University of Bahrain dismissed teachers for political reasons

Abdullah Alderazi

Source: Solidarity Center

The University of Bahrain dismissed last week for political reasons 19 professors who had had been suspended in April, amongst them Abdullah Alderazi, secretary general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS, national focal point of Social Watch).

Abdulla Alderazi, a longtime defender of civil rights and a university professor, has joined the growing ranks of men and women sacked from their jobs for calling for peaceful change in Bahrain, according to the Solidarity Center, a non-profit organization that assists workers around the world supported by the US labour movement.

Shortly after pro-democracy demonstrators gathered in Pearl Roundabout in February, the government launched a violent crackdown and a campaign to “purify” Bahrain of dissenters. At least 21 people were killed during the crackdown, according to the BHRS. The process has included summary firings of workers who participated in the demonstrations or in a general strike, or were alleged to have done so. More than 2,400 people have lost their jobs in the last six months, many in recent days.

This latest round of dismissals at the University of Bahrain comes on the heels of a “national dialogue,” organized by the government to “present the people’s views and demands for further reform" and concluded in late July. The ongoing firings and other reprisals belie government assertions that it is working toward reconciliation.

Bahraini government questioned Abdullah al-Durazi, who was heading the Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), the oldest body tracking human rights abuses, when its board was disbanded last year. The authorities accused Al-Durazi of taking part in protests and disseminating false information.

In September 2010, Bahraini authorities dissolved the board of directors of BHRS for mostly alleged administrative and legal "irregularities" and “co-operating with illegal organizations”, according to a Human Rights Watch report. The organization had published allegations of torture relating to the 23 detained Shi’a activists.

BHRS was set up in 2002 and was initially chaired by Dr Sabika Al Najjar as president and Salman Kamaluddin as vice president, two former political prisoners and exiles who had returned to Bahrain in 2001, according to UAE journalist and blogger Habib Toumi.

In December 2005, BHRS became the first NGO in the Arab world to carry out a prison inspection.

Alderazi said he and 18 other academics at the University of Bahrain—where he has taught for more than 20 years—were suspended in April and dismissed on Thursday, August 11. The accusations against him include: going to the Pearl Roundabout, talking to foreign media, and engaging in civil disobedience.

“When I was being interrogated (by an internal university committee), they asked me if I was teaching human rights principles. I said, ‘No. I teach English,'” he said, adding that many of the accusations against him—such as publicly expressing his views—are protected by Bahrain’s constitution.

University officials skipped all the normal disciplinary procedures to fire Alderazi and his colleagues. They referred all 19 professors to the public prosecutor, accusing them of taking part in peaceful protests. The university also has dismissed hundreds of students over recent months.

“We (the Bahrain Human Rights Society) have been working to raise awareness about human rights and, since February, we have been defending the civil rights of the detainees and demanding more reform and respect for human rights,” he said.

With so many people out of work, many of them family breadwinners, Alderazi said, people are surviving through solidarity, sharing what they have. He also said many still hold out hope that, despite the firings and continued violence in the streets, reconciliation and reform will come to Bahrain.

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BHRS head accused by the regime: