Martial Law in the Education Sector

Martial Law in the Education Sector

On 25 June 1995, the Bahraini cabinet resigned after 20 years in power. Many though something will change. In fact, all members of the ruling family controlling all key ministries were re-appointed in the cabinet. Four ministers were replaced with others to consolidate future oppressive measures. The worst change was that of the Ministry of Education.

The Al-Khalifa ruling family realised that the former Minister of Education, the former President of Bahrain University and key officials were reluctant to allow the entry of riot police and intelligence officers to the university and other schools for crushing the mass students’ demonstration. The latter were significant because the university and schools contain all sections of the society and hence any protest activity can not be portrayed as pertaining to certain ethnic, sect or group. Moreover, when students joined the popular uprising, the government knew that other people in business and employment were on the brink of joining a nation-wide protest.

Hence, on 25 June, the ruling family militarised the educational sector. An unknown military man, Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Fadhel was appointed as Minister of Education. Later on, another military man, Mohammed Al-Ghatam, was installed as President of Bahrain. Several other military men we appointed to key schools and posts. Both military men, Al-Fadhel and Al-Ghatam, were charged with implementing martial laws in the Ministry of Education and Bahrain University. Since assuming these key positions, both the Ministry of Education and Bahrain University became part of a military establishment with rules and regulation inhibiting and undermining the nature of research and scientific institutions.


  • On 18 May 1995: the ministry of education sacked Ashwaq Hashim, a lecturer at the University of Bahrain with a Master Degree. She witnessed the attack on the University that took place on 1 April 1995. Several students were injured and she rushed to help out. The interior ministry ordered the university to expel her from the teaching staff.

To reinforce martial law in the education sector, both military men went on the rampage changing key positions, issuing orders and dismissing pro-democracy activists. Two notable cases became national issues: the dismissal of Ms. Hussa Abdulla Al-Kumeiri and Dr. Monira Fakhroo.

Hussa Al-Khumeiri wrote to the military man protesting against her dismissal. He replied on 29 August stating the following:

“Miss Hussa Abdulla Al-Khumeiri, Greetings..

With reference to your letter of 4 July 1995, and as a follow-up to an earlier letter from the Ministry (of Education) dated 24 June 1995, we inform you that the decision to dismiss you was based on your participation in subversive political activities affecting state security. In accordance with Civl Service Rules 471/1987 relating to disciplinary actions, the punishment to what you did was the dismissal from your first act of violation. You were verbally and frequently requested to amend your violation by writing an official appology. You had refused to do so despite the fact that you were told that wou would be dismissed from employment. Bearing in mind that you were given ample time to decide starting from the first time you were contacted on 31 May 1995 to the date of dismissal on 24 June. This period is in exceeds the period stated in the rules which gives five days only.

Signed by: Abdul Aziz Mohammed Al-Fadhel, Minister of Education

Hussa participated in a petition signed by Women of Bahrain addressed to the Amir and protesting against human rights violations and calling for the reinstatement of the rule of constitutional law. Another leading woman, Aziza Al-Bassam was sacked from Bahrain Radio. The most prominent of all is the case of Dr. Monira Fakhroo, Associate Professor of Sociology at Bahrain University.

Monira delivered a paper in Italy on the uprising in Bahrain. When She returned to Bahrain, another military man was already in place to implement martial law. On 30 September and few days after his appointment, Mohammed Al-Ghatam wrote the following latter to Monira:

Dear Dr. Monira Ahmad Fakhroo, College of Literature, General Studies Section


I emphasise that you had been told by the Head of the Faculty to cease working at the General Studies Section of the Faculty of Literature. I regret to inform you that it has been decided to stop your work at the University of Bahrain from October 1, 1995, until the issue is decided.

Signed by: Dr. Mohammed bin Jasim Al-Ghatam, President of the University

On 7 October, the military officer went further and issued the following memo (full of woeful sentences) to all university staff banning freedom of expression and stating the following:

To: All President’s deputies, heads of faculties and executive officials Greeting

It is very important that the University handles the media of all forms, the written, viewed (TV etc..) and listened to (radio etc..) in an objective and settled way that is based on fixed facts, confirmed events and reliable information so that the status of university is exhibted accurately and impartially.

Since such objective can not be achieved because of the multiplicity of ways to deal with the media that may cause the un-intentional incorrect quoting of a member of the university staff, which might be inaccurate sometimes or might be taken out of its context, and which may harm the interest of both, the university and the media.

And because we value the role of the media, especially the national media, and because we respect its role while serving the homeland and citizen, and because we value their concern that reporting must be comprehensive and accurate, because of all of these considerations which are vital for the university… and to enable the lecturing collegues and other officials to present their achivement in the proper way…and to respect the mission of the media and the distinguished role of the local press in supporting the development process..and to facilitate its (local press) work .. that we have all to cooperate to succeed in this and to provide necessary information for that success… hence you have to remind the heads of scientific sections and the lecturing staff in your faculties and departments the necessity of abiding by the following criteria:

1. All lecturers and executive employees must not have any direct contact with the press and media whether local or foreign.

2. If a member of the lecturing staff has something to pass to the press or media, either by his/her initiative or being requested by others, he/she must prepare the contents in writing to be then passed to his/her senior and the latter will submit to the head of the faculty who will forward it to the concerned direction in co-ordination with the public relations department.

3. The participation in seminars, meetings, conferences, etc.., local or foreign, must have prior permission from the heads of faculties and from the presidency of the university, even if the participation was not funded by the university.

I hope sincerely that we all cooperate to reach the desired goal in exhibiting the honoured picture of the university and to consolidate our partnership with the media, especially the local press which we value most and which we are proud of its follow-up of our young university life.

Signed by: Mohammed bin Jasim Al-Ghatam, President of the University

The Bahraini government is obviously desperate to control the education sector by imposing martial laws, but the people of Bahrain have by now reached an advanced stage and can not be halted.


1 September 1996: The military officer implemented a sectarian policy aimed at preventing Shia students from entering the university, even if their success rates (in the high/secondary school) is higher than 90 or 95%. As a shameless fascist, he stated to the local media “the selection of the successful applicant was made through an advanced computer programme!!!”.. that was “subject to criteria and standards in the light of labour market requirements, development plans and the university maximum capacity in certain specialisation”. The military fascist ordered the removal of names of student to camouflage the types of names of rejected student, all of whom were Shia with high rates of success.

The US State Dept Report for human rights abuses in Bahrain for the year 1996 stated:

“In 1996 the Government introduced a new university admissions policy that appears to favor Sunnis and others who pose no question of loyalty and security, rather than focusing only on professional experience and academic qualifications. This policy was accompanied by a major shake-up in the university’s administration that removed many Shi’a from senior-level positions….


14 January 1997, the Amir issued a decree reorganizing the education ministry, which is run by a military officer since June 1995. This is part of the policy of the ruling family to further militarize the country and transform Bahrain into a country led by military and security officers.


February 1997: The International PEN Women Writers Committee (IPWWC) sent a letter of protest to the military officer imposed on the University of Bahrain (Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam) stating that the IPWWC “wishes to protest the firing of our Bahrain Colleague Zahra Isa Al-Zira, who was dismissed from her post at the University on January 29 (technically she was asked to resign). She was accused merely of peacefully expressing her opinion”.

Continuing the hate-based policies, the military officer installed as minister of education 9Abdul Aziz Al-Fadhil) ordered the dismissal of 24 teachers. One of the teachers is known to be Abbas Ahmad Abdulla. The minister authorized Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam (the military dictator imposed on the University of Bahrain), to go further in implementing the Al-Khalifa policy of ethnic and sectarian cleansing. Al-Ghatam stated to some of his staff that he “will not feel happy as long as Shia students and lecturers are attending the university”. Since his appointment he relegated all Shia lecturers, removed virtually all Shia senior officers and refused admission of Shia students with more than 90% success marks.

Both military men have dismissed more than 170 citizens from university and high-schools all over the country. Amongst those dismissed from the university were:

Ibrahim Yousif Al-Samahiji, Elect Eng, From Samahij, Jaffer Makki Marhoon, Elect Eng, Nabih Saleh, Ali Ibrahim Mosa Ali, Elect Eng, Tobli, Hussain Ghanem Al-Aradi, Elect Eng, Arad, Mostafa Hasan Ali Salman, Elect Eng, Moharraq, Sadiq Matar, Chem Eng, Dair, Redha Abdulla Khalil Khazwan, Elect Eng, Manama, Bashar Isa Al-Shaer, Architecture, Sar, Ragheb Abdul Rahim Al-Shuwaikh, Architecture, Barbar, Hassan Abdulla Ahmad, Physics, Barbar, Hussain Yousuf Ibrahim, Chem Eng, Bilad al-Qadim, Ali Hassan Al-Aali, Eng, Aali, Ali Hassan Jasim Ahmad, Literature, Bilad al-Qadim, Yasir Saeed Ali, Eng, Basil Abdul Karim, Mech Eng, Sanabis, Ali Al-Sheikh, Science, Karranah, Sakina Salman, 24 years old, mother of a 4-year old daughter, dismissed and in jail since early January 1997. A list of the rest names for the high-school students is available from the BFM.The pro-democracy opposition is determined not to be dragged into this evil trap, and will endeavour to resist and expose these medieval fascists. Mr. Ahmad Al-Shamlan, the pro-democracy leader and lawyer, had warned that those who attempt to play with sectarianism will fail in the same way as those before them who failed to divide the Bahraini nation.

Dismissal of Dr. Al-Zeera & Lack of Academic Freedom in Bahrain

Ref: Middle East Association (MESA) Newsletter, May 1997, Vol 19, No. 2, University of Arizona – Tucson, USA

Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa

The Following letter by the MESA – Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa (CAFMENA) was sent on 18 March 1997 to:

His Highness Shaikh Isa ibn Salman al-Khalifa The Emir of Bahrain The Amiri Court, Rifa’a Palace P. O. Box 555

Manama, Bahrain

The Committee on Academic Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa (CAFMENA) of the Middle East Studies Association is writing to express its deep concern and dismay at the continued violations on the part of Bahraini Government of the rights of the academic communities of the country. The occasion for this letter is the summary dismissal of Prof. Zahra Isa Al-Zeera, assistant professor of Education in the Education Department of Bahrain University, for expressing views that allegedly threaten the security of the state. This case is unfortunately only one example of a whole series of violations and excesses committed against the academic community of Bahrain and against its civilian population, a policy which seems to have been pursued with vigor since 1995.

The situation of deteriorating human rights and academic freedoms in Bahrain is deplorable, especially in view of the outstanding legacy of achievements and academic excellence which the country has always enjoyed in the past. As the pioneer of education (for both males and females) in the Gulf region, with a significant stratum of professionals and academics influencing its cultural and literary life, it is a matter of very great regret that there have been so many reports of limitations on academic freedom. Of particular concern in this context are issues which relate to what seems to be a general policy of repressing academic freedoms, blocking and reducing opportunities for education, and the use of coercive, often excessive, measures against teachers and students.

Our main immediate concern is the military atmosphere that has pervaded the university for the last eighteen months. The administration, faculty and students seem to have become pawns in a process under which the community has been polarized into various sectarian and power alliances, directly and indirectly affecting the educational atmosphere. Through various shakeups and tremors the University personnel has been weeded out, and all those holding dissenting opinions have been demoted, intimidated, or dismissed. While some high ranking officers have found it intolerable to be forced to implement these policies and have resigned, others have been suspended (such as Sheikh Abdul-Latif Al-Mahmoud, 1992-95 and Munira Fakhro, 1995-present), or dismissed as in the recent case of Dr. Al-Zeera.

In this later case, Dr. Al-Zeera was summoned on January 20, 1997 by the President of the University when she was accused of expressing her views on the situation in Bahrain, views considered to be a threat to state security, and she was ordered to resign. When Dr. Al-Zeera resisted the order she was given the choice of forcible dismissal or referral to the Intelligence Department, i.e. arrest and detention. Such cases have created an environment of terror in academic circles, promoting self censorship and acquiescence, and subsequently an unhealthy academic setting. It is significant to note that these acts contravene two articles of the Bahraini Constitution, Article 7(d) which proclaims the inviolability of educational institutions and Article 23 which provides for the “freedom of speech and scientific research.” Furthermore, they also violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which endorses the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Another major academic abuse has been the policy of selective admission to the University. As stated in the US State Department Report on Bahrain for 1996, “…the Government (of Bahrain) introduced a new university admissions policy that appears to favor Sunnis and others who pose no question of loyalty and security, rather than focusing only on professional experience and academic qualifications.” This has been confirmed by victims of policy, which seems to have been carried out by an administration “cleansed” to implement entirely non-academic criteria. At least sixteen university students have been dismissed in the middle of this academic year in conjunction with this policy. all of these male students are in advanced degree programs of engineering and sciences, and they are all Shiis. This policy violates Article 18 of the Bahraini Constitution which calls for “prohibition of discrimination based on religion or belief” as well as the basic human rights of equal treatment for all citizens.

The case of a female University student, Sakina Salman, 24 years, mother of a child and in her last year of a science degree major, deserves special note. This student has been dismissed from the University and arrested early this January. So far she has been denied visits from her family and given no legal assistance, although there have been no formal charges against her and explanation for her arrest. She remains in custody and her case brings forth great concern to her rights and condition, a situation that should be rectified immediately. The general intellectual and academic atmosphere outside the University is not much better.

Between October and December 1996 a wave of dismissals affected at least 24 high school teachers and 60 students. Under the pretext of state security and rooting out agitators, young people are deprived of their education. This will only aggravate the situation, quite apart from the effect of exacerbating frustration and contravening basic human rights. Such collective punishment is illegal, and violates Bahrainis’ legitimate and internationally recognized rights to access to His Highness Shaikh ‘Isa ibn Salman al-Khalifa education. It also contradicts due process when punishment is meted out without legal causes and proofs.

A similar disregard for the basic rights of citizens to free thought and expression is embodied in the case of the poet and author Ali Hassan Yousif. On February 16, 1997 he was arrested following his dismissal from his post in the Ministry of Information. His book “Isharat” which had previously been approved by the above ministry, was belatedly considered a threat to state security. He was accused of alluding in his book to the absence of freedom of thought and expression in Bahrain. As a result, the book was withdrawn, his home ransacked, his family terrorized and he has been interned.

We respectfully request that these abuses of the freedom of academic and intellectual rights of Bahrainis be addressed and rectified immediately. Dr. Al-Zeera’s unjustified and illegal dismissal should be overturned and the military atmosphere lifted from the university and its community of administrators, faulty and students. It is a basic human right to propagate and seek education free from coercion and fear of reprisals. Furthermore, we request that the cases of Sakina Salman and Ali Hassan Yousif be subject to due process and that they have access to their families and lawyers. We also request that all students dismissed from the University and the high schools should be reinstated and their rights to education guaranteed.

  • August 1997: Sources close to the government revealed that the office of the prime minister contacted the Kuwaiti government to demand that no Bahraini be allowed into the Kuwaiti University. The prime minister had in the past demanded that salaries paid to Bahrainis must be capped to a low level decided by the Bahraini ruling family. Similarly, the Saudi Universities were instructed not to offer any place for Bahrainis. This is part of the ethnic cleansing policy adopted by the Al-Khalifa Family inside Bahrain, but is now being extended to outside the country.

31 Auhust 1997: For the second year running, the University of Bahrain has rejected scores of Shia students who had achieved more than 95% pass rate in their secondary (high school) education. The military officer turned into President of the University, Mohammed Jasim Al-Ghatam, is continuing his policy of ethnic cleansing against the Shia community. Similarly, the military officer who was appointed as a Minister of Education recently promoted 58 employees, only six of whom were Shia. Also, out of 18 scholarship for the Master and Ph.D. programmes sponsored outside Bahrain, only 2 were from the Shia community. These figures are indicative that the racist regime is intent on inciting hatred amongst the citizens through diligent discrimination.

Official Discrimination Against the Shia Community through the Distribution of Positions in the University of Bahrain, as on 1 September 1997

Position Sunni Shia Others
President 1
Vice President 2 1
President’s Advisors 2 2
Secretaries 5 3
Presonnel Director 1
Personnel Heads 2
Personnel Secretaries 2
PR Director 1
PR Head 1
PR Secretary 1
Services Director 1
Services Heads 2 1
Services Secretaries 2 1
Finance Director 1
Finance Heads 3
Finance Secretaries 2 1
Purchasing Director 1
Purchasing Heads 2
Purchasing Secretaries 1
Dean of Business & Admin College 1
Dept Heads of Business & Admin College 5
Business & Admin Secretaries 4 1 1
Dean of College of Arts College 1
Dept Heads of Arts College 2 1
Arts Secretaries 5 1 1
Dean of Education College 1
Dept Heads of Education College 4 2
Education Secretaries 4 4
Dean of Science College 1
Dept Heads of Science College 5
Science Secretaries 6 2 1
Dean of Engineering College 1
Dept Heads of Engineering College 5
Engineering Secretaries 4 1
Dean of Scientific Research 1
Scientific Research Secretaries 1 1
Dean of Student affairs 1
Students Affairs directors 7 2
Students Affairs secretaries 4 2
Director of Computer Centre 1
Computer Centre Secretary 1
English Language Centre 1
English Language Secretary 1
Library Heads 6 1
Library Secretaries 1 1
Total = 160 126 25 9
Percentage of total (%) 78.8% 15.6% 5.6%

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