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Western Asia ("Middle East")
By Rick Rozoff, Stop NATO
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has begun a five-day, four-nation tour of North Africa and the Middle East to consolidate military ties with traditional allies against the backdrop of mounting Western pressure aimed at the governments of Syria and Iran.
His first two stops are to Tunisia and Egypt, long-standing American military client states and members of NATO’s Mediterranean Dialogue partnership program. The next two are to Israel and Jordan, also Mediterranean Dialogue members, the first the main and the second one of the largest recipients of American military aid.
When Are You Blackmailed with Video of Yourself Sleeping With Your Wife? When You Challenge the U.S.-Allied Bahraini Government
Bahraini authorities are targeting human rights activist and lawyer Mr. Mohamed Isa Al-Tajer due to his human rights activities and years of work on behalf of political detainees and prisoners of conscience.
Mohamed Isa Al-Tajer is an attorney, human rights activist, Co-founder and Executive Director of the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-violence Organisation (BRAVO) and works with many international human rights organizations. Al-Tajer has defended many prisoners and participated in several defense firms formed to defend activists, political figures, and prominent human rights defenders in Bahrain since 2007.
In June 2012, Al-Tajer participated at the Bahrain UPR meeting in Geneva. Pro-Bahrain-government newspapers and state television led a smear campaign against Al-Tajer. Later video and private photos of him and his wife were published via pro-government forums and accounts on the social media.
Since the beginning of the holy month of Ramadhan the Bahraini Revolution has escalated dramatically. At least 25 demonstrations have taken place every day and night with one clear message: The people want regime change. Chanting like “Down with Hamad” has become the standard slogan uttered by the men and women participating in those protests. The regime’s brutality has also not diminished. The use of chemical gases has intensified dramatically in the past three weeks. While the zeal of the people has intensified, the regime’s repression knows no bounds. Makeshift clinics in towns and villages have offered first aid to the victims who fear for their life to go to the main hospital at Salmaniya which is run by the military. Many observers believe that the situation has reached the point of no-return. The Alkhalifa regime is doomed as the people unanimously refuse to accept to be ruled by tribal hereditary dictatorship.
The dramatic developments in the past few days in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia have reverberated in all corners of Bahrain. The cold-blooded murder, by Saudi police, of two demonstrators on 8th July was a brutal crime by a regime intent on pursuing its evil goals at any cost. The martyrs were protesting against the arrest, earlier that night of a prominent religious scholar who had been outspoken in its criticism of the Al Saud policies and repression. Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr had predicted that he would either be killed or arrested. Shortly after leaving the mosque at Al Awwamiya Town in the Eastern Province of Arabia, he was stopped and shot in the thigh before his arrest. The amount of blood on the ground indicates that his wounds are severe. His condition or whereabouts are unknown. Like the Al Khalifa, Al Saud are also known for their policy of revenge from anyone who dares challenge their authority or question their crimes. Demonstrations have continued in the province i n subsequent days and the situation is expected to get worse. Sheikh Al Nimr is known for his strong support of the Bahraini people and revolution and has vowed to stand by the oppressed at any cost.
He is only 18 months old, but he had to pay the ultimate price for being born in a country riddled with hate, repression and criminality of a regime that has adopted revenge as the main weapon against its opponents. The 18-months old Sayyed Hussain Sayyed Isa, from the town of Nabih Saleh, died as a result of inhaling excessive chemical gases fired on his home by the Alkhalifa security forces. The child developed complications in his lungs that led to gradual deterioration of his health until he succumbed to death. His parents were devastated, so were all Bahrainis and freedom-loving people who curse a world that tolerates such criminal regime.
The arrest, torture and abuse of a young University girl student by the men of John Timoney and John Yates have shaken the country to the core. Zahra Al Shaikh, 21, from Karbabad, was arrested for taking part in an anti-regime peaceful protest. She was subjected to horrific treatment, stripped and indecent images of her taken by the security forces. She is accused of anti-regime activities and is threatened with long term prison sentence. Bahrainis have been horrified at the treatment of this young Bahraini girl and have vowed not to accept Alkhalifa rule and to resist it at any cost.
As the Alkhalifa regime intensified its crackdown against Bahrainis, Mohammad Al Buflasa has been arrested and taken to the torture chambers. Mr Al Buflasa is a young Bahraini who was the first to be imprisoned after the Revolution following a speech at the Pearl Roundabout in February 2011. He remained behind bars for ten months before being released. He comes from Sunni background and his participation in the people’s revolution has angered the Alkhalifa who have been trying to present a sectarian argument to explain the Revolution. Several NGOs have issued statements demanding Al Buflasa’s immediate release, but, to date, Mohammad is still in incarceration at the Alkhalifa torture dungeons.
One of the Alkhlaifa courts has issued ruling against re-building the mosques that had been destroyed by the Al Khalifa/Al Saud joint forces. The Alkhalifa’ ministry of Justice has considered their rebuilding at the h ands of the citizens as illegal. Thus a new War of the Mosques has thus developed and more Shia mosques may are being targeted for demolition. The Bissioni report was critical of destroying religious symbols of the native inhabitants.
The death of Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz has led to a political mayhem in Saudi Arabia which fears of political vacuum after his demise. While Bahrainis have not expressed any sign of sorrow arguing that Nayef had been responsible for the invasion of Bahrain by the Saudi troops, the general mood is against continuing attacks on Bahrainis by Saudi and Alkhalifa forces. The Saudi role in Bahrain has been disastrous and had led to many deaths and injuries.
The situation in the prisons has been described as becoming harsher following the threats by the dictator against Bahrainis. Kumail Al Manami, a 30 years old young Bahraini is languishing in underground dungeons of the Alkhalifa jails. His family has confirmed that his health is deteriorating and he is gradually losing his eye sight. Since his arrest on 31st March 2009, Mr Manami has been subjected to continuous torture, held in solitary confinement and denied access to daylight except for one hour each day. Several other Bahrainis have been languishing in Alkhalifa torture dungeons for years as Washington and London supplied the regime with men of torture and repression. This is one of the underpinning causes of the ongoing Revolution that has become impossible to defeat or contain. Native Bahrainis (Shia and Sunni) are determined to rid the country of minority rule (confined to Alkhalifa members who occupy more than half the cabinet posts).
Meanwhile the campaign against allowing Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the notorious torturer who is also the son of Bahrain’s dictator has started in earnest. On 14th June the Liberal Democrat MP Dan Rogerson (representing North Cornwall) asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what consideration he has given to the human rights records of members of the Bahraini government who plan to visit the UK during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games. Alistair Burt (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Afghanistan/South Asia, counter terrorism/proliferation, North America, Middle East and North Africa), Foreign and Commonwealth Office; North East Bedfordshire, Conservative) said:
The Government has been clear that regardless of the country concerned where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the UK.
On 21st June the Guardian newspaper published an article titled: “Britain urged to ban royal head of Bahrain Olympic committee” in which it said: Son of Bahrain’s king set to visit London 2012 despite being accused of violating athletes”. There is now a campaign to arrest the Alkhalifa torturer upon his arrival in London.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
22nd June 2012
Which came first, the oil business or the war machine that protects it? Who started this madness, the military that consumes so much of the oil or the corporations that distribute and profit from the filthy stuff?
An answer of sorts can be found in Timothy Mitchell's book, "Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil."
Western oil corporations were never strong enough, Mitchell finds, to monopolize the flow or stoppage of Middle Eastern oil without major military and financial assistance. So, they began talking about their control of Middle Eastern oil as being an imperial interest. When "imperial" went out of fashion, the phrase shifted to "strategic interest."
Two people have been martyred as a result of using chemical gases against peaceful demonstrators. Maryam Nasir Abdullah, 80, was martyred last Saturday on 9th June. Last night excessive use of violence by regime’s forces caused many injuries. Shotguns were used against peaceful protesters in at least fifteen towns who were calling for regime change. The injured were treated at makeshift clinics run by volunteer doctors and nurses because the main hospitals are run by the military. Anyone who seeks treatment there will certainly be arrested.
The human rights world has been shocked by the Alkhalifa decision to continue the incarceration of the doctors and medics on trumpeted charges. Yesterday Alkhalifa rulers issued their verdict to jail Dr Ali Al Ekri to five years, Dr Ibrahim Al Demstani to three and Dr Ghassan Dhaif to one year. Several others were sentenced to six months although they had spent more than six months in Alkhalifa torture dungeons.
The week’s highlight has been the almost unanimous international verdict against the ruling Alkhalifa dynasty for its brutal violation of human rights. The regime was condemned by most of the EU countries at the Human Rights Council (HRC) meeting in Geneva on Monday 21st May when Bahrain’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was conducted. One of the ministers of the ruling Alkhalifa junta presented the report which failed to convince those present at the session. At least nine EU countries reacted with disgust at the dangerous abuse of human rights by the current dictator and his clique. Last year a commission funded by the regime confirmed that systematic torture and extra-judicial killings had taken place. The HRC then issued 176 recommendations, compared to nine in the earlier UPR session four years ago. The regime had dispatched scores of its mercenaries to lobby for support among HRC member states but it is clear that their mission has disastrously failed. Bahra inis are, however, unconvinced that the Alkhalifa would stop abuse of human rights, especially arbitrary detention, torture and attack on freedom of speech. None of the banned sites are expected to be allowed.
The inability of the regime to respond favourably to the HRC recommendations was immediately visible in the way human rights activists have been treated at Alkhalifa courts where the judge is the adversary. The four most prominent human rights activists remain the torture chambers for their peaceful expression of opinion; Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, Dr Abdul Jalil Al Singace, Zainab Al Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab. All of them have been tortured at one time or another. The first two have been languishing at the torture dungeons for fifteen months where most horrible forms of torture had been administered on them. Zainab has been charged with various “offences” for opposing the dictatorship and was sentenced yesterday to one month in jail. Nabeel Rajab has also been charged with trumpeted charges intended to keep him behind bars in an attempt to stop the demonstrations. The aim is to reduce the popular revolt and prepare for another round of meaningless and time-wasting one way “dialogue”. Yet Bahraini youth will ensure that the regime goes and that its deception fails to stall the revolution.
On Wednesday 22nd May, Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, was brought to a court run by a member of the Al khalifa enemy. After the most senior opposition figure, Abdul Wahab Hussain delivered a damning testimony to his torture ordeal, Mr Al Khawaja presented hair-raising description of the abuse he had been subjected to since his arrest in March last year. His torture include breaking his jaws in four places, urinating in his mouth, beating, electric shocks, deprivation of sleep, sexual assault and threat of rape. If the court case continues next week more damning testimonies will come out and the onus will be on the world community to take immediate action against Alkhalifa dictatorship that has administered torture on Bahrainis on a systematic and regular basis since Ian Henderson restructured the Special Branch in 1966 during the British protection era. Many Bahrainis have died under torture since then. The failure of the world to take a stand has allowed the regime to commit t hese heinous crimes with impunity.
Meanwhile, people’s revolution has continued. Every day and night have seen demonstrations and protests in almost every corner of the country despite the vicious attacks by the forces of Timoney and Yates. Since Alkhalifa interior minister threatened two weeks ago to escalate violence against the people the use of shotguns against protesters has increased dramatically. Everyday tens of Bahrainis are injured, but they cannot seek treatment at hospitals which are under military management and instructions to report any injured Bahraini to the torture dungeons run by Timoney and Yates.
Hopes have been raised that Nasser bin Hamad Alkhalifa, one of the most notorious torturers will be arrested upon his arrival in London for the Olympics.UK’s Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne told MPs that leaders linked to such crimes (torture) will not be allowed into Britain to attend the summer Olympic Games. “Where there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that an individual has committed human rights abuses, the individual will not normally be permitted to enter the UK,” Browne said. Attempts are being made to present this reliable evidence to UK courts in due course to indict this torturer.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
25th May 2012
US Sells More Humanitarian Helicopters, Tanks, Rifles, and Tear Gas to Bahrain to Fend of the Bahrainis
US PRESSES AHEAD WITH ARMS SALE DESPITE ONGOING VIOLATIONS
No Investigation into Past Misuse of US-origin Helicopters, Armored Vehicles, and Rifles
ULUDERE, Turkey—After winding along a narrow mountain ridge, a caravan of 38 men and mules paused on the Turkish-Iraqi border. Then they heard the propellers overhead. Minutes later, Turkish military aircraft dropped bombs that killed all but four of the men.
The strike in late December was meant to knock out Kurdish separatist fighters. Instead it killed civilians smuggling gasoline, a tragic blunder in Turkey's nearly three-decade campaign against the guerrillas. The killings ignited protests across the country and prompted wide-ranging official inquiries.
The civilian toll also set off alarms at the Pentagon: It was a U.S. Predator drone that ...
Institute for Public Accuracy http://www.accuracy.org The Obama administration is hosting Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa in Washington just as the Bahraini regime is vowing a harsher crackdown on anti-government protesters. Democracy Now reported this morning, "Appearing with al-Khalifa at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton failed to directly mention the repression of protests, referring only to Bahrain’s 'internal issues.'" Secretary Clinton stated: "Bahrain is a valued ally of the United States. We partner on many important issues of mutual concern to each of our nations and to the regional and global concerns as well. I’m looking forward to a chance to talk over with His Royal Highness a number of the issues both internally and externally that Bahrain is dealing with and have some better understanding of the ongoing efforts that the government of Bahrain is undertaking. So again, His Royal Highness, welcome to the United States." See video: http://www.democracynow.org/2012/5/10/headlines#5103 Clinton’s comments came one day after the Bahraini government vowed to escalate its crackdown on anti-government demonstrators. Speaking to Reuters, a Bahraini government spokesman said: "We are looking into the perpetrators and people who use print, broadcast and social media to encourage illegal protest and violence around the country. If applying the law means tougher action, then so be it." The warning came days after the arrest of the prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been featured on IPA news releases. In a statement, Amnesty International declared Rajab a "prisoner of conscience" and called for his immediate release. Another prominent activist, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, has been on a hunger strike for three months protesting his life imprisonment.
Repression has been greatly intensified in the past week, especially after the end of the most controversial F1 race last weekend. The use of what is now termed “Carpet Gassing” of residential areas is causing alarm on international level after more than 30 people were killed as a result of excessive inhalation of chemical gases fired by security forces. In addition to this people are routinely stopped, checked and intimidated at cheque points along the main roads and at entrances of towns and villages. Reports have suggested that the hated duel; John Timony and John Yates have decided to create a blood bath in the country after they had been accused of failure to stem the protests or bring the situation under control. Demonstrations have been taking place on daily and nightly basis with men and women taking to the streets amid rising tension following the fiasco of the Formula 1 racing.
[Manama] Bahrain Watch expresses its deep concern about activist Ala’a al-Shehabi, who was arrested in the evening hours of 22 April 2012 while driving on Budaiya Highway with several international journalists.
Ala’a reported her arrest via Twitter by tweeting the apparently incomplete statement “Under arrest. Surrounded by.” According to witnesses reporting via Twitter, her car was suddenly approached and surrounded by up to eleven police vehicles. Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Bahrain Watch that she was taken to the Budaiya police station. Bahrain Watch is unaware at this time of whether Ala’a is being charged.
The race between human values and evil is intensifying as the F1 prepares for its most controversial race in what has now become widely known as “Bloody Bahrain”. The anger of the people has never been greater as scores of activists are swiftly rounded up, tortured and locked up by the forces of John Timoney and John Yates. Their aim is to forestall serious protests, disturbances or any kind of revolutionary act. In the past week more than seventy people have been arrested, tortured and detained for indefinite periods. The people, however, have become more defiant. On Wednesday many people protested in Manama calling for the unconditional release of the political prisoners especially Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja and Hassan Mushaima. They were severely attacked by Alkhalifa thugs with many casualties reported. The 14th February Alliance has called for a week-long political strife under the slogan “No to Formula1” and the revolution appears to be re-invigorated in many places. Today, thousands upon thousands marched against the regime as Yates killers waged relentless campaign against them.
As for the F1 cracks are appearing everyday in the wall of the race. In addition to numerous sports channels which have decided not to go to “Bloody Bahrain” the Porsche Supercup Squad MRS has decided to withdraw from the race. India team limited its participation in the races that began the preparatory phase today.
The people of Bahrain have decided to remove the Alkhalifa dictatorship at any cost. No power on earth will be able to defend the decaying regime any longer. Almost all major international newspapers and networks have taken stands against holding F1 race in Bahrain. On Wednesday, The Times published an article by David Mepham, the Director of Human Rights Watch London office titled: “Don’t fool yourselves; Bahrain hasn’t changed” in which he obliterated the argument presented by Bernie Ecclestone that Bahrain is quiet and peaceful. More consciencious objectors are likely to boycott the event which will has now become one of the most controversial in the race’s history. The ruling family has prevented foreign journalists from entering the country such as those of Reuters and Associated Press.
For the first time in the history of the Al Khalifa the London Embassy of Bahrain became the centre of attention as two Bahraini protesters took position at its roof for 24 hours. At 1.30 pm Monday 16th April Ali Mushaima and Moosa Abd Ali climbed a scaffolding on a nearby building and walked their way to the two prominent jailed leaders; Hassan Mushaima, who has cancer and Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja who is on his 70th day of hunger strke. The lives of both are under threat while the Alkhalifa regime continues to ignore international calls to release them. The two Bahraini activists have been on hunger strike for two weeks, spent five nights outside the US Embassy in London before occupying the roof of the Embassy. Their action was a sign of determination to achieve the release of Bahraini prisoners whose imprisonment and ill-treatment have only solidified the people’s resolve to remove the Alkhalifa from power. Their antiquated regime has become a liability even to their ow n allies whose support is the determining factor for their survival.
An Early Day Motion (EDM) has been signed by more than twenty Members of Parliament calling for the cancellation of the Grand Prix scheduled to be held in Bahrain over the weekend. The All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain sponsored the EDM which “believes that the Formula One race will be used by the Bahrain government as an endorsement of its policies of suppression of dissent”. At the same time as that news was filtering through to teams out here, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain published an open letter which it has sent to some of Formula One’s biggest sponsors, urging them to boycott this race.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
20th April 2012
[Manama] A new video showing Bahrain police officers assisting in the looting of a supermarket demonstrates the continuing culture of impunity among the country’s security forces despite claims of reform by the government, said activist group Bahrain Watch on Friday.
The video (http://youtu.be/IRrsOdhrssc), posted on the YouTube account of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was recorded on the evening of Tuesday, April 10 by closed-circuit surveillance cameras inside a supermarket in the neigbourhood of Nuwaidrat. The video shows a mob enter, vandalize, and loot the store, which belongs to the “24 Hour Market” chain. Several minutes into the video, uniformed police enter the market and motion to looters to leave before filming the destruction with their own cameras.
April 9, 2012
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Obama,
We write to urge you to publicly call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately and uncon-
ditionally release from prison Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Al-Khawaja is a Bahraini human rights
defender and democracy activist who may soon die, as he has been on a hunger strike for more
than two months.
Al-Khawaja was arrested one year ago in the wake of popular protests against the Bahraini
government, and sentenced to life in prison. While in detention, al-Khawaja suffered from
torture and severe ill-treatment. As a result, he was admitted to the Bahrain Defence Force
Hospital in April last year with a cracked jaw and skull requiring several operations on his
head and face.
To protest his ongoing detention and mistreatment, al-Khawaja began a hunger strike on Feb-
ruary 8. In an open letter to the King of Bahrain, al-Khawaja pledged to stay on hunger strike
until “freedom or death.”
After being arrested in April 2011, al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 as
part of a group trial of 21 activists and human rights defenders. This group was charged with
a range of offenses related to their role in peaceful demonstrations in Bahrain in February and
March 2011. International human rights organizations and the Bahrain Independent Commis-
sion of Inquiry (BICI) have stated that the trials did not comply with international standards of
due process, nor even Bahrain’s own criminal code, because the 21 civilians were tried before
National Safety Courts, which are military courts.
The evidence is clear that al-Khawaja and others were sentenced in violation of their rights to
freedom of expression, assembly and association, which are protected under international law.
We are deeply concerned about the health of human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja,
and respectfully request that the United States urge the Government of Bahrain to release al-
Khawaja immediately and allow him to travel abroad, including for medical treatment, if he
wishes to do so.
Thank you for your consideration.
3P Human Security
Project on Middle
Association of America
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Just Foreign Policy
Americans for Democracy and
Human Rights in Bahrain
We in al-Wefaq want only a genuinely democratic constitutional monarchy built on dialogue, not weapons
When 100,000 or more people take to the streets in protest, governments in most parts of the world would see it as a sign that they need to change course – especially in a country with only about 600,000 citizens.
But Bahrain is no ordinary country. Its prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, has been in office for more than 40 years and his nephew, King Hamad, insists there is no opposition as such: "We only have people with different views… and now they are talking with their brothers."
So far, though, there has been no move towards serious dialogue, instead just a campaign of repression that has claimed at least 80 lives and created hundreds of political prisoners.
We in the opposition have reiterated time and again our calls for "meaningful dialogue", as President Obama put it. We stand ready to move the country forward towards a democratic future, but the only engagement from the authorities has been violence, not discussion.
[Manama] The Bahraini government has failed to fully implement any of the recommendations made by a prominent rights commission last year, said a team of independent activists on Thursday.
The group, calling itself Bahrain Watch, made the statement on the launch of their new website Government Inaction (http://bahrainwatch.org/govinaction). The website tracks and scrutinizes the government’s progress in implementing reforms set out in the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), also known as the Bassiouni Commission.
Released in November 2011, the BICI report found that government personnel had committed a wide range of human rights abuses, including torture, in the crackdown against anti-government protesters last year. As of today, the Bahraini government claims on its website that it has completely implemented 13 of the 26 recommendations made by the BICI, and a government spokesperson recently told the Wall Street Journal: “over 75% of the Bassiouni report's recommendations have been implemented and the rest of the proposals are being put into effect.” The Commission’s recommendations can broadly be summarized as:
- Reforms to the police sector, judiciary, and state media
- Redress for victims of human rights violations including prisoners and mosque demolitions
- A process of national reconciliation
“By claiming to implement the recommendations, the Bahraini government has tried to portray that it has made amends for all of the human rights violations detailed in the BICI report,” said Bahrain Watch founding member Bill Marczak. “However, we are unaware of a single recommendation that has been fully addressed by the Government yet, hence the name Government Inaction for our website.”
"As an example," Marczak said, "the BICI called for the prosecution of those responsible for deaths and torture at all levels, however in the four months since the release of the report the government has only charged nine low level police officers in relation to six such cases." Marczak added that this failure to prosecute human rights abuses uncovered by the Bassiouni Commission, as well as the failure to seriously address police reform, are directly responsible for ongoing cases of death, torture, and abuse.
The Government Inaction project consists of a new website http://bahrainwatch.org/govinaction, which has a breakdown of the recommendations, the government’s claims of what it has done to implement each recommendation, and an independent assessment of the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented. The site is continually updated to monitor the government’s progress.
About Bahrain Watch:
Bahrain Watch aims to promote effective, transparent, and accountable governance in Bahrain. Through research and advocacy, the organization seeks to help Bahrain realize the development benefits of its limited resources by monitoring the state and its policies.
Bahrain Watch is an ambitious long-term work-in-progress project by independent researchers both inside and outside Bahrain that is focused on factual, evidence-based advocacy in the areas of political reform, economic development and security. Bahrain Watch assesses government polices from constitutional change, police reform, revenue management, to policies for spending and their impact on the lives of citizens or lack thereof. The project is collaborative and aims to serve as a catalyst for bringing diverse parties together, and to harness the power of social media and cyberactivists in order to improve governance and accountability. Its founders are online and on the ground, and share a common vision of speaking truth unto power through a digital platform and digital tools that can lead and aggregate on important issues that affect people's lives.
Earlier this month, a group of three young Bahrainis arrived in Washington to talk about reform in the small Persian Gulf nation, which has been rocked by Arab Spring protests for the last year. The delegation, including an NGO worker and a tech entrepreneur, both Western-educated, represented "the leading voice for change and reform" in Bahrain, as an email message from one of the group's representatives put it.
But these weren't leaders of the protest movement that has challenged the country's ruling Sunni monarchy. They were members of a "youth delegation" put together by a top American public relations firm, Qorvis, which has been working with Bahrain to shore up the country's image in the United States.
The youth delegation's modestly pro-reform message was mixed with sharp criticism of the opposition in Bahrain and complaints about negative media coverage in the U.S.
Last year, in the early weeks of Bahrain's violent crackdown on the largely Shia opposition protests, the minister of foreign affairs inked a contract with Qorvis to provide public-relations services for $40,000 per month, plus expenses. One of the largest PR and lobbying firms in Washington, Qorvis employs a number of former top Capitol Hill staffers and also works for Bahrain's close ally, Saudi Arabia. The firm's work for Bahrain came under scrutiny last year when it defended the government's raid last year on a Doctors Without Borders office in Bahrain. Also in 2011, a Qorvis official wrote pro-regime columns in The Huffington Post without revealing his affiliation with Qorvis.
John Timoney is the controversial former Miami police chief well known for orchestrating brutal crackdowns on protests in Miami and Philadelphia- instances with rampant police abuse, violence, and blatant disregard for freedom of expression. It should be of great concern that the Kingdom of Bahrain has brought Timoney and John Yates, former assistant commissioner of Britain's Metropolitan Police, to “reform” Bahrain’s security forces.
Since assuming his new position, Timoney has claimed that Bahrain has been reforming it brutal police tactics in response to recommendations issued by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. He says that there is less tear gas being used and that while tear gas might be “distasteful,” it’s not really harmful.
I have no idea what country Chief Timoney is talking about, because it’s certainly not the Bahrain I saw this past week, a week that marked the one-year anniversary since the February 14, 2011 uprising.
I was in Bahrain for five days before being deported for joining a peaceful women’s march. During my stay, I accompanied local human rights activists to the villages where protests were raging and police cracking down. Every day, I inhaled a potent dose of tear gas, and came close to being hit in the head with tear gas canisters. Every evening I saw the fireworks and smelled the noxious fumes as hundreds of tear gas canisters were lobbed into the village of Bani Jamrah, next door to where I was staying. The villagers would get on their roofs yelling “Down, Down Hamad” (referring to the King). In exchange, as a form of collective punishment, the whole village would be doused in tear gas. I went to bed coughing, eyes burning, wondering how in the world the Bahrainis can stand this.
By Tighe Barry
As part of an observer delegation in Bahrain with the peace group Code Pink, I visited the village of Bani Jamrah with local Bahraini human rights activists.
In one of the many horrific cases we heard, a 17-year-old boy Hasan, his friend and his 8-year-old brother left their home to go to the grocery store. As they were entering the store they noticed some other youngsters running. Fearing the police would be following them, they decided to wait in the store. The 8 year old hid behind a refrigerator. The police entered the store with face masks on. They grabbed the older boys, pulling them out of the store and into the street.
Once outside the shop the police began to beat them with their sticks and hit them on the head, shouting obscenities and accusations. The police were accusing them of having been involved with throwing Molotov cocktails, asking over and over "Where are the Molotov cocktails?"
By Brian Terrell, Waging Nonviolence
On the long flight to the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain on February 10, I had been studying the Lonely Planet guide to the region in order to be able to explain at the airport, if needed, that I had come as a tourist. As it happened, while most passengers on our plane sailed through passport control, my travel companion Linda Sartor and I were pulled from the line and subjected to a closer examination. My sketchy knowledge of the historic and cultural sights that I had come to see was good enough to satisfy official scrutiny. We were granted tourist visas and sent on our way.
That we had come as tourists was true. We had intentionally neglected to mention, though, that we had been invited to Bahrain along with a few other international activists to monitor the government’s response to demonstrations marking the one year anniversary of Bahrain’s “Arab Spring” pro-democracy uprising on February 14. This demand for basic rights was brutally suppressed by Bahrain’s police and military backed by the army of Saudi Arabia.
We certainly would have been barred entry to the country had our full intent been told—but, as Daniel Berrigan once mused, “How much truth do we owe them?” In fact, our invitation from Nabeel Rajav, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, came because the government had made it known that observers from established human rights organizations would not be granted visas until the next month and that access to the country by the international media was to be severely limited during that period. The regime’s resolve that there be no witnesses to the events surrounding the anniversary made our presence for those days all the more crucial.
The morning after our arrival, we met with local activists and the small group of U.S. citizens who had come before us. Before long we were in the streets of Manama, the capital city, accompanying a march to the Pearl Roundabout, the focal point of last year’s demonstration. This peaceful march of men, women and children was quickly set upon by police in full riot gear and dispersed with tear gas and percussion grenades. Our first encounter with the Bahraini police appeared to be vicious, but our local friends assured us that our presence was a restraining factor. Two of the Americans we had just met, Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath, were taken into custody at this march and later that evening deported, the government said, for activities not consistent with their status as tourists.
Our small group, called Witness Bahrain, grew over the next days, even as several friends who traveled to join us were turned away at the airport by a regime made even more hyper-vigilant after deporting Huwaida and Radhika. While being careful to remain at large at least until the events of the 14th, we toured Manama and the villages over the next couple of days, hearing testimony of government abuses and accompanying demonstrations and marches.
On February 13, Tighe Barry and Medea Benjamin of the peace group Code Pink joined us, and our Bahraini guide Wafa took some of us on a tour of the zoo and the National Museum. In the afternoon we witnessed a march of tens of thousands through the main thoroughfares of Manama. This march was tolerated by the authorities until a large group split off to walk to the Pearl Roundabout. The police response was immediate and appalling. Tear gas in Bahrain is not used as a means of crowd control so much as collective punishment—crowds dispersed by gas are not allowed to escape but are pursued, cornered and gassed again. Many are injured by direct hits from gas canisters and percussion grenades. We witnessed beatings and heard reports of injuries by birdshot and rubber bullets.
On the actual anniversary, the police had the country locked down. Patrols of armored cars sped through the streets of Manama and the roads out of the villages were blocked by tanks. Many hundreds still made it to the streets, many were injured, many arrested. Six more of us were taken by the authorities.
In my case, finally getting pinched by the Bahraini police was anticlimactic. Four of us Americans with a Bahraini friend were taking a back way along a quiet street to catch up with others to attempt reaching the roundabout when a passing police patrol stopped us and asked for identification. One more time, we explained that we were there as tourists. “If you are tourists,” we were asked, “why do you have gas masks?”
By Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange
Today’s demonstration in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, started out as a festive affair. This was a permitted march, so parents felt it was safe to bring their children. Women with flowing black abayas, toddlers in tow, moved into position with a sense of determination and excitement. Today, February 13, was one day before the February 14 anniversary marking a year since the uprising began. All week long the demonstrations have been growing and growing in anticipation. Today was the largest yet.
Tens of thousands of people flooded the main Budayia road. First were the men, mostly young; then came the women. They were shouting defiant chants like “We won’t obey your orders; we will break the chains.” They were calling on the prime minister to step down, shouting “Forty years is enough!”
My favorite sign was one contrasting the U.S. views toward Syria and Bahrain. On one side was Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton above gruesome, Syrian bodies, chastising Assad. On the other side was Obama and Clinton above gruesome, Bahraini bodies, remaining silent. The Bahrainis want to know why the U.S. has such double standards. Not only is the U.S. government going ahead with multimillion dollar arms sales to Bahrain, but the tear gas that was about to envelop us came from the good ‘ol USA.
About 20 minutes after the march began, the group at the front arrived at Al Qadam roundabout. They were supposed to continue straight ahead, but some decided to veer off to the right to try to reach the coveted destination: the Pearl Roundabout. For those who haven’t followed the struggle in Bahrain, the Pearl Roundabout was like Egypt’s Tahrir Square, where Bahraini protesters had camped out for about a month before they were brutally evicted by the police. In an attempt to totally squash the protests, the government had bulldozed the entire square, including the iconic monument in the middle made up of six sails projecting up to the sky and coming together to hold a giant, shining pearl.
By Kathy Kelly
It's Valentine's Day, and opening the little cartoon on the Google page brings up a sentimental animation with Tony Bennett singing "why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold heart."
Huwaida Arraf & Radhika Sainath in Police Custody
(Manama) – US Citizens Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath were arrested by Bahraini security forces in Manama on Saturday during a peaceful protest in near the Standard Chartered Bank downtown. Protesters had marched into the city center to reestablish a presence of nonviolent, peaceful protest leading up to the 1-year anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in Bahrain.
Huwaida and Radhika were in Bahrain as part of an international solidarity effort aimed at providing an international civilian presence to report and monitor the situation on the ground. Leading up to February 14, Bahraini authorities had prevented journalists, human rights observers and other internationals from entering the country, leading many to fear a brutal crackdown. The two women are part of the Witness Bahrain initiative ( http://www.witnessbahrain.org ), which arrived in Bahrain in response to a call by Bahraini democracy activists for international observers.
Just yesterday, top US human rights envoy, Assistant Secretary of State Michael Posner, called on the Bahraini authorities to respect the rights of Bahrainis to peaceful protest and to refrain from using excessive force. Huwaida was dragged away by numerous security forces after sitting on the ground, and it is widely reported that detainees have suffered physical abuse while on the way to and at police stations.
Both women were part of a peaceful protest marching near the Pearl Roundabout – site of last year’s peaceful round-the-clock protest in Bahrain, modeled after Egypt’s Tahrir Square – when they were attacked. Both are human rights lawyers, and both have experience as human rights activists in Palestine. Additionally, both were part of the National Lawyer’s Guild delegation to Gaza following Operation Cast Lead to investigate possible war crimes and illegal use of American weaponry on a civilian population.