Crack-down in Bahrain

We talked about Bahrain in our last podcast. I have been in touch with students and professors there for a story on the how the crackdown on the country's Shia protest movement has affected universities for The Chronicle of Higher Education. The incredible verdicts against doctors have gotten the most attention, but students and professor have also been targeted: 

On October 3, six university students were sentenced to 15-year jail terms and another student to an 18-year term by a special military court. They were accused of attempted murder, arson, and vandalism in connection with clashes that took place on the campus of the University of Bahrain, the main national university, on March 13. The students and their supporters say the violence that day was carried out by Bahrain security forces and government supporters, none of whom have been charged.

Other students and professors are facing charges of illegal assembly, incitement, and disturbing the peace. At least 100 professors and university administrators have been fired, and about 60 students have been denied the right to continue their studies.

After the jump I'm attaching an interview with an (anonymous, by necessity) fired Bahraini university professor that didn't make it into the piece. 

- Could you describe what led to your dismissal in some detail? (What was your dismissal based on; during the investigation, who questioned you, what were the questions)

In April 2011, I have received a call from the vice-president office of the University of Bahrain (UoB) asking me to come urgently for a meeting on the same day. I was surprised that the meeting was with an investigation committee on the crises and events during February and March 2011. The committee consists of six faculty from the University.  Almost all the question were about my off-campus activities such as participation in off-campus protests, my political opinion in my Facebook and emails that have political nature, communicating with international media or journalist, memberships in any political associations. Some of the questions are:

v     Did you go to the pearl roundabout and how many times, what was your role?

v     Did you participated in any protest?

v     Do you support the fall of the regime and the government?

v     Are you a member of any political association? Are a member of Al-Wefaq party?

v     Have you forwarded any email that has a political content during February and March?

v     Do you have a Facebook account and is there any content of political nature?

v     Did you sign in any petition, or record in the pearl roundabout?

v     Do you know any of your colleagues that have participated with you in the protests and in the pearl roundabout?

v     Do you talk with your students or colleagues about politics?

 In fact, I have refused initially to answer the questions related to my personal off-campus activities. However, I was forced to answer their questions as I got threatened by the committee that my case will be transferred to the police if I do not cooperate!

[...]

In June 2011, I received another letter from the UoB president stating the charges and asked to sit in front of the disciplinary committee. [Ed. Note: the charges against professors have included: participating in protest and sit-in that took place in the Pearl Roundabout, attending seminars that inflame hatred on the goverment and the regime, signing a petition, criticizing the Bahraini government in front of foreign collegues, forwarding emails defaming Bahrain, etc.]

Unfortunately, the disciplinary board was biased, not transparent, and unfair as they did not consider my defense and decided to dismiss me [...] I believe that all of my off-campus activities did not violate the laws and I have just expressed my opinion peacefully as a basic human right and freedom of expression. Although I have sent a letter [...] to the UoB president for an appeal, I have not received yet any response or even an acknowledgment!

- In addition to the dismissal, did you face other consequences (police interrogation, legal action)? 

 Yes, I was arrested during a night raid (early morning) from the first by several masked civilian men supported by security forced with gun. They broke the doors of my house and did not identify themselves or what they want and did not show any official paper or order for arrest. I have been hand cuffed and blindfolded and humiliated physically and verbally during my arrest and interrogation and not allowed to set down. I was not allowed to change my pajama or wear my shoe or sandal during my arrest. In addition, was slapped and threatened of torture by the interrogator officer if I did not confess on what he says. I could not identify the interrogator as I was blindfolded and handcuffed during all the time and standing for several hours. Before the interrogation, I have been humiliated by calling us animals and kept standing and handcuffed with my colleagues in hot room for several hours. The interrogator asked me the same questions that were asked by the UoB investigation committee. Therefore, it seems that the university has passed the investigation papers to the ministry of interior. I was forced to sign papers that I do not know their content. I was not allowed to have a lawyer during the interrogation or call my family. I was released on the same day after spending about 10 hours in the arrest.

Recently, I have received a letter requesting me to summon before the Criminal Court at the ministry of justice [...] The charge indicated in the letter is “national safety”.

- Did you have any idea that joining/supporting a protest could lead to you losing your job? 

I was not expecting that at all. I believe that I have not done any crime or anything that violate the laws. I have just expressed my opinion and practiced my rights peacefully as freedom of expression is a basic human right granted by both the Bahrain constitution and the universal declaration of human rights. I believe that I am innocent and hence not afraid of the consequences. I am welling to pay the price to get the freedom, dignity and real democracy in Bahrain.

- What affect would you say all this had had on the university? How are relations between professors and administration? How have your colleagues (both Sunni and Shia) responded to your dismissal? Are people intimidated, scared?

It seems that some of my colleagues are scared as I have not received any calls from them since my suspension date. Perhaps, they are intimidated because they might face the same consequences if they have caught in connection with us. However, there are many others colleagues (sunni, shia, and even expats) who are calling me regularly. They expressed their emotional support and willingness to support us financially and wishing that we will be reinstated soon. In addition, I am receiving call from my students calling me to express their sadness and missing us as we are not at the university.