Georgetown University MEPI Student Leader Invited to Speak Before Congress
October 29, 2008 – On October 15, 2008, the Congressional Human Rights Commission and the Congressional Task Force on International Religious Freedom invited four leaders from Bahrain, including Ms. Maryam Al Khawaja (2006 Georgetown MEPI Alumna) to present at a briefing on the "Impact of Political Reform on Religious Freedom in Bahrain." The event was chaired by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA). Ms. Al Khawaja was invited due to her role as the former leader of AIESEC-Bahrain and her efforts to bridge the gap among Shia and Sunni Bahraini youth. AIESEC is the world's largest student organization and acts as the international platform for young people to discover and develop their potential so as to have a positive impact on society. Other presenters included Nabeel Ahmed Rajab, founder and acting chairman of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR); Dr. Abduljaleel Al Singace, assistant professor at the University of Bahrain and co-founder of the Al-Wefaq political society, and Dr. Toby Jones, assistant professor at Rutgers University and former contributor to the International Crisis Group reports on Bahrain. The goal of the briefing was to discuss the state of Bahrain's commitments to human rights and religious freedom. This June, Bahrain was successfully elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, despite this approval by the Council, concern still looms and there is continued criticism of new laws containing provisions that undermine human rights and of the reform measures decreed by King Shaikh Hamad bin 'Isa Al Khalifa in 2001-02. Human Rights Watch has raised questions on the government's sincerity as intra-religious political and social tensions continue to rise. Maryam gave an impassioned account of her life in Bahrain and recounted stories of friends, relatives and strangers who live in a country where as Shiites they are the majority but due to government restrictions have become increasingly marginalized.
To read Maryam's speech in its entirety click here.
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