No persecution in Bahrain or the UK: Let Isa Al-Aali stay.

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

Sign petition here to keep Isa from being returned to torture.

http://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?utm_campaign=new_signature&utm_medium=email&utm_source=signature_receipt#share
Sign petition here!

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.

LINKS
ISA AND HIS CASE TO DATE

Vice Interview with Isa http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/isa

Petition: http://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

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/

Backgrounder http://birdbh.org/2014/05/uk-plans-to-deport-torture-survivor-facing-imprisonment-in-bahrain/

Initial articles about Isa’s removal order:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/isa-haider-alaali-case-bahraini-teen-fears-torture-after-losing-asylum-claim-9392576.html

(£) http://www.ft.com/cms/s/53cc2584-e1ab-11e3-9999-00144feabdc0,Authorised=false.html?_i_location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ft.com%2Fcms%2Fs%2F0%2F53cc2584-e1ab-11e3-9999-00144feabdc0.html%3Fsiteedition%3Duk&siteedition=uk&_i_referer=#ixzz32X4yEgmo

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:
http://www.slaneystreet.com/2014/05/19/home-office-to-send-bahraini-pro-democracy-activist-to-face-imprisonment-torture-and-death-threats-isa-haide-al-aali-will-be-forcibly-removed-from-harmondsworth-on-thursday/

http://www.righttoremain.org.uk/blog/bahrain-and-uk-no-sanctuary-from-torture/

http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/esme-madill/bahraini-torture-survivor-resists-deportation-from-britain
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

and in the Independent http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bahraini-prince-nasser-bin-hamad-alkhalifa-could-lose-uk-diplomatic-immunity-over-torture-claims-9359303.html

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

BAHRAIN CONTEXT

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/

INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
http://toronto.nooneisillegal.org/node/858
UK’S RISE OF XENOPHOBIA
https://www.facebook.com/groups/59856051718/permalink/10152543052286719/
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/immigration/10854566/David-Cameron-draws-up-immigration-laws-to-foil-Ukip.html
http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/478076/We-were-wrong-we-are-sorry-Senior-Labour-MP-Sadiq-Khan-pens-open-letter-to-Ukip-voters
(more links coming soon)

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In solidarity with the students of Quebec

Before the end of the night Bill 78/Loi78 will pass, basically revoking all rights to expression, assembly and protest, imposing economic punishment on people for speaking out against economic oppression in the first place (#classwar). Such a law is a desperate last-ditch effort from the government to force submission after all other means, from legal process to lethal force have not been able to stop this student uprising.

It seems so incredibly unconstitutional and will be struck down and probably in a few years, a bunch of people will sue the cops for all of this and win. But in the meantime, the Charest government believes this ploy will deflate the movement and let them get away with all the crap that hundreds of thousands of people have been fighting against for the last 3 months. I hope people will stand against such a repressive and vicious attack.

As Bill C 309 is also up for debate – further criminalizing masks at protests, the government is unmasking itself. it is showing to the masses what many communities – indigenous communities who’s treaty rights have never been honoured; migrants for whom basic security let alone access to status is a crapshoot at best; Black and disabled people who are used as target practice by the police – have long known: that the laws and so-called democratic processes of the state are just arbitrary rules written to ensure the wealth of the 1%, the power of the state, the control of society remains unchallenged. This mask has long been lifted elsewhere in the world, but Canada has liked to pretend that it was a fair and just land. And though it’s ridiculous that the architects of apartheid (canada’s reservation system was the blueprint for South African and Israeli apartheid, after all) could get away with that image for so long, at least it seems finally to be revealed From the Charest gov’t response to the student protests to the revelations of the police “misconduct” at the G20 demos, from Harper’s election tampering/buying to his draconian refugee exclusion act Canada can no longer pretend to be the moral beacon of the world.

But perhaps we can mobilize this sense of righteousness and entitlement, instilled in us to perpetuate the myth of moral kkkanada, against this latest onslaught. Once they quiet the protests, once they stop the strike, much will be lost, regardless of all the lawsuits that will follow. A look at the G20 is a good example of how they will use, even make up, laws to stamp out protest, and deal with the consequences, however embarrassing or expensive, later, because at least they defended the immediate target of the protest, they broke the momentum and they wore people down through physical, public and legal attacks.

Living abroad at the moment i can’t say what is strategically the best way forward. i can only say that i hope those in Canada manage to stand against this ridiculous law, in solidarity with each other. That thousands of people will call for mass demos every day, every night. That people will see the tactical advantages that less than 10 people can have in some actions, and that people will believe they cannot and arrest and fine every organizer if everyone who is out on the streets is indeed an organizer – of yourself – of your peers – not over people but alongside of eachother. Hell, call demos under my name. i am not affiliated with any association. And i’d like to see them collect on their fines. Or extradite me from the UK. But more importantly please, stay strong. Refuse to be intimidated by them. Let these desperate acts of the police and the state invoke your anger, not your fear. And never surrender to an unjust demand.

In solidarity.