Sumaya Rajab: Open letter to Congress from the wife of a detained Bahraini human-rights activist

Dear Members of the United States Congress,

I am writing to you regarding the case of my husband, Bahraini human-rights defender and pro-democracy activist Nabeel Rajab. As you may know, on July 9, Nabeel was sentenced to three months in prison for an “insulting” tweet that he wrote, and on Aug. 16, he was sentenced to a further three years for participating in so-called “illegal gatherings.”

On Aug. 17, the U.S. Department of State expressed concern regarding Nabeel’s sentence, stating: “We believe that all people have a fundamental right to participate in peaceful acts of protest. We have repeatedly urged the government of Bahrain to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society, and to begin a meaningful dialogue with the political opposition and civil society. Excessive punishment for peaceful expression — in this case and others — will not contribute to those efforts and only serves to divide Bahraini society further.”

I am calling on you to request that the United States exert all possible influence in order to see that Bahrain fulfills its commitment to reforms (specifically reforms regarding freedom of speech and the right to peaceable assembly), and that authorities release my husband, and all prisoners of conscience. Specifically, I am asking you to press the Obama administration to take action above and beyond issuing a statement — the time for statements of concern, unfortunately, is long past.

I do greatly appreciate that 19 members of Congress recently wrote to King Hamad requesting that authorities free Nabeel. I am hoping, due to the severity of the recent sentence, that dozens of additional members of Congress will add their voice to such a call. Additionally, I urge you to call on the administration to halt any additional military sales to Bahrain until Nabeel is freed.

The U.S. government had repeatedly expressed great concern about the recent use of violence from protesters in Bahrain. I am confident that the esteemed Members of Congress realize that when the Bahraini government incarcerates an influential man, such as my husband, who publicly and powerfully calls for nonviolence, the prospects for violence only escalate.

It is in the interest of all who seek a nonviolent and just resolution of the impasse in Bahrain to press the Bahraini government to free my husband, Nabeel Rajab.

I thank you in advance for your attention to this critical matter.

Respectfully yours,

Sumaya Rajab

On behalf of the Rajab family