1,000 Days and Counting
December 13 marked the 1,000th day of Bahraini protests. At issue are long denied fundamental rights.
Majority Shias face systematic discrimination. The ruling Al Khalifa monarchy governs lawlessly. Ruthlessness reflects official state policy.
Since mid-February 2011, pro-democracy demonstrators rallied nearly daily. They demand fundamental civil and human rights.
They want democratic governance replacing despotism. The want Al Khalifa royal family members to relinquish power.
They ruthlessly retain it. They enjoy full US support. They've killed dozens of peaceful protesters. They arrested hundreds more.
They deny free expression, assembly, equity and judicial fairness. Torture is official state policy. So are state-sponsored atrocities.
On September 13, a joint statement of concern on human rights was read at the 24th UN Human Rights Council's opening day. It was on behalf of 47 co-sponsoring countries. In part it said:
"(T)he human rights situation in Bahrain remains an issue of serious concern."
"We are particularly concerned by the ongoing violation of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and the repression of demonstrations."
"(W)e continue to be concerned about the continued harassment and imprisonment of persons exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression, including of human rights defenders."
"We are also concerned about the cases of revocation of nationality without due process, some of which might lead to statelessness."
"Lastly, we are concerned that those alleged to have committed human rights violations (aren't) held accountable."
Physicians for Human Rights - Bahrain (PHR-B) expressed great concern about mistreatment of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. They're terrorized for treating injured protesters.
Medical providers have firsthand knowledge of government atrocities. PHR-B documented them.
They include excessive force. Nonviolent civilians are targeted with high-velocity weapons, shotguns, birdshot, rubber bullets, tear gas and other weapons.
Often it's at a close range. Bystanders are attacked for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Bahraini forces fire tear gas into enclosed spaces. Homes are targeted. Toxic chemical agents are used.
They cause disorientation, respiratory distress, shortness of breath, choking, burning, aphasia and convulsions.
Civilian detainees are tortured and abused in custody. Wanting to live free is considered terrorism.
Bahrain is a signatory to nearly every major international humanitarian and human rights law. They include:
the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR);
the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), among others.
Authorities spurn their provisions unaccountably. They do it violently. They do it daily. Middle of the night abductions, disappearances, beatings and detentions are commonplace.
Human rights defenders are especially vulnerable. Yousif Al-Muhafdaha is acting Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) vice president.
On December 2, he headlined "I've Been Forced into Exile for Defending Human Rights in My Home Country, Bahrain."
In part he said:
"I am not going back to my country. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made."
"But I made it to continue doing the work that matters most to me: documenting the human rights violations in Bahrain that have been ongoing since protests for change began in February 2011."
"I will stay abroad and work from exile for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) after receiving numerous death threats for launching a campaign to hold officials accountable for torture."
On October 31, BCHR launched a "Wanted for Justice" campaign. It did so to end longstanding Al Khalifa repression impunity.
It named names. It listed charges. It included officials ranging from low to high level authority.
Cards displaying culpable images were distributed under the banner "Wanted for Justice in Bahrain." The campaign ran from November 1 to the International Day to End Impunity on November 23.
Days later, the UN established November 2 as International Day to End Impunity.
Day to End Impunity.org calls the initiative "a day dedicated to a call to action to demand justice for those who have been targeted for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to shed light on the issue of impunity."
It marks the anniversary of the 2009 Maguindanao Ampatuan (Philippines) massacre. Fifty-eight people were murdered in cold blood.
Included were 32 journalists and media workers. No one faced justice. Similar crimes occur worldwide. Impunity is standard practice. State terror extends way beyond Bahrain.
BCHR initiated its campaign knowing the risks involved. It acted anyway. It did so responsibly. It's clear, it said, "that justice cannot be attained within the judicial system in Bahrain."
State-sponsored terrorism goes unpunished. Bahraini authorities "have a history of retaliating against human rights defenders."
Notable ones languish in Bahrain's gulag. They're horrifically treated. They're tortured and abused. They're denied vital medical care. They're rights are systematically ignored.
BCHR expressed great concern that its members and families will be ruthlessly targeted because of its campaign.
Maryam Al-Khawaja is acting BCHR president. Her father, Abdulhadi, is one of many imprisoned human rights defenders. So is her sister, Zainab.
Maryam commented on BCHR's Wanted for Justice campaign, saying:
"It is about time we put a face to the violations. Continuously referring to the perpetrators of widespread human rights violations from the 1990's until now as the 'Government of Bahrain' or the 'regime' allows the individuals involved to continue living and traveling freely."
"Let their faces be known, not only in Bahrain, but internationally. All the names included in our list are people who should be given a fair trial according to international standards, and if found guilty, should be held accountable."
"We also hope that this campaign will help encourage international actors to stop doing business with these individuals, and start thinking about individual sanctions."
BCHR targeted 15 Al Khalifa family members. Numerous other regime-connected brutes were included. They're wanted for systematic crimes against humanity.
Bahrainis justifiably want democratically elected officials replacing repressive ones. They're brutalized for demanding human and civil rights. They're targeted for supporting right over wrong.
On February 27, 2013, Zainab Al-Khawaja was arrested. She was targeted for her human rights activism. She's imprisoned on numerous false charges.
Her sentence runs 12 months. On December 22, she'll be tried again. She's charged with "insulting a police officer."
She defended another prisoner against a guard's abuse. She's been horrifically mistreated in detention. It's taken a serious toll on her health.
Family members said she's pale, tired, dizzy and weak. She has trouble standing. She's unable to read. She's denied proper medical care. Numerous other prisoners are treated the same way.
On November 23, pro-government newspaper, Akhbar Alkheleej, published photos and names of 18 noted Bahraini human rights defenders.
It maliciously accused them of human rights violations, terrorism and other false charges. The next day, Hussain Jawad was arrested. He heads the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights (EBOHR).
He's charged with "inciting hatred of the regime." At issue is his human rights advocacy.
Bahrain Teachers Society president Mahdi Abu Deeb was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His deputy, Jalila Al-Salman, got three years.
They've been horrifically mistreated. They were brutally tortured and abused. Abu Deeb appealed to Bahrain's court of cassation.
It's a supreme court of appeal for all civil, commercial and criminal matters. Judges are appointed by royal decree. They support power. They ignore justice. They rejected Abu Deeb's appeal.
He may not survive 10 years of brutalizing treatment. Others wrongfully imprisoned and abused may suffer the same fate.
Bahrain is a lawless police state. It's a valued US ally. It's home base for America's Fifth Fleet. It's part of the Pentagon's Central Command (CENTCOM).
In early December, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel visited Bahrain. He reaffirmed America's commitment to the monarchy.
In November, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Johathan Greenert said regional naval plans include expanding America's footprint in Bahrain.
Hagel said $580 million in construction upgrades are underway. America's Asia pivot doesn't mean abandoning Middle East nations, he stressed.
He assured regional allies, "we're not going anywhere." Washington's Asia pivot "should not be misunderstood to be that we are retreating from any part of the world," he stressed.
America's imperial footprint stretches globally. It targets vital freedoms everywhere. It supports some of the world's worst despots.
They're considered valued allies. Saudi Arabia, Qatar, other Gulf states, Egypt, Jordan, and other Arab countries are involved in America's regional adventurism.
Bahrainis, Syrians, Palestinians, Iranians and others are targeted. Imperialism operates this way.
Hagel explained saying: "Our success will continue to hinge on America's military power, and the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East."
He promised Bahrain full US support. He called Iran "a profoundly destabilizing influence." He ignored ruthless Israeli policies.
He stressed America's regional commitment. He called it "enduring." As long as it's oil and gas rich, US forces are there to stay.
Their presence provides no aid and comfort to beleaguered Bahrainis. Their liberation struggle continues. It's largely out of sight and mind. America's media ignore it.
Bahrainis are on their own to achieve long denied equity and justice. Maybe some day. Not now.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His new book is titled "Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity."
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com.
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