Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

« Previous Post | Babylon & Beyond Home | Next Post »

BAHRAIN: Student details, speaks out against government pledge

May 18, 2011 |  6:47 am

Pledgephoto Students at the state-funded University of Bahrain say they have been forced this week to either sign a pledge of allegaiance to the government promising not to speak out against the Persian Gulf kingdom's monarchy or face expulsion.

The pledge was apparently distributed to students by campus police and security officials as they returned to classes Sunday. It comes after anti-government protests in February, mass arrests and charges against opposition activists. At least four activists have been sentenced to death for killing two officers during the protests, while others were sentenced earlier this week to one- to three-year terms in connection with the demonstrations. Many of those who oppose the Sunni-led monarchy, including those in detention, belong to the Shiite majority.

Timeline: Repression in Bahrain

Bahraini government spokesmen did not return calls concerning the pledge Wednesday. The Bahrain News Agency previously reported that hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis allegedly volunteered to sign similar pledges to King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa earlier this year.

Babylon & Beyond spoke with a student at the university and obtained a copy of the pledge distributed by this week in Arabic, which says:

"In accordance to this document I, the signatory below, confirm that I am a student attending the University of Bahrain, that my full allegiance is with the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain represented in His Majesty The King Hamad Bin Essa Al Khalifa, the King of the country may God guard and bless him and the wise government.

I pledge to respect the laws and regulations of the Kingdom of Bahrain, and the laws, regulations and the provisions of the University of Bahrain, that I have read (List of Misconduct for the students of the University of Bahrain), and pledge not to organize or participate in any event or activity that is not permitted or does not solely relate to the students or to their academic interests, inside or outside of the university campus, events and activities that would harm the reputation of The Kingdom of Bahrain domestically or internationally.

I am also fully aware that I only bear 6% of my total educational expenses, about 200 Dinars annually, while the country bears 94% of my total educational expenses, about 4000 Dinars annually. Based on this, I acknowledge that not signing this document means I do not wish to continue my education at the University of Bahrain. If I do sign, I fully understand that if I commit any action that contradicts any of the provisions of this document, the administration of the University of Bahrain will have the right to take any disciplinary action they deem suitable against me including and up to final and immediate suspension from the University of Bahrain."

An 18-year-old Shiite student at the univesrity who asked not to be named for fear he might face arrest or punishment for speaking out, said he was asked to sign the pledge Tuesday. He talked with Babylon & Beyond on Wednesday about what he plans to do.

Q: What will happen if you do not sign the pledge?

A: The boss of the university, he told all of us you have to sign it or you can’t study here.

Q: What are you studying?

A: Banking and finance.

Q: Did you sign it?

A: I have not signed it yet, but I have tomorrow to sign it or they will kick me out of the university.

Q: What does your family say?

A: My family wants me to sign it. There are no other universities who will accept me if they kick me out.

Q: What happens if you do not sign it?

A: If we decide to not sign it, they call us to go to the police station and we can’t get out from there except if we sign it. That has happened to some other students, they were at the police station seven hours until they signed, then they told them to go.

Q: Did you participate in the anti-government protests in February?

A: yes, I was at the (Pearl Square) roundabout.

Q: Did you have any trouble with the university after that, or for posting anti-government information on Facebook or Twitter?

A: No.

Q: What happens if you sign it?

A: After you sign it, you can’t talk about the king or anything about the government. In the library you can't use computers for anything against the government. You can’t even talk about it. They put cameras in there to see and hear anybody who talks about the government. They want to show the world that the students are with the government. We are forced to accept this because we want to study and we want to work.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: Alleged copy of pledge students say they were forced to sign this week demonstrating their allegiance to the monarchy in the gulf state of Bahrain and promising not to speak out against the government. Credit: UOB Leaks