August 16, 2011—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.
||Workers are still losing their jobs for participating in peaceful demonstrations in March. Photo by ITUC
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. 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.
Alderazi, who also is secretary general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, 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.
As secretary general of the Bahrain Human Rights Society, a non-governmental organization established in 2001 and recognized by the government, Alderazi said he will still speak out for the rights of others.