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article imageBahrain teachers’ activist freed after long campaign

By Tim Sandle     Apr 7, 2016 in Politics
Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the leader of the Bahrain Teachers Association, who was jailed for his work promoting human rights in his country, has been freed after over three years in prison.
Mahdi Abu Dheeb was imprisoned in 2012 along with his colleague Jalila al-Salman. Jalila was released in November 2012, however Mahdi remained in incarcerated. The reason was, as leader of the Bahrain Teachers Association, Dheeb had called for a teachers’ strike in support of democratic reforms. This was part of the February 2011 pro-democracy protests that began in Bahrain as part of the international Arab Spring.
According to Amnesty International: “Mahdi was then subjected to 64 days in solitary confinement. According to the United Nations, subjecting to more than 15 consecutive days in isolation amounts to torture… When he was interrogated, Mahdi says the police beat him.”
The trigger for Dheeb’s release was due to petitions and campaigns organized by Education International and Labour Start. These organizations decried the disregard for human and trade union rights by Bahraini authorities.
Education International’s General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen welcomed the release, stating: “Mahdi didn’t commit any crimes. He called for quality public education for all and asked for the unions to be involved in the reforms. He fought for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
van Leeuwen added: “In our view, the authorities’ harsh reaction and Mahdi’s long imprisonment were not justified. We do hope that this is a sign that trade union rights and quality education can become a reality for all in Bahrain.”
Despite the successful release of Dheeb, other teacher activists remain behind bars. For example, Esmail Abdi, a teacher trade unionist, has been jailed by Iranian government for six years. Abdi was detained while travelling to Armenia, with the intention of obtaining a travel visa to attend Education International's World Congress in Ottawa, Canada.
The charges against Abdi were for “gathering and colluding with intent to harm public order" and "propaganda against the system." He was found guilty of these ‘crimes’ by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in February 2016.
A third jailed teacher trade unionist is Dr Miguel Ángel Beltrán in Colombia. Beltrán was arrested, and charged with rebellion in July 2015. He was sentenced to 8 years' imprisonment in a high security prison. Beltrán charge was because of his academic studies into conflict and turmoil within the country.
More about trade union rights, Mahdi Abu Dheeb, Iran, Esmail Abd, Bahrain
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