In May of 2015, Maharat Foundation and the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) launched the prisoners of conscience campaign in association with IFEX. The campaign seeks to shed light on the many activists and human rights defenders who have been imprisoned across the Arab region simply for expressing their opinions and beliefs.
Every month, a new Arab prisoner of conscience will be spotlighted and their stories will be told. There are many ways that you can get involved to help demand their release, an improvement of their conditions, or at the very least, to let authorities know that these individuals will not be forgotten.
Join us as we make it known around the world that #TheirFreedomIsTheirRight!
This Month's Prisoner: Ayyad al-Harbi
The prisoner of conscience for the month of July is Ayyad al-Harbi. Ayyad is an online journalist based in Kuwait who wrote for Sabr, an independent website that publishes news and commentary. Al-Harbi was known for writing on government corruption, attempts to limit free speech, and the rights of women. He was arrested in November 2013 for allegedly insulting the Kuwaiti Emir through several of his Twitter posts, and faced a separate charge for retweeting a poem by Iraqi poet Ahmed Matar that criticised dictatorship.
In January 2014, Ayyad was sentenced to two years in prison for the crime of “defaming the Emir”. While serving his sentence in the Kuwaiti Central Prison, Ayyad has reportedly been exposed to various forms of abuse. According to Sabr, Ayyad has been bound, physically assaulted, and threatened with transfer to solitary confinement where torture is known to occur.
Ayyad al-Harbi joins more than 160 others who have been unfairly harassed for expressing their criticism of the Emir, an act that has been criminalized in Kuwait in clear violation to the right to freedom of expression and opinion. Reflecting on the trivial and banal nature of his offense, ANHRI and Maharat have labelled Ayyad a “prisoner of reposting”.
Tweet for Ayyad
Help us send a message to the Emir of Kuwait that legitimate criticism on Twitter or any other medium is not a crime using the tweet provided above. Together we will let the authorities know that the world is aware of the mistreatment of Ayyad al-Harbi and strongly condemns his abuse.
Want to do more?
- Send an email to the office of the Kuwaiti Emir ([email protected]) urging the release of Ayyad al-Harbi;
- Post our photo and a message of support for Ayyad on your accounts, blogs or websites;
- Encourage the press in your country to write about Ayyad’s case and follow the prisoner of the month campaign.