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Bahrain government fires hundreds of employees for political views

More than 100 government employees have been dismissed in recent weeks, joining 2,500 workers – nearly all Shiites – who have been fired since Bahrain's pro-democracy uprising.

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One man who worked for the University of Bahrain says the university told him he was fired because of emails he had forwarded to colleagues that contained articles critical of the government.

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“Is sending an e-mail a crime? It’s a right of expression,” says the man, who did not want to give his name for fear of harming his chances of being reinstated through an appeal. “I have a family, I have kids. Things are difficult without a job.”

One employee recently fired from the Ministry of Municipalities was told he was dismissed for participating in protests at Pearl Square, the focal point of the demonstrations. Another fired University of Bahrain employee said his superiors showed him a photo of himself at Pearl Square. This employee was recently reinstated, and did not want to give his name for fear of losing his job once again.

The total number of public sector firings, which are concentrated in the ministries of Health, Education, and Municipalities, has seen a recent uptick because many employees who were suspended in April or May have recently been notified of their terminations after investigations were completed.

503 workers reinstated

Some workers have been reinstated; the Ministry of Labor said Monday that 503 workers have regained their jobs.

“Persistent efforts have been exerted ... to encourage corporate managements so as to comply with legal criteria and requirements and adopt the right lawful procedures in order to reconcile the outcomes and recommendations of legal teams, ministry and corporate investigation committees as well as to explore any likely difficulties or problems which may still obstruct workers reinstatement to their jobs,” said the Ministry’s statement.

Government officials were unavailable for comment.

The commission shut its office Monday after hundreds of sacked workers gathered there, angry over an article in a local newspaper that reported the head of the commission, respected international war crimes expert Cherif Bassiouni, said he had found no evidence of crimes against humanity during the government’s crackdown. The commission said that hundreds of protesters forced their way into the office, yelling and threatening the staff.

The BICI said in a statement that Bassiouni had made no such determination about crimes against humanity, the commission was still gathering evidence, and that Bassiouni would give no more interviews after “certain media outlets and activists have misrepresented” his comments.

The offending interview, published in Al Ayam newspaper, which has ties to Bahrain’s government, was the second interview given by Bassiouni that raised concern among activists. In a Reuters interview Aug. 8, he praised the cooperation of the Interior Ministry and said his investigation, which had just begun, led him to believe that “there was never a [government] policy of excessive use of force or torture,” a point that activists have heatedly contested. After an uproar, he stated he had not yet come to conclusions.

A bid for the Guinness Book of World Records

Activists say that some Bahrainis are now less likely to go to the commission and report instances of torture or mistreatment they endured.

Others are taking matters into their own hands, forming a group to advocate for the rights of sacked employees. One of the group’s leaders, who asked to remain anonymous for his protection, said the group is collecting resumés of those fired, with plans to submit them to the Guinness Book of World Records to set a record for most workers collectively sacked for political reasons.

“We think that this kind of activity will not only make pressure to return the sacked people, it will also be a spotlight for the issue of Bahrain and what happened after the protests in February and March,” says the group leader. “There are still many kinds of crisis for the people of Bahrain. But maybe nobody cares.”

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