The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its concern about the ongoing restriction of the right to free expression in Bahrain. BCHR is appalled over the continued pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions in Bahrain, most recently, the arrest and detention of a high school student and his teachers for singing verses of the Quran.
On 11 March 2015, Hamed Saif, a high school student, and two teachers were charged with “insulting islam” and were detained after the student sang some verses of the Quran, accompanied by musical instruments, at an art competition organized by the school. The public prosecution declared that the authorities have questioned "the student who sang and the two teachers who trained him on the song and played music," and added that the three suspects face charges of profaning Islam and disrespecting its rituals. The public prosecution remanded them pending interrogation. The custody decision was based on a video clip published on social media showing the student singing verses from Al Fatiha (The Opening), the first chapter of the Quran, accompanied by another performer playing the cello.
Last week, the Ministry of Education reiterated the Ministry of Interior’s accusations and stated that: “The whole issue has been referred to education investigators and the necessary measures are being taken.” Abdul Rahman Kanoo International School confirmed its cooperation with the Ministry in a public statement, affirming that the school is committed to the values of Islam and condemns any abuse of them. Furthermore, the school added that they refuse claims and allegations made “without verifying the accuracy and credibility of the information that was circulated.”
The BCHR believes that the detention and prosecution of the student and the teachers for the mere practice of the freedom of expression is in violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
In Bahrain, the government practices a systematic harassment of its citizens for exercising their right to free speech and expression which has lead to numerous arbitrary arrests. The BCHR is gravely concerned about the escalation of the repression exercised by the Bahraini government against freedom of speech and calls on the international community to intensify its efforts in pressuring the Bahraini government to:
- Immediately release Hamed Saif and all persons who are detained for merely practicing their right to freedom of speech and expression online in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and drop all charges against them;
- Urge the Bahraini government to repeal laws that infringe upon the internationally protected right of free expression.