On July 9, 2012, Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights advocate, was arrested and detained for three months. His crime: insulting Bahrain in a tweet. While incarcerated, he was then sentenced to an additional two years for his involvement in pro-democracy protests.
U.S. ally Bahrain has an abysmal human rights record stretching back to the 1970s that includes torture and imprisonment for political opponents. Whether Rajab will receive a fair appeal trial there is unclear—the government has already denied entry to one defense witness, and key evidence has gone missing from his case file.
Although pro-democracy movements existed in the Arab world long before the birth of Facebook, social media played a crucial role in the Arab uprisings of the past two years. Platforms like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook empowered activists to organize and communicate, even within highly repressive governments. Ironically, it’s also provided new opportunities for these draconian governments to crack down on activists. Rajab is just one of several Bahraini activists who have been imprisoned for their advocacy on social media.
Tragically, Bahrain’s treatment of political dissidents isn’t unique. Right now hundreds of thousands of men and women are being threatened, imprisoned and killed for exercising their right to free speech, something that many of us take for granted.
Support Amnesty International and tell the Bahraini government to free Rajab and stop their harassment of human rights activists. We’re trying to get an additional 1,000 signatures before February 13, the second anniversary of protests in Bahrain. Sign the petition and then share with your friends and family.
Help us reach our goal and tell Bahrain and the world that freedom of expression is worth fighting for!
Callie Spaide is Participant Media’s Manager of Digital Social Action. Before she was changing the world on TakePart.com, she helped nonprofits navigate social media and email fundraising in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles.