STATEMENTS

Mayor urged to boycott Saudi G20, khalifis challenged on normalization

Mayors of some of the world’s biggest cities are being urged to boycott a G20 urban summit hosted by Saudi Arabia on the 2nd anniversary of the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Urban 20 (U20) is being held as part of the Saudi Arabian chairmanship of this year’s G20. Among the mayors slated to attend include, Berlin’s Michael Müller, London’s Sadiq Khan, New York’s Bill de Blasio, Paris’s Anne Hidalgo, Rome’s Virginia Raggi as well as the mayors of Los Angeles and Madrid. A letter sent to the seven mayors by a global coalition of human rights groups says the Saudi government “as an absolute monarchy without any form of meaningful democratic representation has a long record of silencing the very voices that are necessary for a meaningful global conversation regarding the massive challenges we collectively face. Saudi Arabia’s brutal record has only intensified since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in 2017.” The letter calls on the mayors to withdraw from the U20 event unless Saudi Arabia takes immediate and clear steps to ending its human rights abuses, including by releasing its prisoners of conscience and providing proper accountability for the murder of Khashoggi in October 2018.

One of the women activists in detention is Naseema Al Sadah, a mother of three. This week she tweeted: I am defender Naseema Sl Sadah. I was arbitrarily detained in July 2017 in a vicious campaign led by the crown prince against women activists. I spent 8 months in solitary confinement. Before being moved to the normal cells I was subjected to ill-treatment. My only crime was to call for women rights including driving and male guardianship. 

In its 2020 World Report, Freedom House has classified Bahrain as “Not Free”. Bahrain was given 11/100 in terms of freedom, compared to 12/100 last year. In civil liberties Bahrain scored 10/60. In its overview of the situation the organization said: Bahrain was once viewed as a promising model for political reform and democratic transition, but it has become one of the Middle East’s more repressive states. Since violently crushing a popular prodemocracy protest movement in 2011, the monarchy has systematically eliminated a broad range of political rights and civil liberties, dismantled the political opposition, and cracked down harshly on persistent dissent concentrated among the Shiite population. The report highlighted the key developments of 2019 as follows:  

•The government continued to revoke citizenship as a political and criminal punishment, leaving people stateless. 

•In January, the country’s highest court upheld the sentence of life in prison given in 2018 to Ali Salman, leader of the disbanded opposition party Al-Wefaq, for supposedly spying for Qatar during the protests of 2011. 

•Three men were executed in July, two of them for alleged terrorism-related offenses, despite concerns raised by UN experts about flawed trials and the use of coerced confessions. 

•Political prisoners went on hunger strike in August to protest mistreatment in custody, including the denial of medical care and religious discrimination against Shiites. 

Inmates at bloc 23 of the notorious Jaw Prison have continued their boycott of the communication arrangements imposed by prison officials. Among their grievances are: the high cost of calling their families, the limitations on those who may be contacted, the bad quality of lines, the reduction of the call duration to 10 minutes from 15 and the ban on visual calls. They also complain of lack of sleep due to keeping the lights on at night.  

An open statement rejecting the recent rapprochement between the khalifi tribal regime and Israel has been signed by 143 religious scholars. It rejects normalization of relations in all forms with the occupiers of Palestine. The statement, issued last week insists on the rights of the Palestinians to regain their homeland and considers Jerusalem an occupied city that must be liberated and opened to the followers of all religions 

On 20th September Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action calling on people to write to the Bahraini regime to release an underaged political prisoner. Kumail Juma’ is currently being held at the Juvenile Reform and Rehabilitation Centre at Dry Dock. He faces over 20 separate prosecutions based on demonstrations against the Bahraini monarchy and appears to have been targeted because his mother Najah Ahmed Yusuf, who was arbitrarily detained from 2017 to 2019, spoke up about her abuse in detention. On 13 September 2020, Kumail was sentenced to five years in prison on one such set of charges, in a trial of 39 defendants – all Shi’a citizens, reflecting discrimination in the criminal justice system by the government. Amnesty International has received credible reports that, in January 2020, Kumail was compelled to sign a prepared “confession” placed in front of him by interrogators after being beaten and forced to stand for prolonged periods of time. 

Bahrain Freedom Movement 

23rd September 2020 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org

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