A Brief Look at Human Rights Violation (part 20): Bahrain

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Publish Date : 11/21/2021 0:43
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Bahrain uses academic partnerships to hide its gross human rights abuses.

Arbitrary detention is a common tactic utilized by Bahraini authorities to obstruct human rights advocacy and silence dissident voices within the country. The government of Bahrain has arrested thousands of human rights defenders, religious figures, doctors, lawyers and others. Furthermore, torture and other types of threats are common in Bahraini detention centres. In this report, we took a brief look at human rights violations in Bahrain.


1- The majority of Bahraini citizens, who are excluded from decision-making and have long endured injustice and oppression on a sectarian basis, took part in the wave of popular protests in February 2011. Since then, Bahraini authorities have repressed peaceful protests with excessive force and prosecution. Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq Society, Bahrain’s largest opposition bloc, is one of the victims. He was arrested on in 2014 and sentenced to four years in prison for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Shortly before end of his initial sentence, the State charged him with spying for Qatar in 2017 and he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Despite facing the death penalty, Sheikh Ali Salman received a lesser sentence due to his well-known calmness, serenity, strength, and stability. On December 28, 2021, Sheikh Ali Salman will complete his seventh year in detention for a crime that lacks justification. He is completing his seventh year in detention for being considered a prominent political warrior for freedom, democracy and advocating a brighter future for Bahrain.

2- According to a new report by The European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR), Bahrain uses academic partnerships to hide its gross human rights abuses.
There is no agreed definition on the concept of academic whitewashing, however, an example would be collaborations between an academic institution, such as a university and an abusive regime with a deteriorating human rights record. These collaborations can be in the forms of receiving or donating funds, regular visits to strengthen relationships, engaging in propagating misinformation, and teaching courses despite awareness regarding the countries’ widespread and systematic human rights abuses. Consequently, involved parties are disguising the true human rights situation in the concerned country. This deliberate “strategy” to deflect a country’s image as a prevalent human rights violator is used in different environments with the academic sphere being a major one.


Bahrain’s ambassador to the US, Mr. AlKhalifa, is a member of the ruling family in Bahrain. He maintains a relationship with Boston University and Suffolk University, while he has a history of overseeing human rights abuses committed by the Bahraini government. This includes the prison conditions and detention centres in which human rights defenders remain arbitrarily detained. By collaborating with Ambassador Al Khalifa, the Universities of Boston and Suffolk are engaging in academic whitewashing, which also benefits Ambassador AlKhalifa by enabling him to whitewash Bahrain’s atrocious human rights record.


Another example of academic whitewashing in practice involves the UK based University of Huddersfield. By teaching an exclusive MSc in Security Science, the University is directly involved with Bahrain’s Royal Academy of Policing (RAP), an organisation that has repeatedly been accused of engaging in torture. Despite testimonies alleging torture coupled with various NGOs calling for a suspension of the course, the University has refused to disclose their financial gain from the course, nor to remove the program.


The most recent example of academic whitewashing takes us straight to Rome. On November 5, 2018, the Italian University “La Sapienza” inaugurated a new professorship to honor Bahrain’s King, the “King Hamad Chair for inter-religious dialogue and peaceful co-existence”. During the inauguration, Bahrain’s Minister of Culture stated that in Bahrain “all faiths have lived side by side for centuries and today we are happy to live in a multicultural and multi-religious society”.
Despite claiming the opposite, Bahrain has a long-standing history of sectarian discrimination and religious intolerance. In fact, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has defined Bahrain as a country that commits systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of the freedom of religion. Even though nearly 70% of Bahrain’s population is Shia, the political power of the country is allocated within the Sunni Al Khalifa ruling family, which has led the Shia community to be targeted for their cultural, religious, political, and legal rights.


By associating themselves with the Bahraini regime, these universities are placing themselves on the side of the perpetrator. It actively silences the voices of those who fight daily for democracy and human rights, of the courageous Bahraini activists both in the country and in exile, the voice of NGOs who try to raise awareness on the subject, the voice of the United Nations, and the European Parliament when they express their concerns. Their message is thus not heard by all those who could take action to bring positive change. Depriving Bahraini people from their right to democracy and human rights.


“ A Brief Look at Human Rights Violation (part 20): Bahrain ”