The UK’s position on the revocation of citizenship of native Bahrainis by the ruling Alkhalifa tribal junta has not been clarified despite the strong links between UK and Bahrain. In April The UK Members of the House of Lords, decided ‘it was a weapon used by tyrants and dictators’ that curtails the ‘freedom of the individual’. Last month The Islamic Commission of Human Rights described it as “Weapon of political suppression”. Two years ago the Bahraini regime revoked the citizenship of 31 native Bahrainis. More natives were subsequently deprived of citizenship, a practice that has now been institutionalised. Last week, ten victims of this policy were ordered to leave the country. Will the Free World stand against the Bahraini regime that has weaponised every means available to exact revenge on opponents?
6th November, 2014
Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary HR Group: I was asked on a TV programme last week how the political and human rights situation had changed since the uprising of 2011 began. I said that no progress had been made towards more democratic systems of governance in spite of the clear demands by the people on the streets.
The Prime Minister, uncle of the king, remains in office after nearly 43 years. Other members of the al-Khalifa family occupy key positions in government, all of them appointed by the king. The ‘National Dialogue’, initiated again by the king in July 2011 and involving just three members of al-Wefaq, the only legal opposition, out of 300 participants, was denounced by the US State Department after a senior US official was expelled from the country in July.
That showed that Bahrain was not ready for dialogue according to Human Rights Watch; but the absence of any progress after three years of the process had already demonstrated the need for a different approach. It showed that the so-called dialogue was just a trick to buy off more active opposition.
The expulsion of a Congressman in August and the cancellation of an agreed visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture proved not only that the regime was not ready for internal dialogue, but that they would not even risk criticism by impartial international actors.
But today we are concentrating on the reversion to an older form of repression which has recently been brought back to life by the regime: the deprivation of citizenship without due process. 31 people were stripped of their citizenship in July 2012, and another 19 have been added to the list since. A law was enacted in July this year giving the Ministry of the Interior the power to deprive anybody of their citizenship who fails in their ‘duty of loyalty’ to the state, a vaguely worded provision that allows the authorities to act against their critics.
Political and human rights activists were already being arbitrarily arrested and tortured; now they can be made stateless at the stroke of a pen, violating not only customary international law on the prevention of statelessness, but the fundamental principle of due process, the 900th anniversary of which in the signing of the Magna Carta by King John we shall be celebrating here next year. According to this principle, the accused has the right to a prompt trial before an impartial court; to be informed of the precise acts he is said to have committed against what provisions of the law; to call witnesses of his choice, and to appoint counsel in his defence. You often hear human rights defenders talking about the ‘rule of law’: this principle of due process is an essential ingredient of the rule of law.
The UK claims to be providing Bahrain with ‘a comprehensive package of reform assistance, with a focus on strengthening human rights and the rule of law’. There is no visible evidence of this dealing with the issue of due process and on the contrary, some of the victims of arbitrary deprivation of citizenship were stranded here, cut off from their families, without access to resources, and unable even to return to Bahrain and contest the Ministry of Interior’s decree because they would be laying themselves open to spurious criminal charges and long prison sentences.
On Monday I tabled a Parliamentary question asking the Government What representations they have made to the government of Bahrain about deprivation of citizenship of 49 of their nationals, and what effect the Foreign Office’s ‘reform assistance’ has had on the state of Bahrain’s law on citizenship. It will be interesting to see how they justify a programme during which the law has actually spelled out that criticism to the government can and does lead to people becoming stateless. This is yet another drastic method of stifling all opposition, to add to arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killing, long prison sentences and the use of disproportionate force against demonstrators.
Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf former MP, victim of nationality revocation: Thank you for letting me share with you a few reflections as one of the Bahrainis whose citizenship has been unlawfully revoked.
My first reaction was utter disbelief when I read on webpage of the Bahrain News Agency that the interior minister, on November 6, 2012, issued a decision stripping 31 Bahraini including myself, of citizenship.
The regime, I mistakenly thought, would strive to observe its own laws or at least the decent minimum of propriety. For, despite the glaring defects of the constitution of Bahrain and the existing laws, they do not grant the minister of the interior the authority to revoke citizenship of anyone. Such an authority is a privilege reserved for the monarch and requires a judicial decision by a competent court on whether a person has committed an act of high treason….etc.
To this day, I have not officially been informed of the ministerial edict, its background or the premises on which it was based. To this day, the only official communication I have received on stripping me from Bahraini citizenship is that short news item on the BNA webpage.
I was among the first batch of unfortunately several in a still growing list of Bahraini citizens stripped of citizenship. Many of us have been rendered stateless in their own country without institutional recourse to redressing their situation.
The abrupt change of their legal status means that they had to obtain a permit to reside in their own country. Some were fired from their jobs, or restricted from practicing their professions.
They are no longer entitled to their pensions, and cannot receive other ordinary citizen’s entitlements such as health care and education.
The royal family in Bahrain is making clear two points. The first is that it owns the country and can control who it wants as subjects/citizens. The second is that citizenship is not a birthright and a lifelong entitlement for but a property of the royal family. It leases it to which it chooses.
The “passport” is no longer merely a document for facilitating the movement of people across borders, but rather it became an additional tool for political control and social engineering.
From this perspective one can link two of the regime’s policies in this area. First, the “collective naturalization” of people from neighbouring countries, specially recruits to military and security forces. Second, the collective revocation of citizenship of people linked to the opposition.
Both collective naturalization and collective revocation of citizenship, underscore the ruling family’s perception of citizenship not as a birthright and a lifelong entitlement but rather as a gift, a makrama, which the ruling family reserves the right to grant or revoke.
Once again, Dear Lord Avebury, I thank you for giving me this opportunity to participate in your important deliberations.
Lord Avebury: I think Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf has not caught up with the law. Although it was true that the monarch had the exclusive prerogative of depriving anyone of their citizenship this changed in July when a law was enacted giving the Minister of the Interior the right to do the same thing: deprive somebody of their citizenship. It has made it easier for the regime to cut people off from their citizenship as no doubt he will find out when he gets the notice which has been delayed in transmission depriving him of his citizenship.
Caterina Aiena: Islamic Commission for Human Rights author or articles on revocation of citizenship of Bahrainis: It is great for you to have invited me to this event. By definition, the legal phenomenon of denationalisation becomes a political weapon when it is used to target groups of people on the grounds of their political, cultural or religious affiliation. This is particularly true in Bahrain, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, where the power of the executive to revoke citizenship has been used as part of strategies for managing popular uprisings on national security grounds.
Essentially, citizenship is a fundamental right. Or more accurately, it is “the right to have rights” in that it provides a concrete political status which in turn establishes other legal rights. A person without citizenship is stateless. For example, he can enjoy none of the protections usually afforded to citizens; they are unable to work, claim welfare or benefits or access education. In the most dramatic cases, they are also vulnerable to repeated deportation from state to state.
And, the loss of citizenship is “the loss of home and political status, equivalent to expulsion from humanity altogether”. (Arendt H., The Origin of Totalitarianism).
The creation of stateless people by nation states is becoming a widespread phenomenon with global dimensions. Indeed, it is a phenomenon involving not only Bahrain, but many other countries in the Middle East and Western world.
In all countries, new amendments to the “Nationality Laws” have vested the Minister of Interior with extended powers compared to those allowed by the original laws.
Accordingly, deprivation of citizenship is exercised extensively: by the Minister of Interior at his discretion. He is not subject to any statutory requirement to seek prior authorisation from the courts. This means that according to the new procedure an individual can immediately have their citizenship stripped by a non judicial body merely on the basis of suspicion, without being given the opportunity to mount an effective defence.
And once he has signed the deprivation order, the subject of the order immediately loses his/her citizenship. Namely, the “Nationality Laws” at issue vaguely describe which crimes constitute a threat to the public good. Vaguely worded expressions such as “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom”, or “the national security of the state” (Bahrain, Emirates, Kuwait) are glaring examples of this intentional lack of transparency. Generic wordings such as “causing harm to the interests of the kingdom” (Bahraini Nationality Law, 2014), or “undermining the wellbeing of the country” (Kuwaiti Nationality Law, 1959); or where the Secretary of State deems it to be “conducive to the public good” (British Nationality Act, 2014) are too vague.
This has serious implications for the rule of law and in particular the right of a person to know what is expected of them in order to regulate their conduct. These ‘catch all’ terms are open to interpretation and allow the Minister of Interior wide discretion in deciding to deprive individuals of citizenship.
Most deprivation orders have been carried out without informing the suspect and while the suspect was out of the country, thereby depriving him of the right to appeal.
For all these reasons, the following rights here are deemed to be in jeopardy:
• The right to be informed about concurrent investigation;
• The right to be presumed innocent;
• The right to have access to and respond to all evidence adduced by the government;
• The right to mount a defence;
• The right to appeal;
• The right to an effective remedy.
In most countries, these draconian measures are imposed on a specific section of society which is deemed antagonistic and hostile to the ruling majority in terms of their religious, political or cultural affiliation. As such, the new wave of deprivation laws is surrounded by a discriminatory policy against minorities, and used to have a deterrent effect on their political activity.
In the Middle East, particularly in Bahrain, the new set of laws deliberately aims at targeting political dissidents, particularly Shia dissidents, especially those who are considered to have ties with Iran. The deprivation order might severely impact on the victims and their families, and put a strain on many facets of their lives and endeavours; be they social, political, or legal. They may impinge on individuals’ employment and may even affect their safety. Some of the struggles are summed up below:
• – Deprivation of their right to identity, loss of access to documents providing legal proof, and exposure to issues of immigration and asylum;
• -A loss of feeling of security and a sense of constant threat, especially at checkpoints and country borders;
• – Depriving the new-borns of the victims of a nationality – if a child is born to a stateless individual it may itself also be stateless;
• – The barring of the use of many services previously available to the victims as citizens, which include:
• a) Hospitals and housing services.
• b) The loss of the right to deal with personal assets.
• c) Loss of the right to pensions and pecuniary benefits.
• d)The right to work, especially in governmental positions. (Note that the majority of victims who were working in such positions were immediately removed from employment).
• e) Interactions with local authorities.
• f) The loss of the right to welfare benefits such as housing and social insurance.
• g) The barring of travel, and with that the inability to deal with their work from outside their country.
• h) The sense of anxiety among parents who have young children and families to maintain.
• i) The separation of families as the deported person is left stranded abroad
• l) The difficulty of earning a livelihood, specifically for those who are made redundant.
• m)The inability to enjoy their human and civil rights, such as the right to vote.
IHRC recommends that Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait should ratify the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961, and be subject to the conventional monitoring mechanisms.
IHRC also recommends that the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness 1961 should be amended so that deprivation of citizenship is made illegal under the Treaty, and that no derogations from this duty be allowed.
IHRC believes that all states should reaffirm their duty to serve and protect their citizens by agreeing to stop deprivation of citizenship. States should enact legislation so that this right is legally binding upon the State.
IHRC and Citizens International launched the Campaign for Democratization and Empowerment (CDE) in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as part of the work of the Universal Justice Network (www.ujnweb.com).
The campaign may include the following:
• general support and advice
• promotion of the materials produced from the campaign
• support of events of campaign
• support or being part of fact-finding missions
• support and mobilization among MPs for promoting democracy and empowerment in these countries
Lord Avebury: Thank you for an illuminating presentation and for putting together a report on Bahrain. Can I just mention that the UNHCR has just launched a campaign on the reduction of statelessness which is being addressed to all states but I am afraid it will fall on deaf ears when it reached Manama and we will not have enough pressure on the Bahraini government to implement the very sensible recommendations that the UNHCR has made from people from the UK. I think the question of statelessness is very important. We are members of the UN Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. We should do our best to persuade other like-minded states and even those present who have not signed up to get involved because statelessness is a growing phenomenon all over the world. It Kuwait there are 130,000 Kuwait Bedoun who are stateless because the government will not acknowledge their presence in the territory in which they were born. There are huge problems here and there are grounds on which we should not add to them by allowing Bahrain to create a new form of statelessness. Let us do what we can to persuade our own government – and I will raise it will the Foreign Office – to be more active in taking Bahrain to task on this new violation of the rules of law and human rights.
Film: Bahrain is a small country with an area of almost 700 kms and almost 650,000 citizens. The majority of the population is from the Shia sect of Islam ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family which is aspiring to change the demography of the country through political naturalisation in violation of Bahrain’s own nationality laws.
The nationality law gives the king the power to give Bahrani citizenship to any individual who legally lives in Bahrain continuously for 25 years or for 15 continuous years to any individual from an Arab League state. Law 462 gives the king power to grant citizenship through a decree to citizens from the Arab League who have been of great service to the country should they request it. The authorities have used this law indiscriminately and have naturalised thousands of foreigners without employing the conditions in the previous provisions.
This issue was raised in the 1990s when there were strong indications that Syrians were being naturalised. The case against naturalisation began to materialise when a letter was sent to Lord Avebury Vice chair or the All Parliamentary Group on Human Rights mentioning that 8,000 Syrians were brought in to work in the ministries of the Interior and Defense. Rumours also spread about officials opening an office in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia to naturalise families from the Al Duwaisa tribe.
In the absence of transparency about the number of individuals naturalised in Bahrain figures revealed by the Bahraini parliament estimate that the number of those naturalised amount to 120,000. The opposition claims that the actual figures are far more than this accusing the government of planning to naturalise one quarter of a million individuals. This was leaked by the Gulf Centre for Demographic Development in the infamous Bandar report.
In addition to illegal naturalisation the government has been actively engaged in revoking citizenship from a number of Barhaini nationals in its crackdown on the popular uprising that erupted on February 14, 2011. Several measures were taken by the government to revoke the citizenships of dissidents beginning with what became known as the group of 31.
The authorities have revoked the citizenship of 31 Bahraini dissidents including prominent opposition activist Dr Saeed Al Shehabi, the ex MP Jawad Fairooz and one of the writers of the first constitution after independence Dr Abdul Hadi Khalaf.
The decisions to revoke citizenships have continued. Judicial decisions against Bahrainis have been accompanied by the revocation of their citizenships bringing the number of 49 citizens. The authorities showed no restraint in going even further by issuing fines against those whose citizenships they had revoked in the courts. They were forced into exile and statelessness in violation of the International Human Rights Conventions.
The ongoing political naturalisation and the revocation of citizenship will lead to Bahrainis being a minority in their own country within a few years. Such a clear threat deserves the international community to put pressure on the Bahraini government to stop the crack down on human rights and the revoking of citizenship.
Lord Avebury: That is the other side of the coin. Not only do we have the revocation of the citizenship of Bahraini nationals. We have this huge importation of foreigners who are calculated to be nice to the regime because they have been given nice jobs and good houses and they obviously belong to the Sunni branch of Islam which is a way of addressing what the regime thinks of as an accident of history. They are in fact a minority within Bahrain although not in the region as a whole. That comes about through historical events that go back two centuries.
Mohammad Al Tajir: human rights lawyer, former prisoner: On 6 November 2012 the Bahraini government decided to revoke the citizenship of Bahrainis who are living inside and outside Bahrain. Those living inside Bahrain are classified as Bahrainis based in citizenship law which states that anyone whose father was born in Bahrain has Bahraini nationality. Moreover Bahraini law declares that anybody who lives in Bahrain should be classified as Bahraini or at least he is not a foreigner or an expat who can be expelled from Bahrain.
During my work as a human rights lawyer I have been involved in so many different cases of human rights violations including criminal cases, administrative cases and other cases related to the human rights situation in Bahrain but I have never been through such a difficult situation where 31 Bahrainis lost their citizenship. Now ten of them live in fear of being expelled from Bahrain based on a judgement of the criminal court on 28th October just because the Ministry of the Interior ordered their cases to be heard by the criminal court stating that they are non Bahrainis and the law pertaining to foreigners should be implemented with regard to them.
The nationality law states that any Bahraini is a man or a woman who has no other state citizenship. The court also explained that a Bahraini is any person who lives in Bahrain and holds the nationality of Bahrain or he was born in Bahrain without any other state nationality. So that reference by the criminal court that these ten Bahrainis who lived here in Bahrain are non Bahrainis and they should get sponsorship or their living in Bahrain is illegal is totally misleading the courts in Bahrain and misleading justice.
We are astonished and shocked that the judge accepted this case and said that these are non Bahrainis. Some of them were living in Bahrain before the arrival of the Al Khalifas. It is shocking that the judge accepted this law against Bahrainis and he ordered their expulsion from Bahrain even though there is an administrative case challenging the revoking of their citizenship.
As lawyers we have tried to challenge that law even though we are convinced that the Bahraini justice system is totally motivated by the administrative authority here in Bahrain which orders the judicial system to do whatever it wants especially if it aims to intimidate political opponents. They feel that these 31 Bahrainis whose citizenship has been revoked are their opponents.
Now the fate of these ten persons who live in Bahrain and the fate of their families is with the United Nations, the independent NGOs and the international family of human rights. These past four years show that Bahrainis are living in desperate conditions. They are oppressed – they are intimidated, they are killed, they are imprisoned and tortured. All their rights are being violated but now it is up to the international players in Bahrain to exert pressure to stop the expulsion of the Bahrainis who live in Bahrain.
It is not accepted by the international declaration of human rights to make a citizen a non state citizen in any country. Now we depend on the international players in Bahrain and on the super powers who have good relations with Bahrain – especially the USA and the UK – to put pressure on Bahrain to stop the expulsion of these citizens. They have the right to live and to work in Bahrain. They have the right to travel without any kind of intimidation or threats from the government. So we are asking the international friends who are living abroad to exert more pressure on the government of Bahrain to stop this chaos.
Lord Avebury: It is impossible to do anything within the courts of Bahrain as the judicial system is under the control of the royal family. Many of the judges are appointed by the king, the whole of the judicial system is subject to his overall control. So there is no point of anyone deprived of their citizenship raising their case within the judicial system.
We should be making greater efforts within the UN, particularly with the international rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers because there is no independent judiciary in Bahrain. This matter needs to be raised at the international level.
Jawad Fairooz former MP, victims of nationality revocation. Thank you Lord Avebury, thank you ladies and gentlemen. I am glad to be with you here today to focus on this important issue of the revoking of nationality. We feel that the international community which we depend on still has to do many things to ensure the Bahraini government and the rest of the governments in the GCC mainly Kuwait and the UAE stop using the stripping of nationality as a political tool against the opposition or whoever is opposing the governments in their strategy.
There are a few points which I would like to focus on. You know the history of the revoking of nationality in Bahrain. It started on 6 November 2012 and it was clear that the decision had nothing to do with any laws or judicial court procedures. The decision was taken by the Ministry of the Interior. It was definitely ordered by a court. We heard the decision through the media. We were not informed officially. Two years after this decision was made we are not aware of the reason behind it and we have done. No justification has been given and they have not provided any proof. I continue to challenge the government of Bahrain to provide a single piece of evidence showing why they have taken this decision.
Some of the 31 people who have been deprived of their nationality are here in this room. We can see that two of them are former members of parliament, four of them are very well known religious leaders, eight of them are very well known political activists, two of them are human rights activists, two are media activists, two are businessmen and one is a lawyer.
The lawyer Ibrahim Karimi gave a very clear message to the international community because he is one of the ten. He may be deported. He asked where can I go? What country will receive me? I don’t have any passport or identification or travel documents and I wonder which country will receive me. There is one woman in this group. This is the first group of 31 and later 18 joined them due to the decisions of the lower court.
Bahrain’s nationality laws and the constitution are very clear. These laws are against the laws of Bahrain. It is so clear that they contravene national laws and the constitution and all international laws and treaties. Bahrain signed these treaties and they committed itself to these treaties.
When we started to contact the international community they asked us to proceed with the local legal process. Try to finalise all our claims within the judicial system in Bahrain. One of those stripped of his nationality, Ibrahim Karimi did this. He made a case against the Ministry of Interior. This was the court verdict. When we say there is no independent judiciary system in Bahrain we mean it. They backed the decision of the Ministry of the Interior and they disagreed with the revoking of the order.
The law states:“Where it is anticipated that the state has the right to judge what is considered harmful or otherwise to its internal or external affairs and it has the right to take appropriate measures for each situation within the internal boundaries recognised internationally and it has the discretion to take all the measures that ensure its security and safety. These procedures are broadened or tightened depending on the circumstances that encircle the state. “
In short this means that the state can do whatever it wants without giving any evidence and they should not be questioned. We cannot even force them to provide any evidence because they have the power to maintain the security of the country. At the same time they ask the victim to give proof that they are not being targeted due to religious or political reasons.
From my own experience because I have been through it we have been detained in the National Security Authorities jails and tortured there. We have been there for 45 days and we have been interrogated more than six times and in the end they could not find a single reason to show that we are traitors or that we have a connection with any international power. In my case it was just a minor change of participating in an illegal demonstration.
The question is who decided that we were dangerous people to the security of the nation. We have been in the hands of the National Security authorities. They told me that they have my file from the day I was born till now. If they have it where is the evidence that I am a traitor or an agent for any foreign country. So it clear it is a political tool against us because we demanded serious reform and a change in the country. We were opposing the oppression and the torture and we want equality and we want the people to rule the country not just one family.
Because the international community was silent the government decided to extend this unlawful decision and on 6th August and on 29th September 2014 a total of 18 additional Bahrainis were stripped of their nationality. They were sentenced under Bahrain’s newly modified and highly controversial terrorist laws which allow the stripping of nationality. Some of the have been sentenced to ten or 15 years.
The threat of deportation is a serious issue. Victims have been taken to court and they have been told that remaining in Bahrain is illegal. Karimi asked under what law when he was asked to justify his residence. He was ready to find a sponsor and asked who would sponsor him if he did not have any documents. He was taken to court and the court said that he should be deported.
The lawyers appealed and in 2015 the case will start. The judicial system is not independent. The deportation has been frozen now. It is a serious matter and they may be deported but the question arises where and how. They do not have any documents.
I would like to end with a few recommendations: Demanding that the Bahraini government revokes the deportation decision due to its breach of constitution and international treaties that Bahrain has signed.
We demand that that the revocation of citizenship is cancelled – the international community can play a major role in this.
Lord Avebury: Let me say that if the Bahraini authorities are going to deport more of their nationals the question is which states will receive them? Will our government be prepared to take more refugees to add to those who are already present in the UK and aren’t we going to raise a voice in protest at the way in which they shovel off their dissidents to other countries. That might be a matter we could raise in advance and obtain some kind of reaction from the British government which has so far not raised its voice against any of the deprivations of citizenship which have landed on our doorstep. So we have to clarify what the future attitude of the UK government will be to further deportations.
Saeed Shehabi, London representative of the Bahrain Freedom Movement: It has of course been very interesting to hear my colleagues talking about revocation of citizenship. Today we had to concentrate on this issue. But the problem of Bahrain is that it is not just this issue which is bothering us. Now it is bothering about 50 people and it is bothering many more who are likely to be prosecuted and to be harassed by these decisions.
What is bothering us is the aqueisance of the friends of this dictatorship. I cannot understand the silence of the British government. One of our colleagues, Said Ahmed, sent me a list of questions put forward by members of parliament to the government and the answers. There is a sentence at the end of each answer: we commend the Bahraini government. The MPs are asking serious questions about human rights violations yet there is a reply: we commend the Bahraini government on their courageous steps. It is the same – just copy and paste. If anyone is interested I will send it to you. All of the answers have the same paragraph. We commend, we support. What do you support – why do you support dictatorships? What interest do the British voters get from supporting dictatorships who have been instrumental in cultivating and grooming terrorism?
Terrorism comes to this country. Soldiers are beheaded here or elsewhere. They are beheaded by groups who are helped, supported, cultivated, financed and trained by those petro dollar governments: the Saudis, the Bahrainis, the UAE – they are the people who have collectively stood against the Arab revolutions. Both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates sent their troops to Bahrain to crush the revolution in 2011. Both were instrumental in bringing down the elected government of Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood.
Whether we like them or not they were voted in through the ballot boxes. They should not have been overthrown by a military coup. They are the same people who influenced and financed the elections in Tunisia last week. They put huge amounts of money into the ballot boxes to influence the outcome of the elections. They are the people who have supported ISIS who have created ISIS and they made them operate violently in Syria and now in Iraq. Of course they will come back and shoot the people in Saudi Arabia as happened a few days ago when they shot six or seven people mostly children who were participating in a religious meeting.
I can’t understand how after ten years of war on terror we see much wider terrorism today then we had in 2001 shortly after 9/11. The same groups have become even bigger. I can’t understand how the Americans are bombing ISIS from the skies while ISIS is spreading and conquering more houses and villages in northern Iraq and Syria.
There is a serious ethical, moral and human rights crisis in Western society: in the UK and in the USA. And unless they rectify this deficiency through a proper human approach we will see more terrorism and more extremism. When you have dictators you will have terrorism. The more dictatorships you have the more terrorism you are going to get. The only way to get rid of terrorism is to support pro democracy activities and to stop this nonsense. Here in this room are eight of those 31 people whose nationality was revoked in 2012.
What did we do? We are here. The British government should come and arrest us if we did anything illegal. But those dictators cannot tolerate a word uttered by an activist. We have about 3500 citizens in jail simply because they said something that the regime did not like. Nabeel Rajab was incerated for two years for tweeting. Now two weeks ago he was imprisoned when he returned from Europe because he said something that the regime did not like.
We are victimised because we say something. We have feelings of independence, and liberal views that the regime does not like. Does the UK want to support such a regime – until when? And what interest does it bring the UK in terms of security and stability. I believe that we are victims of the lack of vision from those powers who always claim to be propping up democracy and supporting human rights. Unfortunately they are not acting in accordance with their principles.
Lord Avebury has been working and defending our rights for more than 20 years but he is also facing what he described in his book as a ‘brick wall’. So what happened to Lord Avebury’s brick wall. Has it been dismantled or is it still there?
Lord Avebury: Coming back to your starting point Saeed, the connaivance of the British government with the forces opposing reform is shameful and I think the campaign activities we should be encouraging is the withdrawal of officials we send to Bahrain – for example those sent to help in judicial process. It is obvious that after a few years it has gone into reverse. Things are even worse than they were when these so-called reforms began. Why do we co-operate with them? Why do we send lawyers to participate in the so-called reforms of the judicial process when things are going backwards. There is every reason why this law empowering the Ministry of the Interior to issue a law depriving anybody of their citizenship shows how false the reforms are and we should not co-operate with them or participate with them in any way.
So I would like to see a campaign to withdraw entirely and particularly from the process of judicial reforms. We should encourage people in the constituencies to write to their MPs making that particular demand. We know that we are not going to reverse the attitude of the British government. We have been trying for twenty years and we have not got anywhere. We continue to receive the standard replies: they are pleased about the reforms that are being undertaken.
That is the reply that you get regardless of what you ask about: whether it is about the detention of Nabeel Rajab, about the shooting of demonstrators on the streets – you always get this standard reply. But I think they would be on the back foot on the question of judicial reforms and that is something we should concentrate on.
Saeed Shehabi: I think you should ask one question. Just write to the foreign office and ask them why every single Bahraini who spoke in your seminars over the past 20 years has been arrested. Every single one. I challenge you to show me one person who spoke here and did not go to jail. Last month Nabeel Rajab was here and the minute he set foot in Bahrain he was jailed. Ask the British government why.
Lord Avebury: I think it would be a good idea to draw the government’s attention to the fact that it is not coincidental that people who speak at these seminars end up in the criminal court or in exile. I think that the Foreign Office should be confronted with this information. I will certainly take your point and write a letter to the minister accordingly.
Comment: Thank you Lord Avebury. We know that for a long time you have been supporting human rights and you are one of the most active people. I am an Iraqi born British citizen and in future I would like to see Britain take much interest in our area. As Noam Chomsky said the Shia control the oil in the region. What joins us together is loyalty to Shiism and Imam Hussein. Maybe within five or ten years these people will come together and the British government will lose its interests in the area. The Shia people do not like the other sect. But what will unite them is the problem they created in Al Saf. They killed seven people. Our heart is with them. In one day six million go to Kerbala. In future the British government should not lose interest in the area.
Lord Avebury: The problem of terrorism in Iraq is of great concern. There are bombs going off almost every day especially in this period of muharram. There are certain extremists who want to see the stability of Iraq undermined and many of them are in the north with ISIS which is not only a threat to Iraq but to the whole world. ISIS not only control a substantial portion of the territory of northern Iraq and Syria – the size of France. I am told they are spreading into parts of the world with cells in Nigeria and Pakistan. So they are a world-wide phenomenon and a world-wide threat that the international community needs to pay attention to. We need a separate meeting to discuss this.
If no one else has any issues to raise I would like to thank you and particularly the media for their attendance. Together we can raise the profile of this phenomenon of statelessness organised by the royal family in Bahrain and together we shall do our best to get the Foreign Office to pay attention to it. We will collaborate with the UNHCR on the measures they believe we should be taking to pursue the reduction of statelessness which is their present concern. So thank you all very much for your attendance.