Open letter the President of the University, as read by over 8,000 Bahrainis

Over the past week over 8,000 Bahrainis have read my open letter to Ebrahim al Janahi, President of the University of Bahrain.  An Arabic version is also posted on this blog. My letter of Tuesday 13th March 2012 is as follows:


I write to you on the first anniversary of the violent incident that took place at the Al Sakhir campus of the University of Bahrain on 13th March 2011. I am writing to you publicly through an open letter because I have written to you personally on several occasions, yet you have not seen fit to reply to me.

I was an eye-witness to events on 13th March 2011 between the hours of 8.00 and 14.00, and made a personal effort to visit different locations that day to get the best possible overview of events that day. Thus, I witnessed events and spoke to faculty, students, security and staff at:

* Building S17, the Department of English Language and Literature

* Building S22, Bahrain Teachers College

* Building S20, the English Language Centre

* The university’s Main Square

* The car park bordered between BTC, DELL, the College of Arts, and the Business College

* The Food Court

* The security office at the main entrance.

I bore witness to these events at some personal risk to myself because reflecting on the situation it became apparent to me that my religious and personal ethics, my duty to my profession and its international standards and ethics, and my duty to my students outweighed my contract obligations to the University of Bahrain.

Accordingly, I probably saw more of events from different perspectives than any other faculty members who were present that day. My eye-witness testimony substantially contradicts the official report submitted to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry by the University of Bahrain. To-date I have given testimony to the BICI, to the re-trial of individuals convicted of offences in connection to 13th March 2011, and a number of international professional associations and learned societies.

My written testimony is supported by documentary and photographic evidence. In summary, my evidence shows that:

* tensions increased on campus for two weeks before the 13th March incident

* rumours of violence against on-campus demonstrations were rife during this period

* the UoB administration made no effort whatsoever to advise, instruct, warn or train faculty members with regard to their responsibilities and accountability in respect to this unprecedented situation

* although unauthorized and disruptive of the university’s everyday activities, the initial demonstration was completely peaceful

* the initial peaceful demonstration consisted mainly of undergraduate young women in their late teens and early twenties

* the first use of violence on campus that day was by pro-regime students who had arrived on campus armed and prepared

* these were reinforced by waves of pro-regime vigilantes who arrived on campus armed with sharp-edged and blunt weapons

* the Interior Ministry riot police actively collaborated with these armed students and outside vigilantes

* male students at first formed a human chain to protect the female students under attack

* these only gradually began to arm themselves with weapons such as sticks defensively in reaction to the violence that had been initiated by the pro-regime students and outsiders

* I personally visited Building S20, and witnessed not “Sunni” but pro-regime “mujannas” students carrying weapons that had been brought into the university with malice aforethought

* in S20 Salafite fanatics were giving highly inflammatory speeches expressing extreme sectarian hatred in a bid to motivate the students there

* anti-regime outsiders did indeed arrive on-campus and committed acts of violence that had no place on a university campus, but this violence too was in response to violence that had already been initiated

* at the main entrance security forces in and out of uniform openly collaborated with thugs armed with weapons such as axes, spears, and swords

I have strong reason to believe that in sentences handed down in response to the events of 13th March 2011 justice was not served and people were punished unevenhandedly: sentences handed down were excessive; pro-regime students and outsiders against whom there is strong evidence that they have gone unpunished; I have evidence that students who were eventually allowed to return to university have been subject to intimidation and humiliation upon their return to UoB.

I am not alone in this, as you know, many international professional, learned and accreditation organisations are deeply critical of the actions of the University of Bahrain and the Bahrain Ministry of Education on 13th March 2011 and subsequently. It is therefore my strong belief that the best interests of the academic profession worldwide and educational and scholarly ethics demand that the University of Bahrain is isolated from the international academic community until such time as real, externally verifiable reform has taken place in Bahrain.

This is because the events of 13th March 2011 and the University of Bahrain’s subsequent actions have demonstrated that the university has functioned as an extension of the state security and surveillance apparatus in a way that grossly violates fundamental principles of academic freedom and human rights.

I have personal evidence of how the University of Bahrain functions as an arm of the state rather than as a genuine higher education institution in the form of the 22nd July 2011 letter written to me by the Head of the University of Bahrain’s Legal Office. This letter cites surveillance of my Internet activity as a reason for refusing my letter of resignation from the University of Bahrain of 18th May 2011. This letter is published elsewhere on this blog.

Slanderously, this letter accuses me of “sectarian” and “unauthorised” activity when all I was doing was exercising international norms of academic freedom. Evidence that the University of Bahrain is genuinely committed to reform would be:

* a general amnesty for all those accused of crimes in connection to 13th March

* full and generous compensation for all those who have been suspended or dismissed or who have suffered damage to their reputations as a result of decisions made by the University of Bahrain during 2011

* a public statement of apology from the University of Bahrain

* a thorough change of senior management at the University of Bahrain including, Sir, yourself

Universities worthy of the name are an asset to any country undergoing uncertainty, change and transformation. Sadly, the University of Bahrain is at present a university in name only. The government of Bahrain puts a great deal of emphasis on one particular report, that of the BICI.

Northern Ireland is perhaps the world’s best-studied society in conflict. Decision-makers are able to draw on some 7,000 studies on the conflict over some six decades from a very wide range of academic disciplines including anthropology, economics, history, law, political sciences, psephology, psychology, and sociology.

Some of these studies were commissioned by the UK government, others by other political actors. But many have come from genuinely independent universities. This is powerful evidence of how a free and vibrant higher education sector is an asset to societies in conflict.

Sadly, I cannot imagine how in its current form the University of Bahrain could undertake objective scholarly research on the Bahrain crisis. Indeed, I am not at all sure that there is a critical mass of faculty and administrators at the University of Bahrain as to what such research really is. Rather, it functions as an arm of state power; therefore, the international academic community should shun it.

The steps outlined above might go some way to demonstrating that the University of Bahrain is beginning to understand what a university really is. I therefore strongly recommend it follows them. I will send you a hardcopy of this letter, CCed to other stakeholders, with an additional paragraph outlining what I would consider to be just compensation in my personal case.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Mike Diboll, FHEA

53 thoughts on “Open letter the President of the University, as read by over 8,000 Bahrainis

    • The spelling is “opposition”, actually. With regard to “lies”, Cadet, can you read? I said I had DOCUMENTARY AND PHOTOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE to back up what I said. As for payment, not being a mercenary I do all this pro bono publico, look it up!

    • hahahah, what a joke. Opposition pay money. Ar u stupid or out of ur mind. i think both idiot.

      • Mr. bin ‘Anzi, what can I say, you seem to be in two minds. God know I have not received a fil for this, wa Allahu Akbar!

  1. Thank you so much, you are a true man of honer

    I salute you  

     please ignore pathetic  ppl who wants to cover this crime by accusing  you, That what they normally do, don’t be surprised if some one jumps up and say that Iran is paying you 

    They are good for nothing

  2. thank you sir for telling the truth, something that is forgotton here.
    Allah will give justice to all sooner or later, and pictures do NOT lie

  3. Many thanks for the letter. Can’t thank you enough for bringing up the subject of UOB events for everyone to see/read. As you may have noticed already, the trolls are after anyone who begins to tell parts of the truth.

    Thank you again & best of luck.

    • To hell with the trolls. They (or some of them at least) are part of a campaign co-ordinated by PR companies, and it shows. Several people are studying their activities from the safety of the UK, and when stuff is published on them, it;ll make interesting reading….

  4. How great u r don’t care as emam Ali said (don be afraid while u r walking in the truth way cause it’s empty of people)

    • I am a British academic who is an ex-employee of the University of Bahrain and the BTC. While I am sympathetic to some of the opposition demands, I have no formal connection with any of the opposition movements, and receive no payment whatsoever for what i write on this blog.

  5. Thank you very much for this fact artecale.I don’t think you will get any answer from UOB.or any one from there side.

    • Because like all bullies they are cowards. If I get no reply, I’ll simply intensify my campaign. Higher education exists in a global context….

  6. Pingback: European Parliament Urges Bahrain to End Violence | Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)

  7. today i saw a shameless person if u donot know him just look at mirror.. shame on you that’s all i can say in your effort…

    • “Basic thing”: the shame is on the people who turn a university into an instrument of state oppression…..

  8. God bless you 😉
    I’ve been hearing a lot about you for years now, you are everything they told me you’d be.
    A noble, pure soul in today’s devilish world.

    Humanity is proud of you 🙂

  9. This is a clear factual, objective account. The many photographs and videos support this account. I doubt you will receive an apology because those who are in the wrong cover their conscience with spite, hate and ever increasingly risible & even scatological outbursts rather then loo to their own souls and consciences.

  10. Thanks very much. Our world is in a critical need for people like you. For people who are ready to offer their personal interests as victims, irrespecive of what hight in value they (i.e. interests) may reach, in order for justice to prevail.

  11. Hi Mike, many thanks for your letter.I did my pg studies in the Uk and in many cases profs dont believe idiot bah. gov practices and thought i was trying to make of it when i discussed such issues. I do reckon that scholars should now start to explore critically the stiupidty of the regiem and bit that hell of theises, articles and books can be writen! UoB is not equal in value to a kindergarten! Mismanaged by thick thugs!

    • Too true; it was never particularly good in the first place, I always thought the students at UoB were very badly served by the shoddy goods UoB provided. A pity, I’ve worked in Egypt, the UAE, the USA and the UK, and on the whole the Bahraini students were the best I’ve worked with. Pity about the crap system. The UoB crossed a line on 13th March, from being a 3rd rate university to a 1st rate instrument of state repression. The international higher of education community should have nothing to do with it until real change has happened, beginning with the sacking of Janahi, Bastaki and the rest, and the compensation of students who have suffered because of UoB. As for the academic study of regimes such as Bahrain, and the struggles of the peoples who live under them, this is EXACTLY how I intend to rebuild my career now I’m back home in the UK. Like I said, it’s only just begun….

  12. Thank you doctor to serve our issue
    we all proud of you

    They are laughing, simply because they didn’t suffer.

    God’s curse upon them

  13. Your letter has been translated and i’ll post it in my twitter blog if you don’t mind, just like the english version you wrote, 

    Please be carful with trusting people that might send you a translated copy as it might carry a different meanings.

    The gov and supporters have done the same for the BICI arabic copy which was translated to english inaccurately to give a different picture of the original arabic version which was very much miss leading 

    If you like I can send you a copy of the translated letter, which you can cross check it with an arab person that you trust

    My greetings to you dear dr.


      • I think that’s right, generally. That said, there are sections of the English language BICI report which read as is they had been originally written in Arabic, then translated into English. The report is after all the work of several authors….

  14. Dear dr. Mike

    You can find the arabic version of your letter on the following like is my blog at twitter via twitlonger

    اعزائي ستجدون النسخة المترجمة باللغة العربية في الرابط اعلاه


    Best regards,

  15. Dear Dr. Mike,

    The dictators of Bahrain are paying millions to PR companies to fabricate lies and improve their image. Thanks for great people, real academics like you, democracy and freedom will prevail in Bahrain.

    Thank you and bless you 🙂


    • Thank you so much, Ali. You’re right, the regime’s PR war is about FABRICATION, i.e. making up things that aren’t true. None of it is particularly clever, in that it’s easily contested at an intellectual level; but there is a lot of it, and it’s been cleverly managed ever since Western PR firms got involved. There’s not much the regime can do to stop the truth eventually leaking out, but PR buys them time….

  16. Thanks a lot for your comments and recommendations to UOB administration. Do you think, this letter and other similar evidence can be used to align UoB or make the university better? Maybe by reporting to any international governing body.

    Best regards,

    • I don’t think the UoB can reform itself, rather meaningful reform in higher education in Bahrain can only happen once more fundamental political and social reforms have taken place first, I’m thinking about political legitimacy, democratisation, open society, human and civil rights, equal oportunity, &ct.

      Another prerequisite for meaningful HE reform would to be to replace all the senior management of the UoB: it’s hard to imagine an incident like 13th March happening in my native UK, but if it did people like Janahi and Bastaki certainly would have been sacked, and could well face criminal charges.

      My mission is to make international professional bodies aware of what needs to be done, so they don’t end up being used as PR for the regime.

  17. Dear Dr. Mike,
    I was an eye-witness to events also, but in your article you didn’t visit S20B and S20C, were most of the violent actions occurred in front of these building (building S20A were the pro government students were sieged for more than 3 hours, fire extinguisher filled with CO2 gas brought from different buildings were opened inside the building (S20A), the anti government group insist to kill with no mercy the students inside that building, when the students Barricaded in the first floor and block the main entrances with tables and computer monitors, the anti government made a fire to force the students to leave the building to be killed in cold blood (under your eyes if you already were there).
    I agree with you that the current administration failed before, during, and after the crises, and they should leave.
    kind regards

    • Thank you, Barricaded. When I say I visited S20 I mean I was INSIDE the building, not outside. I was there about half an hour before the arrival of the anti-government group from outside of the university. I took photographs and can check the time on the camera.

      What I saw and heard there is exactly as described in my post above. I left when one of the pro-government thugs, of Jordanian origin, judging by the way he spoke, asked me “Are you a Christian?” in the threatening way. I had never had that kind of problem with the protesting students I had visited earlier in the main square.

      After I left S20 I saw the events you described looking at S20 from S22, the roundabout and the carpark, I was about 50 meters distant. I agree with out absolutely about the violence of the anti-government OUTSIDERS were arriving at that time, and I genuinely feared for the safety and lives of the pro-government people who at that time were trapped in S20.

      However, my points are that:

      * the initial demonstration was peaceful
      * this was attacked by armed outsiders who arrived equipped for violence
      * the first use of violence was by the pro-regime faction
      * the limited violence used by the male anti-regime students was ENTIRELY in self-defence
      * although I don’t agree with the violence of the anti-regime outsiders, they were reacting to violence that had already been initiated

      There were anti-regime outsiders who were certainly guilty of serious crimes that day, but there were pro-government outsiders and students who were guilty of exactly the same level of violence who had used violence first. My argument is that a general amnesty for ALL who were involved in violence that day would be a good way of turning a new page. As it is, there has been a de facto amnesty only for the pro-government side.

      As for the university administration, if this had happened in the Uk they CERTAINLY would have been sacked, there would have been an open public inquiry into events, and they would probably be facing criminal charges. The higher a persons’ level of seniority and responsibility in their profession, the more accountable they are before the law. This is a basic principle of international justice, but in Bahrain the opposite seems to apply!

      • “I left when one of the pro-government thugs, of Jordanian origin, judging by the way he spoke, asked me “Are you a Christian?” in the threatening way”

        your words look as you are one of the “Shia’a” (Salafite , Jordanian origin) how can you distinguish between ordinary Suni and Salafite ?! belive me I’m Suni and I hardly recognize them, what makes Jordanian origin differ from Syrian, Iraqi, or Yemeni Origins, or even Bahraini !!!! (same clans exist in Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain even their dress are the same)

        these words only used by Shia’a people who stand against naturalization Arab in Bahrain. In Jordan and Syria there is no discrimination against christian so why did the student asked you in threatening way are you christian?
        your words really criticized you.

      • How do my words “really critricize” me? I don’t understand, Eye-Witness. For your information I am not “one of the Shia’a”, but a middle-aged British academic of ethnically English origin and a Christian who worships in the Anglo-Catholic tradition.

        Your argument seems to be that if “the Shia’a” say something, it can’t be true. Well, my eye-witness testimony supports what very many of the University of Bahrain students who were attacked said, namely that a disproportionate number of people of non-Bahraini origin and Salafites were involved the original attack on the student demonstration.

        Does that mean that all “mujannas” people and all Salafites are bad people? No, of course not. Am I suggesting that all Shia people are good people just because they are Shia? No, of course not. What I am saying is the way these attacks were planned (and they were obviously planned) meant that people of these two groups played a prominent and obvious role in them.

        I said “of Jordanian origin, judging by the way he spoke”, I’m talking about the dialect of Arabic the person used, which strongly suggested his country of origin. If you are claiming that you, as a native speaker of Arabic, can’t make an educated guess as to another person’s country of origin based on that person’s dialect, I simply don’t believe you, the differences are obvious. Remember, I didn’t say he wasn’t a Bahraini passport holder, he might have been I said he sounded as if he was of Jordanian origin.

        How do I know people were Salafites? (a) by the content of the speech that two of them made inside S20, which used typically Salafite arguments, words and phrases, (b) by the very distinctive way they dressed: white thobes trimmed high above the ankle, the style of beard and moustache, the style of headdress and footware. Again, if you say you don’t know what I’m talking about I simply don’t believe you. This style of dress is clearly distinct from the dress of the vast majority of Bahraini Sunnis…..

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