Abteilung für Presse- und Öffentlichkeitsarbeit
Medieninformation Nr. 102-2020
vom 16. Juli 2020
Viadrina Initiative Engages with Californian Students for Imprisoned Scholar in Bahrain
In order to jointly strengthen the academic freedom and elucidate human rights violations, the student initiative Free Minds Advocacy of the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) is collaborating with a group of students from the University of California in San Diego (USA). Both groups represent the case of the scholar Khalil Al-Halwachi, who was convicted in a politically motivated trial in Bahrain. Khalil Al-Halwachi is held in the Jau Prison in the Kingdom of Bahrain and has been subjected to ill-treatment.
"With this collaboration, we want to raise awareness about the case more intensively in order to build up pressure on the Kingdom of Bahrain for an unconditional release of Mr. Al-Halwachi with the support of the public", explains Zoe Schreiber, Viadrina student and foundress of the student initiative. In their cooperation, Free Minds Advocacy and the student group from San Diego are focusing particularly on the exchange of information. Thanks to Viadrina's international outlook that is also reflected in the team of the student’s initiative, Free Minds Advocacy can further help the American students to translate a Wikipedia page about Khalil Al-Halwachi into five languages (Arabic, French, German, Polish and Russian). In addition, the groups plan to organize an online seminar in late summer this year.
Free Minds Advocacy provides, through its social media channels, up-to-date information about the biography of Khalil Al-Halwachi, the Kingdom of Bahrain and its relationship to Germany, the documented human rights violations and the international reactions to them:
They also started an online petition: http://chng.it/NGrn8tg6vW
Contact to Free Minds Advocacy: Zoe Schreiber (foundress), firstname.lastname@example.org
Background Note on the Initiative
Free Minds Advocacy is a student initiative of the European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), which was founded in the summer semester 2020. It was preceded by a seminar on advocacy work for academic freedom at Viadrina initiated by the non-governmental organization Scholars at Risk (SAR). The goal of Free Minds Advocacy is to advocate for the rights of academics that are being persecuted by governments and other organizations. This also includes the investigation of the historical and social backgrounds of the respective country that lead to the persecution.
The American students have also begun to work on the case of Khalil Al-Halwachi within the framework of a seminar by Scholars at Risk in the winter semester 2019/2020. In order to plan an effective campaign on this case of human rights violations beyond this semester, they founded an informal working group together with their lecturer.
Background of Khalil Al-Halwachi
Khalil Al-Halwachi is a Bahraini scholar, former Professor of Electrical Engineering, father and one of the founders of the Islamic Action Society (AMAL). He was arrested on September 3, 2014, after local police illegally searched his house. After several years of pre-trial detention without a hearing, he was sentenced to ten years in prison for alleged possession of a Kalashnikov. He has been in Jau Prison since March 2017, where prisoners complain about overcrowding, have limited access to medical care and sufficient water.
Khalil Al-Halwachi firmly believes that he was arrested because of his membership in the Islamic Action Society. The organization was one of the main Islamic parties in the Bahraini political opposition and a supporter of the Bahraini revolutionary movement during the Arab Spring. The government responded by arresting the political leaders and disbanding the party.