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Drewery Dyke

Senior Research Fellow

Drewery Dyke is the Chairperson of Rights Realization Centre, a UK-registered human rights promotion organisation and a founder / steering committee member of Hawiati, the Middle East and North Africa-focused umbrella research and advocacy body relating to statelessness. He is the International Relations contact point for the Bahrain and Gulf-focused Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) and currently a researcher with the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, an Iran-focused organisation. Between 2017-2019 he worked with the Saudi Arabia-focused ALQST. He implemented and wrote SALAM DHR’s 2023 report Voices from the Stateless Bidoon Community in Kuwait During the Covid-19 Pandemic and the 2020 Ceasefire / Minority Rights Group report In the Name of Security - Human rights violations under Iran’s national security laws . With FPC fellow Hadi Enayat he co-authored a chapter on Iran’s criminal justice system for a forthcoming publication. He was a Researcher at Amnesty International between 1999 and 2017, where he led work on Afghanistan and Iran; Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and in 2016-17, statelessness.

Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 7363 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2024-02-28 12:00:39 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-02-28 11:00:39 [post_content] => Heading into the third year of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the Gulf Arab states - the six states comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - continue to maintain an intentional ambiguity regarding their stances in relation to the governments of Russia and Ukraine in respect to the ongoing conflict, rejecting the dichotomous pro/anti Russia/West stance. No GCC state has categorically backed either party to the conflict. Instead they have, mainly via Saudi Arabia and the UAE, sought to operationalise the conflict for their own objectives, opting, in general, for an increasingly multipolar diplomatic and security stance. As the Ukraine war does not constitute a direct threat to the Gulf’s security or political interests, broadly, engagement has adhered to carefully formulated policy objectives. Each GCC state has carried its own nuanced perspective into bilateral relations with the parties to the conflict: Qatar, subject to a regionally-imposed blockade between 2017-2021; and Kuwait, occupied by Iraq in 1990-1991, both initially appeared sympathetic to Ukraine.[1] Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, arguably initially appeared to give Russia considerable political leeway, possibly on account of its role in OPEC+ or since these Gulf states have provided a safe haven for Russian capital facing widespread western sanctions.[2] The conflict also enabled Saudi Arabia to distract and expunge residual western concerns over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate. Collectively, however, the conflict has presented opportunities for economic, security and diplomatic diversification. This has been bolstered by their economic situation: the collapse of oil prices in 2014 adversely impacted on Gulf states’ budgets, exacerbating aspects of their domestic challenges.[3] Yet since Gulf states possess nearly 40% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 23% of proven natural gas reserves, Europe’s sudden diversion away from Russian sources had an immediate impact. According to a January 2024 report, the conflict resulted in around a 50% increase in oil prices.[4] Gas prices increased tenfold in the months following the invasion, falling to a threefold increase towards the end of year one.[5] The resulting pivot away from Russian energy sources toward Gulf sources underscored the centrality of the Gulf to the UK and much of Europe’s energy security.[6] It bolstered Gulf self-confidence as well as political leverage amidst a period of doubt by Gulf states about the primacy of security relations with a seemingly unreliable United States (US) following the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 and apparent US inaction following the 2019 and March 2022 Houthi attack on Saudi Arabian oil facilities, including on the Gulf.[7] While, in broad terms, US staying-power appears to have ebbed over the Obama, Trump and Biden administrations, Gulf caution remains predicated on the US military presence in the region and it is still the case that “GCC’s economies remain strongly tied to the US, as their currencies are pegged to the dollar and the global sale of oil is conducted in that currency.”[8] Yet growing multipolar economic relations presage diplomatic ones: In 2017, the People’s Republic of China surpassed the United States to become the world’s largest crude oil importer; in 2022, Saudi Arabia was China’s top supplier of oil - later overtaken by Russia.[9] Perhaps commensurate with this economic orientation, in March 2023, exemplifying Gulf states’ increasingly confident diplomatic diversification and shaking up of engagement with great powers, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China issued a joint trilateral statement. This statement declared their “agreement to resume diplomatic relations between [Iran and China] and re-open their embassies and missions [...] and [that] the agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states.[10] A June 2023 assessment stated that “China’s growing clout poses a challenge to America’s long-held political and diplomatic influence in the region”, but it overlooked that it was also a decision taken by Saudi Arabia, as well as Iran.[11] The Ukraine war has provided Gulf states a two year opportunity to learn-by-doing as well as extend their own influence. In March 2022 - only a month after the invasion -Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy made a surprise virtual appearance at the Doha Forum and called on Qatar to “contribute to stabilizing the situation in Europe” and “increase energy production to make Russia understand that no state should use energy as a weapon and to blackmail the world.[12] In 2023, GCC states - mainly Saudi Arabia and the UAE - built on this engagement:- In February 2023, the GCC and US re-activated the US-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Groups on Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Maritime Security.[13]- Also in February, reflecting a cautious, measured policy approach, the “UAE cancelled the branch licence for Russia’s MTS Bank, the target of British and US sanctions.”[14]- In March came the Chinese-led Saudi Arabia- Iran agreement, when Saudi Arabia also joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Chinese-led Asian security and economic bloc, with the status of dialogue partner.[15]- In May, on invitation, President Zelenskiy addressed a meeting of the Arab League, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.[16]- In June, while western figures avoided the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, the UAE’s President, Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan nevertheless attended: UAE-Russia trade increased 63% between January to September 2023.[17]- In June and September, the GCC and the US convened ministerial-level meetings.[18] In early August at an event convened by Saudi Arabia, “representatives from over 40 countries gathered [...] to discuss Ukraine’s plan to bring its protracted war with Russia to an end. The summit included high-level delegations from the United States, the European Union, China, India, and dozens of other states—and conspicuously did not include any officials from Russia, who were not invited.[19] The Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called the summit a “breakthrough”.[20]- In the same month, the UAE sent a ship carrying 250 tons of relief aid to Ukraine. In early December 2023, Vladimir Putin visited the UAE and Saudi Arabia and held discussions with President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, respectively.[21] With both, Russia sought to engage their counterparts in relation to bilateral cooperation in trade and investment; on 10 December, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, undertook a virtual engagement at the Doha Forum, where he gave a bullish account of the Ukraine conflict, appearing to appeal to the ‘global south’.[22]- In late 2023, the UAE brokered a high-profile Ukraine-Russia prisoner swap, following on from a similar exchange that the UAE and Saudi had supported in 2022, deepening their experience of working with both sides to the conflict.[23] Has the Ukraine war offered only opportunity? No, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are nevertheless apprehensive about Russia’s engagement with Iran in respect to technology transfers in the arms sector between Iran and Russia, particularly in respect to precision missiles and drones.[24] Recalling observations made by Professor Simon Mabon in February 2023, even in the Gulf, food security remains a concern.[25] Recent Yemen-based Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea has also raised Gulf concern about the vulnerability of global supply chains and the impact of inflation, notably on food prices. Heading into the third year of the Ukraine war, while it may still be a bit premature to assert that “Persian Gulf States May Be the Best Mediators for Peace in Ukraine” on account of the links they have assiduously maintained with both sides, they have, broadly, grasped opportunities, gained experience and expanded their strategic knowledge, depth and perhaps, above all, diffidence.[26] It is the case that “Ukraine war shows [the] soft power of the Gulf states”.[27] As Kristian Coates Ulrichsen forecast in April 2023, “Ties with long-established security and defense partners, such as the United States, will continue along issue-specific and transactional lines but may not be regarded as exclusive of developing other relationships [...]”[28] And GCC leaders will continue “to stay out of any confrontation that may occur and minimize the regional overspill. To the extent that any global uncertainty is likely to keep oil prices at elevated levels, the region’s energy producers will accrue economic leverage and reinforce their self-perception as influential middle powers.” The war in Ukraine has enabled GCC states and their leaders to grow, learn and gradually, purposefully, extend their reach and influence. A UK still working out the impact of Brexit; with its own, deep ties to the Gulf as well as long-standing security links, must re-assess and re-calibrate its own relationship to the region and how to balance Gulf stances with its own. Drewery Dyke is a FPC Senior Research Fellow. [1] Giorgio Cafiero, Where has the Ukraine Conflict Left Gulf States? , Italian Institute for International Political Studies / Istituto per gli Studi di Politica Internazionale (ISPI), February 2023,[2] Eugene Chausovsky, Persian Gulf States May Be the Best Mediators for Peace in Ukraine, Foreign Policy, February 2023,,them%20leverage%20with%20the%20West; See: “The Gulf states have actually increased their own imports of Russian oil since the conflict began, using cheaper oil from Russia for domestic use while increasing exports of their own oil to Europe [and] GCC states have also resisted alienating Moscow from OPEC+”. It comprises “a loose grouping of energy producers that includes OPEC members as well as other countries like Russia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mexico, South Sudan, and Sudan” and coordinate members’ oil supplies, even after the invasion. For example, in October 2022 “they agreed to cut production against the wishes of the Biden administration.[3] Office for Budget Responsibility, Why have oil prices fallen by so much?, Box sets >> Economic and fiscal outlook - March 2015, Box: 2.1, Page 27,,our%20economic%20and%20fiscal%20forecasts.[4] Qi Zhang, Yi Hu, Jianbin Jiao & Shouyang Wang, The impact of Russia–Ukraine war on crude oil prices: an EMC framework, Humanities and Social Sciences Communications volume 11, Article number: 8 (2024), January 2024,,%2C%20an%20increase%20of%2056.33%25. They state that “[...] the Russia–Ukraine war caused the West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil prices to rise by $37.14, an increase of 52.33%, while Brent crude oil prices rose by $41.49, an increase of 56.33%.”[5] Energy and Climate intelligence Unit, The Cost of Gas since the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, February 2023,[6] For just one example, prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, EU countries received almost 40% of their gas from Russia. In October 2023, QatarEnergy agreed to supply Netherlands-based Shell for 27 years, mirroring an agreement the same company concluded with France-based TotalEnergies, also in October 2023, constituting Qatar’s largest and most enduring gas supply agreements with EU states. See: Yousef Saba, Qatar supplies gas to Europe, vying with US to replace Russia supply, Reuters, October 2023,[7] Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), Beyond Riyadh: Houthi Cross-Border Aerial Warfare 2015-2022, January 2023, ACLED noted, in the introduction, that “on 25 March 2022, the Houthis launched a large-scale attack on Saudi Arabia using a combination of loitering munitions, ballistic missiles, and cruise missiles. This coordinated attack targeted oil refineries and energy infrastructure across Saudi territory, from Asir to the Eastern Province, and even threatened the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah.[8] Dr Diana Galeeva, Ukraine war shows soft power of the Gulf states, Arab News, September 2023,[9] United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest crude oil importer in 2017, December 2018,; Aljazeera, Russia overtakes Saudi Arabia as China’s top oil supplier / Chinese imports of Russian oil rise by nearly one-quarter from the same period in 2022, March 2023,,equivalent%20to%201.75%20million%20bpd[10] Embassy of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Sweden, Joint Trilateral Statement by the People's Republic of China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2023,[11] Amrita Jash, Saudi-Iran Deal: A Test Case of China’s Role as an International Mediator, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs / Conflict & Security, June 2023,,to%20sustain%20the%20manufactured%20peace. The article also noted that in August 2022, “Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, signed a memorandum of understanding with its Chinese counterpart, Sinopec, covering multiple areas of potential collaboration between the parties in Saudi Arabia. The other joint ventures between the two companies include Fujian Refining and Petrochemical Company (FREP) and Sinopec Senmei Petroleum Company (SSPC) in China, and Yanbu Aramco Sinopec Refining Company (YASREF) in Saudi Arabia.[12] The Cradle, Zelensky makes surprise address to Doha Forum amid GCC split between Washington, Moscow The Ukrainian president is the latest western envoy to try his hand at convincing GCC countries to increase oil production, March 2022,[13] US Department of Defense, Readout of the New Round of U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Groups on Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Maritime Security, February 2023,,the%20GCC%2DU.S.%20Strategic%20Partnership[14] Dr Diana Galeev, Ukraine war shows soft power of the Gulf states, Arab News, September 2023,[15] Ibid.[16] Giorgio Cafiero, Why Saudi Arabia, Arab League invited Zelenskyy to their summit / Ukraine’s president and Arab nations might not seem like a natural fit, but they both had their reasons for extending and accepting invitation, Aljazeera, May 2023,[17] Andrew Roth and Pjotr Sauer, Western firms snub ‘Russian Davos’ as its prestige evaporates / Annual event headlined by Vladimir Putin described as ‘totally toxic’ since full-scale invasion of Ukraine, The Guardian, June 2023,[18] See, for example, US Department of State, Joint Statement Following the Ministerial Meeting of the United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), September 2023,[19] Ambassador William Roebuck, Saudi-Hosted Ukraine Event Ends Without Breakthrough but Still Irritates Absent Russia, Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington (AGSIW), August 2023,[20] Eugene Chausovsky, Global South Pivot: Ukraine’s Diplomatic Strategy in the Gulf, Gulf International Forum,[21] President of Russia (website - note: site is not secure) - On December 6, Vladimir Putin will pay working visits to the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, December 2023,[22] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation - Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to media questions following the 21th Doha Forum, December 2023,[23] Eugene Chausovsky, Global South Pivot: Ukraine’s Diplomatic Strategy in the Gulf, Gulf International Forum,; Agence France Presse (AFP), in the Moscow Times, Russia, Ukraine Swap Hundreds of Prisoners in UAE Brokered Deal, January 2024,[24] Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, The Russia-Ukraine War and the Impact on the Persian Gulf States, Project Muse, Asia Policy, Volume 18, Number 2, April 2023, pp. 39-46 (Article),[25] Professor Simon Mabon, One year on: The reverberations of the war in the Middle East, Foreign Policy Centre, February 2023,[26] Eugene Chausovsky, Persian Gulf States May Be the Best Mediators for Peace in Ukraine, Foreign Policy, February 2023,,them%20leverage%20with%20the%20West[27] Dr Diana Galeeva, Ukraine war shows soft power of the Gulf states, Arab News, September 2023,[28] Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, The Russia-Ukraine War and the Impact on the Persian Gulf States, Project Muse, Asia Policy, Volume 18, Number 2, April 2023, pp. 39-46 (Article), Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre. [post_title] => War in Ukraine: The ongoing conflict has provided growing strategic opportunities for GCC states [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => war-in-ukraine-the-ongoing-conflict-has-provided-growing-strategic-opportunities-for-gcc-states [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-02-28 14:34:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-02-28 13:34:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6781 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2023-03-15 13:52:44 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-03-15 12:52:44 [post_content] => The Inter-Parliamentary Union assembly Bahrain: what the revocation of observers’ visas really signifiesOn 8 March, the government of Bahrain revoked the visas of two individuals from Human Rights Watch (HRW). They were set to attend an international meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), which the government of Bahrain (GoB) has been hosting, 11-15 March.  The IPU is the global association of national parliaments.  Compared to the relative importance of the gathering itself and the matters that parliamentarians from across the globe are addressing, the exclusion of the two persons from HRW, an organisation with observer status to the IPU, may appear to matter very little.  Not so.  A whole morality and standards in international conduct is at stake. This matters to the United Kingdom (UK) parliament, government and civil society, each of whom should take action in their own way. Civil society in the global orderIn the global order envisioned by the United Nations (UN), states enjoy sovereignty limited only by international legal agreement, including in areas such as trade and human rights. The UN accords secondary status to intergovernmental organisations  and specialised agencies whose mandates relate to trade, regional governance or other forms of international cooperation or standard-setting. The Inter-Parliamentary Union is one such organisation. The IPU, in turn, accords permanent observer status to UN agencies; regional intergovernmental organisations, parliamentary assemblies or associations, International political party federations and International non-governmental organisations (INGOs).[1] The IPU assembly in BahrainToday marks the final day of the IPU’s  146th Assembly  which has been taking place in Manama, Bahrain, 11 – 15 March 2023. The IPU comprises 178 member parliaments, a subset of whom are present in Bahrain. While there, they have been addressing, amongst other issues, promoting peaceful coexistence and inclusive societies and fighting intolerance. Given that its slogan is, “For Democracy. For Everyone” this agenda seems logical.  Yet, its Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians has raised with governments 727 cases of violations of parliamentarians’ human rights, of which two are from Bahrain. The GoB arbitrarily stripped the citizenship of one, Jawad Fairooz, who is now a UK national. By virtue of these cases, as well as the rejection of HRW’s access to the assembly, the GoB not only violates the statutes of the organisation but appears to  show that it holds in contempt the international order of which it is part. A matter for the UK?Answering a question about Mexico for the UK government, on 7 March, MP David Rutley (Conservative, Macclesfield) stated that:  “Democracy and freedom are at the heart of the UK's values and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) global policy. They contribute to long-term prosperity and security; and democratic societies are the strongest supporters of an open and resilient international order. [...] Support for democratic principles in Mexico is a continuing priority for our Embassy, which regularly engages with the Mexican Government to underline the importance of strong institutions and free and fair elections.” But the work of the IPU is not a governmental one: asked for comment on 15 March, a spokesperson for the FCDO said that insofar as no government minister attended, they had no view about Bahrain’s revocation of the visas to the HRW staffer.  While understandable, acts that erode democracy and freedom; and a resilient international order, in a context - Bahrain - where elections are neither free nor fair, must be a concern for the FCDO, if they aspire to apply policy equally and transparently. After all, the December 2022 FCDO’s 2021 report on Human Rights and Democracy states that Bahrain is a “priority country” [2]. Is it, really? The British Group [of the] Inter-Parliamentary Union - motto: Advancing the parliamentary dimension of Britain's foreign relations - is believed to have sent a delegation led by MP, Karen Bradley (Conservative), but comprising Labour and Liberal Democrat delegates from both the Commons and House of Lords, as well as administrative staff. While contacted for comment, at the time of writing, the BGIPU had not responded to the question whether they expressed a view over the revocation of the HRW staff members’ visas. The real price will be paid in Bahrain, by BahrainisWhile the conduct of the GoB erodes the international order and adherence to international human rights standards, the revocation of the HRW staffers’ visas is the thin edge of the wedge. Research by Salam for Democracy and Human Rights has set out how the GoB has persecuted 15 former parliamentarians. The authorities arbitrarily detained 11 of them; unfairly charged a further 11; sentenced 10 following unfair trial; tortured 6 of them, deprived 4 of their citizenship while 6 now reside outside the country. A joint open letter to parliamentarians issued by 22 human rights groups working on Bahrain, on the occasion of the IPU assembly in Bahrain, reminded MPs that in 2016 and 2017, Bahrain’s judiciary dissolved two of the country’s main political opposition parties, Al-Wefaq and Wa’ad and that political isolation laws introduced in 2018 barred former members of these parties from running for parliament or sitting on boards of governors of civil society organisations [3]. The letter also drew attention to the fact that in 2017, the authorities forcibly closed Bahrain’s last independent newspaper, Al-Wasat, and that the GoB has effectively banned all independent media; as well as the November 2022  parliamentary elections were ostensibly the most restricted since parliamentary elections were reintroduced in 2002.  The GoB arbitrarily strips citizenship, continues to use the death penalty; detain prisoners of conscience and appears to turn a blind eye to the use of torture. A range of activists have faced brutal treatment, including torture and denial of medical care. Several of them, including Hassan Mushaima, Dr. Abduljalil Al-Singace, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Sheikh Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, Abdulwahab Husain, Naji Fateel, and Sheikh Ali Salman, have been sentenced to life in prison. A Danish-Bahraini dual citizen, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, has been denied surgery that he requires to treat his jaw, broken by security forces when he was arrested for taking part in the 2011 pro-democracy protests. For these reasons, civil society - a pillar of the global order - is perhaps right to be dismayed at the muted response by the IPU in relation to the revocation of the HRW staffers’ visas and by what appears to be silence by the BGIPU; as well as be  disappointed at UK’s FCDO’s lack of engagement - when Bahrain is a stated human rights “priority country”.  The IPU assembly ends today. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre. [1]  The INGOs are, in full: Amnesty International Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria, Human Rights Watch, International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI), Penal Reform International, World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA)[2] Chapter 5 of the FCDO’s 2021 Human Rights & Democracy report lists the priority countries as: Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Central African Republic, China, Columbia, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq.[3] The joint open letter also states that these laws also target former prisoners, including those detained due to their political work. Those impacted by the political isolation laws also face routine delays and denials in their ability to access “Good Conduct Certificates,” a document required for Bahraini citizens and residents to apply for a job or university admission or even join a sports or social club. [post_title] => The Inter-Parliamentary Union, Civil Society and the UK [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => ipu-civil-society-and-the-uk [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-22 10:31:57 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-22 09:31:57 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6765 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2023-03-08 17:42:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2023-03-08 16:42:30 [post_content] => What can we do in response to the toxic gassing of thousands of female students and those risking their lives to advance the values behind the expression “Woman, Life, Freedom”? 

As we mark International Women’s Day 2023, more than 1,000, overwhelmingly female students in over 90 schools in 20 provinces in Iran have been injured and hospitalised on account of targeted gas attacks in mainly schools for girls.[1] This is the latest in a series of converted attacks that started on 30 November 2022 and continues until today.[2]

 On 6 March the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, spoke out against the attacks and its criminality. Other prominent figures have likewise spoken out; and some are taking action to ensure that all students - mainly females - can attend school without fear of being harmed.[3] At the time of writing, reports stated that a Deputy Interior Minister said that arrests had taken place and that the accused were Gasht-e Ershad, or Morality Police officials (see below). In contrast to the authorities’ apparent inability or unwillingness to take action to protect mainly female students, the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR) highlighted officials’ haste to break up gatherings of families seeking action and answers; and their prompt investigation into newspapers seeking to examine the attacks.[5] One 4 March report, for example, while unconfirmed by other sources, stated that security officials detained a 19 year old student, Sarina Mahmoud Salehi, in Karaj, after she had spoken out about the gas attacks.[6] Officials reportedly threatened her with having to confess a role in the attacks. The recent toxic attacks will fuel a fury that will advance for months to come in what appears to be a female-shaped revolution.  There is recognition that security forces the world over need time to assess and investigate criminal activity; that political leaders may appear slow to respond to damaging and harmful events. But the conduct exhibited in this instance is not one in which the authorities are out of step with society and its concerns; it is one in which apparently misogynistic authorities step on swathes of society’s concerns, and members of society themselves, to protect an illusive status quo. The conduct, too, resembles patterns once again unfolding in neighbouring Afghanistan, where Taliban rule is likewise rolling back women’s rights and the place of women in society.  

Is this the state response to Woman, Life, Freedom?

The authorities never bought the narrative that the September 2022 death in custody of Jina (Mahsa) Amini marked a turning point in honouring human dignity and rights accorded to all Iranians, beginning with the country’s women, who were the first to arise against the Islamic Republic’s (IRI) discriminatory policies on this very day in 1979.  

They do not, however, dispute the fact that the Morality Police (Gasht-e Ershad) detained Jina Amini on 13 September 2022 for the alleged improper use of the hijab, or that she died in government custody on 16 September. They differ in that the authorities claim she died of natural causes linked to an underlying health condition; her family, citing her good health, denounce the authorities’ claim. Leaked medical documents indicate that ill-treatment caused her death.


On the other hand, officials recognise that her death resulted in nationwide, mainly urban demonstrations into 2023.[7]  The authorities have killed scores of people, including children; targeted women demonstrators; detained close to 15 thousand people and executed at least four.[8] Since September, reports indicated that the authorities were sending secondary school students to ‘psychological centres’ and would only allow them to return to school once ‘reformed’.[9] The Persian call: Zan, Zendegi, Azadi, or Woman, Life, Freedom is at the heart of the demonstrations that have pulsated through every corner of Iran and more than 150 cities around the globe. 

 If the Interior Ministry official is right, the question before us is: are the very organisations whose members killed Jina Amini also those involved in the intentional harming of girl students? If so, it is a new low for the Islamic Republic, amongst a damning catalogue of decades of human rights violations. 

What can the UK authorities, parliamentarians, NGOs do?

People outside of Iran cannot directly do much: international law and practice forbids state acts that could amount to aggression against another state. But we can and must echo and amplify calls for justice on the one hand, and stand with those shaping this historic moment on the other hand.


Days ago an Iranian diaspora media outlet, Iran International, had to temporarily relocate to the USA to escape threats of violence expressed by Islamic Republic officials. The IRI has, for years, harassed and threatened BBC journalists and terrorised their families in Iran. Such state-sponsored threats on UK soil should at least make us sit up straight, listen and appreciate what it must be like to a single woman standing up against such repression.


In 2018, we wrote that:

Iranian women impose themselves today and every day on state structures in Iran that keep them down. They demand their #MeToo rights and – leaving aside their willingness – paying a price to assert their rights. Iranian women are not victims, they don’t need saving by foreign powers; we are seeing a new, home-grown generation that is amongst the most highly educated in the region; plugged-in and nearly fully charged. This is the promise of the Iran; and indeed the promise for us all, globally.

 As we have seen, women in Iran and women human rights defenders have continued to call for respect and equality - for women, life, freedom. 

On International Women’s Day 2023, let’s use every platform we have access to and raise a call for life and freedom in a constructive and resilient manner. Parliamentarians and NGOs can do exactly this; the FCDO’s Human Rights team can draw attention to women human rights defenders, Nasrin Sotoudeh and Narges Mohammadi, both of whom have faced years of imprisonment, marked by occasional, temporary releases. Their ‘crime’? Advancing human rights standards and calling for accountability. Echo their voices.


UK officials and Parliamentarians; public figures and - for example - legal professionals, can amplify the calls facilitated by the Center for Human Rights in Iran, in which 20 leading lawyers (including Nasrin Sotoudeh) set out asks to the World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to investigate the attacks.[10] They can also engage and promote the work of organisations like FEMENA or the Centre for Supporters of Human RightsWhy? Because, after all, we too cherish Women, Life and Freedom.


Drewery Dyke is a FPC Senior Research Fellow, Chairperson for the Rights Realization Centre and Senior Researcher specialising in analysis and international advocacy relating to human rights in The Gulf (GCC), Iran and Afghanistan. He currently works with the Iran-focused Centre for Supporters of Human Rights (CSHR).


Tahirih Danesh is a FPC Senior Advisor, Lecturer in Human Rights Law and serves as Executive Director of the Persia Educational Foundation and is the Founding Editor of Iran Human Rights Review.


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this piece are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of The Foreign Policy Centre.

 [1] 20 Prominent Iranian Lawyers Call on UN to Investigate School Girl Poisonings, Center for Human Rights in Iran, 6 March 2023.[2]  Infographic Geographical distribution of student poisoning, Etemad Online, December 2022 , accessed 7 March 2023[3]  Statement of new religious views on the chain of poisoning of girls, News Gooya, 7 March 2023[4] Chain poisoning; Deputy Interior Minister: "Some" were arrested and some were "guided", BBC Persian, 7 March 2023, at:[5] Centre for Supporters of Human Rights, Twitter, Twitter  Post,  7 March 2023,[6] @persianated, Twitter, Twitter Post, March  2023, at[7] Nationwide Coverage Of Protests In Iran On September 2,  Iran International, September 2022:[8] Iranian actor Taraneh Alidoosti released from jail after family post bai, Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, l 4 January 2023,,shown%20on%20Iranian%20social%20media[9] Iran International,  Twitter, Twitter post, 12 October 2022,[10] Center for Human Rights in Iran: 20 Prominent Iranian Lawyers Call on UN to Investigate School Girl Poisonings, 6 March 2023, [post_title] => International Women’s Day in Iran 2023 [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => international-womens-day-in-iran-2023 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2023-03-08 18:37:53 [post_modified_gmt] => 2023-03-08 17:37:53 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 6199 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2021-10-22 17:41:03 [post_date_gmt] => 2021-10-22 16:41:03 [post_content] => Between November 10th-14th 2021, activists and human rights groups will hold a people’s tribunal to examine who was responsible for gross human rights violations that took place in Iran in November 2019. In September 2021, Redress presented the UK Foreign Secretary with an appeal to impose targeted sanctions on Iranian officials. What is the back story and how should the UK Government react? On October 3rd 2021, the recently-appointed United Kingdom (UK) Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, told a conference of members of the governing Conservative Party that “Britain has always been a lodestar of freedom and democracy”.[1] She said that “we will build a network of liberty across the globe”, stating that “the democratic world order faces a stark choice” and that “either we retreat and retrench in the face of malign actors or we club together and advance the cause of freedom.” We need, she asserted, “to rise to meet this moment”. Why, then, did Britain not act in unison with or follow the European Union (EU) in imposing human rights-rooted, targeted sanctions on eight Iranian government officials and three prisons when the EU did so in April 2021? Why does the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO, the UK’s Foreign and overseas aid Ministry) appear to show little interest in initiatives aimed squarely and advancing justice and holding human rights violators from the Islamic Republic of Iran to account? Where does the FCDO now stand on the dossier presented in September to the UK Government by the Free Nazanin campaign and REDRESS, supported by victims of hostage-taking in Iran calling for sanctions on specific Iranian officials or the calls by Justice for Iran to impose sanctions on 35 officials set out in the organisation’s February 2020 report Shoot to Kill: Preliminary Findings of Justice for Iran’s Investigation into the November 2019 Protests (pp. 30-38) or indeed the International People's Tribunal on Iran's Atrocities of November 2019, or Aban Tribunal, to be held in Westminster, London, November 10th-14th 2021?[2] Activists, alongside Justice for Iran, Iran Human Rights and ECPM – Together against the Death Penalty have mandated a group of renowned international lawyers and jurists to examine evidence and witnesses’ accounts relating to gross human rights violations that took place in Iran between November 15th-18th (called Aban in Persian) 2019.[3] Numerous sources, including the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the UK scholar, Javaid Rehman, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have set out their assessments of the events of November 2019 in their work.[4] When the UK left the EU on January 1st 2020, it incorporated into (post-Brexit) UK law all human rights-related sanctions on specific individuals and entities agreed as an EU member. In respect to Iran, this included those enacted from 2011 and reviewed annually. As of July 2019, the EU had imposed targeted, specific sanctions on 82 individuals and one entity.[5] The European Commission’s annual review in 2020 produced no change, but in April 2021, the Commission identified a further eight individuals and three entities - each a prison. But whereas the UK has aligned itself with pivotal EU foreign policy decisions, say in relation to sanctioning Belarus leaders following state violence carried out following the disputed August 2020 presidential election, it did not do so in relation to Iran. It has appeared to drag its feet since then. Why? The irreversibility of International justice and accountability mechanismsIn 2020 the international accountability toolkit expanded in the EU and UK: in July 2020, the UK’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 (GHR) entered into force followed in December 2020 by the EU’s Global Human Rights Sanctions Regime.[6] The world has reached an international justice point-of-no-return and if the UK wishes to join the club - as the UK Foreign Secretary said it does - to “advance the cause of freedom”, the FCDO needs “to rise to meet this moment”. The growing number of targeted sanctions regimes - those on individuals rather than whole countries - represent the globalisation of the United States’ (US) 2012 Magnitsky Act. Named for the Russian auditor and tax expert, Sergei Magnitsky, in 2009 he exposed fraud totalling $US230 million. Russian officials detained him on charges of collusion to commit tax fraud, but in November 2009 he died in pretrial detention in Moscow just eight days before he would have either had to be put on trial or released.[7] As a result of a campaign led by financier Bill Browder, then President Barack Obama enacted the US Congress bill carrying Magnitsky’s name.[8] It provides for the imposition of restrictions upon named individuals in respect to travel and access to US-based or owned financial services for credible reasons based on the named individuals’ violations of human rights standards or corruption, features retained by the UK, EU, Canadian and other, analogous, provisions. Person(s) and entities designated under the Act can challenge the designation, a feature likewise retained in the provisions enacted in other jurisdictions. These measure reflect growing international awareness and acceptance of forms of international justice and accountability bookmarked by the 1945-6 Nürnberg (Nuremburg) trials.[9] In recent decades hybrid courts have been established to investigate and prosecute large-scale crimes under international law in countries which have gone through conflict or crisis, such as Bosnia, Cambodia and Sierra Leone. Likewise, the ad hoc International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and that for the former Yugoslavia, both now closed, prosecuted atrocities committed in those countries. With its establishment in 2002, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the international community created a permanent court to “investigate and prosecute people suspected of committing genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and (since 2018) the crime of aggression in situations where national authorities are unable or unwilling to act genuinely.”[10] Significantly, however, the universal is now also the national: the prosecution by national courts of crimes under international law - wherever the alleged acts may have happened - is increasingly routine. Based on the principle that individual states have a duty to protect the international community or international order itself by prosecuting such cases, one such is the case against former Iranian official Hamid Noury, in Sweden. It shows that alleged crimes from 1988 in one state can be successively prosecuted in 2021 in another.[11] The thirst for justice that this case represents is what drives Richard Ratcliffe. Islamic Republic of Iran security officials arbitrarily detained his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in 2016 and as of September 23rd 2021, marked 2,000 days of unjust detention.[12] Since her detention, the Iranian authorities have unjustly detained at least three others, Anoosheh Ashoori, Morad Tahbaz and Mehran Raoof, in what some commentators term ‘hostage diplomacy’.[13] It is also what drives those who face enormous risks to take part in November 10th-14th 2021 International People's Tribunal on Iran's Atrocities of November 2019 - the Aban Tribunal, which will allege that political and security leaders of the very highest echelon actually ordered people to be shot, killed, maimed or tortured.[14] Details of the alleged acts and their perpetrators can be viewed at Justice for Iran’s Faces of Crime website.[15] The thing is, the justice and accountability toolbox now contains the means to advance justice. If the Iranian (or any other) government will not hold alleged perpetrators of gross human rights violations to account, we can demand justice elsewhere. What should the UK and other governments do now?It is time for Liz Truss to “rise to meet this moment”. The FCDO should address, openly, the appeal made by the Free Nazanin campaign and REDRESS, supported by victims of hostage-taking in Iran.[16] What does it say? What does the FCDO propose to do about it? Why not tell the House of Commons? Why not invite Iran experts to an open consultation to examine the ramifications? The UK Government - and every single government that respects the rule of law and seeks to uphold international law - should sign up (via Eventbrite) to send observers to the Aban Tribunal.[17] Come listen to eye and material witnesses; and expert witnesses. Let the suffering and injustice you hear shape your governments’ policies. Open your toolbox to hold violators of human right to justice; if you cannot do that, then impose targeted sanctions on them. The thirst for justice and human dignity demands action. Image by Aban Tribunal. [1] Liz Truss, Foreign Secretary, The network of liberty, CPC21 Speeches, Conservatives, October 2021,[2] REDRESS, The Free Nazanin Campaign and REDRESS Call for Magnitsky sanctions on Perpetrators of Iran’s Hostage-taking, September 2021,; Justice for Iran, see website:; Justice for Iran, Shoot to Kill!, Preliminary Findings of Justice for Iran’s Investigation into the November 2019 Protests, Submission to the Council of the EU, February 2020,[3] Justice for Iran, see website:; Iran Human Rights, see website:; ECPM, see website:[4] UN General Assembly, Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Javaid Rehman, July 2020,; Amnesty International UK, Iran: mass torture following brutal crackdown of November protests – new report, September 2020,; Human Rights Watch, Iran: No Justice for Bloody Crackdown, February 2020,,Human%20Rights%20Watch%20said%20today.&text=The%20government%20imposed%20a%20near,from%20November%2015%20to%2019[5] Council Regulation (EU) No 359/2011 of 12 April 2011 concerning restrictive measures directed against certain persons, entities and bodies in view of the situation in Iran, EUR-Lex,[6] UK Statutory Instruments, The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, July 2020,; Official Journal of the European Union, Legislation 410 I, December 2020,[7] Mike Eckel, U.S. Settles Magnitsky – Linked Money Laundering Case On Eve Of Trial, RFE/RL, May 2017,[8] Bill Browder, see website:[9] Britannica, Nurnberg trials, Last updated October 2021,[10] Amnesty International, International Justice,[11] Justice for Iran, Timeline of Hamid Noury’s Trial, September 2021,[12] Amnesty International UK, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: What’s Happening?, October 2021,[13] Stephen M. Walt, Why ‘Hostage Diplomacy’ Works, Foreign Policy, February 2021,[14] Aban Tribunal, see website:[15] Faces of Crime, see website:[16], Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office,; REDRESS, The Free Nazanin Campaign and REDRESS Call for Magnitsky sanctions on Perpetrators of Iran’s Hostage-taking, September 2021,[17] Aban Tribunal, see website: [post_title] => Why does the “lodestar of democracy” not promote justice and accountability regarding Iran? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => why-does-the-lodestar-of-democracy-not-promote-justice-and-accountability-regarding-iran [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-10-22 17:44:48 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-10-22 16:44:48 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 3095 [post_author] => 39 [post_date] => 2018-11-30 17:59:58 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-11-30 17:59:58 [post_content] => Bahrain goes to the polls tomorrow, 1st December, for the second, run-off, round in elections to the 40-seat lower house. So what? It is surely less significant than the ramifications of the grisly murder of Saudi Arabian journalist, Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October; the increasingly devastating conflict in Yemen - marked by widespread famine and destruction - and the nagging dispute between Qatar and its Gulf neighbours. Maybe, but its own ramifications are likewise significant and deep.

Bahrain election tracker - November 2018

IndicatorYes  ✓ No Assessment / Comment
Opposition participationIn 2016, the government dissolved (banned) previous, longstanding political societies that functioned as opposition. Candidates for this election were required, de facto, to stand as independents in order to be permitted to stand; with members or former members of now-banned political bodies prohibited from standing.
Independent monitoring of election conductCommittees or bodies appointed do not have independence; one previously refused to publish findings.
Independent media (to hold process and candidates to account)All media is subject to government license and scrutiny; the last platform perceived as independent, al-Wasat, closed in 2017.
Role of political prisonersThousands, including former political leaders - generally prisoners of conscience – were specifically banned from standing.
Equitably-balanced electoral districtsThe distribution of electoral districts is skewed to ensure a pro-government majority; subject to careful gerrymandering.
(copied and adapted from an Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain image of the same information)
The 2018 elections in Bahrain look set to embed another entrenched, simmering domestic dispute that has pitted the island country’s majority Shi’a Muslim population against the minority Sunni Muslims, to which the ruling al-Khalifa family belong.The 2018 parliamentary elections (some 30+ municipalities also held elections) were not designed to open a new chapter or to heal wounds that come with the mass arrests, killing and gross human rights violations that took place amidst the mass unrest of Bahraini edition of the ‘Arab Spring’ in 2011 and in subsequent years but rather to try and bury unfinished business of quashing dissent; to put an end to the political and social unrest that had plagued the island since the 2011 uprisings and to clearly show - put crudely - who’s boss.Should it matter to us? Bahrain is, after all, small - the population of greater Manchester is around double that of the country. But Bahrain is a key western ally, strategically located in the Gulf. The United States Fifth Fleet is headquartered there, and in April 2018 the United Kingdom officially opened a new Naval Support Facility, consisting of up to 500 personnel.[1]Moreover, the fallout from the 2011 uprisings - and evisceration of relationship between minority rulers and majority ruled - provided an opportunity for non-Bahraini regional players, both ‘allies’ such as Saudi Arabia and ‘enemies’ such as Iran, to seek to instrumentalize these divisions, to push at these, often sectarian, divisions for their own ends. There is plenty to draw on to advance notions of division: the al-Khalifa’s close links with the Saudi Arabian authorities; historic, yet lingering ties of swathes of the population to Iran, mean that the dispute is bound to draw in the big regional players, and their own regional supporters, amongst states and people, exacerbating sectarian tension throughout the Gulf region and beyond.[2] This further undermines security and stability in Bahrain, across the Gulf and quite possibly that of the US and UK, too, who maintain military facilities on the island.Round 1 - ‘orderly and transparent’Upon closure of the first round of voting on 24th November, the government estimated voter turnout to be at 67 percent.[3] This exceeded the 53 percent claimed in the in 2014 election. An opposition figure assessed turnout this year to be around 30 percent.[4] In the first round, nine (of 40) MPs secured their seats by way of an outright majority, with pro-government independents seeing a big win.[5]In the absence of any neutral monitoring body offering an objective assessment, government-approved bodies charged with ‘observing’ the election led the self-congratulatory chorus of self-praise. Faisal Fulad, well-known for his strong connection to the government but also the head of the The Election Monitoring Centre of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (no relation to the US NGO Human Rights Watch) stated that the elections were held, by and large, ‘in an orderly and transparent manner’.[6]  He accused Iran of playing a major role in boycott calls that were designed to ‘thwart elections’ in the country. The absence of any independent media did not concern the Bahraini Jurists Society – another pro-government civil society organisation. They applauded what they termed free and impartial election coverage.[7] The Bahraini authorities, their allies and those governments willing to overlook flagrantly unfair practices are expected to extoll the outcome after tallying results of 1st December’s second round.The twisting, barb-filled path to the November 2018 electionMass demonstrations in early 2011, at the capital, Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, and marches in other areas, called for greater transparency, political reforms and more equality and political representation from the Shi’a majority. The government ignored the calls of the mainly peaceful, mass demonstrations: they crushed those making them, in confrontations in February 2011, then, in March 2011, when mainly Saudi Arabian and other Gulf Cooperation Council troops forcibly dispersed demonstrators, killing at least 35, after which the government declared martial law.[8]Jawad Fairooz is the Director of Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (Salam DHR), a Bahrain-focused human rights group. He was an MP in 2010, when 18 of the 40 MPs in Bahrain’s parliament were from his political group, al-Wefaq, supported by a great many of Bahrain’s mainly Shi’a Muslim population. They collectively resigned in 2011, amidst the government-lead violence against demonstrators.In advance of the 2014 parliamentary elections, the government re-drew constituency borders. A member of the al-Wefaq political group released a detailed report setting out the manner in which the government changed the numbers of voters in specific constituencies in order to increase the number of the seats that government supporters would be likely to win, decreasing the representation of the majority Shi’a community.[9]After the government quelled the mass demonstrations, the security services sought to silence any further public dissent. They targeted numerous individuals for harassment and arbitrary arrest: in May 2012, they arbitrarily arrested the prominent human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab. Despite at least several months’ liberty at the end of 2014 and early 2015, and international calls for his release, the government continues to imprison him, a powerful symbol of the repression felt in Bahrain.[10]Between 2012-2017, the government sought to whitewash its conduct through the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), but the government ignored even its substantive recommendations. The government also denied access to United Nations human rights experts and either deported or drastically limited the amount of time human rights advocates were able to spend in the country. They also prevented Bahraini activists from travelling to take part in human rights events.[11]In 2016 the government dissolved al-Wefaq, the largest political group in Bahrain. The government asserted it fostered violence and terrorism, and liquidated its assets. In 2017, they then dissolved the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), the largest liberal party, likewise asserting that its members also incited terrorism.In terms of an independent media to hold the authorities to account, in 2017, the government closed Al-Wasat, the last independent media platform. As a result, voters must rely on highly restrictive and selective, government-controlled media that provides partial and biased information in favour of the authorities.In June 2017, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and post holders of UN human rights mechanisms condemned the government’s use of lethal force that killed at least five and injured dozens of others in the city of Duraz in order to quell a peaceful ‘sit-in’ demonstration. The official press release quoted them as saying that:[12]“The authorities have resorted to drastic measures to curb dissenting opinions such as torture, arbitrary detention, unfounded convictions, the stripping of citizenship, the use of travel bans, intimidation, including death threats, and reprisals for cooperating with international organizations, including the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights” they noted.“We are particularly worried about these measures, coupled with the campaign of harassment aimed at human rights defenders, who are increasingly being charged with offences for which the death penalty may be imposed,” the experts said, highlighting in this regard the use of repressive legislation, in particular the Law of Associations, and anti-terrorism laws.Into 2018, the Bahraini authorities continued to harass people in areas associated with Shi’a unrest, such as by way of roadblocks and police checkpoints, limiting freedom of movement on the citing legal provisions relating to national security or public order. The government has also been shown to be using Israeli-sourced malware targeting Bahraini activists amongst a number of measures to silence online dissent.[13]A legal framework that provides for fair elections?The government weaponized laws and the administration of justice to further repression and disenfranchisement. They drew on new and existing provisions, some that criminalise acts which either are not recognizably criminal under international law or which constitute protected conduct - such as the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression - in order to silence dissent or opposition.Article 178 of Bahrain’s Penal Code, for example expressly criminalises a gathering ‘of at least five people in a public place, the goal of which is to commit a crime or acts preparatory to or facilitating a crime or to infringe public security, even if done to achieve a legitimate end’.  This closed down public dissent.On 10 June, Act 25/2018 entered into force, amending Act 14/2002, the Exercise of Political Rights Act and having a devastating impact on the recent election. It prohibits, permanently, ‘active leaders and members of dissolved political associations’ from standing in elections. Amnesty International has set out how this, too, is discriminatory[14]:‘This law prevents al-Wefaq and Wa’ad, which are respectively the major religious and secular political opposition groups in Bahrain, from participating in parliamentary elections. Given that the majority of Bahrain’s population is Shi’a, and that al-Wefaq comprises the largest Shi’a opposition group in the country, the law will have a de facto discriminatory effect on Shi’as’ political participation.’On 13 June 2018 European Parliament passed a joint resolution on the human rights situation in Bahrain, notably addressing the case of imprisoned human rights defender, the case of Nabeel Rajab, it stated that:‘[...] the situation in Bahrain has become critical as regards freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly; whereas the increased crackdown on human rights defenders and peaceful opposition activists includes prison sentences, exile, travel bans, revocation of citizenships or severe threats and intimidation as a result of their peaceful work.’With regard to the recent election, the resolution added:‘[...] the Council of Representatives and the Shura Council of Bahrain have approved an amendment to the Law on the Exercise of Political Rights that will prevent independent political participation in the 2018 elections’Only weeks before the election, moreover, the government sent powerful messages - threats - to the island’s Shi’a electorate: on 4th November, an appeals court convicted the (former) leader of al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, to life imprisonment. Held since December 2014, the government charged him with spying for Qatar, in a case that arose as a result of an attempt made by Qatar in 2011 - prior to the current dispute between that country, Bahrain and others in the region - to mediate during Bahrain’s own strife.On 13th November, the Office for Public Prosecution stated that it had monitored tweets, including those calling on people not to participate in the election. The government met such peaceful calls with arrest and prosecution: they summoned and interrogated one person thus charged: former MP, Ali Rashed al-Asheeri. They detained him for ‘transgressing against the vote and confusing the electoral process’. He had said that he had been banned from both standing and voting.In contrast, on 15th November, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts charged with assessing states’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, issued its Concluding Observations on Bahrain’s first (10 years’ late) report on its implementation of this core international human rights treaty.[15] Addressing a wide range of issues, with respect to the right to take part in the conduct of public affairs, the Committee expressed its concern:‘[...] about reports that the Shia population is underrepresented in political and public life, including in the National Assembly. It is also concerned that the opposition parties Al-Wefaq and Wa’ad have recently been dissolved and that their leaders and members have been prosecuted. In addition, the Committee is concerned about allegations of gerrymandering and voter fraud during elections. Despite the existence of the National Audit Office, in charge of investigating cases of public corruption, the Committee finds it regrettable that high-ranking officials suspected of corruption are rarely punished.’The independent human rights experts called on the Bahraini government to review ‘decisions to dissolve opposition parties and ensure that political parties and their members are allowed to participate in political life’.In October 2018, the Bahraini authorities announced plans to take ‘all security measures’ during the election period and warned NGOs not ‘to use their programs and activities to support candidates for legislative and local council as per the law’.On 20th October, reports emerged that a number of people with applications for housing assistance were told that their applications would be rejected if they did not vote, or that they would be referred to the police’s criminal investigations department if they did not vote. These allegations of coercion went unnoticed by the officially charged monitoring bodies.[16]The authorities have rejected the involvement of international observers in monitoring the electoral process, by limiting observers’ nationality to Bahrainis. Consequently, there is no guarantee of sound and impartial administration nor non-partisan observers of the electoral process of Bahrain.Under the threat of intimidation and legalised repression, Bahraini voters were denied the opportunity of genuinely free and fair elections - despite the assurances of domestic ‘monitors’. The conduct of the election flies in the face of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 1994 Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections. While the outcome has been hailed in Bahrain and by its regional allies, the international community must be aware of the strictures under which the newly elected MPs will find themselves.The value of democracy to the government of BahrainOnce, in 2011, when Bahraini security officials were torturing former Bahraini MP, Jawad Fairooz, they asked why he spoke out against the government. He replied that he did so since he took an oath to uphold the interests of his constituents. For this they arrested and tortured him; then arbitrarily stripped him of his citizenship. [17]By torturing him the Bahraini authorities rejected the inherent dignity of what it means to be human. He has never received an apology, let alone compensation.[18] He was an MP for the now banned (see below) al-Wefaq political organisation, now he cannot vote, let alone stand for election.Moreover, Bahrain’s National Assembly consists of an upper chamber, the Consultative Council and the lower chamber, its parliament, or Council of Representatives. Each house consists of 40 representatives. The upper chamber is entirely appointed while the lower house is elected. As we have seen, it has been an election in which the opposition has been banned, even threatened over and the electoral districts have been gerrymandered. Even if it were fairer, legislation cannot originate from either house; at most, they can make suggestions for laws to the government and review whatever comes back. In order to question even a minister, the question must be submitted to a committee which determines the question’s legitimacy, and therefore, whether it can be put to the official.Dr Abdulhadi Khalaf, Senior Lecturer in sociology at Sweden’s Lund university told the authors of this essay that “Bahrain’s National Assembly cannot introduce legislation; it cannot summon ministers. It has no effective power and cannot hold the government to account.”This and the Jawad Fairooz case are shorthand for what the Bahraini government appears to really think of democracy and the rights of anyone save its own supporters. The only winner in this tawdry process is a government that has used sectarianism and division in Bahraini society to exert its control.Round 2 and beyond On 26th October 2018, Salam for Democracy and Human Rights (see above) wrote to Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the EU’s diplomatic service.[19] The organisation called on the EU ‘to publicly express the view, as soon as possible, that the general election scheduled for 24th November 2018 in Bahrain cannot and will not constitute free or fair elections, in terms of the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s 1994 Declaration on Criteria for Free and Fair Elections.’Perhaps quixotically, Salam DHR called on the EU to urge the Bahraini authorities to:
  • Postpone the 24th November election pending changes in law that would facilitate free and fair elections;
  • End its persecution of political activists, including by releasing political prisoners, imprisoned for non-violent acts relating to the expression of their conscientiously held beliefs; and to
  • Enter into genuine dialogue with a view to achieving a national reconciliation and genuine power sharing.
On 31th October, an EEAS official replied to say that representatives had recently visited the island and that they conveyed to the authorities that they would closely monitor the elections. Facing the realpolitik of the situation, the official added that it is difficult to have leverage. And, needless to say, none of the recommendations appear to have been taken up.Salam DHR’s recommendations are echoed, in part, by Brian Dooley’s recommendations for the United States. Some of his go farther, but they are equally applicable to the UK and the EU, that these governments should[20]:
  • Acknowledge that they were neither free nor fair;
  • Not endorse the election;
  • Not be pictured with officials connected to the election, and
  • Call for the release of political prisoners.
The international community must engage with the government of Bahrain to ensure, additionally, that all recommendations by UN treaty bodies should be acted upon in meaningful way; they should engage with the elected parliamentarians in order to ensure they understand the context in which they were elected and what they can do about it, not least in terms of the oath they will be take in the coming weeks.Above all, the international community must engage with the government - relentlessly and in a coordinated fashion - so that they understand the impact and ramifications of longstanding and ongoing discriminatory laws and policies, not just in terms of administration of justice but in terms of access to jobs and services; and political representation, and how this reinforces sectarianism and intolerance, not just on the island but across the Gulf.Hussain Abdalla, the Executive Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), a US-based human right organisation, told the authors of this report that"The government of Bahrain is mistaken if they think that this election has provided stability. Bahrain is a pressure cooker. It would be a false sense of security that they take from this manifestly unfair election. And the US and UK, who previously encouraged the now-crushed opposition to engage with the political process will be the first to regret their stance, if the pressure cooker cracks."Following elections that seem to be designed to deepen and embed division, the Bahraini government knows it has the power to end the dispute. Does it have the will to do so? Do the UK and US likewise have the capacity to take any meaningful action that might induce a change in the government’s conduct?We will see.[1] Peter Stubley, UK opens permanent military base in Bahrain to strengthen Middle East presence, Independent April 2018,[2] See, for example: Foreign Policy Centre - Saudi Arabia and Iran: The Struggle to Shape the Middle East:[3]Bahrain News Agency, High levels of voter participation ensure 2018 elections build on the success of previous elections, November 2018,  [4] The New Arab - Polls close in Bahrain election marked by unfair ballot, November 2018,[5] Gulf Daily News - Noor Zahra, Independents Big Winners after first round, Gulf Daily News Online, November 2018,[6] Bahrain Human Rights Watch - First Report of the Election Monitoring Centre, November 2018, via[7] Bahrain News Agency -  Election monitoring report on electoral process, November 2018, [8] Amnesty International - Flawed Reforms - Bahrain Fails to Achieve Justice for Protester, 17 April 2012, Index number: MDE 11/014/2012;  - see pp 5-7[9] Project on Middle East Democracy - Bahraini Opposition Party Releases Report Detailing Vote Re-Distribution Ahead of Elections, see also Chatham House - Jane Kinninmont and Omar Sirri: Bahrain: Civil Society and Political Imagination, October 2014;[10] Frontline Defenders: Case History - Nabeel Rajab;[11] Human Rights Watch - Bahrain: Events of 2017 (annual report);[12] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Bahrain must end worsening human rights clampdown, UN experts say, June 2017,[13]Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Adam Senft, Bahr Abdul Razzak, and Ron Deibert, The Kingdom Came to Canada-How Saudi-Linked Digital Espionage Reached Canadian Soil, October 2018,[14] Amnesty International - Bahrain: Public Statement - Suppression of opposition ahead of Bahraini election, November 2018,[15] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Reporting status for Bahrain[16] Information via Ebtisam Alsaegh of Salam DHR[17] Amnesty International, Released Bahraini politicians still under threat from government repression, August 2011,[18] Redress, Tortured and Exiled: Former Bahrain MP Jawad Fairooz,[19] Salam’s website is here:[20] Project on Middle East Democracy - Brian Dooley, Policy Brief – No Applause for Bahrain’s Sham Election, November 2018, [post_title] => Bahrain: Will elections mark new chapter or deepen & embed division? [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bahrain-will-elections-mark-new-chapter-or-deepen-embed-division [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-06-13 15:09:34 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-06-13 15:09:34 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 2500 [post_author] => 14 [post_date] => 2018-03-08 13:37:07 [post_date_gmt] => 2018-03-08 13:37:07 [post_content] => In the past year alone, women around the globe have challenged entrenched patriarchal structures. Individually and collectively, women have set about establishing a new social order in which greater equality exists or will exist, not only between men and women, but those who self-identify with neither or with elements of both; and indeed in respect to racial, ethnic and religious communities that have previously faced discrimination or, at best, that majority, male-dominated societies have ignored.In what many in the West may brand as post-Weinsteinian, Time’s Up and #MeToo-era appears to have hastened the end of the reign of those who want to wield power over women’s bodies, minds and futures. But what about Iran?The country, from which we get vast shipments of oil and natural gas, filling our petrol tanks and heating our homes; whose foreign policy is pivotal for peace in the Middle East and beyond; whose markets for goods and services have been opening in the years since the conclusion of an international agreement regulating Iran’s nuclear programme, is also facing significant social change. A reality, at least in the longer term, could well change how the country governs itself and, crucially for those outside Iran, how it pursues its interests abroad. For that reason alone, we need to be vigilant about the rights of women in Iran.In recent days and weeks, women in Iran have circulated calls to demonstrate on International Women’s Day, 8 March, including, for example, outside the Ministry of Labour - as this piece goes to print, arrests were taking place there. Women have shared moving clips about women’s struggles and aspirations and have called for the re-claiming of public space. “We want to be able to leave our homes on this one day out of an entire year and to remain in the streets. After all, these are the same streets in which we have struggled for our rights. We have had a revolution in these same streets. We have been bombed in these same streets. We have demanded our rights and have faced crackdowns and repression in these same streets. We have had acid thrown on our faces and for the crime of not observing proper hejab we have been arrested in these same streets. We have stood atop platforms in these same streets and have gone to prison with broken bones as a result. We have passed through these same streets to go to sports stadiums only to end up in detention centers. We women live in these cities and we want to spend this day, our day, in the streets of our cities.”  Statement posted on Iranian Women. The emerging generation of activists, the grandchildren of the 1979 revolution, has come of age since the post-election unrest in 2009, seen by many as an election stolen by the authorities, determined not to allow a now-imprisoned, reform-minded candidate to win. This generation, raised in equal measure in the shadow of state repression as well as the glow of a screen linked to the internet, appear to no longer harbour illusions about ‘reformists’ or ‘conservatives’ in Iran’s political landscape. Arguably more empowered - or simply too fed up to care anymore - their calls are not steeped in political sloganeering but rather the brutally blunt calling out of economic marginalisation; stifling corruption and impunity of political leaders.In December and January, in some 80 smaller cities and towns, mainly in the north east and across the west of Iran, swathes of people demonstrated their exasperation with their plight and the bleak environment facing them. The demonstrators came from a wide variety of social strata but tended not to be linked with political groups present or allowed in Iran. The government detained thousands but the demonstrators’ near-existential cri de coeur shook the government, possibly to its very core.Emerging from this wave of unrest came Vida Movahed. She stood in Tehran’s Revolution Street, on a utility box, removed her mandatory headscarf, or hejab, and waved it on the end of a stick. Amidst wider social upheaval, she said no to compulsory hejab. She now faces prosecutions for this peaceful act, thus becoming an Iranian Rosa Parks, but for gender rather than racial equality.Mandatory hejab laws are a physical symbol of the post-1979 revolutionary Iran. From 1981 onward, the government enforced this clothing restriction, along with other forms of social limitations through a systemic national implementation process termed the ‘Islamic Cultural Revolution’. Everything from women’s clothing; images of women and an array of places and people; TV shows, school text books and university departments placed women under the de facto control of men. It came to alter the minds of the first post-revolutionary generation, in respect to women and their place in society, both in public and private spaces.Yet in the few months since Vida Movahed’s brave act, many others have emulated her, re-staging her actions. Termed in Persian the Daughters (or women and girls) of Revolution Street (Dokhtaran-e Khiyaban-e Enghlab) are now a quasi-political movement, holding a candle to an issue long covered-up by successive leaders in the Islamic Republic: that since its inception the state’s particular interpretation of Sharia law has meant women’s access to their rights must be controlled by men.These women activists are writing a new chapter in the annals of women’s rights in Iran. On 28 February 2018, Amnesty International reported that dozens of women faced ill-treatment and were at risk of long jail terms for peacefully protesting compulsory veiling. More than 35 women have been violently attacked and arrested in Tehran alone since December 2017 for taking part in the ongoing peaceful protests against compulsory veiling. On 23 February, the police warned that women would now be charged with ‘inciting corruption and prostitution’. This carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment.On Thursday 22 February 2018, a video emerged showing a police officer pushing another woman, Maryam Shariatmadari off one of the utility boxes in Tehran while she waved her headscarf. She reportedly required hospitalisation and the authorities now hold her in Shahr-e Rey Prison, just west of Tehran. Officials also detained her mother, Mitra Jamshidzadeh, on 23 February, for some 30 hours, during which time she faced beatings for seeking information about her own daughter’s whereabouts. All this since a handful of women acting alone have stood on elevated street furniture, and have removed their legally required headscarves, and quietly and peacefully waved them on the end of sticks.Judicial officials have denigrated the women who have protested, ill-treating or torturing some of them; claiming also that they are linked to foreign enemies or that they are inciting moral corruption or even prostitution. The reaction betrays the home-grown threat these brave women exemplify to a deeply misogynist political order. Today, we have reached an Iranian #MeToo and Time’s Up moment.Women’s rights in IranWomen face deeply entrenched discrimination through Iran’s laws and practices. Their testimony counts for less in criminal matters; their access to divorce, employment, equal inheritance and political office are all restricted. These restrictions, in turn, make it harder to fight widespread violence against women and girls; or early and forced marriage. The government and monitors harasses women’s rights activists. But it was not always thus.State recognition of women’s rights in Iran arguably began with the Constitutional Revolution in 1906. The 1936 ban on hejab itself and 1963 provisions granting women the right to vote extended women’s place in society. The 1967 Family Protection Law guaranteed women rights of divorce, child custody, and marriage. But by the mid-1970s, opponents to the then Shah, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi termed such measures as Westoxification - denigrating such measures as those taken in unthinking awe of ‘western’ values rather than as measures in line with international human rights standards.The 1979 establishment of Islamic Republic facilitated the popularisation of a hybrid approach to religious interpretation of laws regarding women that, amongst other things, manipulated the education of both women and men about the status and rights of women. By 1983, basic manifestations of this reality, such as hejab laws, public gender segregation and limited rights to marriage, divorce, inheritance and custody were in place.Though the government denies it, the ideological pillars of the Islamic Republic meant that women’s aspirations alone constituted an existential threat to foundations of the state itself. Government supporters, accordingly, cast universal rights a western-inspired, ideological poison. The ideology of discrimination coupled with state violence in order to “promote virtue and prevent vice” meant that every woman’s existence was predicated on serving the interests of and strengthening the legitimacy of the - discriminatory - state itself. Amongst other things, these measures limited women and girls’ space particularly with regards to education, thus hindering their socio-economic and political progress.Granted, within even this context there has been a small degree of ebb and flow: under President Mohammed Khatami (1997-2005) there were moderate advances: civil society in Iran began to flourish and the presidency established a Centre for Women’s Participation in the Office of the Presidency, which encouraged the formation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to promote the rights of women and children and they flourished.Between 2000 and 2004, Iranian parliamentarians passed bills to improve the position of women, although most – including a proposal that Iran should ratify the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – were rejected by the Council of Guardians, the body, composed of clerics and lawyers, that assesses legislation for conformity with Islamic law and the Constitution.Khatami’s successor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005 - 2013), among other things, rolled back women’s access to higher education and the space for civil society. During a speech amid widespread protests following Ahmadinejad’s disputed 2009 re-election, the Supreme Leader called for the ‘Islamisation’ of universities and claimed fields such as sociology, were too western-influenced and had no place in Islamic Iran.This trend continued until further controversial measures implemented in 2012 restricted women from studying 77 specific academic fields at 36 government universities. However, Iranian universities lacked the faculty and the resources to enforce this policy among all subjects. Those universities that did follow the policy, faced significant financial challenges. And so, the application of sex segregation and gender quotas in Iran was ineffective.Armed with education, the women of Iran are fierce According to Saeed Moidfar, a retired sociology professor from Tehran: "Traditional politicians saw educated and powerful women as a threat." There are plenty in Iran and in the future, arresting and forbidding women from entering stadia to attend football matches will be the least of the government's concerns.Flying straight into the face of the state’s discriminatory laws and practices; its repression, education is a way that the Iran of tomorrow - one that perhaps better adheres to international human rights standards - may well be born. In Iran, education can be as political as the hejab itself: it is the struggle for the minds of tomorrow’s leaders.Yet, education is also something the government needs to act upon to maintain its legitimacy. In a 2016 report to the United Nations (not available online), the state’s High Council for Human Rights set out measures to uphold women’s rights. Reading between the lines, it is clear that the authorities are wary of women’s aspirations, including in the field of education, yet are compelled to set out measures currently in place or those planned in order to advance women’s rights, such as access to and participation in, notably, higher education.Despite chronic challenges facing Iranian women, such as lack of an organised approach to women’s movement or regular, continued access to newer feminist literature, state imposed quotas and segregation and educational bans, they have continued to excel in education: the numbers of women attending university rose at unprecedented levels. In 1997, women formed 37% of all university students. By the year 2000, they this number rose to 45%, in 2005 it grew to nearly 60%, though in recent years faced a roll back following Ahmadinejad’s presidency.Fuelled by incendiary references to a feminist conspiracy against the core of the Islamic Republic, the charged and complex dynamics around the perpetual power struggle between women and the Islamic Republic’s interests are in the balance as never before. We are in the second half of the political football match that women are not currently allowed to attend, and there is everything to play for.The starting point of the Daughters of Revolution Street and activists of today is one of absolute equality. They may not feel entitled to speak, but they certainly feel entitled to be heard. The aspirations of the Islamic Cultural Revolution have been swallowed up by #MeToo and Time’s Up demands. Iranian women are, in many, though not all respects, as much a part of our world as they are of theirs.Today Vida Movahhed and the other Daughters of Revolution Street are lifting the veil off the state agenda that has replaced education and empowerment with discrimination and repression; development with demagogues of power. But Iranian women, too, are saying Time’s Up.Iran women impose themselves today and every day on state structures in Iran that keep them down. They demand their #MeToo rights and - leaving aside their willingness - paying a price to assert their rights. Iranian women are not victims, they don't need saving by foreign powers; we are seeing a new, home-grown generation that is amongst the most highly educated in the region; plugged-in and nearly fully charged. This is the promise of the Iran; and indeed the promise for us all, globally. 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International Women’s Day in Iran 2023

What can we do in response to the toxic gassing of thousands of female students and those risking their lives to advance the values behind the expression “Woman, Life, Freedom”?…

Article by Drewery Dyke and Tahirih Danesh

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