Education International, together with Amnesty International, is urgently calling on its member organisations to appeal for the release of Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, Vice-President and President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA) arrested along with several other board members of the BTA.
While it is understood their colleagues have been released, Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb remain incarcerated awaiting trial in a civilian court.
Jalila al-Salman’s house in Manama was raided on 29 March by more than 40 security officers. Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb’s house was raided by 20 members of security forces on 20 March in the middle of the night. His wife and children were interrogated for two hours.
This raid marked the beginning of the persecution of teachers and students, creating a climate of fear of arbitrary arrest and detention.
On 29 March, the security forces again inspected the house of Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, twice on the same day, without being able to find him. He was subsequently arrested and remains in detention.
On 12th June, 63 students of the Bahrain University and Polytechnic were expelled following peaceful demonstrations and updates on Facebook. They have also been banned from enrolling in other universities in Bahrain, effectively ending their academic future in Bahrain.
The charges against the two union leaders include “inciting hatred towards the regime”, “calling to overthrow and change the regime by force”, “calling on parents not to send their children to school” and “calling on teachers to stop working and participate in strikes and demonstrations”. The two leaders were brought to trial before the National Safety Court of First Instance (a military court) on 15 June. After two further hearings, their trial was transferred to a civilian court and postponed until further notice.
Campaign for Education report that since March 2011 Bahrain has been carrying out a punitive and vindictive campaign of violent repression against its own citizens.
“The repression has been characterized by widespread arbitrary arrest, allegations of torture and ill treatment, unfair trials and mass dismissals of workers, especially teachers, and expulsions of students.”
Members of the BTA and the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights now report at least 66 of such serious infringements of their human and trade union rights since the uprisings for democracy began.
Teacher dismissals have escalated, reported this week by Karim Radhi of the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Union to be more than 132.
A claim by the Ministry of Education that only 58 teachers were dismissed on various grounds during the unrest has been publicly refuted by teachers themselves, who also say they were not given a chance to defend themselves after receiving the recommendation of termination of service, and that written statements of witnesses were overlooked.
On 2nd August Jaleela went on hunger strike along with the President of the Bahrain Nursing Society, in protest at their illegitimate detention.
Amnesty International has reviewed the statements issued by the BTA and has listened to speeches delivered by its President Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb. Amnesty found no evidence that either of them advocated violence of any kind. Consequently, Amnesty believes that they are likely prisoners of conscience detained solely for exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly as leaders of the BTA.
Refaat Sabbah from the Global Campaign for Education and the 1GOAL Team says:
“We are campaigning for the immediate release of all teachers, students and activists detained in Bahrain, reinstatement of the students expelled from their learning institutions. And the enablement of every person to learn free from fear of persecution in Barhain.”
Another report states that a total of 14 Bahrain University teachers were also dismissed.
An academician who requested anonymity said that the termination was pre-designed.
He also said that a few of those who were dismissed are told that they would receive their financial entitlements, while the remaining were not.
“There are no clear criteria marked on these decisions,” he said.
The Bahrain Teachers’ Union has been dissolved and a new one put in place with teachers ‘more amenable to the regime’.