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Bahraini rights activist Nabeel Rajab honoured with Ion Ratiu Democracy Award

Nabeel Rajab
Nabeel Rajab

Kristina Stockwood

As president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and one of the country's leading rights activists, Nabeel Rajab has been closely monitored by the government, barred from leaving the country, beaten and harassed. His family home has been attacked with tear gas and armed invasions. One night, while he slept, dozens of masked gunmen stormed his house and abducted him, then drove him around in a vehicle all night and assaulted him - before returning him home. The Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington is honouring Rajab with this year's Ion Ratiu Democracy Award (IRDA) to give international recognition to his courageous fight for democracy in Bahrain.

Rajab is one of the few rights defenders who has not been imprisoned or gone into hiding. In June, he was being investigated for posting photos on Twitter of alleged torture that resulted in the death of a prisoner.

According to the Wilson Center, "As one of the founders of the human rights movement in Bahrain… [Nabeel has] worked tirelessly and at considerable personal peril to advance the cause of democratic freedoms and civil rights of Bahraini citizens."

The Ion Ratiu Democracy Award was established in 2005 in order to recognise the ideas, ideals and accomplishments of democracy activists around the world. Rajab has been invited to Washington, D.C., for one month to have an opportunity to engage with representatives of Washington's policy, NGO and academic communities. He will also participate in a symposium given in his honour at the Wilson Center at the end of the year.

Ion Ratiu (1917-2000) was a Romanian politician who had a deep interest in democratic change worldwide. He was one of the most outspoken voices of opposition to Nicolae Ceausescu, whose regime he opposed for years from London as the democratically elected leader of the World Union of Free Romanians. After 50 years in exile he returned to Romania in 1990 to contest the presidency, became a member of the Romanian Parliament, and later served as both Deputy Speaker of the Chamber of Deputies as well as Romania's roving ambassador to NATO.

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