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Bahrain's Prominent Human Rights Activist Arrested for Criticizing Police Defectors Who Joined ISIS

Bahrain today arrested human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, seen in this photograph speaking at gathering in Bahrain in May 2012. Photograph by: Ahmed Al-Fardan. Copyright: Demotix

Bahrain today arrested human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, seen in this photograph speaking at gathering in Bahrain in May 2012. Photograph by: Ahmed Al-Fardan. Copyright: Demotix

Bahrain has once again arrested the country's leading human rights defender Nabeel Rajab — for his tweets.

Rajab, who arrived in Bahrain last night after a whirlwind tour to present the country's deteriorating human rights situation to lawmakers in the UK and Europe, was summoned by authorities today for a tweet in which he alleged that Bahrain's security apparatus was an “incubator” for ISIS fighters.

Before the electronic crimes unit at the Criminal Investigation Department, Rajab was interrogated on charges of “insulting a public institution” over Twitter. He was then placed under arrest and detained, pending an appearance before the public prosecutor, scheduled to take place on October 2, 2014.

In May 2014, Rajab was released from prison after serving two years for taking part in protests and accused of “disturbing public order.” Massive protests rocked the tiny island kingdom, which neighbours Saudi Arabia, starting on February 14, 2011.  In 2012, the Bahraini government made illegal all forms of public rally and demonstration, citing concerns of national security and public unrest.

Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, which was dissolved by the government and declared an illegal entity, was previously sentenced to three months in prison in May 2012 over tweets he had published about the Ministry of Interior. The following month, in June 2012, Rajab was also handed a three-month sentence for different tweets he had written about the country's Prime Minister, who has been in power for 43 years. This sentence was later on overturned on appeal, when Rajab started serving the two-year term for taking part in illegal protests.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Interior announced:

The General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security summoned Nabeel Ahmed Abdulrasool Rajab on Wednesday to interview him regarding Tweets posted on his Twitter account that denigrated government institutions.

Mr. Rajab acknowledged the charges and the case was referred to the Public Prosecutor.

The tweet in question here concerns a Global Voices article about ISIS‘s Bahraini recruits who appeared in a video threatening the ruling regime in Bahrain. While there is no figure to confirm the exact number of Bahrainis who have joined the ranks of the violent extremist organisation, which has occupied large areas of Iraq and Syria, killing countless of innocent people in its path, four Bahrainis from a family closely affiliated with the ruling regime appear in the footage. The video calls upon Bahrain's Sunni population to take up arms against the government, and the country's Shia population.

In response to the video, which featured Lieutenant Mohamed Isa Al-Binali, who had defected from the army, Rajab commented:

This is the third time that Rajab, who commands 239K followers on Twitter, has been nabbed by authorities for his tweets.

Rajab has been very vocal in criticizing the expansion of ISIS's terrorist ideology after reports surfaced of Bahrainis joining the ranks of the group. He also criticized government officials who characterized the occupation of Mosul as a “popular revolution”. In this regard he tweeted:

The highest cleric in Saudi describes ISIS and Al Qaeda as the greatest danger facing Islam, but there are politicians in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who consider ISIS's occupation of Mosul a popular revolution

Rajab also tweeted that the attacks on ISIS should not be used as an excuse for the deteriorating human rights conditions in the Gulf countries:

Anticipating his arrest earlier today, Nabeel sent a tweet to his followers saying:

I will feel no agony if I'm jailed or killed but I will suffer a lot if someone gave up on the rights of people or if anyone yielded to the tyrants

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) have jointly expressed concern for Rajab and are calling for his release. 

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