- Last summer sporadic protests began. By mid-February,
major ones erupted. Demonstrators held firm against King Sheikh Hamad bin
Isa Al-Khalifa's regime. Repression and several deaths were reported from
- Anti-government protesters occupied Manama's Pearl Roundabout,
Bahrain's equivalent of Cairo's Tahrir Square. They demanded democratic
elections, ending sectarian discrimination favoring Sunnis over Shias,
equitable distribution of the country's oil wealth, and resignation of
the king's uncle, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, prime minister
since 1971. They also want political prisoners released and state terror
- For weeks, many thousands defied government demands,
braving police attacks with tear gas, beatings, rubber bullets, live fire,
arrests, torture, and disappearances.
- On February 14, Canada's National Post writer Peter Goodspeed
headlined, "Trouble in tiny Bahrain (population 1.2 million) carries
big implications," saying:
- If Bahrain becomes democratic, people throughout the
region will be inspired to demand it. As a result, "the ramifications
for US foreign policy could be severe. Bahrain is home to the US Navy's
Fifth Fleet," the Pentagon "station(ing) 15 warships, including
an aircraft battle group, in the very heart of the Persian Gulf."
- "The island state off the coast of Saudi Arabia
provides Washington with a perfect base from which it can protect the (region's)
flow of oil, keep an eye on Iran and support pro-Western monarchies against
- On March 14, fearing uprisings against their own regimes,
over 1,500 Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military and
police security forces invaded Bahrain guns blazing. They attacked peaceful
protesters, arrested opposition leaders and activists, occupied the country,
denied wounded men and women medical treatment, and imposed police state
control in support of the hated monarchy.
- The Obama administration was very instrumental in their
coming, to prevent the possibility of emerging democracy in Bahrain or
elsewhere in the region.
- News of the intervention, however, brought larger crowds
to the streets. They occupied the Pearl Roundabout, set up barricades against
vicious attacks, and persisted against fierce repression.
- On April 1, Bahrain's al-Wefaq party, its largest anti-government
opposition, claimed security forces arrested over 300 protesters since
mid-March, dozens still missing. Prominent blogger, Mahmoud al-Youssef,
was among the disappeared, taken into custody on March 30.
- Tanks were positioned at prominent sites. Police checkpoints
were set up throughout the country. Unidentified gangs, believed to be
plainclothes security forces, conducted nighttime raids on homes in poor
Shiite neighborhoods. Residents reported assaults and confiscations of
- In short order, Pearl Roundabout protesters were violently
routed. Since mid-February, perhaps dozens were killed, hundreds injured,
and many more arrested, tortured, and disappeared.
- Bahrain Human Rights Center (BHRC) head Nabeel Rajab
said several dozen masked men raided his home in mid-March, "threaten(ing)
to rape me and one man was touching my body. They hit me with shoes and
punched me with fists. They were insulting me, saying things like, 'You're
Shiite so go back to Iran.' "
- Blindfolded and arrested, he was beaten for two hours,
then released. Another gang returned a few days later, threatening him
and journalists present at the time. Extreme repression quelled protests
and strikes, but anti-regime opposition persists. One man fired from his
teaching job said:
- "We cannot stop. We might go quiet for a bit to
mourn the dead and treat the injured and see those in jail, but then we
will rise up again."
- Journalists were also threatened, including the country's
only opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat, shut down in late March to silence
it. The Bahrain News Agency called its coverage "unethical" for
reporting accurately on government repression. Its editor and co-owner,
Mansoor al-Jamri, said it was an attempt to suppress independent news,
- "There is now no other voice but that of the state.
The news blackout is so intense." Its print and online editions are
now closed to prevent vital information from being published.
- Bahraini state terror got so extreme even The New York
Times took note in its "Bahrain News - The Protests (2011)" section.
On April 7, it said:
- "Bahrain has taken on the likeness of a police state.
There have been mass arrests, mass firings of government workers, reports
of torture and the forced resignation of the top editor of the nation's
one independent newspaper."
- Moreover, emergency law provisions let security forces
search buildings and homes with no warrant, as well as "dissolve any
organization, including legal political parties, deemed a danger to the
- On April 6, writer Clifford Krauss headlined, "Bahrain's
Rulers Tighten Their Grip on Battered Opposition," saying:
- "The intensity of the repression is pushing some
toward militancy, while others are holding back, at least for now."
Earlier mass demonstrations dwindled to smaller ones and marches, many
outside Manama in villages like Saar and Shahrakkan.
- Two released political prisoners said detainees are being
tortured with electric shocks, beatings, sexual abuse, and other indignities.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher Dan Williams:
- "They are leaving no oppressive stone unturned.
They enter homes of people already detained and ransack (them). They are
keeping people in detention with limited (or no) access to their lawyers
- On April 12, Krauss headlined, "Hospital Is Drawn
Into Bahrain Strife," saying:
- Masked soldiers "guard the front gate of Salmaniya
Medical Complex. Inside clinics are virtually empty of patients, many of
whom, doctors say, have been hauled away for detention after participating
- Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff have also been
arrested, officials calling Salmaniya (Bahrain's largest public hospital)
and local clinics hotbeds of "radical Shiite conspirators trying to
destabilize the country."
- Doctors, however, say Salmaniya and other medical facilities
have been targeted by state terror. As a result, sick and injured Bahrainis
have nowhere to go for treatment.
- The Obama administration steadfastly supports the Al-Khalifa
regime and other regional despots, saying practically nothing about their
abuses, no matter how extreme, while pretending to support democratic change
- On April 11, a Washington Post editorial expressed concern
headlining, "The US silence on Bahrain's crackdown," saying:
- While condemning human rights abuses in Libya and bloody
crackdowns in Syria, "the president and his administration remain
mostly silent about another ugly campaign of repression underway in the
Arab world, in the Persian Gulf emirate of Bahrain."
- However, instead of denouncing it, WP called it "counterproductive
(and) likely to foment the very problem that its advocates seek to prevent:
a sectarian uprising in the region that could be exploited by Iran."
- "Worse, Defense Secretary (Gates) appeared to bolster
the (Saudi intervention) during a visit last week to Riyadh, saying that
'we already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation
in Bahrain.' "
- At the same time, the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said
US CENTCOM head General James Mattis and US deputy chief of mission Stephanie
Williams met with Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, Bahrain's crown prince
and deputy supreme commander.
- According to BNA, Al-Khalifa "hailed (Washington's)
support for Bahrain's security and stability which epitomizes strong ties
bonding the two friendly countries. He also stressed the kingdom's keenness
to further promote bilateral relations and cooperation mainly in the military
and defense field....Both sides also reviewed regional developments and
the need to safeguard regional security and stability."
- On April 11, the Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human
Rights and World Organization Against Torture, expressed grave concern
for Bahraini human rights defenders following stepped up crackdowns.
- On April 9, masked police arrested and severely beat
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) president,
and two of his sons-in-law, Wafi Almajid and Hussein Ahmed, at his daughter's
- Mohammad Al-Maskati, another son-in-law, as well as president
of the Bahrain Society for Human Rights, was present, severely beaten,
but not arrested.
- On April 10, BCHR reported over 600 arrests and disappearances,
including 30 women and children, one aged 12. No information is available
on their whereabouts, status or condition. Those detained include dissidents,
activists, journalists, bloggers, students, teachers, doctors, lawyers,
poets, artists, sculptors, photographers, political society members, and
anyone for democratic change.
- On April 12, BCHR and Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
condemned Zakariya Rashid Hassan's death in detention, six days after he
was charged with inciting hatred, disseminating false news, promoting sectarian
violence, and calling for regime change. His family rejected the interior
ministry's claim that he died from sickle cell anemia complications. His
body showed clear signs of abuse.
- BCHR and RSF also expressed concern for Nabeel Rajab,
BCHR head, accused of fabricating photo evidence of injuries to Ali Isa
Saqer, another detainee who died in custody, clearly from abuse.
- On March 28, general decree Decision No. 5 of 2011 prohibited
publication of any information relating to ongoing state investigations
on national security grounds. The measure reinforces others used to silence
dissent and truth, especially about human rights violations.
- As a result, on April 3, charges were filed against three
Al-Wasat journalists for allegedly "fabricating" news detrimental
to Bahrain's international image and reputation. Those affected include
editor Mansour Al-Jamari, managing editor Walid Nouihid, and local news
editor Aqil Mirza. On the same day, two Al-Wasat Iraqi journalists since
2005 were summarily deported.
- Earlier, BCHR reported children being abducted, detained,
and abused, saying security crackdowns arrested 76, about one-fifth of
the 355 known total at the time. It noted that "special forces attack
people randomly, especially children who are at risk of excessive use of
force, rubber bullets and tear gas."
- As a result, many sustained serious injuries. Moreover,
BCHR received many complaints from families of victims. One case, typical
of others, involved Ali Abbas Radhi, aged 14. Running an errand for his
father, he returned bloodstained, his clothes dusty, his head wounded,
his body showing clear signs of abuse, including a fractured leg.
- He told BCHR that:
- "Riot police asked me to stop so I obeyed their
orders, but a group of them pointed their weapons toward me which made
me panic and try to flee in fear of getting killed. The riot police chased
me until they caught me, and they assaulted me by beating me and kicking
me with their boots or with the butts of their guns to my head and all
over my body as well as cursing and insulting members of my family with
- Numerous other random attacks against men, women and
children were and continue to be similar, many resulting in arrests, detention,
torture, disappearances, and an unknown number of deaths, believed to be
- Since state crackdowns began last summer, many children
as well as adults have been arrested and abused. Lucky ones were released
far from home in their underwear, or in some cases naked.
- More recently, under a state of emergency, severe crackdowns
continue to terrorize government opponents, subjecting anyone to arbitrary
arrest, detention, torture, and disappearance any time for any reason,
or none based on bogus suspicions.
- A Final Comment
- On April 12, 19 human rights organizations condemned
Bahraini state terror, their joint press release saying:
- The undersigned "severely condemn the authorities'
crackdown on prominent human rights defenders....We are gravely concerned
for (their) safety and well-being...."
- "Human rights organizations estimate that over 600
individuals (including human rights activists and political opponents)
remain in Bahraini prisons at high risk of torture and ill-treatment. It
is a particularly alarming situation given that torture is a virtually
systematic practice that has been used against activists increasingly since
- In this context, we firmly believe that Bahrain's membership
in the UN Human Rights Council (should) be suspended....Furthermore, the
undersigned organizations (condemn the) complicity and lack of political
will from international actors, particularly the US and EU (for) turn(ing)
a blind eye (to) massive and systematic human rights violations in this
region of the world."
- Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
- Arab Organization for Human Rights, Syria
- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, Egypt
- Bahrain Center for Human Rights
- Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights
- Center for Trade Unions and Workers' Services, Egypt
- Committees for the Defense of Democracy, Freedom and
Human Rights, Syria
- Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies
- Egyptian Association for Community Participation Enhancement
- Hisham Mubarak Law Center, Egypt
- Human Rights First Society, Saudi Arabia
- Human Rights Organization in Syria, MAF
- Iraqi Human Rights Association in Denmark
- Kurdish Committee for Human Rights in Syria al-Rased
- Kurdish Organization for the Defense of Human Rights
and Public Freedoms in Syria, DAD
- National Organization for Human Rights in Syria
- New Woman Research Center, Egypt
- The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights
- Yemeni Organization for Defending Rights and Democratic
- Other human rights groups, around 1,500 NGOs, and the
International Trade Union Confederation (and its 301 affiliated members
in 151 countries) also denounced Bahraini state terror.
- Appealing to the international community, they called
for those responsible to be held accountable. So far, daily crackdowns
continue, Bahrainis still terrorized by US-backed militarized repression.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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