UK policies bolster human rights abuses against female activists in Bahrain, MPs warn


British MPs, in a damning letter to the UK prime minister, have warned that the British government’s policies in Bahrain have embolden the regime to infringe on the rights of female human rights campaigners and subjected them to endure physical and sexual assault.

The letter to Boris Johnson, seen exclusively by The Independent, has been signed by Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat leader, Ian Blackford, SNP Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru Westminster leader, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party leader.

It draws attention to a report, released in September by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, which revealed the crackdown in the country has increasingly targeted women.

Politicians from across the political spectrum hit out at the UK’s close relationship with Bahrain and urged Britain to stop providing the wealthy Gulf country with training for its judiciary and police.

Bahrain, which has been ruled by the Al Khalifa family for more than two centuries, is “one of the Middle East’s most repressive states”, according to US NGO Freedom House.

Cross-party MPs drew attention to the cases of four Bahraini women who have been on the receiving end of the authorities clampdown on dissenting voices which campaigners say has escalated and deepened since 2017.

Najah Yusuf and Ebtisam Al Saegh, were sexually assaulted for their human rights activism and criticism of the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix, respectively, while Hajer Mansoor and Medina Ali are still detained at Isa Town prison where they are allegedly subjected to “systematic harassment”.

Ms Yusuf, a former civil servant, was jailed in April 2017 after hitting out at the Bahrain Grand Prix and human rights violations in the Gulf nation on Facebook. The mother-of-four, who alleges she has suffered rape, harassment and abuse in prison, was pardoned and released from jail in August.

The case of Ms Mansoor, who was allegedly jailed as punishment for her son-in-law Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei’s human rights work, has been raised with the UK government by a number of cross-party MPs in both the Commons and the House of Lords.

The British government has consistently refused to condemn allegations of human rights violations in Bahrain. The UK has licenced £105m worth of arms to Bahrain since the pro-democracy Arab Spring uprising started in February 2011, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

The MPs stressed “the UK’s relationship with Bahrain further compromises the credentials of the UK as a country that shows leadership in promoting and tackling human rights abuses” and called for the cases of the women to be raised “directly and at the highest levels” with Bahrain in order to allow them to be freed from jail. (Source: Independent UK)