Exclusive – Interview with Jalila Al Salman

On Sunday the final verdict in the case of Jalila Al Salman and Mahdi Abudeeb, two leaders of the Bahrain Teachers Association, will be heard. Abudeeb, who has been in prison since April 2011 faces up to 10 years behind bars for his support for the 14th February protest movement. His colleague Jalila Al Salman was arrested at the same time but released 5 months later. Under torture she was forced to sign confessions.

Just a day before the final verdict in her case Jalila Alsalman spoke to us about her feelings at the prospect of returning to prison.In a heartfelt interview Jalila tells us her expectations and why she continues to stand up for human rights in Bahrain, even though she knows she can be targeted for it.

BJDM: How are you feeling that this could soon be drawing to an end?  

JS: It is very terrifying to watch the end is coming, but actually I don’t know which end is this. I know it is a temporary end but critical to me and my family. We still have the cassation court which is completely unpredictable after what happened to the medics.

How has your situation over the past 16 months affected you personally? What sort of affect has it had on your family?

Through the whole period a deep change had taken place in my personality. I was activist for more than 10 years, working as dynamo to my society as everyone knows, but never been in first line to take huge and critical decisions alone , that not just affect me but all my colleagues in the education field. I got to be more in touch with teachers, I sent direct messages to them and authorities as well. What they had done to me, made a sharp turn in my life. I felt more responsible since my colleague Mahdi Abudeeb is behind bars. I wanted to defend each and every teacher in Bahrain and help him to find a way that might help him. Of course my all members in my family had been affecting especially my kids who lost rest and forgot the stable life. They are in a great fear of what might happen to me. They are still keeping calling me whenever I am out and keep asking me “are you coming back home mama”. You know they saw everything happened to me during the two arrests , everything was in front of their eyes and under weapons threat. I am not having a normal family life since the first arrest. Neither me nor my parents or kids.

Why do you think the Government has targeted you specifically? We know what they say but do you think there are real reasons?

Mahdi Abudeeb & Jalila Al Salman

The authorities targeted me specifically just because I am the vice president of BTA. I believe deep in my heart that the higher personnel’s in ministry of education including the minister himself want me and Abudeeb to be in prison. The authorities even did not have any genuine evidence against me. Simply because I did nothing wrong. All what they have against me is the confessions extracted from me and others under torture which made them useless by law if they want to obey law, but they didn’t. And now they are still targeting me because of defending human rights and raising our cases everywhere I can. For them I am still a traitor as they always look at me especially after being a member of the Bahraini delegation to Geneva (twice). I was brutally arrested, tortured to extract confessions, forced to sign them, tried in the military court just to take revenge on me as an activists who did her job and believe in the international laws and conventions (the rights of speech and assembly). We –as unionists- should be protected by international laws and conventions. 

I was brutally arrested, tortured to extract confessions, forced to sign them, tried in the military court just to take revenge

The regime has targeted other professionals as well as teachers – doctors, journalists, lawyers – why?

The regime had targeted all professionals to complete their story and to present it in the way they want, but this comes on their heads. Their prisons are full with highly educated persons form different specialist which gives a clear vision about how far this regime is going in the injustice way. No one can believe that thousands of this kind of people is simply traitors as the regime said.

Since your release you have refused to be silenced and continue to speak out – why? Do you worry it will affect your case?

Since my release I chose to speak out about what I faced, what my colleague undergo and this was a reason they arrest me the second time where they didn’t put me in detention centre as before , instead they sent me directly to women prison. There I promise myself to have more courage and to talk more and everywhere if I want to fight the injustice we are facing. Even I knew that this might have a bad effect on my case and my situation in the case, but I can’t stop helping myself as well as others.

What do you think will happen on Sunday? Are you prepared for any outcome?

According to Sunday 21st of October, I really can’t tell what might happen because of the messy shuffling of papers taking place in here. Number of scenarios can be true. Although by law me and my colleague Abudeeb should be announced as innocent persons, uploading the verdicts is possible. I don’t want to go back to jail for doing nothing or just for that some guys want me to be there. Not just for myself but for my kids, my family and all my colleagues in the education field. I want to whisper something into your ear, I really packed my thing for prison. My kids were crying while seeing me doing this. I tried to make them understand but couldn’t. They are just kids in need of their mama. 

I want to whisper something into your ear, I really packed my thing for prison. My kids were crying while seeing me doing this. I tried to make them understand but couldn’t. They are just kids in need of their mama.

BJDM urges you to visit the Amnesty website to sign their statement calling for the charges to be dropped. You can do that here: http://amnesty.org/en/appeals-for-action/JalilaAndMahdi


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