05 June 2012

By Brian Dooley Director, Human Rights Defenders

Human Rights First has obtained a translated copy of a letter written by Bahraini prisoner and Human Rights Defender Mahdi Abu Deeb and smuggled out of Bahrain’s Jaw Prison. The letter is from Abu Deeb to the King of Bahrain, asking him to implement human rights reforms. Abu Deeb is the President of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), and was arrested in April last year for his part in the pro-democracy uprising. He was tortured, convicted in an unfair military trial and sentenced to 10 years in prison. The Vice-President of the BTA, Jalila Al Salman, was convicted in the same trial also after being tortured, and was sentenced to three years in prison. They are currently undergoing an appeal and although Al Salman is out of prison while that process continues, Abu Deeb remains in custody.

The letter was recently smuggled out and opens and closes with extracts from the Koran and asks the King to “Choose between being the ruler that ‘won for his people’ or the ruler that ‘won over his people’ before you become the ruler ‘who lost to his people’.”

Abu Deeb’s daughter Maryam told Human Rights First “This shows my dad is committed to peaceful protest but shows too his frustration with the lack of real reform. He and Jalila are back in court on June 25 for their next appeal session but they should never have been arrested in the first place.”

Here is the letter:

“Permission [to fight] has been given to those who are being fought, because they were wronged. And indeed, Allah is competent to give them victory.” Surat Al-Haj (39)

I write this letter to King Hamad bin Isa to advise you as our religion teaches us to do so. All I want from this is reform, real reform and not just those promises you gave the people without actually making them happen. Real reform is what helps our country avoid injustice, tyranny, discrimination and stealing wealth. I demand from you the constitutional monarchy you said you wanted, now only you have the monarchy but the people did not get the constitutional power.

We, the people, grew tired with the deteriorating living circumstances, constitutional rights and political freedom. That is why we went out to demand real reform and dedicated ourselves to peacefulness and good behavior. But what did you do? You betrayed your own people; do you even consider us your people? You declared the state of “National Safety”, which was a regretful period where people’s rights and well-beings were abused, blood spilled, mosques demolished and Ma’tams damaged right in front of you and with your blessings. Some were killed, others injured and many imprisoned, you didn’t spare infants, old men, women or young men. If you claim to not be responsible for this, you certainly cannot deny that you knew about it, so what did you do to prevent the abuse of the people? No matter what, you are responsible for this and you will stand before Allah to be judged on what happened and still happens in your Kingdom, aren’t you the one responsible for your people?

You wanted to clear your name after the whole world criticized you, so you made the “National Dialogue” parade. It was so silly and resulted in so little that I wouldn’t even bother to discuss it.

Furthermore, you started what was called the “Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry” to avoid having the UN send its own commissions and expose the abuses suffered by the people during the state of “National Safety”. You chose the members of the commission and it started its work accompanied with a lot of doubt, withdrawals and problems. Regardless, it still managed to expose your abuses and highlight a lot of the injustice suffered by the people. The report had some compliments but that could not take the heat off the abuses committed by your army and Ministry of Interior. But what did you do? You formed a committee to follow up with the BICI recommendation and the whole world agreed that they have not done anything yet while your media announced the success of implementing them.

I have said several times before that we are “hostages”. We are not imprisoned because we are criminals and we won’t be released because your judges suddenly find out we’re innocent! We will stay in prison as long as you need us so you can leverage us while talking to the opposition and the people, you will only release us when you reach a settlement that pleases you. We will not let anyone mess with the demands of our people. Every moment longer we stay in prison means you have to stand before Allah and explain your actions even more, choose as you wish.

If our only crime is demanding our rights and wanting to live an honorable free life then I declare that we are all “guilty”. If our crime is demanding to be equal in our country without any discrimination on ethnic, religious, sectarian, tribal or society classes levels then we are all “guilty”. If our crime is demanding justice and equality then we are “guilty”. If our crime is demanding reform in our country, religion and world by stopping the waste of wealth and holding accountable those who steal, kill and oppress then we are “guilty”. If our crime is demanding security for ourselves, our children, houses, mosques, Ma’tams, towns and village then we “guilty”. If your laws limits the freedom of expression than say it out loud and don’t be embarrassed to tell it to the whole world because you cannot really hide it anymore.

Instead, you accuse us of things we have not done, you try to lie about crimes that you and everyone around you know are not true. That will not solve the problem, it will not end the crisis which you have the power to solve and avoid prolonging. Only then you will be able to stop the bloodshed and waste of money that is increasing day by day.

You have declared in the past a so-called ”National Reconciliation” but we haven’t seen it happen. You also announced forgiveness and we still haven’t seen any. You still to this day say you are committed to dialogue and reform yet our town and villages are abused and robbed, the investors are going away and the calls of war are on the tongues of Religious figures, MPs, advisors and ministers. All that and the killings, bloodshed and imprisoning the innocent is still happening and even increasing. So where is the dialogue and reform? Where is the forgiveness and reconciliation? When will the ruling chairs be more important that the land? When will those in power be more important than citizens?

I sincerely call on you to quickly take responsibility in front of Allah, the land, the people and history to solve the crisis as soon as possible. What we have lost is enough and every minute that passes makes it harder to find a solution for this crisis that stormed our country, harmed everyone and created deep divides between the fragments of the society that won’t be reconnected easily. Seeking foreign powers’ help won’t benefit you nor will pitting one sect against another, nor even using mercenaries. Try to open up to our great creative nation that any just authority around the world would want to have. Try to be a part of it, try to respond to its fair demands, try to understand it and walk with it, not fight against it. If you do that you should know that is in your best interest. This is the time of people and not rulers, this is the time of change not stagnation. What was right in the 80s and 90s has no place today – societies move and the clock always turns the same way.

Choose between being the ruler that “won for his people” or the ruler that “won over his people” before you become the ruler “who lost to his people”.

“[And they are] those who, if We give them authority in the land, establish prayer and give zakah and enjoying what is right and forbid what is wrong. And to Allah belongs the outcome of [all] matters.” Surat Al-Haj (41)