Bahrain, human rights violations and football

This video, from Code Pink in the USA, says about itself:

Solidarity with Zainab Al-Khawaja!

17 October 2014

Zainab Al-Khawaja is a human rights activist who was arrested for simply tearing up a picture of the Bahraini King— now she faces up to 7 years in prison!!! This is just one example of the Bahraini monarchy’s ongoing human rights abuses and we are appalled (but not surprised) that the American government continues to maintain a cozy relationship with such a repressive regime. Join CODEPINK at the Bahraini Embassy in DC today (Oct 17, 2014) at 2:30pm as we tear up pictures of the king too!

From Human Rights First:

October 20, 2015

Bahrain Should Dismiss Cases Against Human Rights Defender Zainab Al Khawaja

Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged the Bahraini authorities to immediately dismiss the outstanding cases against prominent human rights defender Zainab Al Khawaja. A Bahraini court is scheduled to hold hearings on the consolidated appeals for three politically-motivated charges against her tomorrow, October 21. An appeal hearing in another case against Al Khawaja is set for next month.

“Jailing Zainab Al Khawaja will only cement Bahrain’s international reputation as a country where peaceful dissent is a criminal act,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Bahrain needs people like Zainab to solve its human rights crisis. Putting her and other peaceful dissidents in prison makes that much more difficult. The U.S. government has rightly called for charges against her to be dismissed, and should once again press the Bahraini government to drop all charges as these hearings approach.”

Wednesday’s hearings coincide with Al Khawaja’s 32nd birthday. Al Khawaja faces cumulative sentences of over five years on charges of tearing up pictures of the king, for insulting a public official, and for trespassing in the vicinity of the jail where her father Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is in prison. If the convictions are upheld, Al Khawaja’s imprisonment would separate her from her six-year-old daughter. She also has a son who is less than one year old and is still nursing, and he would stay with her in prison.

Al Khawaja, who attended Beloit University in Wisconsin, spent most of 2013 in prison for peacefully protesting against the repressive Bahraini regime. In addition to the charges being heard on Wednesday, she also faces a separate appeals hearing on November 17 on charges brought after she sought to visit her father, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, in prison in August 2014. Abdulhadi Al Khawaja is one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defenders. He is currently serving a life sentence for his peaceful part in 2011 protests. Zainab Al Khawaja’s sister, Maryam Al Khawaja, has been sentenced in absentia to a year in prison and lives in exile.

The Bahraini government has failed to fully implement the recommendations from the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report which would set the country on a path toward necessary reforms. The charges against Al Khawaja are further evidence of Bahrain’s lack of meaningful progress on human rights issues.

Many opposition leaders jailed during the 2011 protests remain in prison, and Bahrain continues to jail those peacefully expressing their views, both online and offline. Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government to publicly press the Bahraini regime to release its political prisoners and promote an inclusive political solution to its crisis. Human Rights First also urges members of Congress to support S. 2009 and H.R. 3445, legislation that would ban the transfer of small arms to the Bahraini military until the 26 recommendations in the 2011 BICI report have been fully implemented.

For more information or to speak with Dooley, contact Mary Elizabeth Margolis at or 212-845-5269.

Today’s appeal verdict against Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, confirming her conviction on charges of “insulting” the King of Bahrain and reducing her three-year prison sentence to one year, is the latest example of the authorities’ total disregard for the right to freedom of expression, said Amnesty International: here.

Human rights group wants Sheikh Salman barred from Fifa presidency bid. Sheikh Salman accused of crackdown against pro-democracy athletes. Bahraini Fifa executive committee member has not yet said he will stand: here.

Human Rights Group Urges FIFA to Bar Bahraini From Running for President. Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, head of Asian confederation, has yet to run, but activists assert he was involved in crackdown against pro-democracy athletes: here.

Fifa president Issa Hayatou urged to prevent Sheikh Salman from campaigning for “crimes against humanity”. Chaos threatens to engulf the race to succeed Sepp Blatter at Fifa after allegations he aided a crackdown against pro-democracy athletes in Bahrain: here.

Sepp Blatter’s authorisation of Michel Platini payment ‘was conflict of interest’: here.

Fifa has confirmed cases against Franz Beckenbauer and Angel Maria Villar are being examined by the adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee: here. And here.

FIFA’s ethics committee took less than a day to exercise some of its new transparency powers, confirming on Wednesday that it was actively investigating nearly a dozen current and former officials: here.

FIFA, from Sepp Blatter to Bahraini royal dictatorship?

This video from Ireland says about itself:

Medic Dr Nada Dhaif who was tortured in Bahrain speaks out in Dublin 7th June 2012

End Persecution of Medical Workers in Bahrain: Dublin Solidarity Demonstration

This is the full speech delivered by medic Dr Nada Dhaif who was tortured in Bahrain.

Witness Bahrain Ireland this Tuesday had a demonstration in support of doctors, nurses, and other medical workers persecuted by the Bahrain regime for doing their jobs.

Following pro-democracy protests in February and March of 2011, doctors, nurses and other medical and health care workers in Bahrain, some of them trained in Ireland, were arrested, tortured and sentenced by a military court for treating injured demonstrators. Following the military court verdict, sentencing some of the doctors and nurses to 15 years in prison, the health professionals were retried in ‘Special Civilian Courts’ for multiple charges against the Regime. They now await their ultimate verdict, which is expected on Thursday 14th June, 2012.

Witness Bahrain held a vigil outside the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI) at 1pm on Tuesday 12th June to highlight the plight of RCSI’s Alumni and Staff, as well as to protest RCSI’s silence in the face of this persecution. They proceeded to Dail Eireann to lobby public representatives.

FIFA, the international football association, may well get out of the Sepp Blatter frying pan into the Bahraini royal family dictatorship fire.

From daily The Guardian in Britain today:

Human rights organisations have reacted with alarm to the Bahraini royal Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa becoming the new favourite to succeed Sepp Blatter as Fifa president, citing his family’s role in the brutal suppression of the country’s pro-democracy demonstrations in 2011.

From i24 news:

Human rights organizations furious over FIFA bid from Bahraini royal

Candidate accused of arresting, torturing athletes who participated in Bahrain’s 2011 pro-democracy protests

The head of Asian football is poised to announce a bid for the FIFA presidency, a source told AFP on Friday, in an opportunistic move which would dramatically reshape the election race.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim al Khalifa could make a formal announcement as early as Friday and would be a serious challenger as the leader of FIFA’s second-largest confederation.

A bid by the Bahraini royal would be another major blow to the already suspended Michel Platini, who he formerly backed, and Shaikh Salman’s Asian rival Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

FIFA has been thrown into turmoil with outgoing chief Sepp Blatter, former favorite Platini and South Korean candidate Chung Mong-Joon all suspended, and corruption allegations engulfing the world body.

Despite mounting sleaze claims and criminal charges against senior figures including Blatter, FIFA elections are still planned to go ahead on February 26 with Platini among the candidates who have until October 26 to register.

Shaikh Salman’s won a landslide election in 2013 to succeed disgraced Qatari Mohamed bin Hammam as president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

This year, he was re-elected unopposed for a full, four-year term and became a FIFA vice president, assuming the post previously held by his rival and FIFA candidate Prince Ali bin al Hussein of Jordan.

However, Shaikh Salman’s bid to become FIFA chief is raising alarms with human rights activists.

His 2013 election win followed a bruising campaign in which he was accused of human rights abuses over a round-up of football players and officials during Bahrain’s 2011 crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

Activist are highlighting claims that some of the Bahraini athletes identified as pro-democracy protesters in 2011 were imprisoned and tortured.

“Since the peaceful anti-government protests of 2011, which the authorities responded to with brutal and lethal force, the al-Khalifa family have overseen a campaign of torture and mass incarceration that has decimated Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement,” said Nicholas McGeehan, the Gulf researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“If a member of Bahrain’s royal family is the cleanest pair of hands that FIFA can find, then the organization would appear to have the shallowest and least ethical pool of talent in world sport,” he continued.

According to British newspaper the Guardian, a letter was sent from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) to Michael Garcia, then head of the investigatory unit of the Fifa ethics committee, calling for an investigation into Sheikh Salman’s role in “systematically targeting and mistreating athletes who have taken part in anti-government protests”.

In 2011 AP reported that more than 150 athletes, coaches and referees were detained after a special committee, led by Sheikh Salman who was then head of the Bahrain Football Association, identified them as participants in the protests.

BIRD alleged that these actions violated Fifa’s Code of Ethics, but Garcia responded to BIRD in January 2014 to say that the claims were outside the investigatory chamber’s jurisdiction.

“Fifa has a statutory duty to protect the integrity and reputation of football in Bahrain,” BIRD said. However Garcia still refused to open an investigation.

Sayed Al Wadaei, director of advocacy at BIRD said that “in attempting to get rid of its corruption crisis Fifa is now set to replace one allegedly corrupt official with another.”

“Salman is accused of involvement in a campaign of abuse against athletes in Bahrain, something FIFA is aware of and has refused to investigate. Salman’s appointment would be absurd,” he continued.

Shaikh Salman als enjoys the strong backing of Kuwaiti powerbroker Sheikh Ahmad al Fahad al Sabah, who was elected to FIFA’s executive committee at the April congress and is also a major player in the Olympic movement. …

Peter Velappan, a long-time AFC secretary general from 1978-2007, said he wanted an Asian candidate to lead the world body, but he warned: “Running FIFA is not a small job.

“I don’t think many people are happy with him (Shaikh Salman). He is the leader of the AFC but he has not been seen as doing enough for Asia,” said Velappan.

The English Football Association has suspended its support of UEFA chief Michel Platini in his bid to become the next FIFA president. The FA made the decision following a meeting of UEFA’s 54 members in Nyon on Thursday held to discuss the future of Platini who is being investigated over a 1.8 million euro payment he received from outgoing FIFA head Sepp Blatter in 2011: here.

200 days and counting: On hunger strike in Bahrain’s Jau Prison: here.

From IFEX human rights organisation:

Send birthday wishes of freedom to activist Zainab AlKhawaja


Friday 16th October, 2015

Bahraini human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja should be celebrating her 32nd birthday on 21 October. Instead, on this day, Zainab could be taken to jail to serve combined prison sentences of over five years for tearing up a picture of the King during a court hearing in 2014, and for allegedly insulting a police officer, along with other charges.

After tearing the King’s picture, Zainab (@AngryArabiya) tweeted this statement to her thousands of supporters around the world:

Ripping his pic is a 1st step to let him know that we are not afraid, that we are determined to gain our rights, to live as free ppl Bahrain. She has also thanked supporters on twitter, saying:

“My love and respect to all the people of Bahrain who continue to sacrifice every day so that someday our children can be free. And thank you to all those who stand up and speak out on behalf of the people of Bahrain. You restore our faith in humanity.”

Participating in the Gulf Center for Human Right‘s Thunderclap campaign to flood the twitter-sphere with birthday wishes on 20 October, along with messages proclaiming that tearing a photo is NotaCrime and calling for Zainab’s conviction to be quashed. Tweeting a personal message or photo to @AngryArabiya and @GulfCentre4HR with the hashtags #NotaCrime and #HappyBirthdayZainab. Zainab is a mother to two young children. If she goes to jail, she will be accompanied by her infant son, which is not an uncommon practice when women human rights defenders are jailed in Bahrain.

Thank you for taking action.

Bahrain: 188 torture cases in 6 months…Sentences up to 2783 years in prison: here.

Dutch football club welcomes refugees

This video shows highlights of the Dutch football cup final 2015, won by FC Groningen 2-PEC Zwolle 0.

Dutch NOS TV reports today that Groningen football club has invited 800 refugees in the Bellingwolde and Onnen camps to its Dutch soccer cup match against FC Twente, on Wednesday 23 September.

Buses will take the refugees to the Groningen stadium where they will get a meal as well.

A much-needed change after getting food thrown at them like at pigs by Hungarian police, for the refugees

FACEBOOK, GOOGLE MAPS KEEPING MIGRANTS OUT OF TRAFFICKERS’ HANDS “In the past, people in these situations had no choice but to put their money and faith in the hands of traffickers who are known to jack up prices and force passengers to pay in human organs if they can’t come up with the cash, Business Insider reported. But now that they have access to smartphones, they can pretty much bypass traffickers and make the trek to Europe safely, on their own.” [HuffPost]

Refugees, depression and nature reserves: here.

Alabama, USA cheerleading coach sacked for reporting Ku Klux Klan propaganda

Ku Klux Klan and White Pride T-shirts, worn by cheerleading coach Brian McCracken, and Brian McDowell, respectively

By Justin Block in the USA:

Alabama Cheerleading Coach Dismissed After Reporting Racist T-Shirt Worn By Fellow Coach

08/26/2015 01:38 PM EDT

An Alabama cheerleading squad has lost two of its coaches after a pair of racist T-shirts appeared at an August practice.

Brian McCracken, the assistant vice president of a Boaz, Alabama cheerleading team, resigned from his post late last week after wearing a Ku Klux Klan shirt to a North Alabama Youth Football & Cheerleading League practice, reports local Alabama affiliate, WAFF. The shirt’s text reads, “The Original Boys In The Hood,” and offensively makes a comparison to the 1991 film “Boyz N The Hood,” which focuses on gangs South Central Los Angeles.

“We have zero tolerance for any kind of discriminatory apparel or anything,” said Jones to WAFF.

Jones responded to the incident by contacting McCracken and banning him from wearing racially inflammatory shirts to cheer practice — something that shouldn’t really have to be said — but nonetheless, it was Tipton who was ultimately punished, not McCracken.

According to WAFF, the next time Tipton showed up at practice, Boaz’s cheerleading vice president and Brian’s wife, Melynnda McCracken, asked her to not come back.

“I’m just disgusted because I feel like I didn’t do anything wrong besides make a complaint that should have been kept private to begin with,” Tipton said. “I asked why and she could not give me any reason.”

Both Brian and Melynnda have since resigned, reports WAFF, but the Tipton family iterated that the damage has already been done — not to the parents, who completely fumbled the situation, but to the kids, who had to witness this racially-inflamed drama first-hand.

“It’s hard for a biracial child that is 4 and 5 to understand what racism is,” Kayleigh’s husband, Cody Tipton, said. “It just outrages me and a lot of other parents but no one will stand up to it because of the consequences their children will get.”

Belgian judge arrested for recording police

Belfry of Bruges

Photography is not a crime … however, also in Belgium some police seem to think differently about people recording what they do. Even if a photographer is also a judge.

In the night of 26-27 August 2015, in a street in Bruges, Belgium, there was trouble between English Manchester United and Belgian football supporters. Many people living there made videos with their smartphones of police arresting football fans.

Including local judge Jan Nolf, who lives in that street as well.

Translated from Mr Nolf’s blog today:

No policeman objected to the filming or photographing.

Except suddenly that one, and then just when I wanted to make a picture of the lighted Halletoren [or: Belfry], right in the line of the street into view above the forest of white police helmets.

Now I will tell you literally about the “conversation”:

“Stop filming”.

“I do not film, I am photographing” (while I was putting away my photo equipment into my right pocket).

The masked policeman gets close to me. “Stop filming!” Since my photo equipment was already in my right pocket, I answered somewhat puzzledly: “I did not film, I took a picture.”

It seems like under his helmet he is deaf, because he repeats “Stop filming,” making me wonder what is really his intention.

So I ask “Why?”

The gruff answer is again: ‘Stop filming “- while I still have my camera in my right pocket (my iPhone during the whole scene remained in my left pocket).

I answer calmly shrugging my shoulders: “I did not film but I do not really agree that it is illegal.”

The man immediately shouts out a command and three helmeted and masked policemen frogmarch me away to the other side of the street … There they put me against the wall immediately with my hands on my back firmly enthralled with narrow straps.

Then I am led to the queue for the bus for the arrested people from Manchester.

Before I step on the bus, I ask the police three times if they realize what they are doing. They look at me and do not answer. Nobody asks for my ID.

The whole scene is too crazy to be true and that keeps me calm all the time in an unlikely way. I do wonder what will happen to me on the bus.

Judge Nolf ended up being freed without charges. He will lodge a complaint about this police behaviour.