Bahrain Braces for August 14 Protests as British Airways Refuses to Allow Maryam Al Khawaja to Board Plane to Manama
Washington, D.C. – This morning prominent Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al Khawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), was refused permission to board a British Airways flight from Copenhagen to Bahrain, apparently at the request of the Bahraini regime. Today’s denial is another indication of the government’s crackdown as the scheduled August 14 protests approach, which are inspired by Egypt’s Tamarod (Rebellion) Movement. The date marks the anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain.
“It’s clear the Bahraini government is scared of the coming week,” Al Khawaja told Human Rights First today. “I was allowed into the country a few months ago but things are different now. Not letting human rights people in shows how nervous they are and how much they have to hide.”
Al Khawaja – who holds dual Bahraini-Danish citizenship – was due to visit Bahrain to monitor events before and during the planned. The demonstrations around August 14 are likely to be the most significant in over a year.
The denial of Al Khawaja’s access to Bahrain follows the withdrawal of U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez’s invitation to visit the country in May, and the volte-face in March, when the Bahraini government first granted permission to Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley to visit the country, and then withdrew permission shortly before his arrival.
“A fresh wave of arrests, new decrees issued by the king, strengthening crackdown powers, and now this, all point to how tense things are,” said Dooley. “The U.S. government and others should watch events closely in the coming days and publicly denounce limits on the freedoms of expression and assembly.”