Bahrain Teachers Honored for Standing up to Repression

Leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association were awarded the 2015 Arthur Svensson Prize for Trade Union Rights this week. The international honor recognizes Mahdi Abu Dheeb and Jalila al-Salman for “their encouragement of strike actions among teachers despite the personal risks they faced, including imprisonment and torture.”

Abu Dheeb, association president, was arrested in 2011 and sentenced to five years in prison. Charges against him included calling for a teachers’ strike. His health is deteriorating, and he is not receiving essential medical aid, according to the foundation.

Al-Salman, now acting union president, was arrested three times for exercising her right to freedom of assembly, for demanding reforms in Bahrain’s educational system and for protesting the killing and suppression of protesters, many of whom were students. Since her release from prison in November 2012, she has been banned from employment and her freedom of speech is restricted.

The Svensson Prize, established by the Norwegian union, Industri Energi, in 2010, is awarded annually to a person or organization that has worked predominately to promote trade union rights and/or strengthen trade union organizations. The announcement occurred as activists and unions around the world participated in a global day of action to support the right to strike.

Napoléon Gómez Urrutia, general secretary of Los Mineros, the National Miners’ and Metalworkers’ Union of Mexico (SNTMMSRM) received the prize in 2014, and Valentin Urusov, the Russian electrician and trade unionist unjustly imprisoned for years in a Siberian penal colony, received it in 2013.