Arabia to UN’s Commission on Status of Women

Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) strongly condemns the election of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Women’s Rights Commission. The kingdom’s election to the Commission grants it influence on a range of women’s issues despite its own policies of strict gender separation and male guardianship.
The Commission on the Status of Women is the principle United Nations body exclusively dedicated to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality. It is a commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and has 45 members. Its goal is to “promote women’s rights, document the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shape global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.” Saudi Arabia won election to the Commission after at least five EU states voted in a secret ballot to give the kingdom a four-year term.
“In Saudi Arabia, women are unable to marry, travel, or even go to the hospital without the approval of their male guardian,” states Husain Abdulla, the Executive Director of ADHRB. “These gender policies effectively render women second class citizens and establish the country as one of the world’s most hostile to women’s empowerment and gender equality. As this record on women’s rights speaks for itself, it is truly baffling how states think they can count on such a country to not only support women’s rights around the world, but lead the charge.”
Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to male control due to the country’s system of male guardianship. The kingdom’s male guardianship requires women to receive approval from a male guardian—usually their father or husband, though occasionally their brother or son—before they can undertake a number of tasks, including marrying, traveling, or exiting prison. Women may also need their guardian’s consent in order to work or access healthcare and they regularly face difficulty conducting a range of transactions, from renting an apartment to filing legal claims, without a male relative.
Recently, there has been pushback to the guardianship system. In late 2016, women’s rights activists delivered a petition to the king urging the end of the guardianship system. After one month, the petition had garnered nearly 15,000 signatures from men and women of all backgrounds and regions of the kingdom. After Human Rights Watch published a report on the guardianship system in July 2016, a social media campaign arose organically as women began tweeting in support of ending the system under the hashtag#IAmMyOwnGuardian.
Despite this, several high profile incidents have demonstrated the pervasive power of the guardianship system. On 13 April, Saudi authorities reportedly helped members of Dina Ali Lasloom’s familyforcibly return her to Saudi Arabia from Manila, Philippines after she attempted to flee to Australia to claim political asylum and escape a forced marriage. That same day, Saudi officials detained Alaa Anazi, a 23-year-old medical student who was waiting at the Riyadh airport for Lasloom to be brought back to Saudi Arabia. Anazi was sent to a “women’s shelter” for allegedly taking photographs of security vehicles and personnel at the Riyadh airport. More recently, officials arrested women’s rights activist Maryam al-Otaibi after she fled her father’s home to live by herself in Riyadh.
“Saudi Arabia’s election to the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women makes a mockery of any attempts by the Commission to promote women’s rights and gender equality,” states Husain Abdulla. “It is impossible to see how Saudi’s participation on this commission will be of any help to women around the world when women in the kingdom are denied even their most basic rights. The states that elected Saudi Arabia should be ashamed of themselves.”


Story Map, Bahrain F1 2017

Human Rights Activist: Bahrain, Backed by U.S., is Targeting My Family


Hajar Mansoor Hasan, left, with her son Sayed Nazar during a ceremony at Nazar’s high school. The family is being targeted by Bahrain authorities in retribution for the human rights work of Hasan’s son-in-law.Credit Photo Courtesy of Duaa AlWadaei
LONDON — In early March, a group of masked men accompanied by police officers arrested my brother-in-law in Bahrain. Three days later, my mother-in-law was arrested as well. Both were charged with planting “fake bombs” and prosecutors ordered 30 days detention for them. My brother-in-law, Nazar, said the police tortured him and forced him to implicate other family members in wrongdoing. They told him they were out for revenge for actions I had taken as a human rights activist.
Months earlier, authorities at Bahrain’s airport detained and forcibly separated my wife from our infant son, dragged her by the wrists and interrogated her for seven hours. They threatened to arrest our family members, asking: “Where shall I go first, shall I go to his family or your family?”
In 2011, I participated in the largest protest movement ever witnessed in Bahrain, calling for human rights and democratic reforms. In an attempt to crush our call, King Hamad of Bahrain instituted martial law and invited the Saudi Arabian army into the country to quell us. I was arrested, severely tortured and tried by a military court. After spending six months in prison, I fled Bahrain and claimed asylum in the United Kingdom.
Now that the Bahraini authorities can’t go after me, they’re going after my family.
The move to target my relatives and the family of my wife is a heinous new low in a series of accelerated acts of repression carried out by the Bahraini government since the election of Donald Trump. On January 5, the Bahraini government restored the National Security Agency with the powers to detain and arrest people suspected of “terrorist” offenses — the same agency that wasstripped of these powers in 2011 after its systematic use of torture throughout the uprising.
Ten days later, on January 15, the government carried out its first executions since 2010. The three executed men were all tortured into making false confessions and sentenced to death in unfair trials that relied almost entirely on those coerced confessions. The executions were strongly condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings. The government even sent the blood-soaked clothes of the executed to their family members.
On February 21, the government amended the constitution toenable military courts to try civilians. The military court that tried me and 500 other protesters, including doctors who treated the wounded protestors back in 2011, was exceptional — now these courts will be standard practice. Then on March 7 the government moved to dissolve the secular political party, Wa’ad.
These calculated repressive measures by Bahraini authorities have gone largely unchecked since Donald Trump became president of the United States. Since the November election, the Bahraini government has curried favor with the new administration, evenholding their National Day celebrations at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Trump administration is now set to reinstate a $3 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to the Kingdom, a weapons deal that Obama partially halted during his presidency until Bahrain stepped up its human rights reforms, including releasing the leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
It’s not just the United States that is turning a blind eye to the Bahraini government’s crackdown on its people. In January, the U.K. government announced it is granting the Kingdom an additional 2 million British pounds sterling as part of the U.K.’s multi-million pound program of support for Bahrain’s security and justice system.
Bahrain is not operating in a vacuum. Back in 2011, Bahrain’s King caved to international pressure and promised reforms. But these never came. After the uprising, King Hamad formed the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate human rights abuses during the 2011 protests. BICI issued a 500-page report detailing the government’s use of excessive and indiscriminate force against protesters, including abuse, torture and death. Six years on, those violations have become institutionalized.
In today’s era of Trump and Brexit, of budding authoritarianism even in the oldest democracies, it seems that political leaders in Washington and London are substituting business and profit for democracy and human rights. President Trump has not only emboldened hate groups at home, but he’s also emboldened governments abroad, like that of Bahrain, to carry out human rights abuses and flout international law with impunity.
With the help of Washington and the United Kingdom, King Hamad’s government is willing to cross any red line — including publicly defaming me as a “terrorist” and targeting my family in apparent acts of retribution — to have its way.

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, @salwadaei, is the advocacy director of the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (BIRD).

Two Questions for Journalists at Bahrain’s F1


04/14/2017 04:35 am ET

Brian Dooley Senior Advisor, Human Rights First

The Bahrain Formula One weekend starts today, a chance for the repressive regime to showcase a tightly-controlled image of the country.
Bahrain’s government uses events like the F1 to Sportswash its authoritarianism - this year it invested in a pro cycling team and it now hosts an international ironman triathlon. And there was the bid for the FIFA presidency by the ruling family’s Sheikh Salman, which ended in humiliation after sports journalists exposed hisfailure to protect athletes targeted during the the 2011 pro-democracy uprising.
But since last year’s Grand Prix in Bahrain the human rights situation there has plummeted dangerously. Executions have resumed this year for the first time since 2010, and two policemen have been killed. Bahraini security forces have killed three men attempting to flee the country, and fatally shot a protestor. Last week the King approved an amendment to the constitution to allow civilians to be tried in military courts.
Meanwhile prominent human rights activists remain in prison.News emerged this week that leading dissident Abdulhadi Al Khawaja has embarked on a hunger strike in jail to protest oppressive prison conditions, and that his colleague Nabeel Rajab has been transferred from prison to hospital to prison and back to hospital again following surgery, and denied adequate care. Peaceful political opposition leaders remain in jail. None of this is the fault of the sports reporters covering this week’s F1, but there a couple of questions they might take a moment to consider:
1. Sometimes human rights abuses happen because a sports event is taking place. Think of the sex trafficking of women into Houston for this year’s Super Bowl, or the violence around theforced evictions in the runup to the 2016 Rio Olympics, or thedissidents rounded up in China before the 2008 Beijing Olympics. These violations were committed because a major sport event was happening. If peaceful protestors are targeted in Bahrain in the coming days because it’s the F1 weekend, isn’t that part of the sports story too?
2. Most journalists are routinely denied access to Bahrain. Being allowed in to cover Bahrain’s F1 could be the only ticket into the kingdom for an international newspaper, TV station or wire agency all year. The reporters who get access might remember how football journalists sent to cover the 1978 World Cup in Argentina didn’t restrict themselves to the football, but also reported on that repressive regime’s human rights violations. Should those reporters who get in try to meet the dissidents their colleagues can’t?
If any reporter in Bahrain wants to go beyond the race, and contact dissidents to hear something other than the official view, contact me on twitter @dooley_dooley

Bahrain:Abdulhadi Alkawaja, Nabeel Rajab

  1. Worrying news from Bahrain, where human rights defender Abdulhadi Alkawaja has begun a hunger strike, protesting against arbitrary detention and degrading treatment of dissidents like him and Nabeel Rajab.

Marc Owen Jones: How Spate of Killings in Bahrain Raised Suspicions of State Brutality


Bahrain Mirror: In modern Bahrain, the truth behind violent deaths is hard to establish, highlights Marc Owen Jones in his article published on The Conversation website. "And the fact that they are largely ignored by the international media means you may well be reading about the following events for the first time," he says.
Jones notes that on December 23 2016, a female journalist, Eman Salehi, was shot in front of her son. "Activists have claimed the killing was carried out by an army officer they accuse of being a member of the ruling Al Khalifa family," he says, adding that this has not been confirmed. "And in January 2017, three young Bahrainis were executed after what was widely considered to be an unsafe trial for allegedly killing three policeman." He further notes that shortly afterwards, "scarcely anything was made of the killing of three Bahrainis under unusual circumstances at sea." Redha Ghasra, 29, Mahmud Yusif 22, and Mustafa Yusif 35, were shot by security forces on a boat on February 9.
Map released by MOI showing alleged route of the fugitives. Screenshot from public MOI video
Jones further highlights that the MOI released an edited video of that particular police operation, noting that the footage led to interested observers of Bahrain asking questions; "Why was the full, unedited video not released? Why was there no blood in the boat? Why was the audio muted? [...] Fundamentally, how did the operation result in three deaths?"
He also points out that a few weeks after this triple shooting, during another police pursuit of alleged fugitives, "Abdullah Al Ajooz, 22, reportedly died after he fell off a roof while trying to escape. Again, activists such as the former political leader Ibrahim Sharif, raised doubts about how he died. Did he fall, or was he pushed? Sharif's tweets on the matter have resulted in him being charged with 'inciting hatred.'"
Jones underlines that protests against the government in Bahrain reflect a deepening lack of trust in Bahrain's security services. "This is unsurprising," he stresses, adding that in 2011, the independent BICI report found that the security forces had practised systematic torture. "Despite the report's recommendations to hold abusers accountable, as of 2016, even the US State Department cannot verify how many, if any, police officers have been held accountable for abuses since 2011."
International relations play a big part in the dynamics of repression. Jones further stated. "Saudi Arabia, Britain, and the US have all influenced the nature of repression in Bahrain. This has ranged from British officers reportedly training the Bahraini security forces, to Saudi pressure on the Bahrain government to impose death penalties on political prisoners."
Concluding his article, the Bahrain/Gulf expert said that with little to temper the authorities in their treatment of dissent, President Trump's anti-Iran stance is potentially an enabling factor for a hardline approach, asserting that "the prospects for political reform in Bahrain now look increasingly bleak."



, Index number: MDE 11/6068/2017
On 3 April, the Court of Cassation in Bahrain reduced the prison sentence against opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman to four years in prison for the second time. He is a prisoner of conscience.


AFP: First Woman on Trial in Saudi over Shiite Protests


2017-04-12 - 5:12 p
Bahrain Mirror - AFP: The trial has begun in Saudi Arabia of the first woman accused of involvement in protests in a Shiite-majority area of the kingdom, a newspaper reported Tuesday.
The Okaz daily did not name the accused, but gave her age as 43.
It said she is "the first woman accused of being involved in terrorist activities" in Qatif, a coastal district where Shiites form the majority. In 2011, Shiite protests began in the area and developed into a call for equality in the Sunni-majority Gulf country.
Most of Saudi Arabia's Shiites live in the oil-rich east, where they have long complained of marginalization.
More than 200 men have been convicted in relation to the protests, and some were sentenced to death, said Ali Adubisi, director of the European Saudi Organization for Human Rights in Berlin.
He identified the accused as Naimah Almatrod, a nurse, and confirmed that she is the first woman to go on trial in connection with the Qatif demonstrations.
"She is totally innocent" of anything other than protesting, he told AFP, describing her as a "human rights defender".
At a hearing in Riyadh on Monday, prosecutors accused her of offences including "destabilizing security, negatively affecting the social fabric, wreaking havoc, (and) inciting sectarian sedition", Okaz said.
She is also accused of using social media to "incite against the government and justice".
The accused asked the court for more time to prepare her defense "and to appoint a lawyer", Okaz added.
Adubisi said it was unclear what sentence Almatrod could face if convicted.


Bahrain: Tribunali militari per imputati civili


di Riccarco Noury
Prtavoce di Amnesty International Italia

C’è un nuovo sviluppo nella vicenda giudiziaria di Ali Salman, noto esponente dell’opposizione del Bahrein.
Come avevamo raccontato in un precedente post, il segretario generale del disciolto partito al-Wefaq (con l’accusa di “terrorismo”), era stato arrestato nel 2014 per “incitamento all’odio” econdannato a nove anni il 30 maggio 2016. Il 17 ottobre la Corte di Cassazione aveva annullato il verdetto e ordinato un nuovo processo mentre, a dicembre, la Corte d’Appello avevaconfermato la condanna originaria. Alla fine, il 3 aprile la Corte di Cassazione ha ridotto la pena a quattro anni.
Non c’è da gioire, dato che chi invoca pacificamente riforme non dovrebbe trascorrere neanche un giorno in carcere.

Oltretutto, la notizia della riduzione della condanna di Ali Salman ha oscurato un preoccupante sviluppo, sempre del 3 aprile: il re del Bahrein, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ha ratificato un emendamento costituzionale che renderà possibile il ricorso alla corte marziale per gli imputati civili.
A sei anni dall’imposizione temporanea della legge marziale per fronteggiare le rivolte di massa, l’emendamento rischia di dare vita anuova stagione di processi irregolari, anche a porte chiuse e inassenza di un avvocato di propria scelta.
L’emendamento, oltre a violare gli standard del diritto internazionale sul giusto processo, è estremamente pericoloso perché formulato in modo del tutto generico: chiunque sarà considerato una minaccia alla sicurezza nazionale del Bahrein o alla sua “indipendenza, sovranità e integrità” potrà finire sotto corte marziale.
Il ricordo va al 2011, quando vennero, in questo modo, processati e condannati attivisti e dissidenti pacifici (tra cui medici, infermiere, insegnanti e difensori dei diritti umani).
Non rende ottimisti nemmeno il silenzio della comunità internazionale, e in particolare dei super-alleati Regno Unito e Usa di fronte a quello che accade nel ricchissimo regno del Golfo.Per non parlare del fatto che Trump ha recentemente rimosso la clausola del rispetto dei diritti umani alla fornitura di aerei da 


Event Summary: “Racing for Rights in the Post-Ecclestone Era”


6 April 2017 – Does Formula 1 bear responsibility when citizens suffer in the countries they race in? What can they do, and what are the risks of ignoring human rights? Ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix next weekend (14-16 April), BIRD, Article 19 and Reporters Without Borders co-hosted a press conference at The Free Word Centre, London asking these questions and more. The panelists sought to raise awareness of the human rights situation in the Kingdom and the human rights implications of the F1 event in Bahrain ahead of the upcoming 2017 Grand Prix.
The panel discussed the controversies of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
The panel discussed the controversies of the Bahrain Grand Prix. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, BIRD’s Director of Advocacy, introduced the discussion by talking about the ‘intensified crackdown” that occurs during Bahrain’s Grand Prix. This crackdown encompasses the siege of villages and clampdown on protesters, and has resulted in the deaths of Salah Abbas in 2012 and Ali Abdulghani in 2016. He spoke about his participation, along with human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, in the 2015 negotiations with Formula 1 which led to F1’s adoption of human rights commitments. Sayed stated that although F1’s written policy seems sound, in practice the situation is grave. The continued human rights violations in Bahrain is why BIRD calls for the cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
Zainab Al-Khawaja spoke from her experiences protesting. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Zainab Al-Khawaja spoke from her experiences protesting. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Zainab Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini human rights campaigner forced into exile in 2016, spoke of her role in protesting past F1 events in Bahrain and that she was proud to have protested and been jailed alongside political prisoners. She spoke about the human rights risks associated with the Grand Prix and the deteriorating situation in Bahrain. She passionately stated that there is no lack of information available on human rights violations in the Kingdom and that the world can not say that they are unaware of the crimes that take place in Bahrain. Bahrain no longer bothers to hide the crimes that they’re committing. Zainab stated: “The worst cruelty is indifference. When the F1 races in Bahrain, it shows the world does not care about the arrests and torture” Zainab asked why fans would want their sport to be associated with dictatorship. She said that the F1 is not being asked to join protests or take a political stance, but to respect the people fighting for democracy and the victims in Bahrain.
The long term human rights activist also pointed to the white washing that occurs during the Grand Prix. She recalled her shock when protesters, she among them, near the Grand Prix were once addressed by police who asked them to clear away. This was a show put on for the journalists: later that night, protests in villages away from the racetrack were suppressed with excessive force and tear gas  the same as always.
Zainab recalled how she went several months without being allowed to have fresh air during one of her imprisonments, and how when she was in prison in 2016 with her infant son, police refused to allow them fresh air for days at a time. Zainab said that the government advertises the Bahrain Grand Prix as a way to enjoy “the sun, sand and sea.” She pointed to the fact that hundreds of political prisoners also enjoy the sun, sand and sea, but never get to experience them in Bahrain.
Jodie Ginsberg criticised the UK’s stance on human rights in Bahrain and drew attention to rights abuses happening there. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, spoke about the Sports for Rights campaign in Azerbaijan, another repressive country where the F1 races. She stated that Bernie Ecclestone’s attitude on human rights was “appalling” and that F1 has great power to talk about real issues, not just “sun, sea and sand,” yet they are failing in that. She also stated that she was ashamed that the UK government fails to speak out against Bahrain, and even acted against the interests of strong multi-lateral efforts in the most recent UN Human Rights Council. Despite their influence, they say nothing publicly. Josie Ginseng highlighted Bahrain’s repressive human rights records by drawing attention to the plights of Nabeel Rajab, Ebrahim Sharif and Abduljalil Al-Singace.
Brian Dooley spoke about the responsibilities of sports journalists covering controversial events. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Brian Dooley spoke about the responsibilities of sports journalists covering controversial events. Credit: Moosa Mohammad.
Brian Dooley, a senior adviser for Human Rights First, talked about the responsibility of sports journalists covering sports in repressive regimes. He stated that for many media outlets, the Grand Prix is the only occasion to have access to the country. He recalled the human rights violations which were central to past sporting events worldwide, from the Argentina World Cup to the Beijing Olympics, and stated that journalists should use this opportunity to not just cover sports, but the wider political situation. He stated earnestly that “the human rights abuses are part of the sports story. Isn’t it part of your story that because of the Bahrain Grand Prix abuses happen?”

Bahrain rights groups call for F1 race to be cancelled


By Alan Baldwin | LONDON
Human rights campaigners have urged Formula One management to cancel next week's Bahrain Grand Prix, accusing the country's rulers of using the race to "whitewash" abuses and improve their image abroad.
Bahrain's biggest sporting event is watched by a worldwide audience of millions and has been held since 2004, with the exception of 2011 when violent civil unrest forced its cancellation.
"Concerted and visible action is now required from Formula One, consistent with its commitment to human rights," the groups said in a letter to Formula One chairman Chase Carey and the two managing directors Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn.
"We call on you to suspend this year's race in view of the alarming situation in the country."
The letter, also addressed to the chief executive of F1 sponsor Heineken, was sent by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, Article 19 and Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.
Activists recognised privately, after a media briefing, that they did not expect the call to be heeded.
Bahrain, a former British protectorate and the U.S. Navy's main outpost in the Gulf region, has stepped up a crackdown on the opposition, banning the al-Wefaq party and arresting several prominent activists.
The Sunni Muslim-ruled kingdom accuses Iran, a Shi'ite Muslim theocracy across the Gulf, of radicalising and arming some members of its Shi'ite majority population. Three Shi'ite men were executed in January after being convicted of killing three policemen.
Formula One published a commitment in 2015 to respect "internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally".
Formula One is now owned by U.S.-based Liberty Media, which took over the sport in January and ousted Bernie Ecclestone as commercial supremo.
Ecclestone, 86, told Reuters he would be in Bahrain for the race, the first he has attended since he ceased to run the show.
The campaigners' letter said Formula One would "become complicit" in human rights violations in Bahrain if the race was not cancelled.
Activist Zainab al-Khawaja, who lives in Denmark after being arrested and released several times in Bahrain, told reporters that the race raised the question, "Does the world care about what's happening in Bahrain?
"It (Formula One) is a message sent to the people of Bahrain that the world does not care," she said.
A Bahrain government spokesperson said the country had implemented "a range of institutional and legal reforms over recent years, in close collaboration with international governments and independent experts.
"As a result of these efforts, Bahrain now has a number of internationally recognised safeguards in place to ensure human rights abuses do not occur."
The spokesperson added, in a comment emailed to Reuters, that Bahrain was "entirely compliant and proactively participates" with Formula One's defined human rights policy.
"Like other Formula One host nations, Bahrain will work alongside the organisation to help support these commitments, and the Kingdom welcomes the opportunity to demonstrate its own highly significant strides as part of this process."

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; editing by Neilo Robinson)