- Largely ignored by Washington, Western governments, and
America's media, the ruling Al Khalifa monarchy continues cracking down
brutally against nonviolent protesters since civil resistance began last
- On July 14, UK Telegraph writer Richard Spencer headlined,
"Bahraini woman poet tells of torture while in custody," saying:
- Incarcerated after reciting a poem critical of government
policies, "Ayat al-Qurmezi (age 20) became one of the symbols of the
(ongoing) protests....After she was arrested....she was beaten, electro(shocked)
and threatened with sexual assault while in custody."
- On July 11, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
headlined, "Teachers ordeal in Bahrain: arrested, tortured, sacked,
suspended and prosecuted," saying:
- Teachers and Bahrain Teachers Association (BTA) members
participated in protest demonstrations, demanding respect for human rights
and democratic change. As a result, they faced "arbitrary arrests,
military prosecution, torture, suspensions, salary cuts, and investigation."
- BTA board members were arrested, held incommunicado with
no access to family or lawyers. A month later, some were released. Others
are still detained, including BTA President Mahdi Abu Deeb, charged with:
- "deliver(ing) speeches haranguing and instigat(ing)
protesters and inciting them against the political regime, flouting the
real voluntary and lofty goals of the association."
- On June 6, Deeb and BTA Vice President Jaleela Al Salman
were tried in military court charged with:
- "inciting others to commit crimes, calling for the
hatred and overthrow of the ruling system, holding pamphlets, disseminating
fabricated stories and information, leaving work on purpose and encouraging
others to do so and taking part at illegal practices."
- So far, at least 66 teachers were arrested. In addition,
riot police repeatedly targeted 15 or more girls' schools. Teachers and
students were arbitrarily arrested, detained, and "physically abused."
- Other schools were also attacked. Many teachers were
arrested, interrogated, intimidated, abused, charged with going on strike,
participating in peaceful protests, and inciting anti-regime sentiment.
- In custody, they were beaten and tortured. One female
- "Around 10 policewomen were asking me and beating
me at the same time. Then they handcuffed me and kept beating me on the
head and back while kicking me and stepping on my feet."
- Others were threatened with rape and beaten. A woman
who had major back surgery was repeatedly kicked there after explaining
her medical condition.
- Many faced secretive military trials and convicted. More
trials are expected. Many others were arbitrarily suspended from positions
or sacked. More remain under investigation. Intimidation throughout Bahrain
- On June 14, Human Rights Watch headlined, "Bahrain:
Stop Military Court Travesty of Justice," saying:
- HRW called for ending military tribunal injustice, and
"free(ing) everyone (including opposition politicians, medical professionals,
students, teachers, journalists, and human rights activists) held solely
for exercising their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly."
- HRW's Middle East director Joe Stork said:
- "Most defendants hauled before Bahrain's special
military court are facing blatantly political charges and (unfair) trials."
- Human Rights First (HRF) on Bahrain
- On July 14, a HRF press release headlined, "NEW
REPORT: Despite National Dialogue Crackdown Continues in Bahrain,"
- The Bahraini government "continues to intimidate,
torture, and detain human rights defenders, and shoot at civilians."
According to HRF's Brian Dooley:
- "Human rights defenders with whom we spoke are wary
that the dialogue is (nothing) more than elaborate play-acting for the
international community's benefit."
- The report titled, "Bahrain: A Tortuous Process"
presented findings based on a July 6 - 12 fact-finding mission. It included
interviews with human rights defenders, other activists, victims and their
families, dozens of recently released detainees, journalists, medical professionals,
students, and Bahraini government officials.
- In addition, HRF personnel "witnessed riot police
firing on unarmed women without warning with a variety of weapons."
- Nonetheless, peaceful marches and protests continue,
despite security force attacks, using sound bombs, tear gas, rubber bullets,
and live fire.
- Human rights defenders are prime targets, facing arrests,
detentions, torture, and illegitimate trials. In fact, (on June 21) prominent
activist Abdulhadi Al Khawaja received life in prison in one of many show
- Others like him express views anonymously, fearing reprisals
if go public. They also assume their phones are tapped and goings monitored.
A Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights member said:
- "We live under the constant fear of arrest. They
can come at any time for us."
- Another activist said homes and other facilities are
regularly raided, adding:
- "I still wake up scared. I have clothes ready, next
to the bed. I get up sometimes in the middle of the night and look out
the window if I hear a noise, thinking it's them again. It's a permanent
fear that they could come at any time, day or night."
- Human rights defenders complained about Washington's
double standard, muting its regime criticism, stressing Bahrain's an important
regional partner, ally, and home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet.
- Disingenuously on July 2, Obama welcomed Bahrain's National
Dialogue, calling it "an important moment of promise....The United
States commends King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for his leadership in initiating
- In contrast, one participant told HRF:
- "There are four halls, each having between 50 to
80 participants" allowed five minutes to speak. "The session
ends while some still have not talked. Nothing is known about how all these
chaotically dispersed talks will end up...." King Hamad has final
- "You have it all predetermined and the final document
has already been decided. These meetings are nothing more than a camouflage.
It is a joke to call it a dialogue to start with."
- Based on numerous interviews, HRF reported "credible,
consistent accounts of torture," other forms of abuse and humiliation,
including detainees forced to kiss photos of the king, belly dance, make
animal noises, and sign confessions.
- One former detainee said he was blindfolded for weeks,
forced to stand for hours, wasn't allowed to wash or pray, and was even
beaten when permitted to use the toilet. Others had similar horror stories.
Injured detainees were also abused, including on their wounds. Intimidation,
humiliation, and forced confessions are routine.
- On July 6, HRF's Brian Dooley witnessed riot police attacking
peaceful pedestrians, saying:
- "People were standing in doorways, chatting....It
was a calm, chatty atmosphere....(S)uddenly riot police (with) shields
appeared behind us." With no warning, they opened fire, using "sound
bombs, tear gas canisters, and rubber bullets."
- People started screaming. Some were struck, including
by shrapnel. "I could see people ahead of us running, panicking. The
police kept on firing at us....We were not part of a rally, or even near
(one). There were a few dozen people spread out along the length of the
street in small groups like ours, and the police just appeared and attacked
- Others told HRF similar stories, police firing on unarmed,
peaceful civilians without warning. People not in detention face harassment.
No one feels safe. Abuses continue regularly.
- Protected by Washington, Bahrain is a lawless police
state, targeting anyone seen challenging regime authority and many others
for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
- Nonetheless, peaceful protests continue, despite punitive
reprisals, including arrests, detentions, torture, show trials, and imprisonment.
Nary a word from Washington complains.
- A Final Comment
- A new Zogby International Arab American Institute poll
shows unfavorable attitudes about America. In fact, Obama's 10% or lower
approval rating surpasses Bush's lowest level. In fact, he scores worst
on Palestine and engagement with the Muslim world.
- In five of six countries surveyed, Washington scored
lower than Turkey, China, France or Iran. Specifically, "US interference
in the Arab world" is called the greatest obstacle to regional peace
and stability after Israel's occupation of Palestine.
- Libya perhaps was one war too many. Waging it increased
negative perceptions about America and Obama.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
- Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and
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