al-Khawaja’s release comes a day after an appeals court increased a prison sentence imposed on a Shia opposition leader, Sheik Ali Salman, from four to nine years.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) called the U-turn a “PR stunt”.
“She should never have been in prison to begin with,” he said. “And in the last 24 hours, Bahraini courts increased an opposition leader’s prison term from four years to nine, rendered over 20 people stateless and upheld the death sentences of torture victims.”
In a letter smuggled from prison – and seen by BuzzFeed News earlier this month – al-Khawaja wrote: “If nothing changes for the people of Bahrain, then my staying in jail or release is not of great consequence,” she writes in the letter. “I am a mother with a job. I will carry my baby with me and continue on my path, so that I can clothe him in resilience and feed him in dignity.”
Bahrain’s Sunni rulers are concerned by ongoing unrest among the majority Shia population. News of al-Khawaja’s detention came shortly after the Kingdom’s interior ministry announced it had deported “several Lebanese residents” over their alleged support for, or involvement with, Hezbollah, which has recently been declared a terrorist organisation by the Arab League.
On Monday UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond met King Hamad in Bahrain and welcomed Bahrain’s “commitment to continued reforms” on social media.

Know Your Rights: Bahrain and Self-Determination

  1. Self-determination?
Self-determination is the ability of peoples to freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.[1] In this way, the principle of self-determination affirms peoples’ dignity and worth as human beings. Because of this, the United Nations (UN) has recognized this principle as a universal fundamental human right.[2] The successful practice of this fundamental human right comes hand-in-hand with the ability to freely exercise other fundamental human rights, such as the rights to expression, assembly, and association. The denial of any of these associated rights is often accompanied by the denial of the right to self-determination, and a peoples’ subjugation, domination, or exploitation of another people. The UN often places the right to self-determination in the context of a peoples’ subjugation, domination, and exploitation by an outside power. Self-determination need not to be exercised solely in the context of shaking off an external force. A peoples’ desire for the right to self-determination can also come in an internal context which sees a people oppressed by a minority or majority in their own country.
  1. Self-determination in international documents
The principle of self-determination has been recognized and affirmed on the international level by a number of treaties, charters, and declarations, going back at least to the Atlantic Charter signed in 1941. Though the Atlantic Charter is not binding, and cannot compel States to action, the principle is further referenced and discussed in subsequent international documents. Some of the documents reflect international law and are binding upon their State parties. Others, like the Atlantic Charter, are not binding. They are nonetheless important because they demonstrate the importance the international community attaches to the principle.
The Atlantic Charter: a non-binding guide post
The Atlantic Charter is one of the first international documents that references self-determination.[3] It is a joint declaration by the US and UK expressing the two countries’ hopes for the post-World War II future. Among its eight principles is respect for “the right of all peoples to choose the form of Government under which they will live.” The signatories state that “They wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.” The declaration holds no legal power, but it demonstrates the importance the two States ascribed to the principle of self-determination, and it portends the principle’s inclusion in future documents.
Setting the tone: The United Nations Charter
The UN Charter, signed on 26 June 1945, is a strong document in international law and a controlling document in most situations. [4] It references self-determination and self-government in Articles 1, 55, 73, and 76. Articles 1 and 55 state that among the purposes of the UN is the “[development of] friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of people.” In this context the UN sets self-determination as a focal point of its work. Articles 73 and 76 concern non-self-governing territories. They call upon the States that govern these territories to promote and develop the institutions necessary for the achievement of self-governance or independence.
Ending Subjugation: The Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples
This Declaration, passed on 14 December 1960, is UN General Assembly Resolution 1515. Principle 4 of the Declaration states that subjecting a people to rule by an alien government and exploitation by those governments violates fundamental human rights and contradicts the UN Charter. [5] It affirms that “All peoples have the right to self-determination,” and states that all people are allowed to freely decide their own political status and to “freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development.” It continues by stating that a people’s independence cannot be denied them if they are not deemed to be fully prepared. Nor should States use force to stop a people from “peacefully and freely” exercising their right to independence.
Strengthening Peace and Security: The Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations
The UN General Assembly passed resolution 2625, the Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, on 24 October 1970.[6] The resolution sees the principles of equal rights and self-determination of peoples as central to its goal of maintaining peace and stability between States. It states that “Every State has the duty to refrain from any forcible action which deprives peoples referred to in the elaboration of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of their right to self-determination and freedom and independence.” Not only does every State have the duty to refrain from depriving people of their right to self-determination, but “Every State has the duty to promote, through joint and separate action, realization of the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples in accordance with the provision of the [UN] Charter.”
Continued focus on self-determination: The Vienna Program and Declaration of Action
The 1993 Vienna Declaration and Program of Action not only affirms that “all peoples have the right to self-determination,” it “recognizes the right of peoples to take any legitimate action, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, to realize their inalienable right of self-determination.” It continues further, stating that “the World Conference on Human Rights considers the denial of right of self-determination as a violation of human rights”. [7]
Binding with Force of Law: the ICCPR and ICESCR
Many international documents reference self-determination, but not all are binding, and not all reflect international law. However, there are several documents that do have the force of international law for the States that have ratified them. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),[8] the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR),[9] and the Charter of the United Nations have the force of international law for their State parties.
The ICCPR and ICESCR both state that “All peoples have a right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development. […] The State Parties to this present Covenant […] shall promote the realization of the right to self-determination, and shall respect that right, in conformity with the provisions of the Charter of the United Nations.” As Bahrain has acceded to the ICCPR, ICESCR, and UN Charter, it is bound to promote the principle of self-determination, and to respect peoples’ right to determine their political, economic, social, and cultural make-up and development therein.
  1. Self-determination in the context of Bahrain
The international community has consistently demonstrated an interest in the principle of self-determination. The demand for self-determination can come in the context of an outside power ruling over a population, or it can apply to a population that is marginalized in its own country. Bahrain fits into the latter category, because it is a country ruled by a hereditary monarch, in which a minority rules over a majority. In the context of Bahrain, self-determination is, in a word, not present. In addition to the macro-level view that sees Bahrain’s Shia majority oppressed by its Sunni ruling minority, Bahrain is also home to a smaller minority: the Ajam; who are descendants of Persian Shia.
As a constitutional monarchy, the Sunni al-Khalifa family rules Bahrain and has the final say in all political and economic matters and all official cultural and social matters. Bahrain has a bicameral system consisting of the Parliament and Shura Council. However, the Shura Council is appointed by the King, and there are have been documented issues surrounding voting irregularities and gerrymandering that render Parliament less than fully representative.[10] The Government of Bahrain has passed several laws restricting the exercise of free speech, print, association, and assembly.[11] The government reinforced these laws with anti-terror legislation that has constricted the space for free expression even further.[12]
The effect this legislation and the irregularities and gerrymandering have had on denying Bahrain’s Shia and Ajam populations self-determination is considerable. On the one hand, the royal family and its supporters have consolidated power, giving them the authority to make decisions that shape the country. By claiming the sole voice on Bahrain’s political status and economic, cultural and social development they have marginalized the rest of Bahrain’s population. On the other hand, the imposition of a number of restrictions upon those who oppose the royal family has taken away the voice of the majority of Bahrain’s population in their political status and economic, cultural and social development. It is not simply that the majority of Bahrainis do not have a voice in the direction of their country: it is that if they try to claim a voice in the discussion, they face violence, torture, legal penalties, and possibly even death.[13]
The Government of Bahrain’s oppression and marginalization of its majority Shia population contravenes its obligations not only under the UN Charter, but also the ICCPR and ICESCR, all three of which it has signed. They call upon countries to not only respect self-determination, but also to facilitate its promotion. Despite this, the Government of Bahrain actively does not allow for self-determination. Where the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples calls on countries not to use force to stop people from exercising their right to self-determination, Bahraini security forces often use violence to suppress peaceful demonstration.[14]
The Government of Bahrain’s use of force to suppress peaceful demonstrations, and its criminalization of various forms of expression, also contravene the Vienna Program and Declaration of Action. The Declaration recognizes the right of people to take any legitimate action to exercise their right to self-determination. Bahrain’s majority Shia have peacefully demonstrated regularly since the February 2011 mass protests, even as the government met the demonstrations with force.
The Vienna Declaration, UN Charter, ICCPR, and ICESCR all affirm the principle of self-determination as a fundamental human right. Those States that sign these documents are obligated by international law to abide by their strictures and language. By signing these documents, the Government of Bahrain agreed to the principle of self-determination, and pledged to respect and facilitate the principle. The actions of the majority of Bahrainis who peacefully demonstrate, vote, and call upon their government to listen to their voices are therefore both sanctioned and encouraged by international law.
Click here for a PDF of this brief.

[1] General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,” A/Res/15/1514, 14 December 1960,http://www.un.org/en/decolonization/declaration.shtml
[2] General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,” A/Res/15/1514, 14 December 1960,http://www.un.org/en/decolonization/declaration.shtml.
[3] “The Atlantic Charter,” 14 August 1941,http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_16912.htm.
[4] United Nations, “Charter of the United Nations,” 24 October 1945, 1 UNTS XVI, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3930.html.
[5] General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), “Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples,” A/Res/15/1514, 14 December 1960,http://www.un.org/en/decolonization/declaration.shtml
[6] General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV), “Declaration of Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations,” A/Res/25/2625, 24 October 1970, http://www.un-documents.net/a25r2625.htm.
[7] UN General Assembly, Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 12 July 1993, A/CONF.157/23, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b39ec.html.
[8] UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 999, p. 171, available at:http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3aa0.html.
[9] UN General Assembly, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 16 December 1966, United Nations, Treaty Series, vol. 993, p. 3, available at:http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b36c0.html.
[10] There have been gerrymandering accusations in the 20022010, and 2014 elections. 2002: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6172482.stm; 2010:http://www.reuters.com/article/us-bahrain-elections-fb-idUSTRE69M0TO20101023; 2014:https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/12/01/electoral-rules-and-threats-cure-bahrains-sectarian-parliament/; see also “Apart in Their own Land, Volume 1: government discrimination against Shia in Bahrain,” Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, February 2015, http://adhrb.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/ADHRB_Apart-in-Their-Own-Land_web.pdf, pg 16.
[11] See the Public Gatherings Law of 1973, Amendments to the Public Gatherings Law of 1973 (Law 32/2006); Law of Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts of 2006; Law of Association of 1989 (Law 21/1989); Press Law of 2002, 2014 Amendments to the Bahraini Penal Code (Law 1/2014).
[12] “Bahrain Law on Counter Terrorism,” Bahrain Center for Human Rights, 2 October 2010,http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/3449.
[13] “Bahrain protests prompt global concerns,” BBC, 15 February 2011,http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-12471243.
[14] “Bahrain: army, police fire on protesters,” Human Rights Watch, 18 February 2011,https://www.hrw.org/news/2011/02/18/bahrain-army-police-fire-protesters.


WTH! glosses over political trial of Ali Salman & in next Tweet honours commitment to reforms


Bahrain denies reports of Indian women trafficking


Official claims women have been put in jail after fleeing abusive employers
Gulf News


L’Iran non cambia. ‘Squadre per la moralità’ a caccia delle donne troppo occidentali


L’Iran non cambia. ‘Squadre per la moralità’ a caccia delle donne troppo occidentali
di  | 26 maggio 2016
L’Iran ci sta deludendo. Come quei grandi amori, nei quali si investono sogni e speranze, ma che finiscono all’improvviso e tu realizzi di aver investito a vuoto. Abbiamo tutti creduto e sperato nel nuovo presidente Hassan Rohani, abbiamo dato credito alle promesse fatte in campagna elettorale e con il successo degli accordi sul nucleare, eravamo certi che l’Iran potesse cambiare. Le aperture internazionali e l’uscita dall’isolamento hanno indotto a sperare in un graduale e costante processo di cambiamento.
Ma, ad oggi, tutto è come prima. Il presidente Rohani, giustamente, seguendo il principale bisogno del paese, ha dato la priorità all’economia ma al momento a parte qualche contratto firmato, di concreto c’è ben poco.
Ci aveva illuso che avrebbe migliorato la condizione giovanile e soprattutto quella delle donne, ad oggi condizioni queste rimaste invariate. Si era addirittura ipotizzato un Ministero al femminile anni fa, che resta solo un miraggio. La situazione odierna appare sempre più drammatica. Le donne in Iran, malgrado i grandi sforzi compiuti, dopo la Rivoluzione Islamica del 1979, sono ancora sotto assedio.
Siamo stati abituati per anni ad una propaganda mediatica negativa nei confronti dell’Iran, troppo spessovolutamente manipolata. Chi conosce bene l’Iran sa che frequentemente, al di là della notizia, operano dinamiche che servono a screditare il paese. La delusione però arriva quando realizzi che la realtà è proprio quella che si racconta sui media. Ti chiamano le amiche iraniane, ti chiedono aiuto e tu non sai come poterle aiutare perché a parte parlarne non c’è molto altro da fare.
Ancora oggi, l’Iran un paese di 80 milioni di abitanti di cui il70% sotto i 40 anni, si ritrova a vivere quotidianamente sotto restrizioni. Non puoi vestire come vuoi, non puoi esprimere i tuoi pensieri qualora siano in disaccordo con il potere. Le donne, seppur il 60% iscritte alle università, sono ancora penalizzate in molti settori. Non possono cantare in pubblico, non possono accedere allo stadio, non possono viaggiare senza il consenso del padre o del marito. Da sempre difendo le donne iraniane e la loro realtà dagli attacchi esterni perché conoscendole ho scoperto in loro una forza e una intelligenza per le quali non meritano l’etichetta di‘donne sottomesse’. Malgrado le restrizioni vigenti, sono riuscite a conviverci dignitosamente. Ma è giusto tutto questo?
Le ultime cronache ci raccontano di modelle arrestate per aver postato foto sul social Instagram senza velo, rischiando il carcere insieme ai loro truccatori e a chi le ha fotografate. Da qualche mese, vigilano per le strade di Teheran circa settemila agenti sotto copertura dietro il nome ‘squadra per la moralità’. Fermano e controllano che i veli delle donne non siano indossati in maniera diversa da come le autorità esigono. Girano da giorni sul web, foto di donne pronte a radersi i capelli pur di protestare contro l’uso forzato del hijab.
In questi giorni, la polizia morale sta controllando i‘beauty saloon’ e i centri estetici scrutando se ci siano poster con donne senza velo. Di poster di donne senza velo, nei centri estetici, ovviamente ce ne sono tantissimi. La polizia li ha fatti chiudere con la banale motivazione, se non ridicola, di avere ‘standard troppo occidentali’. Ci hanno sempre detto che Hassan Rohani non può interferire in quelle che sono le restrizioni per la popolazione e sembrerebbe che quest’ultimo giro di vite sulle donne in Iran, sia proprio un attacco da parte dei conservatori per ostacolare le aperture occidentali volute dal Presidente. Chissà se è vero tutto questo? C’è chi ipotizza che, alle prossime elezioni presidenziali, il potere internazionale conquistato da Rohani potrebbe venire meno e si prospettano scenari inquietanti, come il ritorno degli ultraconservatori al potere.
Nessuno vuole ripercorrere la situazione del 2009, quando con la seconda elezione di Ahmadinejad si era parlato di brogli elettorali. Nessuno vuole rivivere, come la sottoscritta, la paura di unarepressione sulla folla che urlava per la propria libertà, soffocata con la forza e con le armi. Una parte del popolo sta vivendo in Iran una delusione dopo l’altra negli ultimi quindici anni. Dall’ex presidente Khatami che auspicava un dialogo tra le civiltà, che aveva promesso grandi aperture al suo popolo mai arrivate agli otto anni di presidenza di Ahmadinejad, forse i più bui della storia dell’Iran. Ora siamo davanti alla delusione di Rohani. Nulla o quasi in Iran è cambiato, e quel poco non è sufficiente. Ora c’è solo un popolo fatto di persone colte, intelligenti e motivate ma sempre più stanco da questo non cambiamento. Possiamo solo sperare che questo grande popolo e le donne in particolare, prima o poi prendano il coraggio di richiedere e ottenere seppur a forza i propri diritti.

50 Days of a Broken Promise in Bahrain

Brian Dooley

Director, Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program
Last month, four days after Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa stood next to Secretary John Kerry at a press conference and announced that dissident Zainab Al Khawaja and her baby son Abdulhadi would be released from jail, Iwrote a piece here pointing out that four days was a long time to fill in some paperwork and find the prison key. Tomorrow will be 50 days, and she’s still in jail. You can fly to the moon and back, sail the Atlantic and climb Mount Everest in 50 days if you put your mind to it. The Bahraini government doesn’t seem to be trying very hard to make this happen.

“Zainab al Khawaja will be released pending her case in the court. She will be sent to her home and to be with her family,” said the Foreign Minister on April 7. The previous month Zainab started a jail sentence of over three years for a series of peaceful protests, including tearing up a picture of Bahrain’s king to highlight the monarchy’s abuse of power.

Fifty days after publicly promising to release her and she’s still in Cell 19 in Bahrain’s Isa Town Prison. This incident says much about the Bahrain ruling family’s relationship to the truth, and about the Bahrain-Washington dynamic. On May 9 Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry repeated that Zainab was about to be released, confirming that the Bahrain government has difficulty distinguishing things it declares to be true from things that really are.

Those of us who have followed Bahrain for the last five years aren’t surprised that a senior government minister promised something in front of cameras that wasn’t then delivered. In November 2011 Bahrain’s king accepted the recommendations of an inquiry into human rights violations by his government earlier that year, promising to introduce badly needed reform.

It hasn’t happened. No senior government official has been brought to account for the deaths and torture of 2011. Undeterred by the facts, Bahrain’s government earlier this month simply announced the recommendations from 2011 have been “fully implemented”.

Promising at a public event with Secretary Kerry to release Zainab and then not doing it is all rather embarrassing for the State Department, which renewed arms sales to Bahrain nearly a year ago in the hope of encouraging human rights reform.

This week’s stuttering State Department response to questions about what it intends to do about the unmet promise offers little hope of a firm line from Washington against its repressive ally. And no one is surprised. The State Department has responded to the Bahraini government’s crushing of peaceful dissent by rewarding the regime with more arms. Weaponizing and politically supporting dictators enables their repression, something the U.S. government is willing to do in the case of Bahrain.

A few weeks ago Zainab managed to get a letter out of jail. In it she wrote, “If nothing changes for the people of Bahrain, then my staying in jail or release is not of great consequence.” Maybe she’s right, but her staying in jail now represents something else - an embarrassing public snub for the State Department that, 50 days on, is developing into a diplomatic incident.
Seven weeks after promising to release her on “humanitarian grounds” Zainab remains in prison, currently suffering from the flu. Feeling too unwell to look after her son she tried a few days ago to have the baby taken out of prison to be looked after by her family. The authorities refused.
The State Department had trusted the Bahraini government’s intentions for too long, allowing itself to look increasingly gullible as Bahrain’s list of broken promises on human rights gets longer. Next month is the first anniversary of the U.S. government lifting the holds on selling weapons to Bahrain’s military. It’s time to reassess that decision. Trusting the regime’s promises clearly isn’t working.

Two Bahraini police hurt in clashes with protesters


Bilad Al Qadim is the hometown of Shiite opposition chief Shaikh Ali Salman
Dubai: Two Bahraini policemen were wounded in clashes with rioters, according to an interior ministry statement.
“Security forces confronted groups of saboteurs in Bilad Al Qadim,” the ministry said in a statement posted late Thursday on Twitter.
The “saboteurs” hurled Molotov cocktails at the policemen wounding two, it added.
Bilad Al Qadim is the hometown of Shiite opposition chief Shaikh Ali Salman, currently serving a four-year jail sentence for inciting disobedience.
On Thursday, a Bahraini court jailed 19 Shiites for attacks against police, including five life sentences, according to a judicial source.


Iran executes 17 prisoners for heinous crimes


The prisoners were put to death in two different prisons in Karaj, bringing to almost 60 the number of people put to death in different Iranian prisons this month, IHR said.

By  on 
Tehran, May 26 : As many as 17 prisoners were executed in Iran in the past two days for crimes including murder, rape and drugs trafficking, the Iran Human Rights (IHR) website reported on Wednesday.
The prisoners were put to death in two different prisons in Karaj, bringing to almost 60 the number of people put to death in different Iranian prisons this month, IHR said. Condemning the wave of judicial killings, the group urged international community to call for an immediate moratorium for the death penalty. ALSO READ: Watching India-Iran ties ‘very closely’: US