This year, 2020, marks the 30th anniversary of the UN’s International Day of Older Persons and it is a special year like never before. Why? Of course, because the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought on older persons around the world – not only on their health, but on their rights and well-being.
Today is an opportunity to highlight the important contributions that older people -who according to UN 2019 statistic count 703 million persons aged 65 or over – make to society and to also raise awareness of the opportunities and challenges of ageing in today’s world.
Considering that, and in Bahrain, older persons still imprisoned must be a priority in our efforts to overcome COVID-19. In keeping with the global efforts combatting this pandemic, we must not forget the elderly imprisoned for expressing opinions that were or are contrary to those of the governments. Today in Bahrain there are around 60 prisoners above 60 years old who are held solely for political reasons.
On 17 March of this year, Bahrain announced the release of 1,486 prisoners, 901 of whom received royal pardons on “humanitarian grounds”. The remaining 585 were given non-custodial sentences. The releases so far have excluded opposition leaders, activists and human rights defenders – many of whom are older, with some also having underlying medical conditions.
“The pandemic must have changed how we address certain human rights files in our country. Expanding opportunities for older persons and increasing their access to health, pensions and social protection will be crucial. But why not start first by liberating some of them who are behinds prison bars?” says Asma Darwish, BCHR’s advocacy officer.
Our list includes and is not limited to prisoners like:
- Mohamed Hasan Jawad (Parweez) – 75 years old
- Hasan Mushaima – 71 years old
- Abdulhadi Al Khawaja – 60 years old
- Khalil Al Halwachi – 60 years old
- Albuldwahab Hussain – 65 years old
As we all seek to recover better together, globally and locally, reuniting those elderlies with their families and communities and restoring what is left of their lives is crucial. The potential of older persons is a powerful basis for sustainable development. More than ever, we must listen to their voices, suggestions and ideas to build more better societies.