NASUWT leaders meet with government officials over Bahrain repression

Tim Lezard
Jalila Al-Salman

Jalila Al-Salman

The NASUWT has called on the government to maintain pressure on the Bahraini authorities to respect human rights.

The union has strong links with the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) and at the weekend gave the union’s International Solidarity Award to BTA Vice President Jalila Al-Salman.

Receiving the award, Jalila spoke about how she and her colleagues had established the union in 2011 with the aim of establishing a teacher’s ‘cadre’ and supporting the development of the profession.

Despite efforts to crush support for the BTA, the Bahraini regime finally resorted to arresting and imprisoning Jalila and BTA President, Mahdi Abu Dheeb.

Jalila spoke of her fear of being confronted by around 50 armed men in her bedroom as she was taken away from her family to prison. Mahdi, who has been subjected to horrific torture, still remains in a prison cell. The BTA was disbanded; its belongings thrown onto the street, meaning teachers have no representation in Bahrain today.

Despite this, Jalila and her BTA colleagues continue to campaign for support for teachers, at great personal risk.

In issuing a strong message of support for Jalila and the BTA, General Secretary Chris Keates said: “We want you to understand that you have our unequivocal support. This is a struggle dear to our hearts.”

Chris Keates and Jalila yesterday met officials from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, after which Chris Keates said: “Regrettably, the situation in Bahrain remains a source of deep concern to the NASUWT and to the international community.

“The BTA is the voice of teachers and educators in Bahrain. It is an in inclusive organisation that is committed to democracy and non-violence.

“The continuing and daily repression of the BTA by the authorities in Bahrain is an affront to education and democracy and contravenes the country’s international human rights obligations.

“The UK enjoys an important economic and trade relationship with Bahrain; however, trade benefits must never be put before progress on human rights and democracy.

“The UK government’s expressed concerns about Bahrain’s human rights record must now be translated into urgent action on behalf of the Bahraini people. Tangible measures must be introduced to end the continuing abuses of the people of Bahrain.

“The NASUWT today expressed concern that UK government representatives visited Bahrain on 11-12 March 2013 and held a series of high profile meetings but failed to meet with representatives of non-government sponsored civil society organisations including Bahrain’s trade unions and associations.

“Today we have asked the FCO to issue a public statement of concern regarding the continuing imprisonment of Mahdi Abu Dheeb, President of the Bahrain Teachers Association.

“The NASUWT has asked the FCO to challenge again the Bahraini authorities on their failure to restore the rights of teachers to join the BTA.

“The NASUWT has also asked the FCO to press the government of Bahrain to honour in full its international human rights obligations, end the continued discriminatory and retaliatory treatment of Jalila al-Salman, and to release Mahdi Abu Dheeb from jail.

“We believe there is a need to restore trust and confidence as the authorities seek to build social dialogue and democratic institutions. However, genuine dialogue will not happen unless and until there is openness, transparency and honesty.

“The UK is in a position of special influence with the Bahraini authorities and it must use all of its influence to seek to end the continuing human rights abuses in Bahrain.

“Bahrain’s teachers have a key role to play in helping to build a sustainable process of social dialogue and respect for democratic institutions. Teachers and their organisations should be supported and respected rather than vilified, persecuted and banned.”

Read NASUWT deputy general secretary Patrick Roach on the need to call Bahraini authorities to account.

 


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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