Leaders of teachers’ organisations in the Arab region are outraged by the recent verdict of a Bahraini appeal court in which it sentenced the President of the Bahraini Teachers Association (BTA), Mahdi Abu Deeb, to 5 years imprisonment for taking part in national demonstrations in 2011. The Vice President of BTA, Jalila Al Salman was also found guilty of participating in last year’s uprising. She was sentenced to 6 months in jail. The Arab teacher leaders strongly condemned the verdict as a gross violation of international standards.
They expressed serious concern about increasing suppression of teachers in Bahrain and other Gulf States where democratic change is hampered by the ruling elites. The President of the teachers association of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Issa Alsari, was recently arrested for criticizing the UAE public authorities.
The human and trade union rights situation in the Arab countries was discussed at the first conference of Education International’s Cross Regional Structure for the Arab Region, held on 5-6 November in Beirut. The conference, attended by 26 organizations from 12 countries, decided that international pressure be exerted on the Bahraini authorities. It also called on the governments of Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen to immediately release all teachers who are still kept in jail for having taken part in demonstrations against restrictions of democratic freedoms in their countries.
In her opening statement to the conference EI President Susan Hopgood noted that despite repressive measures teachers’ organisations continue to play an important role in the struggle for freedom and democracy. She also said that democratic and social change requires that every possible effort be made to achieve quality education for all children in the region. Susan Hopgood expressed deep concern about the crisis in Syria and the growing numbers of refugees flowing into neighbouring countries. She called upon the governments of Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey to ensure that the many thousands of refugee children be given the possibility to go to school.
Delegates discussed strategies and programs to strengthen the independent and democratic teachers’ organisations in the region. A Standing Committee was elected that will develop policies and guide Education International’s activities in the Arab countries. The Committee is composed of:
- Taher Zaker (President), SBEB, Tunisia;
- Ghazi AlAnzi, (Vice President), KTS, Kuwait ;
- Batoul Noujjaji, SNE–FDT, Morocco;
- Yahya Alyanai, YTS, Yemen;
- Leila Issad, SNAPEST, Algeria;
- Sadek Dziri, UNPEF, Algeria;
- Nehme Mahfoud, TSL, Lebanon;
- Mohamed Abderahmane Dieh, Mauritania; and
- Lydia Karam, Lebanon.