July 28, 2011
Widener President Urged to Press for Bahraini Alumna’s Release
Chester, Pa. – Human Rights First today urged Widener University President Dr. James T. Harris III to call on the United States and Bahraini governments to free an alumna who remains in captivity following the Bahraini Government’s violent crackdown against pro-democracy activists. Roula al-Saffar, who received a master’s degree from Widener University in the late 1990’s and is now head of the Bahrain Nursing Society, is the only female medic still held in detention since Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa launched a series of brutal measures to silence dissent, including widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. She has been in captivity for more than 100 days. A letter sent to President Harris from Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who recently returned from a mission Bahrain that included a meeting with al-Saffar’s family, notes, “We are asking you to contact the Bahraini Government (there is an embassy in Washington, DC) to ask for her immediate release, and to urge them to release all detainees who are still being held for exercising their legitimate right to freedom of expression during protests earlier this year. We also urge you to contact the U.S. Government to ask that it intercede with the Bahraini authorities to ask that she be released and charges against her dropped, or that she be given a trial which meets international standards.” Earlier this month, Human Rights First issued “Bahrain: A Tortuous Process,” a report based on research conducted by Dooley during his second fact-finding mission to Bahrain from July 6 -12. In May, the organization issued “Bahrain: Speaking Softly,” a report capturing the findings of Dooley’s May 2011 trip to the region, his first since the Bahraini Government’s violent anti-democracy crackdown began. Both reports contain a series of recommendations for the U.S. Government and its officials, as well as for the Bahraini leadership.