Home > Centre for the Study of Human Rights > Events > 2017 > 140 Characters: Efforts to Silence Free Expression in the Gulf

140 Characters: Efforts to Silence Free Expression in the Gulf

A panel discussion with two of the Gulf’s most articulate and outspoken activists.

Since 2011, the Gulf states have engaged in a systematic and well-funded assault on free speech to subvert the potentially transformative impact of social media and internet technology. Gulf Cooperation Council rulers’ sweeping campaigns against activists and political dissidents have included threats, intimidation, investigations, prosecution, detention, torture, and withdrawal of citizenship.

In 2016, Human Rights Watch released an interactive website that presented the profiles of 140 Bahraini, Kuwaiti, Omani, Qatari, Saudi, and Emirati social and political rights activists and dissidents and described their struggles to resist government efforts to silence them.

The Centre for the Study of Human Rights welcomes the Human Rights Watch authors of the report to this panel discussion to discuss the crackdown on freedom of expression in the Gulf.  The report "140 Characters” focuses on 140 individuals who spoke out against government abuses and suffered the consequences. The authors will introduce two of the Gulf’s most articulate and outspoken activists, Iyad el-Baghdadi and Maryam al-Khawaja and will examine the issues the report raises.

140 characters

Speaker (s):

Iyad el-Baghdadi, Writer and human rights activist

Maryam al-Khawaja, human rights activist and co-Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR)

Adam Coogle, Saudi Arabia and Jordan Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Nicholas McGeehan, Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates researcher, Human Rights Watch

Chair: Professor Chetan Bhatt, Director, Centre for the Study of Human Rights

Date: Wednesday 8 March, 2017 6.30 pm - 8.00 pm

Venue: NAB 2.04, (New Academic Building)

About the speakers

Iyad el-Baghdadi is a Palestinian writer and activist who was resident in the UAE until May 2014 when Emirati authorities summarily deported him from the country. El-Baghdadi came to prominence in 2011 when he compiled what he called The Arab Tyrant Manual, a series of 80 tweets that satirized the authoritarian response to the Arab uprisings. Although the UAE was rarely the focus of his criticism, on May 1, 2014 immigration officers informed him that he was to be deported from the country. El-Baghdadi spent two weeks in al-Sadr prison before authorities deported him to Malaysia, where authorities granted him provisional refugee status. El-Baghdadi's wife was seven months pregnant with their first child at the time of his deportation. El-Baghdadi continues to tweet, write and blog and has been one of the most influential Arab critics of authoritarianism in the Arab world.  

Maryam al-Khawaja is a Bahraini human rights and pro-democracy activist who is facing 57 charges of defamation for her involvement in a 2014 campaign that named over 50 officials, including senior members of Bahrain’s royal family, allegedly involved in serious human rights violations in Bahrain. Authorities informed of her of these charges, as well as two other charges of insulting the King, upon her arrival in Bahrain in August 2014. She had gone to Bahrain to visit her father, the prominent human rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja, who was on hunger strike at the time, and who is currently serving a life sentence. She left the country shortly after and lives in Denmark. She is the co-director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. 

Adam Coogle is the Saudi Arabia and Jordan researcher at Human Rights Watch and researched and wrote the “140 Characters” report. 

Nicholas McGeehan is the Bahrain, Qatar and United Arab Emirates researcher at Human Rights Watch and assisted in the report’s preparation. 

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSE140GulfCharacters        

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