Activism has many forms.
OWS protesters want long denied social change. Palestinians want to
live free. So do Bahrainis.
Imprisoned former Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) president Abdulhadi
Alkhawaja risks death for freedom. Current president Nabeel Rajab matches
his commitment. As a result, he's been repressively targeted.
Several times he was arrested and tortured for exposing human rights
abuses and expressing his views freely. On May 5, he was targeted again.
On arrival home at Bahrain's airport, security forces seized and detained
him. Prior to his arrest, he said:
"Given that Bahrain in essence lacks a judiciary system that is independent
and/or fair, and is far from being in line with international standards
of a fair trial, I have decided to boycott the trial against myself."
"The judiciary system in Bahrain, today, is a tool used against human
rights defenders and people calling for democracy and justice."
On May 6, Rajab's first hearing was held. He's charged with "participating
in illegal assembly and calling other to join."
In late April, he was questioned about "insulting the statutory bodies."
Expect more charges to follow. The Al Khalifa dictatorship wants rid
of him. Perhaps now they intend a final blow.
Justice in Bahrain is prohibited. State terror is policy. Activists
for change are targeted, arrested, tortured, and imprisoned after kangaroo
judicial proceedings. Rajab faced it earlier. He's threatened again
For years, he courageously defended human rights. In secondary school,
he explained two formative incidents, saying:
"Two events affected me most, one when a colleague dropped himself from
second floor to escape under-covered police who stormed school."
"The second incident was when a dear teacher was arrested. That is when
my voice started to rise and become annoying. I was caught while writing
apolitical human rights statements on school walls and was given the
choice to either be submitted to police or to switch schools. I was
the top student back then, but I choose to switch to Sheikh Abdul Aziz
During college, he focused largely on studies. Nonetheless, he challenged
all forms of injustice. He later got involved in international campaigns.
From late 1994 - to early 2001, Bahrain experienced earlier uprisings.
Rajab actively participated. In 1999, he and others co-founded the Bahrain
Human Rights Society.
In 2002, he, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and others co-founded BCHR. Authorities
terrorized its members for years. Nonetheless, it remains viable. It's
dedicated to working for:
"a prosperous democratic country free of discrimination and other violations
of human rights" and says its mission is to "encourage and support individuals
and groups to be proactive in the protection of their own and others'
rights; and to struggle to promote democracy and human rights in accordance
with international norms."
Its four objectives include:
(1) Promoting civil, political, and economic freedom.
(2) Ending racial discrimination.
(3) Disseminating human rights culture.
(4) Supporting and protecting victims' rights.
Rajab now leads its struggle for justice. He's also involved with other
Bahrain and international human rights groups. They include the National
Committee of Victims of Torture-Bahrain, Committee of the Unemployed
and Underpaid, Committee on Decent Housing, Committee of the Bedouin,
Committee to Defend Detained Human Rights Activists, and Migrant Workers
From October 2009 to October 2011, he was chairman of CARAM, a Malaysian
migrant human rights group. In December 2009, he became a Human Rights
Watch Board of Advisors of the Middle East and North Africa member.
In July 2010, the International Federation for Human Rights appointed
him Deputy Secretary General.
In 2011, the Woodrow Wilson International Center's History and Public
Policy Program gave him its Ion Ratiu Democracy Award because he "worked
tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of
democratic freedoms and the civil rights of Bahraini citizens."
Last year, he also won the Silbury Prize. It was given to "facilitate
his ongoing humanitarian and human rights work." The Silbury Fund is
a UK based charity focused on human rights, democracy, and challenging
Human rights activism in Bahrain risks life and limb. Nabeel's been
harassed, smeared by state media, beaten, injured, arrested, tortured
and detained. He now faces another challenge.
Throughout Bahrain's 2011/2012 uprising, he helped lead the struggle
for justice. In winter 2011, he condemned force used against peaceful
In March 2011, after Saudi forces invaded guns blazing, he denounced
the killings, atrocities, arrests, and imprisonments that followed.
On March 20, two dozen masked security forces broke into his home violently
late at night.
His computer and files were confiscated. He was blindfolded, shackled,
verbally abused, beaten, arrested and detained. Numerous other confrontations
followed. His body shows signs of abuse. After one altercation, he face
was deeply bruised and swollen.
Several times his home was tear-gassed late at night. Canister markings
bore US manufacturer names. Despite continued threats, he's committed
to continue struggling for justice.
In April, he told the UK-based New Statesman he "passed the stage" of
worrying about his safety. "My family used to get worried at the beginning
but they know the size of the goal we are fighting for. My life is in
danger, but I have my obligations and my business in order so that tomorrow
if they kill me, there won’t be any problems for my family."
Unemotionally, he described years of state terror directed against him.
A January video showed him lying beaten on the street. Despite being
called the uprising's leader, he says he's "just one of the citizens
struggling. I'd say it is a movement of no leaders...."
Asked what's he's working for, he said:
"Democracy. The same thing that you have in the UK. Elected prime minister,
a parliament with power, people free to do anything, laws and institutions
that respect human rights and international standards. That's it. Nothing
other than what you have here."
Britain, like America and other European countries, of course, have
precious little. Nabeel wants the real thing. Everyone deserves it.
Perhaps he has direct representation in mind - of, for, and by the people
with national referenda on vital issues.
BCHR expresses "grave concern" for his safety. Perhaps his greatest
challenge lies ahead. Bahrain authorities want rid of him. Local and
global activists support him.
Everyone should for his longstanding dedication to human rights. Daily,
he risks personal freedom and death for it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized
Banking, Government Collusion and Class War"
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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