Target: King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa.
Goal: To lift the ban on public protest imposed in the Kingdom of Bahrain.
For the second time in as many years, the regime in Bahrain has denied its people the right to public assembly. This is not the first time that Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa has banned protests in his country. During the “Arab Spring” unrest in March of 2011, the government declared a state of emergency and banned the right to protest. Following that, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates helped Bahrain brutally put down all political opposition. Even though the “Arab Spring” ended early in Bahrain due to overwhelming military threats, protestors in Bahrain have been in the streets on and off ever since. Demand that Sheikh Hamad lift the ban on public assembly and allow his people the rights they have been calling for in the streets.
The government has used reports of violence to justify denying the freedom of assembly. Reports coming out of the country say that the violence has occurred outside of the legal, state-sanctioned protests. Human rights groups argue that this should be enough reason to justify lifting the protest ban. Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director wrote in a statement that, “Even in the event of sporadic or isolated violence once an assembly is under way, the authorities cannot simply declare a blanket prohibition on all protests.”
The Bahrain Independent Commission on Inquiry released a report condemning the Hamad regime for acts of torture, political intimidation and denying permits for organized demonstration. In testimony regarding the implementation of the BICI report, officials with the U.S. government testified that they see “reports of continuing reprisals” against citizens who try to exercise their rights. Michael H. Posner, Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor recounted the story of 22 year-old Ahmed Ismail, who was shot and killed while filming a pro-reform demonstration. These acts of violence committed by the police against civilians cannot be ignored and must be condemned more widely by the international community.
Both the government in Bahrain and those in the opposition committing the violence have ignored calls for an end to the violence. This ban on the right to peaceful protest sets the wrong tone in any future attempts to reconcile their differences and end the skirmishes. As a member of the largest opposition group was quoted as saying, “This will not take the country to stability.” Sign this petition and urge Sheikh Hamad to lift the ban on peaceful public assembly.
Dear King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa,
For the second time in as many years, your government in the Kingdom of Bahrain has denied the right of public assembly to its people. The BICI report that you commissioned found widespread human rights violations committed by your regime. If you want to appear serious about reconnecting with the opposition, you must ensure the rights that you said you would guarantee. The Obama administration and others in the international community have called on you to take steps to build confidence throughout Bahrain’s people and to begin a meaningful national dialogue with the political opposition. One of the easiest ways to build a positive discourse is to allow the views of the opposition to be voiced.
I urge you to encourage political discourse by permitting your people to protest openly and to follow other suggestions made by the BICI report. By doing these things, you can lead your country to a better, brighter future.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Pricey via Flickr.