Q&A: Bahraini activist Nabeel Rajab

Nabeel Rajab has been recently dubbed as ‘the unofficial leader of the February 14th’ democratic Bahraini movement.


He has won the American Ion Raitu Democracy Award and the British Silbury Prize for his activism in human rights. Rajab is the president of Gulf Center of Human Rights which has been at the forefront of disseminating information about human rights abuses in Bahrain and the Gulf region.

SBS talked to Rajab while he was in Lebanon conducting a workshop for journalists and activists from the Gulf region.

Q: What is your assessment of the situation after the Formula 1 Grand Prix was allowed to go ahead?

Conditions are still very shaky. Roads were blocked during the event because of the internal ministry’s crackdown.

There are still imprisonments and detention without specific charges.

Politically, we are constricted and there is no dialogue with Bahraini regime whatsoever.

Q: What has your centre documented most recently?

As you know, we lost recently one of the youth during the latest demonstrations during the F1 Grand Prix.

Live bullets have been used. There were scores injured, the prisoners that we know of all have all been tortured, sexually assaulted, beaten, hung from ceilings for prolonged periods and other brutal acts.

Q: As head of the Gulf Center of Human Rights and a vocal critic of the Bahraini regime, what are you, and other human rights activists, specifically calling for?

I am just one of the people, I try and do my best to relay the message.

We would like a government that is democratically chosen by the people instead of the pre-ordained selection of electoral circles in a biased fashion to suit the regime’s needs. These are basic democratic demands that would see a transition towards constitutional reforms.

Q: Where do you see the revolution heading to now?

This has been one of the longest revolutions in the Arab world to date. We have ample energy.

The regime is funded by Saudi Arabia and the United States and for these powers true democracy to be created destabilizes their interests.

It has won the ‘media war’ because of their constant propaganda and they are collaborating with other Salafi and Wahabi groups to maintain their tyrannical grip on power.

We want true justice and economic rights for all. We cannot express our democratic vision while the government suppresses our freedom of speech.

Q: You are in Lebanon at the moment organizing a workshop for young Gulf journalists and human rights activists, what are you hoping from this event?

We have young activists from different nationalities including Saudi Arabian, Kuwaiti and Bahraini.

What we’re trying to promote with this training from professional journalists is a culture of human rights. It starts with these young people!

WATCH Nabeel Rajab interviewed on BBC World’s HARDTalk program

WATCH Yaara Bou-Melhem’s story for Dateline: Bahrain’s Dark Secret from April 2011.