Support teachers in Bahrain
Amnesty International launches new campaign to free Mahdi Abu Dheeb
To coincide with May Day, Amnesty International are launching a new phase of their campaign calling for the release of Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the President of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association.
The NASUWT has been a leading organisation in attempts, internationally, to secure the release of Mahdi Abu Dheeb and in support of Jalila al-Salman, the BTA Vice-President.
Mahdi Abu Dheeb remains imprisoned, and subject to abuse, for organising and leading teacher protests, since 2011. The Bahraini authorities have also applied continuing pressure upon Jalila al-Salman and members of the BTA.
A key component of the campaign involves the use of emails and postcards to be sent to the Ambassador of Bahrain in the UK, urging the immediate and unconditional release of Mahdi Abu Dheeb. Details of how to do this are on the left of this webpage.
The NASUWT will continue to campaign for the release of Mahdi Abu Dheeb.
Jalila al-Salman relives her year as International Solidarity winner
Despite living under the constant threat of arrest and intimidation, Jalila al-Salman has continued to campaign for justice for herself and fellow activists in the Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA).
In the year since her courage and determination was recognised by the NASUWT in awarding her the International Solidarity Award, the situation in Bahrain continues to be very difficult for teacher trade unionists. Jalila talks about an increase of arrests of teachers on trumped-up terrorism charges and the arbitrary firing of teachers whose political views are deemed incompatible with that of the oppressive regime.
Here, Jalila talks about her continuing struggle for justice and to return to the profession she loves, along with the continual fear which stalks her life.
She also talks about the impact the recognition of receiving the International Solidarity Award, and how the profile it brought was partly responsible for the pressure which led to the first detention visits of international observers to BTA President Mahdi abu Dheeb.
Is the situation in Bahrain worse or better for teachers and trade unionists since last year?
The trade union movement is going through very hard days because of the situation created by the authorities here and their tactic of replacing legitimate unions with state puppets to try to bolster their poor international image.
As teachers, we are not far from this. Our president is still in prison in a very hard situation, and I am still jobless.
What problems still exist for teachers, and what, if any, have been resolved?
Unfortunately, nothing has been resolved.
We still face the continuing arrests of teachers and students who are then tried under terrorism laws so that judges can give them unnecessarily harsh sentences.
Teachers are still routinely fired because of their political and religious backgrounds
And Bahraini education professionals are being pushed out in favour of people imported from all over the Arab world.
What about your personal situation? You dreamt of returning to teaching. Is that any closer to being a reality?
My situation is still on the edge. I am still fighting to return back to work. The General Federation of Workers here in Bahrain is working very hard to reinstate people who were fired following the signing of an agreement between the Bahraini government and the ILO.
My name is on the priority list that was released.
Do you continue to fear for your personal safety? If so, why?
Fear will never end under the current situation. Now, raiding homes without a legitimate reason is a very easy thing for the authorities to do.
Recently , three human rights organizations loyal to the regime released my photo under the title “Wanted for justice” because of my continued work in defending my colleagues and our students as well as the educational system as a whole, and for criticizing those responsible.
What has being an International Solidarity winner meant to you?
Being an “International Solidarity winner” meant a lot not just for me, but for all my colleagues here in Bahrain. It meant that we are not alone. Colleagues overseas are monitoring our situation and are ready to defend us. Even if they couldn’t do anything in practical terms, they will make the necessary noise to condemn the government for what they do. It simply gives us a place to breathe when no air is available.
Do you have a message for members of NASUWT as you complete your year as International Solidarity winner?
I would like to thank each and every member in NASUWT for their courageous work and their continuous support to us in person and to the cause for education in Bahrain.
I have to say that Mahdi got to be seen by the different teams visiting his prison only because that we are under so much worldwide focus. The solidarity award gave us this profile and attention.
How is Mahdi? Has his situation improved in any way in the last year? Or got worse?
Mahdi’s situation is not improving in general but during the last year we had the chance to have him visited by most of the international human rights organization that have come to Bahrain and even the representatives of the Human Rights High Commissioner. All of this was because of the profile we had gained for the plight of Bahrain’s Teachers Case.
Other things remain the same; he still needs an operation on his shoulders, and he still needs to continue his physiotherapy.
The worst problem now is the prison overcrowding. He is in a cell with seven others detainees which is designed for only four people. He can’t even walk in the cell. As he described things, he said: “Jalila, I need to walk over bodies just to reach the cell door.”
URGENT ACTION: Tell Bahrain to free Mahdi
It has been over two and a half years since Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA) was imprisoned and subsequently withheld vital medical care, despite being tortured, for simply protesting against the Bahraini Government.
The campaign has since been taken up by Amnesty International to highlight the injustice of his treatment and for the way in which he has been labelled as someone who used or advocated violence against the regime.
Jalila al-Salman, Vice President of the BTA, has campaigned vigorously for his release since she was released from prison for similar charges. In recent weeks she has been vilified in the Bahraini press by so-called human rights groups and branded a terrorist.
It is important that the campaign continues to support Mahdi Abu Dheeb and to call for his release. The spotlight needs to be shone upon the Bahraini authorities. If you have not already done so, please support the campaign.
Amnesty International launch new campaign to demand the release of Mahdi Abu Deeb
Amnesty International have announced a new campaign to press the Bahraini authorities to release Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA).
Mahdi Abu Dheeb was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by a military court for using his position "to call for a strike by teachers, halting the educational process and inciting hatred of the regime", among other charges. There is no evidence proving that he either used or advocated violence.
Although an appeal reduced Mahdi Abu Dheeb’s sentence to five years, he has still to serve another 3 years whilst being withheld basic medical treatment for injuries sustained as a result of torture in prison.
On her recent visit to the NASUWT Annual Conference, Jalila Al-Salman, Vice President of the BTA, confirmed that she believed that it was international pressure that had led to her release from prison and Mahdi Abu Dheeb’s sentence being reduced. This emphasises the importance of continuing this campaign.
Amnesty International have also selected Mahdi’s case for their next Amnesty International UK Youth Urgent Action activity for the 500 schools groups who participate and to distribute the appeal to the Amnesty UK TeachRights Network, which reaches over 6,000 teachers, as a resource for use in their human rights teaching.
Two years have passed since the arrest of Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the Bahrain Teachers’ Association leader, and his agony continues.
Below is a statement from Education International.
The 6thof April is marking the second anniversary of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association leader Mahdi Abu Dheeb’s imprisonment.
In this regard, Education International, of which NASUWT is a member, is calling on member organisations and individuals to join Mahdi in his continued struggle and to demand his immediate release. It invites to take action now and send appeals using a model letter.
Mahdi Abu Deeb has been imprisoned since 2011; when the popular protests began in Bahrain. He is detained in Jaw Prison under difficult conditions; he is denied medical treatment required by his doctor. Mahdi shares his cell with criminals, but he has committed no crime!
The BTA leader has been detained on false charges under laws that repress basic human and trade union rights.
Mahdi was arrested and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment before unfair military court (National Safety Court) on freedom of expression-related charges after participating in peaceful protests in 2011. The government says that charges related to freedom of expression were dropped and only criminal charges were retained for Mahdi’s appeal hearings.
On 21 October 2012, the appeal court upheld the guilty verdict against the head of the BTA leader, but reduced his prison sentences to five years. Mahdi will have his last chance of appeal before the highest Court in Bahrain; the Cassation Court; and till now dates have not yet been set.
The allegations put forward by Mahdi’ lawyers have still not been investigated by the authorities.
EI remains extremely concerned about the very repressive climate faced by teacher trade union activists and students in the country. EI is also committed to support teacher’s rights in Bahrain which are crucial to ensure young people access to quality education. Hundreds of teachers have suffered harassment, dismissal, salaries cuts and suspension from their work and studies since the protests began in 2011.
Furthermore, EI reiterates its call on the Bahraini authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against teacher unionists, and recalls their obligation to comply with the international human rights standards ratified by the Kingdom of Bahrain.
In a separate development, Jalila Al Salman Vice President of the BTA has been awarded at the NASUWT annual conference, where she received the International Solidarity award. The NASUWT colleagues met with the Foreign Commonwealth officials together with Jalila and called them to maintain the pressure on the Bahraini authorities.
"We need to pressure the Bahraini government with letters, petitions and more in order to ensure justice for Mahdi Abu Dheeb," said EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.
Jalila wins International Solidarity Award at Conference 2013
NASUWT was honoured to host Jalila Al-Salman at Annual Conference 2013, where she received the International Solidarity Award for standing up for teachers' rights in Bahrain.
Winner of NASUWT’s International Solidarity award Jalila al-Salman made a moving speech about the terrible personal price she and her fellow trade unionists had paid in Bahrain.
Jalila spoke about how she and her colleagues at the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) had established the union in 2011 with the aim of establishing a teacher’s ‘cadre’ and supporting the development of the profession.
Despite efforts to crush support for the BTA, the Bahraini regime finally resorted to arresting and imprisoning Jalila and BTA President, Mahdi Abu Dheeb.
Jalila spoke of her fear of being confronted by around 50 armed men in her bedroom as she was taken away from her family to prison. Mahdi, who has been subjected to horrific torture, still remains in a prison cell. The BTA was disbanded; its belongings thrown onto the street, meaning teachers have no representation in Bahrain today.
Despite this, Jalila and her BTA colleagues continue to campaign for support for teachers, at great personal risk.
In issuing a strong message of support for Jalila and the BTA, General Secretary Chris Keates said: “We want you to understand that you have our unequivocal support. This is a struggle dear to our hearts.”
April 6th will be the second anniversary of the false imprisonment of Mahdi. Please call for the release of Mahdi by:
Writing to the UK Foreign Secretary.
Address: Rt Hon William Hague MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.
Jalila released from prison
The NASUWT has cautiously welcomed the news that one of the jailed leaders of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA), Jalila al-Salman, has been released from prison.
Her colleague, Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the BTA President, is nevertheless still serving five years in the Jaw prison.
Mahdi and Jalila were condemned, respectively, to 10 and three years in prison by a military court in September 2011. The verdict was upheld by the Manama Court on 21 October, but the sentences were reduced to five years and six months respectively.
The claims that they were attempting to overthrow the ruling system by force and inciting hatred of the regime are wholly without foundation and is one of many claims brought against thousands of ordinary people who had been caught up in the February 2011 Arab Spring protests in Bahrain’s capital, Manama.
Mahdi and Jalila’s only “crime” was to have the temerity to be leaders of a trade union promoting respect for the values of solidarity, equality and democracy.
The BTA leaders had been subjected to torture and forced to sign “confessions”. This was noted in the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry set up by the King of Bahrain.
Mahdi was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison; Jalila to 3 years.
Both have been appealing these clearly political convictions.
The NASUWT has been central to the international campaign calling for the release from jail of the BTA leaders, for charges against them to be dropped and for the hundreds of dismissed teachers to be reinstated. NASUWT was part of the international mission to the country in April calling for their release and for charges against them to be dropped.
However, on 21 October, the Bahrain appeal court upheld the guilty verdict against the BTA leaders.
Whilst we were not successful in lifting the convictions against them, the international pressure did manage to ensure that their sentences were substantially reduced their prison sentences to five years and to six months respectively for Mahdi and Jalila.
Mahdi has been refused release from prison. Jalila had previously been released by the authorities.
Commenting on Jalila's release, NASUWT Deputy General Secretary Patrick Roach, said: “The NASUWT welcomes the news that Jalila al Salman has been released from prison by the Bahraini authorities after she was sentenced to three years in prison for merely having the courage to speak out against the regime. However, her release must be without any restrictions being placed on her which would continue to infringe her human rights.
“The welcome news of Jalila’s release reminds us that others continue to be incarcerated unjustly by the Bahrain authorities. The NASUWT will continue to work with the wider international communities to secure the release of political prisoners including the President of the Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA), Mr Mahdi Abu Dheeb. We will not rest until Mahdi is once again free and able to return to his family and continue his work as the leader of the BTA.”
NASUWT highlights plight of jailed Bahraini teachers at international conference
The NASUWT has been privileged to support the first Education International Arab region Conference of education unions which took place in Beirut. We took the opportunity to highlight the case of the Bahrain teachers there.
The EI conference was the first event of education unions in the region following the ‘Arab Spring’. It was a show of solidarity by education unions in the region under the umbrella of EI.
Immediately upon conclusion of that Conference, Jalila was rounded up by the authorities in Bahrain and subject to hours of interrogation. She was denied access to any legal representation and not allowed to see her family. She has now been put in prison.
The timing of Jalila’s arrest could not have been more deliberate or calculated. It confirms a deep contempt by the Bahraini authorities not only for the BTA but also for the international trade union education community. It reflects a wider, serious collapse in relations between the authorities and trade unions which has intensified since October.
Education International (EI) has issued a statement condemning the actions of the Bahrain authorities with regard to the arrest of Jalila al Salman. The international trade union community is continuing to make representations at the highest possible levels.
Amnesty International has declared Mahdi and Jalila as political prisoners.
Mahdi and Jalila lose their appeal
Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman, the leaders of the Bahraini Teachers' Association, have just lost their appeal against the unjust sentences against them.Please sign the labourstart petition calling on the Bahraini government to release these political prisoners.
Amnesty International concludes that it has 'not seen any convincing evidence supporting such accusations, nor was there any such evidence presented at trial', and have therefore adopted Madhdi and Jalila as prisoners of conscience. Mahdi and Jalila's only 'crime' was to have the temerity to promote respect for the values of solidarity, equality and democracy.
Education International has issued a call for a large online campaign demanding the release of both Mahdi and Jalila.
For more information see:
Jailed for marching on Saturday? You would be in Bahrain
UK Government must act to end the ongoing repression of teachers in Bahrain
Bahrain: Teachers face further jail time after 'nightmare' verdict
Further details of how you can support the campaign can be found below.
Write to the Bahraini authorities to appeal for the following:
- The immediate and unconditional release of Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and to protect him from torture or other ill-treatment;
- The immediate establishment of a full, impartial and independent investigation into the reported ill-treatment of members of the BTA and to bring those responsible to justice;
- The immediate reinstatement of teachers dismissed and the students expelled, together with their salaries and scholarships;
- The Bahraini authorities to comply with fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers, students and union activists in accordance with international standards under ILO Conventions 87, 98 and 111, on freedom of association, collective bargaining and discrimination in employment;
- A peaceful transition to democracy and a fair resolution of the current impasse and legitimate claims of the Bahraini people.
SEND APPEALS TO:
- Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain, 30 Belgrave Square, London SW1X 8QB. Tel 0207 201 9170. Email: email@example.com
- His Majesty Shaikh Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
P.O. Box 555, Rifa’a Palace, al-Manama, Bahrain
Fax: +973 17664587
- Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister
Fax: +973 17533033; +973 175 32839
- H.E. Majid bin Ali al-Naimi, Minister of Education
Fax: +973 17273656; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Diplomatic representatives of Bahrain accredited to your country
- EI (email@example.com or fax +32 2 224 0606).
Send online messages to the authorities through the EI website: www.ei-ie.org/uaas/issues_actions and encourage your friends and colleagues to do so also.
Write to your MP by clicking on www.nasuwt.org.uk/ContactYourMP
Click 'like' on the International Solidarity Facebook page to find further information about other international solidarity campaigns and to receive the latest up to date information.
Recent Campaign Activity
The following emergency motion was adopted unanimously by the NASUWT Conference on 8th April 2012.
The NASUWT condemns the brutal and inhumane treatment of members of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) by the Bahraini authorities.
The NASUWT asserts that there is no evidence that Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb (BTA President) or Jalila al Salman (BTA Vice President) have used or advocated violence during the protests of February and March 2011.
The NASUWT regards Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman to be prisoners of conscience who have been unjustly imprisoned for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
The NASUWT believes that the abusive treatment of members of the BTA is part of a deliberate attempt to undermine the ability of the BTA to organise and is a contravention of international human rights law.
The NASUWT is deeply concerned that the repression of teachers and students has not been stopped, and that arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture is continuing.
The NASUWT demands that the Bahraini authorities act immediately to:
(i) release Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb immediately and unconditionally;
(ii) drop all the charges against Mahdi Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al Salman;
(iii) ensure that the leaders of the BTA are protected from torture or other ill-treatment;
(iv) reinstate the teachers dismissed and the students expelled, together with their salaries and scholarships;
(v) order an immediate independent and impartial investigation into allegations of torture and ill-treatment, publish the results and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Furthermore, the NASUWT urges the Bahraini authorities to commit to respecting the fundamental rights and freedoms of teachers, students and union activists in accordance with international standards.