Intervention delivered by SALAM DHR Head of International Relations, Asma Darwish at the European Network on Statelessness’ Annual Conference in Strasbourg, France on the 8th of October 2018

First of all, on behalf of the members of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, thanks you so much for the invitation to your annual conference here in Strasbourg. We share our aims and visions with the European Network on Statelessness, in reaching our goals to raise the issue of statelessness globally, encourage legal and policy development, and promote capacity building activities.

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights was established in November 2013, by a group of activists who were all themselves victims of human rights violations and had been forced in exile under the threat of political punishment of their governments, especially from Kingdom of Bahrain.

Although Bahrain is a tiny island, slightly bigger than Singapore in its size, with 1.5 million of the population, it has had the most dynamic social movement in the region in the past century. The most recently in 2011, where tens of thousands of Bahrainis took the streets in protest against the ruling family’s autocratic rule. The outcome was catastrophic. The authorities reacted to the demands of Bahraini people for democracy by arresting and torturing activists, students, politicians, and journalists, and more crucially, revoking their nationality and forcing them to leave the country.

The chairman of SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights, Jawad Fairooz, was one of those victims. One year after resigning from his second term position as an MP to protest the government’s crackdown on pro-democracy movement, he was stripped of his nationality and rendered stateless. During his exile in the UK in the past 6 years, however, Jawad Fairooz hasn’t given up his hope for change, and established Salam for Democracy and Human Rights to raise the awareness of the international community on what is happening in the other side of the world including this particular issue.

We in SALAM focus on how to find legal advisory support for stateless people and those whose nationality was stripped, and to find donors to support these stateless families financially as they lack funds due to their ineligibility to get a job in Bahrain. We also document the regular harassment that they face and submit reports on the situation to the international human rights bodies. We frequently organize events to focus on this issue – at the UN’s Human Rights Council or in co-ordination with international NGOs, and run a specially designed website for this issue, entitled “Ana Bahraini”, to enhance the public knowledge. We are also trying to convince the UN bodies to assign a special rapporteur for individuals who are having their nationality stripped off them.

Our membership of ENS helps us a lot to bring in our projects to European and international stakeholders like the NGOs, individual governments in Europe as well as the European Parliament, and UNHCR. We successfully held two major conferences in London and Brussel in collaboration with ENS, which were complete successes and got attention from academics, activists, and policy makers.

Despite our enthusiastic efforts, stripping of nationality has not yet gained enough attention as much as it needs, rarely are there condemnations, and no tangible pressure. We deeply hope we can see visible outcomes in the near future by joining efforts in encouraging relevantinternational bodies to investigate this particular issue and publish reports, call for UN Special Rapporteurs’ visit to the country, organize different forms of joint events, and many others.

Thanks a lot.