This was an update from my piece which originally appeared in Slaney Street.
“The youth in Bahrain are victims of unfairness and injustice by the regime… Many have been calling for the release of relatives, improvement of the human rights situation and democratic rights. Our demand is to seek justice for impunity in torture cases. If I return, I’m returning to death and torture.”
Isa Al-Aali, in an interview with John Lubbock, May 23 2014 Vice
Hopefully by now you’ve heard of Isa Al-Aali, the 19 year old torture survivor fighting to remain as a refugee in the UK, against fears of repeated judicial torture in Bahrain. He got an 11th hour reprieve last week from deportation back to Bahrain, but his struggle is far from over and he could face a renewed deportation order as early as next week. We are asking people near and far to sign and share this petition, calling on the Home Office to release this torture survivor from detention immediately and to grant him leave to stay as a refugee. Letters of solidarity and support for Isa to the Home Office are encouraged and can be cc-ed to: sayed[at]birdbh.org.
According to a recent statement made by Al-Aali to Vice following news of a legal injunction against his removal, “I’m still not confident about the next steps for the Home Office. My experience has been miserable, so it’s just a temporary decision”
Part of the peaceful pro-democracy movement in Bahrain following the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprising, Al-Aali was first detained by police in 2013 where he was thrown from a moving vehicle whilst shackled, beaten, threatened at knife- and gun- point, including being threatened with having his genitals cut off.
He was detained twice more and fled his homeland after being threatened with death for refusing to turn informant on fellow protestors. Bahrain has a well-documented history of political repression and human rights violations, including using weaponized tear gas and bird shot against protesters and using torture. Bahrain security forces have killed at least 95 people since the 2011 uprisings. Bahrain’s Prince Nasser has recently been accused of participating in torture himself. It should be noted that the UK, in the face of clear evidence of growing human rights concerns, continues to defend Bahrain.
Since coming to the UK, he was found guilty in absentia and sentenced to 5 years prison in Bahrain. When the Bahrain government somehow learned that Isa’s asylum claim was turned down, they were quoted in their newspaper heralding his return to Bahrain, claiming that people like him were not political refugees but terrorists who needed to be deterred. They celebrated the UK’s “reason” in refusing his asylum claim. The on-going media attention surrounding his case and the rising exposure of Bahrain’s repressive state put him at greater risk.
He came to the UK seeking asylum from a judicial system that is widely recognized to use “Arbitrary Detentions, Ill-Treatment, and Torture” only to be taken into custody upon landing in the UK and put in detention at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre for the last 3 months. Harmondsworth has been the site of on-going campaigns against poor conditions and negligent-to-violent staff, including the detainee hunger strikes at the beginning of May. A 2014 report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons found Harmondsworth to be deteriorating, rather than improving, in its care of vulnerable people.
He was put into the Detain and Fast Track (DFT) system, which has been widely criticized since 2006 for not allowing people proper time or resources to adequately represent their claim; Isa certainly lacked proper access to legal support or even translation when first detained. The Home Office also has explicit rules against holding people who have been tortured under DFT and yet here is where Isa remained. Medical Justice calls detained torture survivors “second torture”.
Imagine the torment one would feel after fleeing from psychological and physical violence to the promise of security, only to find that the notion of the UK as a welcome space for democracy and freedom and a refuge for those subjected to persecution at home, is a myth.
This hope of sanctuary from torture is systematically taken away: by being not welcomed but detained at the airport, faced with an obfuscated and Kafkaesque bureaucracy in a foreign language, held in a detention centre known for its neglect and violence, with every hope of freedom shattered in the outcome of his successive asylum hearings. It’s still much better than what Isa faces in Bahrain. After all, who would subject themselves to such a system in the UK if they weren’t at risk of grave physical danger where they came from? But it must come to an end nonetheless – an end that sees Isa finally walking free; free from detention and guards, free from torture, free from persecution, free from fear.
Please help him achieve this. Call on the UK to release Isa immediately from this arbitrary and harrowing detention and grant him leave to remain in UK without fear of persecution or return to torture. Sign and share this today https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-home-secretary-we-the-undersigned-call-on-the-home-secretary-to-immediately-release-19-year-old-torture-survivor-isa-al-aali-from-detention-and-to-grant-him-indefinite-leave-to-remain-in-the-uk#
For those unfamiliar with the case, you can visit the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy for a full background and updates. You can find a piece with broader context, including information and links about Bahrain’s human rights record, The UK relationship with Bahrain, and the UK trajectory on migrant rights on Slaney Street
You can also find out more about the UK’s cozy relationship with Bahrain, as well as more coverage on Isa’s case, human rights in Bahrain, migrant detention and the growing xenophobia of the UK in this annotated list below.
ISA AND HIS CASE TO DATE
Vice Interview with Isa http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/isa
Update on Isa’s current situation at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy http://birdbh.org/2014/05/uk-court-delays-deportation-of-19-year-old-bahraini-torture-survivor/
Update from Bahrain Watch https://bahrainwatch.org/blog/2014/05/23/uk-court-delays-deportation-of-19-year-old-bahraini-torture-survivor/
Initial articles about Isa’s removal order:
Pieces putting Isa’s case in context of Bahrain human rights record, Bahrain/UK relationship and the Fast Track system for asylum claims in the UK:
Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/groups/saveisa/
Twitter #SaveIsa #SaveIsaAlAali
UK AND MIGRANT DETENTION
Migrant strikes against conditions in detention and “detain and fast track” system https://network23.org/antiraids/2014/05/07/hunger-strike-and-protests-now-in-3-uk-migration-prisons/
Piece on migrant detention and fast-tracking, following hunger strikes by migrants in detention centres, including Harmondsworth, where Isa is being held http://ceasefiremagazine.co.uk/no-listening-us-britains-migrant-rebellion/
June 7th protest at Harmondsworth against Fast Track and Detention https://www.facebook.com/events/704451662945994/?ref_dashboard_filter=upcoming
“second torture” of detaining migrant torture survivors http://www.medicaljustice.org.uk/reports-a-intelligence/mj/reports/2058-the-second-torture-the-immigration-detention-of-torture-survivors-22052012155.html
UK Home Office notes on Rule 35 prhibiting vulnerable people from being detained and fast tracked https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/300366/17.2012_v2.0_-_Application_of_Detention_Centre_Rule_35_ext.pdf
Deaths of migrants in custody http://www.irr.org.uk/news/deaths-in-immigration-detention-1989-2014/
High Court on DTF for torture survivors http://www.freedomfromtorture.org/news-blogs/7329
BAHRAIN AND THE UK
Exposé on allegations of torture by Prince Nasser by the Financial Times (behind a paywall) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/98a09550-d8eb-11e3-a1aa-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F98a09550-d8eb-11e3-a1aa-00144feabdc0.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&siteedition=uk&_i_referer=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.slaneystreet.com%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost.php%3Fpost%3D1955%26action%3Dedit
UK’s analysis of Bahrain, including acknowledgement of use of torture and repression of freedom of expression https://www.gov.uk/government/case-studies/country-case-study-bahrain-progress-on-reform-implementation
UK “mission” and “priorities” with regard to Bahrain https://www.gov.uk/government/world/bahrain
2014 Human Rights Watch report documenting “regression” of human rights in Bahrain http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/bahrain
Experience of other Bahraini dissidents living in the UK https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/11697-bahraini-activists-speak-out-about-systematic-persecution-by-british-government
Critiques of the UK relationship with Bahrain and Isa’s removal order ; http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/05/16/uk-bahrain-prince-windsor_n_5336978.html
15 year old boy killed last week by police with birdshot in Bahrain http://www.abna.ir/english/service/important/archive/2014/05/22/610428/story.html
Torture of journalist Nazeeha Saeed http://www.mediadefence.org/stories/my-story-nazeeha-saeed
Account of torture from Bahrain http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/i-was-tortured-as-a-bahraini-political-prisoner-0000005-v20n1
Release of political prisoner from jail in Bahrain http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-27559533
Bahrain Watch https://bahrainwatch.org/
Bahrain Centre for Human Rights http://www.bahrainrights.org/
UK’S RISE OF XENOPHOBIA
(more links coming soon)