The Guardian has shed light on how the Israeli spyware is stifling human rights in Bahrain, citing evidence that the Gulf state’s friends and enemies are being targeted by NSO Group software.
The Guardian’s writer Stephanie Kirchgaessner indicated that the Bahraini lawyer Mohammed al-Tajer was caught off guard when his iPhone pinged last November with a warning that said his phone had been targeted by a nation state.
The 55-year-old lawyer from Bahrain had been known among dissidents for his “fearless” defence of opposition leaders and protesters after the 2011 pro-democracy uprising in the tiny Gulf state, when a series of demonstrations and protests were violently suppressed by authorities with the help of Saudi forces.
“I used to be head of Bahrain Human Rights Observatory, used to have human rights activities inside Bahrain or with the UN. But now I don’t have any ongoing human rights activities,” Tajer, who is still in Bahrain, told Red Line for Gulf (RL4G), a non-profit collection of journalists and activists who are focused on digital security and freedom of expression in gulf states and worked with Citizen Lab on the recent investigation.
A separate investigation by the Pegasus Project – a media consortium investigating NSO Group which includes the Guardian and is coordinated by the French non-profit Forbidden Stories – has also identified 20 Bahraini officials who are close to the government and may have been targeted for surveillance. Their phone numbers were identified with the help of Ali Abdulremam of RL4G.
Therefore, we call for a serious and firm position against such programs, which become a nightmare for human rights activists and political opponents alike, as well as holding the producing company accountable for risking rights activists’ lives.