Part 2 of our exclusive interview with resigned MP Jawad Fairouz who in the past 2 years has been imprisoned, tortured, had his nationality revoked and seen other family members suffer.
Part 2 focuses on his time after his imprisonment, including the revoking of his citizenship and spontaneous and unexpected move to London. You can read part 1 here
BJDM: Around September 2012 the Minister of Justice began talking about a dialogue and you were involved as a representative of Al Wefaq, is that correct?
JF: The Minister of Justice contacted Al Wefaq to send a delegate to meet with him, as he was meeting each political society individually at that time. Al Wefaq chose myself and Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Hussain Aldaihi to represent them. In the first meeting it was so clear that they wanted to use these meetings to give the impression to the international community that they were listening to the opposition but in reality it was no dialogue. It was only a PR exercise and the Minister said it should be between the opposition and loyalist political parties, as the problem was between the communities. He said you have to sort it out between each other and we are here to help both sides to end their differences and we are supervisors for this process.
I was so clear and open that they know the basis of this crisis is between them, how they run the country politically, economically, services and everything else, and the people of Bahrain. But they tried to create a false idea that the crisis is between the communities, either loyalist and opposition or Sunni and Shi’ite. I told him this is a lie you have made and one you want the international community, the media and the people to believe. I made clear that this was not the right process to lead to a solution to the crisis.
We are ready to sit with the other political societies but that in it self is not a true dialogue and the right way is for the loyalists, the opposition and the ruling family to sit down together and to find common ground.
BJDM: Do you find it strange that one minute you are talking with the regime and the next minute they are targeting you again?
JF: From the beginning they were not happy with me, the regime was not happy. They tried their best to stop me from winning a seat for a second term in 2010 but they failed and I always used to hear messages from Ministers that high ranking personnel in the royal family hate Jawad Fairooz, which they implemented by detaining me, torturing me and so on. But Al Wefaq imposed me on them by chosing me to represent them with the Minister of Justice in the first meeting and for the second meeting they sent a message to Al Wefaq to say your delegate should not be Jawad Fairooz! It was so funny to see how they can try to dictate to Al Wefaq who they should chose and of course Al Wefaq rejected this and chose me again.
They have targeted me for so many reasons but this time it was clear they didn’t want me at dialogue as they knew I speak very directly against the Government. But even in the first round of dialogue in July 2011 Al Wefaq put me as a member of the dialogue team, even though I was in jail. They used my name, my photo and seat making it clear that Al Wefaq relied on me. But it reflects the mentality of the regime that can easily revoke the citizenship and take to jail those who are agreed to have meetings with them on serious issues. In short the ruling family don’t want anyone to say no to them and if someone does they won’t forget it and punish you for it.
BJDM: In part 1 you told us that you had decided to come to London after hearing that the verdict of your appeal was brought forward. Did you know at this time that they were preparing to revoke your nationality?
JF: No I didn’t know. I left Bahrain late on 5th November and arrived early morning on 6th. It was in the late evening of that same day that they announced it, on my first day in London. I had left Bahrain not happy to be leaving, as my first choice was to stay and face whatever they wanted to do to me. But at no point did it occur to me that they would try to deport me or revoke my nationality because my court charges were related to only minor issues that could carry only a maximum of 3 years in jail. Although some of my colleagues did say to me they might go further but there is nothing in the law or constitution to give them that power, without any evidence, and I was so confident that I had done nothing wrong. I thought I had already been in the hands of the National Security Authority, they had interrogated me for 45 days and found no grounds for such a high punishment. So really I ruled out that they could do any major punishment on me, so when I left Bahrain although I was confused, I was so clear that I was only going to be away for a few days to hear the verdict before going back.
BJDM: So when you found out your nationality had been revoked what was your immediate reaction?
JF: It was a big shock and I had a mixture of feelings. First of all I was so sad and angry at how dare they go to such an extreme measure without any evidence or reason. I tried to revise all my movements, even from birth, to think what had I done to warrant such a punishment!
Secondly I felt happy that from this move I would win, not personally, but for the people. I thought this would be enough evidence to show the world what kind of regime this is, no rationality, no logic, no rule of law, they did not even use their already biased courts to decide this and I knew from the beginning that in this battle I would be the winner. From this moment I said to myself that I have to be so open with the media to challenge them and the next day I went to Twitter and said that whatever is Gods’ plan for me I am happy to face it, I am so proud of what I have done as a service to the country and I posted a link to my campaign booklet for the 2010 election outlining all of my achievements and services to Bahrain.
BJDM: But didn’t Bahrain’s Foreign Minister also tweet, saying that those who had their nationalities revoked had offered no service to Bahrain?
JF: Yes he did say that we had done nothing for the country.
BJDM: How did it make you feel to see your Foreign Minister telling the world that despite all your services to Bahrain, you had done nothing?
JF: I knew that the regime just wanted to convince itself that what it had done was fair and right, but I was so happy to get many replies from people showing support and mocking the Ministers tweet. They all told me that they are sure I will be back to my land and they are proud of me. This gave me a lot of strength and when I heard this I knew the victory would come and one day I would go back.
BJDM: So they never told you why your name specifically was on the list?
JF: Not at all. And frequently I challenged them and tell reporters to go and ask them as I am ready to hear whatever evidence they have against me and I’m sure they don’t have any. Until now they didn’t show any evidence. Amnesty International, a delegation from the European Parliament, and the Inter-Parliamentary Union have all pressed the regime on why they did this but they have never answered specifically about me. They say that some have dual nationalities and some have been out of the country a long time, but neither case applies to me.
BJDM: We’ve discussed why you personally have been targeted, but why do this to you? Why revoke your nationality, surely they could have just put you in jail?
JF: There’s a few reasons. Firstly if I’m in jail I will be seen as a hero to the people and in they have already tried that and realized it didn’t work as after I was free I continued to be vocal and active. In a way they gave me a lesson and I refused to learn from it!
Secondly I think they wanted me to be away from the decision-making in Al Wefaq but this is wrong. Al Wefaq is not based on the idea of one person, it is a system and even now I am in regular contact with my colleagues, discussing different ideas.
Thirdly I think they didn’t realize that I would be out of Bahrain so easily. I think they wanted to trap me inside Bahrain, without a citizenship, which would mean a loss of all rights to be politically active. It would make me stay shut up for the rest of my life and luckily I surprised them by being outside of the country at the time, giving me more momentum and freedom to continue the struggle.
BJDM: Do you think this has backfired on them?
JF: Yes in some ways. I gained a lot of favourable media coverage for the peoples cause and caused a lot of embarrassment to the regime by speaking openly to the media. At the end I don’t think they know who is Jawad Fairooz yet. I am ready to struggle for the cause regardless of where I am or the pressure they apply on me.
BJDM: Your brother Jalal was on the list too. He wasn’t an MP after 2010, so why do you think his name was there? Are they punishing you twice?
JF: No I think they are punishing him and our family as a whole, because we are considered to be from the sector of the community originally with Iranian roots, which they want to punish in general. During his period as an MP Jalal was a very loud voice in Parliament and he annoyed them a lot. He continued to play an active role after the uprising, speaking to media and defending the people, being brave to stand up even when he was not an MP. The difference between us is that I was detained and put in jail, but this is not a major issue. It is more about what he is thinking and how he is acting and even now he is continuing the struggle and doing so much.
BJDM: In some respects has it helped to have your brother with you at this time?
JF: Yes definitely. Having one of your family members going through the same predicament eases so many things. At the same time you can work together to double your efforts and from the first day we have been a good combination, answering lots of questions and going to lots of places either together or individually. At the same time having so much in common it deepens our understanding of the oppression imposed on us.
BJDM: Can you also tell us what happened recently to your elder brother Jamsheer?
JF: My elder brother was active a long time ago mainly in social issues and many times he was outside of Bahrain with the authorities chasing him. He was detained for the first time in the 80s and again in the 90s. In August 2010 his eldest son was detained and badly tortured, showing that he would be chased in many different ways. They fabricated a lot of stories against him to do with ethical issues, then they tried to put him in jail for a long time.
He preferred to be away because of this and he went to UAE, so the regime kept quiet about him but the more our family became a problem for them, the more they targeted him. I think they thought they could put more pressure on me and Jalal by detaining him and on 13th January he suddenly disappeared. We were searching for him everywhere, trying to get hold of him but we heard nothing. Then just less than a week after we began to apply real pressure by speaking to the media, the Ministry of Interior tweeted that he had been handed over to them by UAE. But his meeting with his wife and family members clearly indicated that he had been tortured badly for at least 2 weeks.
My name and my brothers name came up in his interrogations before he was handed to Bahrain. He is now in jail in Bahrain, sentenced to one year, but at least we can feel a bit calmer in knowing that he is alive and knowing where he is. But it all gives a clear indication that the ruling family is targeting our family for being with the opposition and demanding a serious reform through peaceful means.
BJDM: Are you concerned about further attacks on your family?
JF: Anything is possible. It’s hard to perceive how the hardliners think but it will not affect us at all. We have paid our price for our political opinions and this is the path we selected; to be with the people and defend their rights. We are ready for all consequences that can give to us but at the end it will not lead to a good result for them. The best thing the regime can do is to listen to the people and stop the human rights violations. Ultimately it is not about Jawad Fairooz as a person or our family but it is about the people of Bahrain and their demands for true freedom and democracy.
BJDM: Do you intend to go back to Bahrain?
JF: I was born there and it is my country. This is where I was raised and I always felt so excited to be where I was born in Manama or to walk past Salmaniya Medical Complex, the hospital I was born in. I miss all of that and nowhere will ever be like home to me but I can only go back if there is a new era with real changes. The current situation will not help me to make any changes if I’m inside because of the restrictions that will be placed upon me, either in prison or in other ways. I prefer to be away and serve my duty and continue the struggle until we get our rights but whenever I get a good chance to return, I will return.
BJDM: Did these attacks on you and your family ever make you think you should just stop?
JF: I am now reaching 51 years old, if I didn’t stop when I was 35 or 30 what is left from my life to make me stop now? I have chosen this path because it is core to my beliefs that I hold deeply and because it is the path of justice. To live life without principles is meaningless. If I stop that means I should go to the grave. I will never stop until I get what I want, not as an individual, but as a representative of the people. For the rest of my life I will continue this way.