Saturday, April 1, 2023
Bahrain: Mariam al-Khawaja Pulls out of UNESCO Conference E-mail

Bahrain human rights defender Mariam al-Khawaja pulled out of a UNESCO human rights conference that is honoring her father, political prisoner Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, because the same event is honoring "Israeli" President Shimon Peres.

Mariam al-Khawaja was scheduled to speak in her father's place at the 13th Annual UNESCO Chair & Institute of Comparative Human Rights Conference at the University of Connecticut on 23 October, titled "Legacies of Human Rights Leadership And Struggles."

"Whilst I am honored that you chose my father, I am also utterly disappointed that you would honor him alongside a person who has been responsible for many human rights violations and should be put on trial, not honored," al-Khawaja wrote in an open letter to UNESCO, announcing her withdrawal.

In parallel, Mariam al-Khawaja objected strongly to the inclusion of Peres in this category along with her father.

"My father always says that when it comes to human rights, there is no grey area, you both stand for human rights everywhere and against perpetrators of human rights violations or you do not," al-Khawaja wrote.

She also concluded: "Without any disrespect intended to your esteemed organization, and the important work you do around the world, as a human rights defender I must respectfully withdraw from this event as I cannot allow myself to take part in legitimizing a person who should be tried for human rights violations, not honored."

Moreover, the human rights defender attached a list of the human rights violations and war crimes in which Peres is directly implicated, including the 1996 "Operation Grapes of Wrath" invasion of Lebanon while Peres was prime minister.

Among the most notorious incidents during that attack, which caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes, was the "Israeli" shelling of the UN base at Qana killing more than 100 Lebanese refugees, mostly children and women.