Between merely expressing my views on my private Facebook account, and publicly voicing my opinion, is a story of struggle, resistance and hope; one that has changed me for good.
June 13, 2011, marks the day which has changed my life and my perception of the world in many ways. On this date, along with over 60 students, I got a final dismissal letter from Bahrain Polytechnic and was banned from applying to any other university in my country. I wasn’t dismissed because I had low grades, high absent percentage, or because I violated the institute’s code of conduct. In fact, not so long before I was expelled, the Chief Executive Officer of the Polytechnic said publicly during a staff meeting “Eman exemplifies the type of student that Bahrain Polytechnic is endeavoring to produce.”
So why would they dismiss such students?
As bizarre as it may sound, I was expelled because of my pro-democracy posts on my private Facebook account after the regime’s violent crackdown on peaceful protesters. In a country which claims it respects and acknowledges that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, students get dismissed merely because of their political views.
My family and friends tried so hard to convince me to complete my studies abroad, and although studying abroad has always been a dream of mine, at that point in time, it didn’t feel right to me. I didn’t like the idea of being denied from education in my own country and the idea that many of the other students stopped sharing their political views in fear of getting dismissed the same way. For those reasons, I chose to stay and fight to get my right back.
To keep myself focused and motivated, I’ve put four frames on my room’s wall, one for the acceptance letter which I received back in 2010, the other for the dismissal letter, and the other two I kept them empty, one for the reinstatement letter and the other for my graduation certificate. Every night before I go to sleep, I used to look at them and think that the day will come and I’ll fill the empty frames. As I struggled to cope with my suddenly unclear and blurry future, I came to see and understand the world clearer than ever before. And although they have prevented me from attending classes, I’ve learnt greater lessons, ones that cannot be taught but only experienced.
After eight months of struggle, spent in contacting local and international human rights organisations, protesting, and implementing every little idea that might help with our case, all the dismissed students were reinstated to complete their studies. And finally, I got to put the long awaited reinstatement letter in the frame, leaving me with one more to fill, the graduation certificate. Till then, I might face more obstacles, and I might even need more frames to put in between. I’m not sure of what I will have to face in the future, but there’s one thing I’m now certain of; at all costs, I’ll always stand for what I believe in.
Eman Oun, Bahreini student activist
The text was first published on Nazra for Feminist Studies