1 Jul, 2013

Bahrain: Continued Attacks on the Right to Education: Discrimination in Scholarship Distribution

Majed Al Noaimi, Minister of Education

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern regarding the continued violation of the right to education. Following the mass pro-democracy protests of February 14 2011, students were subjected to systematic violations including but not limited to: arrests, torture, and suspension from schools and universities merely for their political and/or religious beliefs. The mentioned violations did not stop, and high school students are still being subjected to discrimination in scholarships distribution, based on their background and personal views.

In 2011, The Ministry of Education initiated a new method for distributing scholarships. Instead of basing it fully on academic merit, it has taken a different route by forming a Scholarship Distribution Committee that supposedly focuses on the student’s personal opinions, capabilities and preferences with a personal interview. The interview accounts for 40% of the award decision, and the remaining 60% is based on academic achievement. Students had to choose 12 different majors they were interested in, which is a number too big to cover their interests, thus forcing them to choose majors far from their aspirations in order to finish their registration. The BCHR documented in a report it published in 2011 cases of high achievers getting their 10th or even 12th choice; some were not even granted scholarships despite their high GPAs. (Read more about the process and cases of discrimination in 2011: http://bahrainrights.hopto.org/en/node/4680). The new process was implemented in 2012 and more cases of discrimination in scholarship distribution were reported. Despite students’ complaints and the obvious discrimination in the distribution mechanism, especially in regards to the interviews, the same method and criteria have been implemented this year.

In these interviews that are supposedly set up to determine the students’ interests as stated by the Ministry of Education, students said that instead of being asked about their desired major or future aspirations in the interview, they were asked questions that were politically motivated, dwelling on nationalism and loyalty to the government. They were asked what Bahrain meant to them, how they planned to represent Bahrain internationally if they were given scholarships abroad and the meaning of nationalism to them. Some have reportedly been asked if they have detained relatives and others were asked their opinion about the Financial Harbor, owned by the Prime Minister of 41 years, and their view of the major events that occurred in the last four years, referring to Feb14 uprising. Clearly, none of these questions are related to their education.

In 2011 and 2012, many students with high GPAs did not receive governmental scholarships in their desired area of studies although they met the criteria. However, other non-governmental entities, groups and organizations offered some high academic achievers scholarships to pursue studies in their desired field. This year, on the 23rd of June 2013, and in the Cabinet meeting in the presence of the Crown Prince and the Prime Minister, the importance that all educational scholarships to get the approval of the Ministry of Education and follow the regulations set by the Ministry of Education was emphasized. (Read More on: http://www.bna.bh/portal/en/news/566998)

The BCHR believes that the current scholarship distribution mechanism and criteria are unfair and have been put in place to put more restrictions to prevent or make it more difficult for students with differing views from the government from completing their higher education. This mechanism especially targets students from the majority Shia sect in the country.

Based on the information provided above, the BCHR urges the international community to pressure the Government of Bahrain to:

  • Cancel the Ministry's new method of distribution of scholarships, where 40% accounts to a personal interview and 60% to academic achievement. This includes dissolving the Scholarship Distribution Committee, which reportedly practices sectarian discrimination.
  • Commit to International Human Rights conventions and organizations that state everyone should have the right to education with no discriminations.
  • Hold those responsible from the Ministry of Education for sectarian discrimination accountable.

Said Yousif Interview

28 Jun, 2013

Bahrain: High School Student Sentenced to One Year Imprisonment for a Tweet

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights expresses concern in regards to the ongoing crackdown on freedom of speech on the internet, as another twitter user receives prison sentence.

On 25 June 2013, the lower criminal court headed by a member of the ruling family, Shaikh Rashid Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, sentenced child Ali Faisal Alshofa (17 years old), a high school student, to 1 year in prison for insulting the king, Hamad Al-Khalifa, on Twitter.

Ali Al Shofa was arrested in a house raid at dawn on 12 March 2013. He was kept in detention for two months pending investigation, until he was released on bail of BHD 100 on 8 May 2013 while still on trial. Ali was accused of posting an insulting tweeting using the account @alkawarahnews, which he denied relation with, and his lawyer Merfat Janahi submitted evidence that the account is still running by other persons.

The BCHR again points to the blatant absence of any form of independent or fair judiciary system according to international standards; as the judge presiding in the case stems from the same family as the king, the subject of the lawsuit.

Last month, on 15 May 2013, the court sentenced five other twitter users to one year imprisonment each, also on the charge of insulting the king on twitter. (Details on http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6122). In total, more than 106 months of imprisonment were collectively delivered since June 2012 against twelve online users for charges related to freedom of expression on social network websites. Said Yousif AlMuhafdha, Head of Documentation and Monitoring at the BCHR and acting Vice President, has a case pending in court for disseminating false news on Twitter. He was acquitted by the court, but the public prosecution appealed the acquittal, and the trial will resume on 1 July 2013.

Earlier this month, the BCHR reported the abduction and incommunicado detention of online user Jaffar Al-Demstani on 20 June 2013 for tweeting about the torture of his father, Ebrahim Al-Demstani. (Read more on http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6188).

The ongoing crackdown on online users and the use of the judicial system to limit their freedom of speech is in direct violation with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

Based on the above information, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands that the Government of Bahrain:

  • Immediately release all persons sentenced to prison for their online activities, as well as all other political detainees who are being held for practicing their fundamental rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are guaranteed by international law.
  • Guarantee the basis of free trials and independence of the judicial system according to international standards.
  • Drop all charges related to freedom of expression in cases that are currently ongoing in court.
  • Withdraw all national and local laws that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.
23 Jun, 2013

Bahrain: Joint Letter from the BCHR and the BYSHR to the High Representative of the European Union

 

Baroness Catherine Ashton

High Representative of the European Union

For Foreign Affairs and Security Policy

Vice-President of the European Commission

242, Rue de la Loi

1049 Brussels

 

Manama, 23 June 2013

 

 

Dear High Representative,

 

Ahead of the European Union (EU)-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) ministerial meeting scheduled to take place in Manama on 1 July 2013, the undersigned organisations are writing to urge you to make a determined effort in pushing for improvement in the human rights situation in Bahrain, including through the release of all prisoners in Bahrain who are detained solely for peacefully exercising their legitimate rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. As a first step, we ask you to provide leadership and work together with the 27 EU member states to ensure the adoption of Foreign Affairs Council conclusions on the human rights situation in Bahrain.

Since February 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has dramatically worsened, with widespread and serious huma