The decision to exile oneself from their home country is certainly not easy, but for the Bahraini human rights activist Said Yousif al-Muhafda, the choice for himself and his family was a plain one.
Said Yousif Al-Muhafda is the 31-year-old human rights activist whose position as Head of Monitoring and Documentation with the BCHR (Bahrain Center for Human Rights) has placed him at the tumultuous crossroads of Bahrain’s decades-long political crisis and the Arab Spring–and the implications for himself have been very serious. As a Twitter activist and close affiliate of Nabeel Rajab, he has been threatened, detained, beaten, and acquitted, in retaliation to his on-the-ground work documenting cases of human rights violations, but he has continued to believe that these were the necessary risks inherent in being an outspoken critic of the Bahrain regime.
However, the threats he received over his recent work on the BCHR’s “Wanted For Justice in Bahrain” campaign became too specific and too credible to not be taken seriously, and so he came to the painful decision that the safest and most effective thing to do was to leave Bahrain with his family and announced his decision on 2 December, 2013. The “Wanted for Justice in Bahrain” campaign was one of the BCHR’s most bold moves against the regime, in that it consisted of posting to their website and to Twitter the names and photos of high-profile Bahraini officials alleged to be the perpetrators of gross human rights, and called for them all to be put on trial, outside Bahrain, according to international standards of justice. The BCHR’s acting president, Maryam Al-Khawaja, describes the program as such, on their website:
It is about time we put a face to the violations. Continuously referring to the perpetrators of widespread human rights violations from the 1990’s until now as the “Government of Bahrain” or the “regime” allows the individuals involved to continue living and traveling freely. Let their faces be known, not only in Bahrain, but internationally. All the names included in our list are people who should be given a fair trial according to international standards, and if found guilty, should be held accountable. We also hope that this campaign will help encourage international actors to stop doing business with these individuals, and start thinking about individual sanctions.
I spoke with Said via Skype to learn more about his background, his present situation, and to hear his analysis of the situation in general in Bahrain. The following are the main excerpts from our conversation.
How did you get started with the Bahrain Center for Human Rights?
“I’ve been working with the BCHR since 2007. I started working with their IT issues — I created Facebook & Twitter pages and a Youtube channel because we just had a website before. I then started taking courses in learning how to write Arabic human rights reports.”