SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 30, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment


Region & Country:Western Asia | Bahrain

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 30, 2020, Bahraini authorities arrested historian Jassim Hussein Al-Abbas in connection with a blog that he maintains.

Jassim Hussein Al-Abbas is a researcher who operates a blog and corresponding Instagram account called “Sanawat Al-Jareesh” that is dedicated to publishing articles, primary source documents, and photos related to Bahrain’s ancient and modern history. The website has been described as the most popular historical website in Bahrain, and its Instagram account currently has over a quarter of a million followers. The website has reportedly been the target of several hacking attempts.

In January 2020, Al-Abbas reportedly published a post on Sanawat Al-Jareesh about the history of a Bahraini mosque. On January 30, Bahraini authorities reportedly summoned Al-Abbas for questioning and later arrested him in relation to the post, alleging that it represented an attempt to “spread false information” about a recent historical event which conflicted with “official” information. Authorities ordered Al-Abbas detained for seven days; his blog post was reportedly taken offline shortly thereafter. On February 4, authorities released Al-Abbas. It is unclear whether Al-Abbas faces charges..

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of a scholar in apparent connection to his peaceful exercise of the right to academic freedom and freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from actions intended to restrict or retaliate against such activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.