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[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.
Yemeni Americans to Protest Ali Saleh’s Visit to U.S. and Call for His Prosecution
New York – On Sunday, February 5 and Friday, February 10, the Yemeni-American community will demonstrate against the visit to the U.S. of Dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen and to demand accountability for crimes against the people of Yemen.
The first event, this Sunday, will be held outside the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Central Park South in New York City, where Saleh is reportedly staying while in the U.S.
WHEN: Sunday, February 5, 2012, 2pm
WHERE: Ritz-Carlton Hotel, 50 Central Park S, New York, NY 10019, where Saleh is reportedly staying during his visit.
WHO: The Yemeni American community, the Yemeni American Coalition for Change (YACC), communities in support of the people of Yemen, solidarity and rights groups, and invited speakers.
WHEN: Friday, February 10, 2012, 1:15pm
WHERE: Demonstrators will gather at the front of Al-Farooq Mosque at 1pm (Atlantic Ave. b/w 3rd & 4th Ave in Brooklyn) and march to New York City Hall via the Brooklyn Bridge.
WHO: The Yemeni American community, the Yemeni American Coalition for Change (YACC), communities in support of the people of Yemen, solidarity and rights groups, and invited speakers.
As the Arab Spring unfolded last year, protesters in the streets saw something startling about the tools of repression being used on them. The Humvees, tanks, helicopters were from the US government; the canisters of chemical agents used to attack them said, "Made in the USA."
STOP THE WAR COALITION Newsletter No.1229 19 December 2011 Email email@example.com Tel: 020 7801 2768 Web: http://stopwar.org.uk Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/stopthewarcoalition 1) NO TO INTERVENTION IN THE MIDDLE EAST - PICKET JANUARY 28TH 2) END THE SIEGE OF GAZA - PROTEST DECEMBER 27TH 3) SEASONS GREETINGS FROM STOP THE WAR! *************** 1) NO TO INTERVENTION IN THE MIDDLE EAST - PICKET JANUARY 28TH Stop the War is calling a protest against western intervention in the Middle East. The growing threats against Iran in recent weeks have been backed up with increased sanctions. As we know from Iraq, these are likely to be a prelude to war, not an alternative to it. There are signs of covert intervention already in Iran, as there are in Syria. Stop the War opposes all military intervention from the west in the region, for which there is absolutely no justification.
By David Rovics
John Timoney, until recently chief of police of Miami and before that Philadelphia, formerly of New York City, where he also was a high-ranking cop, is heading to Bahrain to train the cops there, according to the Associated Press. If you happen to know anybody from Bahrain who might be thinking that hiring this New Yorker could be a step in the direction of less massacre-oriented policing policies, this might be a good time to relieve them of any such illusions.
Saturday 26th November – International Day of Action to support the medics
Location:Freedom Plaza to the Embassy of Bahrain.
Time:Meet in Freedom Plaza at 11:30 am or the UDC metro station at 12:00 pm for a march to the Embassy of Bahrain
Over 1,000 medical workers from 30 different countries have signed a petition calling for an immediate dropping of all charges against the 20 Bahraini medics facing up to 15 years in jail.
On Monday, Nov. 28, the 20 will face a civilian court after international outrage forced the prosecution to backtrack on the original sentences. In what is a clear case of political persecution, the medics face trial for treating injured protesters.
In an attempt to support the medics, physicians around the world will be handing the petition to different Bahrain embassies and consulates on Saturday 26th November.
Ann Wright Detained for 5 Hours in Cairo Airport with 100-Person European Parliamentary Delegation to Gaza
This according to text messages from Ann.
Is this the new Egypt?
Email from Ann:
I'm finally out of the Cairo airport after 5 hours of being detained. Egyptian authorities told me that I was on a security risk list and they needed the approval of the US government before letting me in!!
I called the Operations Center of the State Department who then connected me to the Consul General of the US Embassy in Cairo whom I met in December, 2009 during the Gaza Freedom March (wonder if he put me on the security risk list?) He said the US government has nothing to do with whom the Egyptians keep in or out of the country.
I reminded him that I was kept out of Canada because the US put me on the NCIC list and gave the list to the Canadian government. He was suddenly silent.
We are off to Gaza tomorrow. Pam Bailey and I are the only Americans with about 100 persons from 15 countries on the Council for European Palestinian Relations (CEPR).
More to follow.
The international public has so far been oblivious to the so-called “KCK operations” carried out in Turkey by Prime Minister Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party for the past two years. Under the guise of “fighting terrorism,” the Erdogan government has been using the judiciary, the police, and the media to penalize all civic activism in support of rights demanded by Kurdish citizens in Turkey. The “KCK operations” in particular have been deployed to spread fear amongst activists, to silence public dissent, and to normalize the arbitrary arrest of citizens. Ironically, the Erdogan government’s suppression of dissent and of democratic politics has visibly intensified at a time when “Turkish democracy” is being hailed as a model for the Arab world.
Since 2009, as many as 7748 people have been taken under custody on the alleged grounds that they are associated with the KCK—an organization claimed to be the urban branch of the armed organization known as the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party)—while 3895 people have been arrested and imprisoned without even the prospect of a trial in the foreseeable future. Elected mayors, public intellectuals, members of civic associations, journalists, university students, researchers, academics, and activists have all been undergoing this heavy-handed treatment.
One of the latest victims of the Erdogan government’s assault on public dissent is Professor Busra Ersanli of Marmara University, a highly respected academic. Her only apparent “crime” is to have played an active role within BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), which has been struggling for the rights of Kurdish citizens in Turkey. The members of this party have been systematically targeted by counterterrorism units’ arbitrary arrests, even as the party currently holds seats in the parliament. Professor Ersanli was to attend a conference on “Controversial Issues in the History of the Turkish Republic” at Istanbul Bilgi University on 29 October 2011, but she was taken under custody on 28 October. On the same day, Ragıp Zarakolu—a founding member of the Human Rights Association and the former chair of the “Writers in Prison Committee” of the International PEN organization in Turkey—was also taken under custody within the framework of the “KCK operations.”
Earlier in October 2011, Ayse Berktay (Hacimirzaoglu)—a renowned translator, researcher, and global peace and justice activist—was taken by the police from her home in Istanbul five o’clock in the morning and subsequently arrested. She still remains imprisoned for the foreseeable future. Professor Busra Ersanli, Ragip Zarakolu, and Ayse Berktay are among thousands of people who have been imprisoned and silenced in the last two years.
Under such political conditions that are only getting worse, it has become an urgent task to unmask the arbitrary and authoritarian character of the Turkish government's handling of the Kurdish issue. We are calling on friends abroad to spread the news and to build international pressure, which has become especially crucial and urgent at this time when any citizen of Turkey could be targeted by the Erdogan government, the judiciary, and the police for engaging in political acts of solidarity with those detained under the “KCK operations.”
Peace can never be achieved under the current conditions of public fear, paranoia, and authoritarian politics. Please sign the petition below to put pressure on the Turkish government to immediately release all those who have been taken under custody as part of the “KCK operations” and to demand that Prime Minister Erdogan’s government make a sincere commitment to ending its suppression of civic efforts in support of rights demanded by Kurdish citizens in Turkey.
Is history getting too close for comfort for the fragile little American heart and mind? Their schools and their favorite media have done an excellent job of keeping them ignorant of what their favorite country has done to the rest of the world, but lately some discomforting points of view have managed to find their way into this well-defended American consciousness.
First, Congressman Ron Paul during a presidential debate last month expressed the belief that those who carried out the September 11 attack were retaliating for the many abuses perpetrated against Arab countries by the United States over the years. The audience booed him, loudly.
Then, popular-song icon Tony Bennett, in a radio interview, said the United States caused the 9/11 attacks because of its actions in the Persian Gulf, adding that President George W. Bush had told him in 2005 that the Iraq war was a mistake. Bennett of course came under some nasty fire. FOX News (September 24), carefully choosing its comments charmingly as usual, used words like "insane", "twisted mind", and "absurdities". Bennett felt obliged to post a statement on Facebook saying that his experience in World War II had taught him that "war is the lowest form of human behavior." He said there's no excuse for terrorism, and he added, "I'm sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of love for my country." (NBC September 21)
Then came the Islamic cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, who for some time had been blaming US foreign policy in the Middle East as the cause of anti-American hatred and terrorist acts. So we killed him. Ron Paul and Tony Bennett can count themselves lucky.
What, then, is the basis of all this? What has the United States actually been doing in the Middle East in the recent past?
- the shooting down of two Libyan planes in 1981
- the bombing of Lebanon in 1983 and 1984
- the bombing of Libya in 1986
- the bombing and sinking of an Iranian ship in 1987
- the shooting down of an Iranian passenger plane in 1988
- the shooting down of two more Libyan planes in 1989
- the massive bombing of the Iraqi people in 1991
- the continuing bombings and draconian sanctions against Iraq for the next 12 years
- the bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in 1998
- the habitual support of Israel despite the routine devastation and torture it inflicts upon the Palestinian people
- the habitual condemnation of Palestinian resistance to this
- the abduction of "suspected terrorists" from Muslim countries, such as Malaysia, Pakistan, Lebanon and Albania, who were then taken to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where they were tortured
- the large military and hi-tech presence in Islam's holiest land, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the Persian Gulf region
- the support of numerous undemocratic, authoritarian Middle East governments from the Shah of Iran to Mubarak of Egypt to the Saudi royal family
- the invasion, bombing and occupation of Afghanistan, 2001 to the present, and Iraq, 2003 to the present
- the bombings and continuous firing of missiles to assassinate individuals in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya during the period of 2006-2011
It can't be repeated or emphasized enough. The biggest lie of the "war on terrorism", although weakening, is that the targets of America's attacks have an irrational hatred of the United States and its way of life, based on religious and cultural misunderstandings and envy. The large body of evidence to the contrary includes a 2004 report from the Defense Science Board, "a Federal advisory committee established to provide independent advice to the Secretary of Defense." The report states:
"Muslims do not hate our freedom, but rather they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the long-standing, even increasing, support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan and the Gulf states. Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy."
The report concludes: "No public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies." (Christian Science Monitor, November 29, 2004)
The Pentagon released the study after the New York Times ran a story about it on November 24, 2004. The Times reported that although the board's report does not constitute official government policy, it captures "the essential themes of a debate that is now roiling not just the Defense Department but the entire United States government."
"Homeland security is a rightwing concept fostered following 9/11 as the answer to the effects of 50 years of bad foreign policies in the middle east. The amount of homeland security we actually need is inversely related to how good our foreign policy is." – Sam Smith, editor of The Progressive Review
By Lydia Mulvany | McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama isn't living up to his promises in the Middle East, and it's driving Arab attitudes toward the United States to their lowest point in years, analysts say.
In a Zogby International poll released last week, respondents in four out of six countries surveyed had a lower opinion of the United States than at the end of the Bush administration in 2008.
The feeling among many in the region is that no American president can bring about change, James Zogby, founder of the Arab American Institute and a senior adviser at the eponymous polling firm, said Tuesday.
Citing conversations he had in the region during the polling, Zogby said, "There was this sense that it's a fundamentally broken system, that (the U.S.) can't do the right thing."
From Glenn Greenwald:
From the Washington Post:
Two and a half years after Obama came to office, raising expectations for change among many in the Arab world, favorable ratings of the United States have plummeted in the Middle East, according to a new poll conducted by IBOPE Zogby International for the Arab American Institute Foundation.
In most countries surveyed, favorable attitudes toward the United States dropped to levels lower than they were during the last year of the Bush administration.
From the full report:
With the 2008 election of Barack Obama, favorable attitudes toward the U.S. more than doubled in many Arab countries. But in the two years since his famous “Cairo speech,” ratings for both the U.S. and the President have spiraled downwards. The President is seen overwhelmingly as failing to meet the expectations set during his speech, and the vast majority of those surveyed disagree with U.S policies.
In five out of the six countries surveyed, the U.S. was viewed less favorably than Turkey, China, France—or Iran. Far from seeing the U.S. as a leader in the post-Arab Spring environment, the countries surveyed viewed “U.S. interference in the Arab world” as the greatest obstacle to peace and stability in the Middle East, second only to the continued Palestinian occupation.
While the vehemence of Arab reaction to the U.S. was startling, the general sentiment echoed points made in AAI President James Zogby’s 2010 book Arab Voices, in which he reflected on Arab opinions of both the U.S. and our foreign policies. “American democracy [seems] a lot like damaged goods to many Arabs… U.S. policy in the region has increasingly undermined Arab attitudes toward America as a global model.”
• After improving with the election of Barack Obama in 2008, U.S. favorable ratings across the Arab world have plummeted. In most countries they are lower than at the end of the Bush Administration, and lower than Iran's favorable ratings (except in Saudi Arabia).
• The continuing occupation of Palestinian lands and U.S. interference in the Arab world are held to be the greatest obstacles to peace and stability in the Middle East.
• While many Arabs were hopeful that the election of Barack Obama would improve U.S.-Arab relations, that hope has evaporated. Today, President Obama's favorable ratings across the Arab world are 10% or less.
• Obama's performance ratings are lowest on the two issues to which he has devoted the most energy: Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.
• The U.S. role in establishing a no-fly zone over Libya receives a positive rating only in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, but, as an issue, it is the lowest priority.
• The killing of bin Laden only worsened attitudes toward the U.S.
• A plurality says it is too early to tell whether the Arab Spring will have a positive impact on the region. In Egypt, the mood is mixed. Only in the Gulf States are optimism and satisfaction levels high.
And least we not forget the millions of refugee's created in our names, the U.S., over the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as area's of Pakistan!