From Education International:
Bahrain: The situation for teachers remains concerning (09 December 2011)
Education International (EI) has launched a new Urgent Action Appeal on Bahrain, calling on its member organisations to contact their national government as well as the Bahraini diplomatic representations in their country to urge the Bahraini authorities to review the charges and convictions and commute sentences of all teachers, teacher unionists and students charged with offences related to exercise of freedom of speech and right to assemble. EI is particularly focusing on the appeals, on Sunday 11 December, of the Vice-President and President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA). Jalila al-Salman and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb are appealing of the sentences issued in September by the military National Safety Court of First Instance to three and ten years’ imprisonment.
The involvement of teachers and Bahraini Teachers’ Association (BTA) affiliates in the peaceful pro-democracy protests at Pearl Roundabout in February this year resulted in persecution, detention and torture. Over 8,000 teachers have been affected since the beginning of the crackdown. Education institutions were closed and salaries not paid or delayed.
According to BTA, 2,500 teachers have been brought in from Egypt to replace dismissed Bahraini teachers. Another 6,500 unqualified local recruits have been hired.
Many of the union’s leadership were arrested in March 2011. In September, the BTA President, Mahdi Abu Dheeb, and female Vice President, Jalila al-Salman, were sentenced to ten and three years’ imprisonment by a military court – although they are civilians. The BTA President was reportedly tortured in detention. The Vice President has been verbally abused. Another nine BTA officials are facing criminal prosecution, including the General Secretary, Mrs Sana Abdul Razzaq.
The education union is clearly suffering the most hardship. They were strong and representative before the pro-democracy movement and the Government is concerned about the influence the teaching community and BTA have on the public. Despite the national legislation which prevents the unionisation of teachers, BTA always undertook union activities.
Now thanks to some brilliant journalism by The Independent and bloggers Tim Ireland and Marc Owen Jones, we know a British public-relations firm, hired by the Bahraini regime, has been carrying out that white-washing. Bell Pottinger’s employees have tampered with Wikipedia entries, helping their clients by ensuring that unsuspecting readers would not pick up knowledge of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy equality protesters and the human rights abuses committed by the regime: here.