Bahrain: International revulsion at persecution of native activists
As Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja enters his third week of hunger strike, emotions are running high among the Bahraini people who are anticipating the worst. His health is rapidly deteriorating as his body becomes weaker by the day. Few days ago he was taken off the IV feeding and started on glucose and water. His family is getting seriously worried as they witness him fading away. Mr Al Khawaja started his hunger strike on Tuesday 26th August in protest at the continuation of his imprisonment by the Alkhalifa dictators despite the demands by almost every human rights body in the world to release the Bahrain 13 including himself. The lack of tangible action by the European Union against his jailers, despite being a citizen of EU countries, has shocked many.
Meanwhile there have been feelings of disgust, condemnation and disappointment as the regime extended the detention of the world-renowned human rights activist, Maryam Al Khawaja, for another ten days. She had been arrested and ill-treated when she arrived at Bahrain’s airport on Saturday 30th August. She wanted to be with her family during the ordeal of her father’s hunger strike.
On 5th September Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action about Maryam Al Khawaja. It urged its members to write to Alkhalifa regime and demand her immediate and unconditional release, adding that “she is a prisoner of conscience targeted for her long-term peaceful activism” It also called for her protection in the meantime from torture and other ill-treatment.
In Washington there have been many voices calling on the White House to act in defence of Maryam AlKhawaja. While Human Rights Watch has been focal in its condemnation of the regime, the Washington Post dedicated its editorial on 4th September to the issue. Under the heading: “Bahrain’s arrest of a dissident merits a firm protest from Washington” the paper talked about Washington’s reluctance to take a stand as Bahrain’s regime dragged its feet. It said: Though it has resisted pressure to grant more rights to its Shiite majority population, the al-Khalifa regime used to be sensitive to political pressure from Washington. After Mr. Obama made a May 2011 speech specifically citing Bahrain and the administration temporarily suspended arms sales, the al-Khalifas promised a series of reforms. Now they feel free not only to abandon those efforts but also to take steps that they know will be seen in Washington as provocative. And no wonder: Ms. Khawaja’s arrest has so far drawn only another rote statement of concern from the State Department.
In the past week the regime has intensified its attacks on people through arrests and detentions. On Thursday night 4th September five youths from Duraz were snatched by members of the regime’s Death Squads and taken to torture houses. Upon his return to Bahrain on Saturday 6th September, photo-journalist, Mohammad Darwish, was arrested and taken to unknown destination. He had been arrested and tortured before. Bahraini photo-journalists have been targeted in recent weeks in order to keep the lid on Alkhalifa atrocities against Bahrainis. Twenty people were arrested after Israeli-supported members of Death Squads managed to intercept a network of wanted activists who have been hiding for long periods. The family of a young Bahrainim, Mohammad Ali Kadhem, is extremely worried for his safety as they received no information about him since he was snatched by regime’s Death Squads ten days ago.
On 5th September Reporters Without Borders issued a statement saying that it was shocked that a Manama appeal court had upheld the ten-year jail sentence that the internationally renowned young photo-journalist Ahmed Humaidan received on 26 March in connection with an attack on a police station in 2012. “The Bahraini authorities continue to abuse the most elementary human rights and are becoming more and more repressive in their treatment of news and information providers” said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire. “Despite a major international campaign for Ahmed Humaidan’s release, the Bahraini regime has chosen to turn a deaf ear and to continue silencing the witnesses of its brutal crackdown.”
Bahrain Freedom Movement
10th September 2014