Al-Wefaq has collected some distressing statistics about the state of human rights in Bahrain last month. We have learned…
- More than 240 Bahrainis were arrested, some of whom were wounded.
- Approximately 100 people were injured by shotgun pellets, rubber bullets, projectiles, and exposure to tear gas.
- More than 200 homes were raided by security forces, bringing the total to more than 311 in the past two months. Security forces are especially notorious for late-night raids, intimidating families, damaging property, and “acquiring” electronics and items of value.
August is not getting off to a great start. Zainab Alkhawaja was arrested yesterday.
Assistant Secretary of State (Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor) Michael Posner appeared as a witness at the Tom Lantos Commission on Human Rights hearing yesterday in Washington, DC.
In his remarks, Mr. Posner restated many of the points he has made on other occasions. He diverged very little from the stance the State Department has taken almost from the beginning of the conflict in Bahrain. He reiterated that the abuse of human rights in Bahrain is Bahrain’s problem to solve, praised the government’s progress toward reform, and affirmed the Administration’s partnership with the regime. He also expressed concern about the trials and imprisonment of activists and medics, but stopped short of saying Nabeel Rajab should be released, when questioned on that point, seeming to suggest that the arrest and detention may be considered a legitimate action for some unexpressed reason.
Frustrating to this observer, Posner once again drew the comparison between violent acts by protesters and the regime’s security forces. It is misleading to compare a few isolated, but unfortunate, violent incidents by a small minority of protesters with the daily and systematic, full-scale assaults by the vastly more vicious and better-armed regime security forces, including unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators and innocent bystanders. There is no parity here in force or impact, nor is there any evidence of parity, yet Posner continues to call on both sides to exercise restraint with equal emphasis.
To add insult to injury, he stated that the same government that tortured its citizens, imprisoned activists, and prosecuted its doctors showed “courage” in owning up to its offenses to the world in the face of undeniable proof.
Courage is not a term that most people of conscience equate with the government of Bahrain these days.
Notably absent from his remarks were any comments on the use of tear gas, bird shot pellets, and rubber bullets, nor did he make any reference to the children and adults who had been maimed or killed by security forces and the deplorable prison conditions suffered by the unjustly imprisoned political activists.
Few were surprised when Representative Dan Burton expressed satisfaction with Mr. Posner’s remarks at the conclusion of his testimony.
The text of his testimony, plus video link, is below.
Context: Bahrain is an important strategic partner at a crossroads
We all recognize Bahrain’s importance as a longtime partner of the United States in the Gulf region. For more than 60 years, the United States military has worked closely with its Bahraini counterparts. The Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain, and the country serves as a pillar of our regional security strategy in the Gulf region. The U.S. – Bahrain relationship is particularly important in the face of rising threats from Iran.
Our longstanding alliance with Bahrain is based on shared political, economic, and security interests. And it is in part because of this important strategic relationship that we have devoted so much attention to Bahrain in the last 18 months. The demonstrations and violent confrontations that shook Bahrain last February and March were traumatic to all segments of Bahraini society. And although the violence has diminished significantly in recent months, Bahrain is still a deeply divided nation struggling to regain its equilibrium.
As partners and friends who care deeply about Bahrain’s future, we must be straightforward in our assessments. This is not a time for complacency or wishful thinking. It is a time for the United States and others to work with the government and the political opposition and to urge a new approach to dialogue, about which I will say more in a moment.
It is in this challenging political context that I have traveled to Bahrain five times in the last 18 months, most recently in June, each time meeting with senior government officials, lawyers, journalists, medical professionals, civil society groups, human rights advocates, and several political societies. This visit, my meetings focused on 1) the current situation for human rights in Bahrain following the unrest in February and March of last year, 2) the need for inclusive dialogue and negotiation, and 3) implementation of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report.
The current situation for human rights in Bahrain
In a number of ways, Bahrain today is more stable than it was a year ago. Last year, the government showed courage in inviting Cherif Bassiouni to initiate the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI). The BICI process was unprecedented both in its scope and the unfettered access the BICI team were granted. King Hamad deserves great credit for initiating this commission and for allowing an independent body to take a critical look at Bahrain’s human rights record and to report so extensively on its findings. We also commend the King for accepting and committing to implement the recommendations of the BICI report. And after a worrying period of rising violence in the streets by both demonstrators and police, violence has subsided this summer.
Despite these positive accomplishments, my recent visit revealed deep divisions within Bahraini society and between many Bahrainis and their government. Almost nightly confrontations, including a number that end in violence between young protestors and the police, and the recent discovery of sophisticated bomb-making materials in Salmabad and Hamad Town punctuate the need for urgent action to heal the divisions in society and bring peace and prosperity to all of its people.
We are concerned that more than a year after the release of the BICI report, we see reports of continuing reprisals against Bahraini citizens who attempt to exercise their universal rights to free expression and assembly. For example, on March 31, 2012, Ahmed Ismail Hassan, a 22-year-old videographer, was shot and killed while filming a pro-reform demonstration. This is one incident in a pattern of reports of activists and demonstrators being injured and mistreated in interactions with the police.
Moreover, permits for organized demonstrations are often denied. Over the past month, Bahrain has stopped granting permits for organized demonstrations in central Manama, and has announced a study to identify suitable locations for protests away from the downtown area. While the study may be a useful opportunity to initiate constructive dialogue, including with the opposition, it must not be used as a mechanism to restrict the universal right to peaceful protest. At the same time, we urge Wifaq and others who organize demonstrations to do their utmost to ensure that those gatherings remain peaceful.
Urgent need for dialogue
Since February and March 2011 there have been numerous calls – including by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, President Obama, Secretary Clinton, and members of the international community – for broad political dialogue that will lead to a way forward on political reform.
While dialogue and negotiation can only occur among Bahrainis themselves, as a friend and partner of Bahrain, the United States has encouraged dialogue in a variety of different forms over the last 18 months. But despite numerous attempts, attempts at dialogue have broken down. There is little evidence that Bahrain is moving toward a negotiated political agreement on issues such as the powers of parliament and electoral districting.
On my recent visit, I observed that both people in the government and the political opposition felt that time is on their side. This is a misguided and dangerous perception. Bahrain needs dialogue and negotiation to build a strong national consensus about its political future, strengthen its economic standing, and make it a more prosperous country and a more stable ally of the United States. We are pursuing a two-track strategy to reinforce those elements within Bahraini society that are working to promote meaningful dialogue and negotiation.
On the first track, we continue to encourage the government, all political organizations, and civil society to come to the table for a broad, open negotiation about the political future of the country. The current stalemate requires bold leadership from all sides – people who are ready to negotiate now, without preconditions, and to trust the other sides to come to the table in a spirit of investment in Bahrain’s political, economic, and social future. As we have said, the country’s political future is a matter for Bahrainis to negotiate themselves. But as the government did with the BICI process, there is room to invite technical facilitation of Bahraini-led dialogue.
On the second track, we also are encouraging the government to sit down with political and civil society organizations, and ordinary citizens, to try to make progress on issues that matter to people’s everyday lives, such as safety, health, education, labor, and policing.
One positive example of this kind of engagement is the Tripartite Committee’s work with the International Labor Organization (ILO), Bahraini employers, the Bahrain Federation of Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Labor to resolve the longstanding issue of reinstatement of more than 2,000 dismissed workers. We are encouraged by the success of this effort, both in terms of a fair outcome for many of the dismissed workers and the process that led to this outcome. Working with the ILO, the different stakeholders negotiated with each other over the course of several weeks to agree on an inclusive approach for evaluating and making decisions about how to resolve the issue of dismissed workers. While there will no doubt be bumps in the road, there the partners developed a framework for making decisions that shared power among the different stakeholders.
The issue of public safety and policing practices is another area that we see as being ripe for this kind of dialogue and negotiation. We are encouraged by steps undertaken by the Ministry of Interior to initiate some institutional reforms that will make the police more accountable and professional. The change in leadership in the police under General Tariq al Hassan, a career police officer, also is an encouraging sign. We await the results of the announced plan to hire 500 new officers who represent all elements of Bahraini society. And we welcome the announcement earlier this week by the Minister of the Interior that his office will launch investigations of the human rights violations by police officers documented in the BICI report.
But it is not enough for the government to dictate solutions to problems with policing amidst ongoing reports of the abuse of tear gas, birdshot, and other disproportionate mechanisms to control crowds and silence peaceful protestors. While we have consistently condemned the use of Molotov cocktails and other violent measures by some demonstrators, we also have been consistent in our criticism of the use of excessive force by some police.
What underlies the use of excessive force by police and the use of violent tactics by protestors is a fundamental lack of trust between the police and the people whom the police are meant to serve. Trust can only begin to be established through genuine dialogue between the police and the communities they serve. We encourage the government to take the lead in establishing a forum or a process – perhaps with outside technical facilitation – for discussion of public safety and policing practices.
One model we have discussed regularly with the government and others is the Patten Commission, which worked over the course of several years to redefine the mission and practices of police in Northern Ireland. For such a process to work, citizens, community and religious leaders, and civil society organizations must be willing to engage with the government and the police to begin rebuilding the trust that will lead to genuine stability and peace in Bahraini communities.
The United States continues to encourage the Government of Bahrain to fulfill its commitment to fully implement the recommendations of the BICI report. We understand that full implementation will take time. We commend the government for the initial steps it took toward implementation, particularly in the period leading up to the release of the National Commission report in March 2012.
The Government of Bahrain has taken many important steps toward the long-term institutional reforms identified in the report, such as removing arrest authority from the national security agency, drafting legislation concerning the investigation and prosecution of torture, and drafting a code of conduct for police based on international best practices. The government also has allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross access to its prisons. It has begun to rebuild religious sites, and engaged a team of qualified experts to advise on policing and legal reforms. These are signs of the government’s commitment to address the underlying cause of last year’s violence.
The Government of Bahrain needs to take action on the full range of other BICI recommendations that we believe will help lay the foundation for longer-term reform and reconciliation. These include dropping charges against all persons accused of offenses involving peaceful political expression including freedom of assembly, prosecuting those officials responsible for the violations identified in the BICI report, and ensuring fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases. It also means continuing work to professionalize and diversify Bahrain’s security forces to reflect the communities which they serve.
First, there are several hundred pending criminal cases related to the events of February and March 2011. Many individuals have been in detention for over a year. The government continues to prosecute 20 political activists and appeals cases are ongoing in the prosecution of respected medical professionals. In addition to the ongoing cases against doctors and nurses, we are discouraged by the Court of Appeals’ decision to issue a gag-order banning the media from reporting on trials for the 20 high-profile activists. We urge the Government of Bahrain to ensure fair and expeditious trials in appeals cases and to drop charges against all persons accused of offenses involving political expression and freedom of assembly.
The United States was deeply disappointed that, despite assurances to the contrary, the government sought and received convictions in nine of 18 felony cases against medical professionals before the appellate court, with sentences ranging from one month to five years. While we are not privy to all of the facts, we have consistently urged the government to exercise prosecutorial discretion in these cases and to drop the charges in the interest of turning the page on the events of last year.
The prosecution of these cases is a sign of larger divisions within the health care system in Bahrain. I was alarmed to hear reports from all sides of Bahraini society during my recent visit about the tense environment for medical care in Bahrain. Young men often elect not to seek treatment in public clinics and hospitals when they are injured for fear of being turned in to the police by their doctors on allegations of participating in demonstrations. I also heard that Shi’a Bahrainis now only seek treatment from Shi’a doctors and Sunnis only seek treatment from Sunnis. And the ongoing felony cases against some of Bahrain’s most highly specialized doctors means the country is facing a shortage of talent in critical specialties. There is much work to be done to heal the divisions in the health care system and restore the reputation of Bahrain as a regional leader in medical services.
Second, we call on the Government of Bahrain to hold accountable those officials responsible for the violations described in the BICI report. At the beginning of the year, the government reported that 48 people from the security forces were being investigated for their roles in suppressing protests. So far only nine policemen – five Pakistani and one Yemeni national and three Bahrainis – are known to have been brought to trial for human rights violations. Very little information has been made public about how these investigations were conducted and their trials have been repeatedly adjourned and postponed.
Third, as discussed above, further efforts need to be made to enhance the professionalization of the police. Ongoing violence in the streets between police and protesters points to the need for professional, integrated police and security forces that reflect the diversity of the communities they serve and that adopt a community policing approach.
Bahrain and the Arab Awakening
In conclusion, I want to say a word about Bahrain in the context of the Arab Awakening and the transitions occurring in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Many people wish to compare Bahrain to other countries in the region such as Tunisia or Egypt. While some comparisons may be valid, it also is very important to recognize the unique history and political and economic development in each of these countries, and to shape our policies accordingly. President Obama has said that stable, democratic societies make the best partners and allies. And so while there is no single path or timetable to forging a real democracy, there are a core set of underlying principles that, as Secretary Clinton recently noted “have to be enshrined not only in the constitution, not only in the institutions of government, but in the hearts and minds of the people.”
Our aim is to encourage all sides to come to the table so that meaningful dialogue and negotiation can get underway in a process that will begin to heal existing divisions within the society and set Bahrain on a course toward greater freedom and prosperity for all Bahrainis. As a partner and friend, the United States stands ready to support the government and the people of Bahrain as they seek pathways toward meaningful dialogue about the future of the country.
Public Congressional hearing on Bahrain
The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing this Wednesday in Washington, DC to hear witnesses report on the extent to which the government of Bahrain has implemented the human rights protections recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry in November 2011.
The hearing is open to the public and will take place in Room 2237 of the Rayburn House Office Building (second floor) on Wednesday, August 1, from 1 pm to 3 pm.
The Rayburn Office Building occupies a site southwest of the Capitol bounded by Independence Avenue, South Capitol Street, C Street S.W., and First Street S.W. (View map) in Washington, DC.
Witnesses will appear in three panels.
The witness for the first panel will be Ron Wyden, U.S. Senator for Oregon. Senator Wyden was one of 24 senators and congressional representatives to oppose the sale of arms to Bahrain.
The witness for the second panel will be Michael Posner, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. Mr. Posner has visited Bahrain five times in the past two years, the most recently on June 12 of this year, when he spoke to the press at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain.
Four witnesses will testify on the third and final panel. They will be
Matar Ebrahim Matar, former member of Bahrain’s parliament and leading member of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest political party in Bahrain. Mr. Matar recently appeared on Al Jazeera’s television news program, The Stream (video link) to opine about the state of reforms in Bahrain.
Leslie Campbell, Senior Associate Director and Regional Director of Middle East and North Africa Programs, National Democratic Institute. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the National Democratic Institute was formed by the U.S. government to foster movements toward democracy in foreign nations, and is funded both by taxpayers (through the State Department and other agencies) and by contributions from foreign governments (including, notably, the Kingdom of Bahrain) and donations from others. The organization’s work in Bahrain has focused on encouraging citizen participation in elections.
Tom Walinowski, Director of Human Rights Watch. Human Rights Watch is a New York-based nonprofit organization that has advocated for human rights in Bahrain.
Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights. This organization has advocated for dismissal of charges against the Bahraini medics and has called for a cease of the indiscriminate and excessive use of tear gas in Bahrain, which has been linked to fatalities and miscarriages. The nonprofit is based in Massachusetts.
From Union Station:
Start off going around Columbus Circle and joining 1st Street Northeast, going south. Take a left onto D Street, and shortly afterward a right onto 2nd Street Northeast. Follow 2nd Street South until it becomes 2nd Street Southeast, then take a right onto C Street Southeast. Follow C Street down the hill. The Rayburn House Office Building will be the fourth large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.
From Capitol South Station:
Start off walking north on 1st Street, and cross C Street. Take a left and walk down the hill, following C Street. The Rayburn House Office Building will be the third large building on your right, at the bottom of the hill.
From Federal Center Southwest Station:
Start off walking north on 3rd Street, and take a right at C Street. Follow C Street to 2nd Street, then cross the road and the park. Stay on C Street across the roads, and you will see the Rayburn House Office Building on your left.
- U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner reiterates calls for accountability, restraint in Bahrain (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
- Ambassador Donahoe calls for reforms in Bahrain (bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org)
Excessive exposure to tear gas has been demonstrated to cause miscarriage in pregnancy, and infants are particularly susceptible to the side effects of tear gas, which can be fatal in instances. Unfortunately, in Bahrain, many families have lost their young and unborn babies through exposure to tear gas.
On Thursday, June 21, a demonstration was held in Bahrain to bring attention to this tragic development. However, the demonstration was not met with sympathy. The protesters were fired on with tear gas and stun grenades. During the clash, even two press photographers, one from Associated Press, were temporarily detained by riot police.
For the past two years, tear gas has been used against Bahrainis in a number of ways — much of it indiscriminate and excessive. It has been used against protesters, fired into neighborhoods, and even propelled directly into homes. The BICI report stated that Bahrain’s police used a disproportionate amount of CS gas when dispersing protests, and that in a number of situations, police fired CS gas into private homes in an “unnecessary and indiscriminate” manner.
Physicians for Human Rights has also chronicled the use — or should we say, the misuse, of tear gas — and resulting fatalities. Many deaths have resulted from inhalation, or through injuries sustained by being struck by the projectiles.
Although the Kingdom has pledged to pursue the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission, very little in the way of true reform has taken place, and the use of excessive tear gas continues unabated.
We’ve been provided with a list of names of infants and unborn children by ea_as on Twitter, and list them here.
We mourn their passing, and we send wishes of sympathy to their families.
Fadak Mushaima from Al Dihe
Hawra Mohamed from Sanabis
Fatima Al Samie from jidhafs
Ali Badah (he was named like his martyr brother Ali Badah, from Sitra)
Hussein Sabeel from Sitra
Sajida Jawad from Al blad Al qadeem
Yahya Youssef from RAS Rumman
Fatima Abbas from Adarei
Batool Mohammed from Sanad
Hadil Mohamed from Sarr
Yasser Mehdi from Karrana
Reda Hani from Almaamer
Sayed Hussein Sayed Ahmed from Sanabis
If you have updates or corrections to this list, please let us know.
The Bahrain Coordinating Committee deplores the use of tear gas by government forces against the residents of Bahrain, and joins international human rights organizations in calling for its immediate cessation.
Tomorrow is a big day for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee! The Committee will be exhibiting, along with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights for Bahrain, at the the ADC National Convention. The ADC, as you may know, is a nonprofit organization which has been dedicated for 32 years to protecting the civil rights of Arab Americans, promoting understanding, and preserving cultural heritage.
The convention represents a tremendous exposure opportunity for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee, and our cause. We are looking forward to informing as many people as we can with our materials, exhibits, and delegates. Convention attendees will have the opportunity to meet and speak with several Bahraini American activists, including Husain Abdulla, Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and a Bahrain Coordinating Committee leader.
One must-see element of the Bahrain Coordinating Committee’s exhibit will be a compelling display of art by Bahraini children, who have movingly conveyed their feelings about the turmoil in Bahrain through creative expression.
Although we expect it to be a busy day, we will try to tweet at least once from the conference (follow us on @Connect_Bahrain), and share some photos of the day with our blog readers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers. On Twitter, look for the hashtag #ADCConv to follow conference updates and events throughout the day, and be sure to follow @ADCtweets .
The conference itself promises to be fascinating. Held at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill Friday through the weekend, there will be dozens of panel discussion sessions and speeches, including appearances by
- Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president
- Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning director of ‘Bowling for Columbine’
- Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting
Abed Ayoub will be moderating two panel discussions, in his separate work for the ADC.
Other exhibitors at the conference include the U.S. State Department and the Department of Education, as well as an array of nonprofit organizations and commercial exhibitors.
We hope to win lots of support for our cause: for democracy and human rights in Bahrain. Wish us luck tomorrow, and if you are attending the ADC National Convention, please drop by our booth and say hello.
To that end, we are pleased to announce a series of tweets and blog posts which will appear over the next few weeks. Our undercover witness, a Bahrain Coordinating Committee member, will post updates from Bahrain on Twitter and on this blog, presenting you with a timely and authentic view of the situation “on the ground.”
For security reasons, the identity of the blogger will remain anonymous. Visit our Twitter account @Connect_Bahrain and follow the hashtag #BCCLive to see up-to-the minute reporting from Bahrain, starting today.
Blog Posts will appear on this blog under the “Bahrain Coordinating Committee Administrator” account.
Follow us on Twitter and subscribe today so you don’t miss a single tweet or post in this interesting series.
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), a U.S. nonprofit organization, will present an informational exhibit about the Bahraini Revolution titled: “Bahrain: The People’s Revolution” at the ADC National Convention June 22-24, 2012 in Washington, DC.
The ADHRB exhibit booth will hosted by Mr. Husain Abdulla, Director of ADHRB and board member of the Bahrain Coordinating Committee (http://bahraincoordinatingcommittee.org). Bahraini American activists will also be available to speak to attendees and answer questions. The booth will offer the latest news on the human rights and democracy movement in Bahrain, as well as an exhibit of Bahraini children’s art and a digital photo exhibition.
Each June in Washington DC, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) hosts its annual convention, the largest national gathering of Arab Americans. The Convention will be held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit http://www.convention.adc.org
About Americans for Democracy and Human Rights
Founded in 2008, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) is a U.S. nonprofit organization that works to obtain U.S. support for democracy and human rights reforms in Bahrain.
“The Bleeding Pearl” is a short documentary that sheds light on torture practices in Bahraini prisons against all sects of society, including doctors, activists, and journalists, among others
In the context of the uprising and the Bahraini people’s struggle for democracy and human rights, the film exposes a systematic practice that the Regime, as of this date, has failed to resolve.
[Washington, DC] May 24, 2012 — Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), a U.S. nonprofit organization, commends a landmark statement issued by the House Armed Services Committee regarding human rights concerns in Bahrain.
The Committee calls upon Bahrain to “continue to support protections of human rights and reduce sectarian divisions in all facets of society.”
The statement appears in a report, issued May 10, in connection with HR 4310, the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (http://armedservices.house.gov/index.cfm/fy-13-h-r-4310-bill-text-and-report). It mentions the nation’s strategic partnership with the Kingdom of Bahrain in the section of items of special interest (page 260).
ADHRB director Husain Abdulla stated: “We are gratified to achieve this unprecedented recognition and support from the Armed Services Committee for human rights in Bahrain. We will continue to work to raise awareness on Capitol Hill to support reforms.”
About Americans for Democracy and Human Rights
Founded in 2008, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) is a U.S. nonprofit organization that works to obtain U.S. support for democracy and human rights reforms in Bahrain. For more information, visit http://www.BahrainSpring.org
Phone (251) 648-2490
Today, the U.S. State Department issued its annual “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices”, the latest edition being for the year 2011. The report is mandated by Congress and has been produced for more than 30 years. It is designed to inform legislators about conditions in more than 200 countries as the lawmakers make decisions about distribution of foreign aid and military aid.
The section regarding human rights in Bahrain in 2011 is 37 pages in length (2011 Country Report on Human Rights Practices – Bahrain (PDF)) and chronicles the worst abuses of 2011, particularly those that took place between February and June, and identifies many areas of concern to activists worldwide, including the Bahrain Coordinating Committee. The report draws heavily from accounts in the BICI report, which is typical of other country reports — the reports are compiled from many sources, as well as from accounts by human rights officers in U.S. embassies.
The most egregious human rights problems reported in 2011 included the inability of citizens to peacefully change their government; the dismissal and expulsion of workers and students for engaging in political activities; the arbitrary arrest and detention of thousands, including medical personnel, human rights activists, and political figures, sometimes leading to their torture and/or death in detention; and lack of due process.
Other significant human rights concerns included arbitrary deprivation of life; detention of prisoners of conscience; reported violations of privacy and restrictions on civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices. In some instances the government imposed and enforced travel bans on political activists. Discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, nationality, and sect persisted, especially against the Shia population. The government demolished multiple Shia religious sites and structures during the year. There were reports of domestic violence against women and children. Trafficking in persons and restrictions on the rights of foreign workers continued to be significant problems.