On 18 July each year, the United Nations celebrates the International Day of the African Leader Nelson Mandela, in recognition of his contribution to the culture of peace and freedom and appreciation for his values, his dedication to humanity, human rights issues, the anti-apartheid regime in South Africa and his confrontation against institutional racism, poverty and inequality and the promotion of ethnic reconciliation during his presidency.
Mandela spent 27 years in prison but has remained steadfast and has not succumbed to harsh prison conditions.
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights believes that the best tribute to this great leader is by highlighting men who have followed his path and fought for his values and principles. People who are seen as Nelson Mandela of this time.
In Bahrain, there are men who courageously responded to human rights violations and raised their voices to demand freedom, justice, equality and democracy, but now they are behind prison bars. These include Shaikh Ali Salman, Nabeel Rajab and Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja.
Shaikh Ali Salman, a man of peace, faces four years in prison for “inciting hatred of the regime”, “insulting a group of people” and “insulting the Ministry of the Interior.” Salman did not surrender to temptations and remained always under threat. For example, international human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations, considered Shaikh Ali Salman, a fighter for freedom, justice and equality and have repeatedly called on the Bahraini authorities to release him immediately. However, Bahraini authorities continued to target Shaikh Ali Salman, and is now charged “communication with the State of Qatar”, which is punishable by the death penalty in Bahrain. On June 21, 2018, the Bahraini judiciary acquitted Salman of this charge, but the Public Prosecution worked to appeal the acquittal and the Court of Appeal will begin its first session on 5 September 2018.
The prominent Human Rights Defender, Nabeel Rajab, was awarded the honorary citizenship by the French capital Paris last month for his struggle, courage and continuous defense of human rights. Nabeel Rajab is the 18th person to be granted the honorary citizenship of the Paris Municipality, which has been awarded to human rights activists and leaders since 2001 Known for their peaceful struggle and for defending freedoms and human rights and their resistance to all forms of discrimination and racism. Among the world figures that won the award was Nelson Mandela himself in 2013.
Nabeel Rajab is currently imprisoned on charges of freedom of opinion and expression. One of the cases brought against him is his criticism of the Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen, which bombed hospitals and places of worship, killed innocents and left famines. He also faces imprisonment on charges of criticizing torture in Bahraini prisons. He criticized the human rights violations taking place in Bahrain through the international press.
Rajab has repeatedly called on the Government of Bahrain to respect the Nelson Mandela Minimum Standard for the Treatment of Prisoners. However, the Bahraini authorities are exercising retaliatory policies against political prisoners and detainees and placing prisoners under harsh conditions contrary to the UN Rules on the Treatment of Prisoners and the Nelson Mandela Rules. That is in addition to harassment of political detainees, denial of medical care and restrictions on their communications in violation of human rights standards and the United Nations Model Rules (Nelson Mandela Rules). Where according to article 1 of the Nelson Mandela Rules: “No prisoner shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which shall in no way be invoked as a justification.”
Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja is another famous freedom fighter in Bahrain, a prominent international human rights activist and former president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is imprisonment since seven years ago in Jaw Central Prison, where a Bahraini military court sentenced him to life imprisonment after an unfair trial with serious and credible allegations on torture.
Shaikh Ali Salman, Nabeel Rajab, Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja and many others are world leaders and heroes who have dedicated their lives to the service of humanity and are peace makers. They are now prisoners of conscience. They chose this risky path and put in prisons and wwre separated from their loved ones to inspire people on how to fight against injustice and tyranny. As Nelson Mandela changed the lives of many, many lives in Bahrain will change thanks to the courage of Shaikh Ali Salman, Nabeel Rajab and Abdul Hadi al Khawaja and other heroes.
SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights calls on the Bahraini authorities to stop targeting human rights activists, politicians, media and all the activists because of their activities that reject injustice and tyranny and their demands for just rights. SALAM DHR also calls for their release and redress and compensation for the damage they suffered and recognize them as national symbols who bear the love of the homeland and its interest.