Teachers protesting in Bahrain, 2011
A court in Bahrain today upheld the convictions of two Bahraini teachers' leaders.The two leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association Mahdi Abu Dheeb and his deputy Jalila al-Salman had their sentences reduced from 10 years to 5 years and three years to six months respectively. Nevertheless the charges were upheld. The two teaching union leaders led the struggles of teachers in Bahrain in the aftermath of protests across the middle east calling for democracy in 2011.
The health of Mahdi is said to be poor and both leaders suffered torture and other mistreatment at the hands of the security forces in Bahrain. Jalila described her treatment in a recent video message: “I was in solitary confinement for 18 days. They put me in a freezer for eight days. I was denied sleeping, eating, drinking, using the toilet, praying… They would come each night, in the middle of the night, with that black hose to beat me."
Bahrain is one of the main western allies and is home to the US fifth fleet. According to a senior US official, quoted in the Financial Times
: “Bahrain is a long-standing partner and ally, and we are publicly and privately committed to that partnership.”
International human rights organisations like Amnesty International have called for the end of the suppression of rights in Bahrain and an end to the detention and torture of trade unionists and pro-democracy campaigners. Acording to the Amnesty website:
"The cases of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi 'Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb are two more examples of Bahraini authorities’ double-speak over the course of the last year and a half – claiming reform while suppressing,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Programme Director at Amnesty International. As well as teachers like them, medics, human rights defenders and activists are currently behind bars for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. This must come to an end immediately, and the Bahraini authorities must quash their convictions and release all prisoners of conscience.
Education International (EI) is also calling for the immediate release of the teachers' leaders. To read more about the case and to find out how to send messages of solidarity go to the EI site