Please free prominent women’s rights defender Ghada Jamsheer, and allow other rights defenders to travel freely, including to the United Nations Human Rights Council. We ask you to ensure that all women human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals in Bahrain.
Women’s rights defenders are repeatedly targeted in the Middle East, where they are not often encouraged to speak up. But Bahrain has a rich history of strong women human rights defenders.
Of these courageous Bahraini women human rights defenders, many have been jailed, subjected to travel bans or sent into exile, in an attempt to intimidate those who dare to speak out about injustice.
Among the most serious cases in Bahrain, women’s rights defender, writer and blogger Ghada Jamsheer remains in jail after she was detained on 12 August 2016 upon arrival from London. She is being held in connection with multiple sentences imposed on her for exercising her right to free expression on twitter after she complained of corruption at a hospital. She is currently serving a three-month sentence in this case, but has several other cases amounting to seven more months.
In June 2016, UN Women accepted money from Bahrain’s royal family to launch the HRH Princess Sabeeka Bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa Global Award for Women Empowerment. Women should be empowered to speak freely and carry out their human rights activities unfettered, instead of jailing them or silencing them when they speak up about human rights violations. Bahraini women human rights defenders should be free to voice their opinions, and to engage with the UN.
We call for Ghada Jamsheer to be released on humanitarian grounds, and for all remaining cases against her to be dropped, so she can return home to her daughter, and receive the medical treatment she needs.
Why is this important?
Ghada Jamsheer is very sick and was arrested upon return from seeing her doctor in London. She can’t carry out her treatment in prison, where it is very cold and many women are sick, putting her at increased risk.
In a call from prison, she said, “Here in the jail, they don’t treat me necessarily very well because I’m a human rights defender. Please do something to help me. I want to get out.” She is very worried about her young daughter, who relies on her mother for support.
Other women who have been jailed include human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, freed from prison with her baby son on 31 May after serving time for ripping up a photo of the King. She was freed on humanitarian grounds, but she and her family were forced to flee to Denmark in June after being threatened that if she didn’t leave immediately, she would serve many more years in prison.
Her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, Co-Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), already lives in Denmark in exile – if she returns home she faces a one-year prison sentence incurred when she tried to return home to Bahrain.
Among the women human rights defenders in Bahrain who are not able to work freely are: • Nedal Al-Salman, Head of International Relations and the Women’s and Children’s Rights Program at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), who was not permitted to leave the country on 29 August to participate in the UN Human Rights Council. • Ebtisam Al-Saaegh, networking officer for Salam for Democracy and Human Rights, who was prevented on 27 August from leaving via the causeway with Saudi Arabia. • Enas Oun, Head of BCHR’s Monitoring and Documentation team, who was prevented from flying to a human rights workshop in Tunisia on 22 August. • Nazeeha Saeed, France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo correspondent, who was prevented from traveling on 29 June; and later summoned to the Public Prosecution where she was accused of allegedly "practising journalism without a permit." • Jalila Al-Salman, Vice-President of the Bahrain Teachers Society, was prevented from traveling to Oslo on 13 June to receive the 2015 Arthur Svensson Prize in recognition of her union activism and commitment to human rights issues.
How it will be delivered
By Fax: Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa Office of His Majesty the King, P.O. Box 555, Rifa’a Palace, Manama, Bahrain Fax: +973 1766 4587
Copies to: Shaikh Rashid bin ‘Abdullah Al Khalifa, Ministry of Interior Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @moi_Bahrain
Shaikh Khaled bin Ali bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Twitter: @Khaled_Bin_Ali