Human Rights In the Gulf Region and Neighbouring Countries in the Face of Lockdowns and more Layers of Restrictions



I. Executive Summary 

The goal of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is to create a safer environment and offer support to human rights defenders (HRDs) – including independent lawyers, academics, journalists and online activists – across the Gulf region and neighbouring countries. In 2020, GCHR issued 107 appeals, statements and updates on the cases of 321 individual HRDs at risk from the countries in which it works - Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) such as Egypt. In addition, GCHR covered mass cases of demonstrations suppressed or attacked in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon. 

GCHR provides a bridge from the region to the international community by providing research and appeals, as well as coordinating joint actions with local partners and international allies. In 2020, we worked in coalitions with partner organisations to campaign for the freedom of women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia, GCHR’s Board member Ahmed Mansoor in the UAE, and GCHR’s co-founders Nabeel Rajab and Abdul-Hadi Al-Khawaja in Bahrain. A highlight of 2020 occurred in June when Nabeel Rajab was finally freed from prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence at home. In Iran, Narges Mohammadi was freed from prison, but Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was temporarily freed, was returned to prison the day before being presented with the Right Livelihood award in December. 

In 2020, GCHR published a dozen reports on countries and themes such as civic space, women’s rights and digital rights, including United Nations submissions, in addition to its annual report. In addition, GCHR organises side events during the UN Human Rights Commission, and in 2020, these events were all virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions. GCHR organised many online events throughout the year, including a well-received cultural event The Prisoner and the Pen, and celebrated the International Day to End Impunity and International Human Rights Day at the end of the year in Beirut. 

GCHR provides support and protection for at-risk HRDs and activists, and feminist movements, irrespective of their gender, religious, racial, or social background by enabling them equally to promote their roles as well as equipping them with the needed tools to maintain their work and activism, facilitating their contribution to and engagement with various international mechanisms, while working tirelessly to protect them. In 2020, GCHR facilitated grants to dozens of W/HRDs from across the region, in addition to providing skills in digital security and investigative journalism to over 200 W/HRDs. 

GCHR has a respected advocacy and defence network supporting WHRDs in one of the world’s most complex and challenging environments for human rights, where they face sexual and gender-based violence (GBV), and other threats and ill-treatment specifically as women, in addition to judicial and online harassment, arrests, detention, abduction, kidnapping, torture, enforced disappearances and even death. GCHR fights for women’s rights in the region, specifically in countries such as Iran, where women’s rights activists are jailed for long periods; and Saudi Arabia where women remain in prison for calling for the right to drive, and to live free of control of a male guardian, while highlighting the brave women at the forefront of protests in Lebanon and Iraq, and those impacted the most by atrocities, conflict and more such as Syria and Yemen.

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