Standing up for students and the teaching profession is central to what it means to be a teacher, but in some places around the world, it can land you in prison.
That’s what happened to Jalila Al-Salman a Bahraini teacher and vice president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA), who is currently a guest of the CEA delegation to the NEA Representative Assembly (RA).
In 2011, Sl-Salman helped to organize teacher strikes through the BTA in support of pro-democracy protests that were part of the international Arab Spring. She and other educators demanded reforms to Bahrain’s educational system, and advocated an end to the killing and suppression of protestors—a large percentage of whom were students.
Over two dozen police officers with machine guns raided Al-Salman’s house and arrested her in front of her three children. She was sentenced to three years in prison, where she was tortured and verbally abused.
Amnesty International and other groups protested her sentence and that of BTA president Mahdi Abu Deeb, stating that they had been “targeted solely on account of their leadership of the BTA and peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression.”
Working with the U.S. State Department, NEA conducted a letter writing campaign to free Al-Salman, and eventually her sentence was reduced.
Al-Salman spoke to the Connecticut caucus at the NEA RA yesterday and inspired teachers with her story. Later in the day, she joined the CEA delegates for her first ever baseball game. She told Connecticut teachers she had only ever seen a baseball game in the movies before.