In a letter to the Bahraini Minister of Culture, Freemuse has protested against the sacking of cultural workers and artists following the popular uprisings in the country in March 2011, which further led to the conviction of hundreds of intellectuals and cultural workers in the country. Although the letter was sent several months ago, the minister has not replied.
In an attempt to quell the uprising, Bahrain’s King invited Saudi and other Gulf troops to Bahrain in March 2011 and called for a three-month state of emergency, or what it termed the ‘National Safety Law’.
Bahrain in recent years has experienced severe cultural conflicts between modernists and traditionalists. The tiny, but rich kingdom has invited several international artists to perform in the country, but there are now several initiatives of advocating a cultural boycott against artistic visits to the country, when these are hosted by the brutal regime.
A group of Bahraini artists and intellectuals recently published a letter to UNESCO Artist for Peace Missa Johnouchi from Japan, who performed in Bahrain at the 20th Bahrain International Music Festival on 15 October 2011.
In the letter they stated that,
“The Ministry of Culture who is hosting your performance now, and supported you in the provision of the opening ceremony of the meeting of the World Heritage Committee at the headquarters of UNESCO, is a partner in this act where six of its employees that are eminent and renowned locally and internationally have been dismissed from their positions at the ministry. One of them is a very well known music artist, the flutist Ahmed Al Ghanem, who has domestic and international posts including the UNESCO. He also held the position of the General Coordinator of the Bahrain International Festival of Music in previous years, as well as the position as Director of Bahrain Music Band.”
In its appeal to the minister earlier this year, Freemuse pointed out the dismissal of Ahmed Al Ghanem and other artists would damage the reputation of the country.
Several international artists are now being advised to protest against the repression and dismissal of their colleagues. It is assumed that several artists will boycott cultural events organised by the state. Human Rights Watch in a report recently said that “Since mid-March 2011 Bahrain has been carrying out a punitive and vindictive campaign of violent repression against its own citizens. This fierce repression has been characterized by widespread arbitrary arrests, credible allegations
of torture and ill-treatment, apparently coerced televised ‘confessions’, unfair trials, and attacks on healthcare professionals and injured protesters, as well as politically-motivated mass dismissals of workers from jobs and students from university.”
Freemuse – 26 October 2011:
‘Open letter calls for support to Bahraini artists’
Human Rights Watch – 5 July 2011:
‘Bahrain’s Human Rights Crisis’
Bahrain Center for Human Rights – home page: