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Why no outcry on torturing tyrants of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia? – by Robert Fisk

Related articles: LUBP Archive on Bahrain

Why no outcry over these torturing tyrants?

Christopher Hill, a former US secretary of state for east Asia who was ambassador to Iraq – and usually a very obedient and un-eloquent American diplomat – wrote the other day that “the notion that a dictator can claim the sovereign right to abuse his people has become unacceptable”.

Unless, of course – and Mr Hill did not mention this – you happen to live in Bahrain. On this tiny island, a Sunni monarchy, the al-Khalifas, rule a majority Shia population and have responded to democratic protests with death sentences, mass arrests, the imprisonment of doctors for letting patients die after protests and an “invitation” to Saudi forces to enter the country. They have also destroyed dozens of Shia mosques with all the thoroughness of a 9/11 pilot. But then, let’s remember that most of the 9/11 killers were indeed Saudis.

And what do we get for it? Silence. Silence in the US media, largely silence in the European press, silence from our own beloved CamerClegg and of course from the White House. And – shame of shame – silence from the Arabs who know where their bread is buttered. That means, of course, also silence from al-Jazeera. I often appear on their otherwise excellent Arabic and English editions, but their failure to mention Bahrain is shameful, a dollop of shit in the dignity that they have brought to reporting in the Middle East. The Emir of Qatar – I know him and like him very much – does not need to belittle his television empire in this way.

CamerClegg is silent, of course, because Bahrain is one of our “friends” in the Gulf, an eager arms buyer, home to thousands of Brit expatriates who – during the mini-revolution by Bahrain’s Shia – spent their time writing vicious letters to the local pro-Khalifa press denouncing Western journalists. And as for the demonstrators, I recall a young Shia woman telling me that if only the Crown Prince would come to the Pearl Roundabout and talk with the protesters, they would carry him on their shoulders around the square. I believed her. But he didn’t come. Instead, he destroyed their mosques and claimed the protests were an Iranian plot – which was never the case – and destroyed the statue of the pearl at the roundabout, thus deforming the very history of his own country.

Obama, needless to say, has his own reasons for silence. Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet and the Americans don’t want to be shoved out of their happy little port (albeit that they could up-sticks and move to the UAE or Qatar anytime they wish) and want to defend Bahrain from mythical Iranian aggression. So you won’t find La Clinton, so keen to abuse the Assad family, saying anything bad about the al-Khalifas. Why on earth not? Are we all in debt to the Gulf Arabs? They are honourable people and understand when criticism is said with good faith. But no, we are silent. Even when Bahraini students in Britain are deprived of their grants because they protested outside their London embassy, we are silent. CamerClegg, shame on you.

Bahrain has never had a reputation as a “friend” of the West, albeit that is how it likes to be portrayed. More than 20 years ago, anyone protesting the royal family’s dominance risked being tortured in the security police headquarters. The head of it was a former British police Special Branch officer whose senior torturer was a pernicious major in the Jordanian army. When I published their names, I was rewarded with a cartoon in the government newspaper Al-Khaleej which pictured me as a rabid dog. Rabid dogs, of course, have to be exterminated. It was not a joke. It was a threat.

The al-Khalifas have no problems with the opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat, however. They arrested one of its founders, Karim Fakhrawi, on 5 April. He died in police custody a week later. Ten days later, they arrested the paper’s columnist, Haidar Mohamed al-Naimi. He has not been seen since. Again, silence from CamerClegg, Obama, La Clinton and the rest. The arrest and charging of Shia Muslim doctors for letting their patients die – the patients having been shot by the “security forces”, of course – is even more vile. I was in the hospital when these patients were brought in. The doctors’ reaction was horror mixed with fear – they had simply never seen such close-range gunshot wounds before. Now they have been arrested, doctors and patients taken from their hospital beds. If this was happening in Damascus, Homs or Hama or Aleppo, the voices of CamerClegg, and Obama and La Clinton would be ringing in our ears. But no. Silence. Four men have been sentenced to death for killing two Bahraini policemen. It was a closed military court. Their “confessions” were aired on television, Soviet-style. No word from CamerClegg or Obama or La Clinton.

What is this nonsense? Well, I will tell you. It has nothing to do with the Bahrainis or the al-Khalifas. It is all about our fear of Saudi Arabia. Which also means it is about oil. It is about our absolute refusal to remember that 9/11 was committed largely by Saudis. It is about our refusal to remember that Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban, that Bin Laden was a Saudi, that the most cruel version of Islam comes from Saudi Arabia, the land of head-choppers and hand-cutters. It is about a conversation I had with a Bahraini official – a good and decent and honest man – in which I asked him why the Bahraini prime minister could not be elected by a majority Shia population. “The Saudis would never permit it,” he said. Yes, our other friends. The Saudis.

Source: The Independent

US politicians condemn human rights violations in Bahrain
http://youtu.be/dJgEzZnQZgU

Security forces target Bahrain medics
http://youtu.be/JUWdDl8aFHs

Inside Story: Bahrain – the black hole of Arab uprisings?
http://youtu.be/Uee3DuzyRnU

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Abdul Nishapuri

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  • Patrick Cockburn: Bahrain is trying to drown the protests in Shia blood
    World View: Claiming that the opposition is being orchestrated by Iran, the al-Khalifa regime has unleashed a vicious sectarian clampdown

    Sunday, 15 May 2011

    “Let us drown the revolution in Jewish blood” was the slogan of the tsars when they orchestrated pogroms against Jews across Russia in the years before the First World War. The battle-cry of the al-Khalifa monarchy in Bahrain ever since they started to crush the pro-democracy protests in the island kingdom two months ago might well be “to drown the revolution in Shia blood”. Just as the tsars once used Cossacks to kill and torture Jews and burn their synagogues, so Bahrain’s minority Sunni regime sends out its black-masked security forces night after night to terrorise the majority Shia population for demanding equal political and civil rights.

    Usually troops and police make their raids on Shia districts between 1am and 4am, dragging people from their beds and beating them in front of their families. Those detained face mistreatment and torture in prison. One pro-democracy activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, brought before a military court last week with severe facial injuries, said he had suffered four fractures to the left side of his face, including a broken jaw that needed four hours’ surgery.

    The suppression of the protests came after Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Co-operation Council – also known as the “kings’ club” of six Gulf monarchs – sent 1,500 troops to Bahrain to aid the crackdown, which began on 15 March. It soon became clear that the government is engaged in a savage onslaught on the entire Shia community – some 70 per cent of the population – in Bahrain.

    First came a wave of arrests with about 1,000 people detained, of whom the government claims some 300 have been released, though it will not give figures for those still under arrest. Many say they were tortured and, where photographs of those who died under interrogation are available, they show clear marks of beating and whipping. There is no sign yet that King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s declaration that martial law will end on 1 June is anything more than a propaganda exercise to convince the outside world, and foreign business in particular, that Bahrain is returning to normal.

    The repression is across the board. Sometimes the masked security men who raid Shia villages at night also bulldoze Shia mosques and religious meeting places. At least 27 of these have so far been wrecked or destroyed, while anti-Shia and pro-government graffiti is often sprayed on any walls that survive.

    The government is scarcely seeking to conceal the sectarian nature of its repression. Defending the destruction of Shia mosques and husseiniyahs (religious meeting houses), it claims that they were constructed without building permission. Critics point out that one of them was 400 years old. Nor is it likely that the government has been seized with a sudden enthusiasm for enforcing building regulations since the middle of March.

    The government is determined to destroy all physical rallying points for the protesters. One of the first such places to be destroyed was the Pearl Square monument, an elegant structure commemorating the pearl fishers of the Gulf, which was bulldozed soon after the square had been cleared of demonstrators. A measure of the government’s paranoia is that it has now withdrawn its own half-dinar coins showing the iconic Pearl Square monument.

    Facing little criticism from the United States, so concerned about human rights abuses in Libya, the al-Khalifa family is ruthlessly crushing opposition at every level. Nurses and doctors in a health system largely run by Shias have been beaten and arrested for treating protesters. Teachers and students are being detained. Some 1,000 professional people have been sacked and have lost their pensions. The one opposition newspaper has been closed. Bahraini students who joined protests abroad have had their funding withdrawn.

    The original 14 February protest movement was moderate, contained Sunni as well as Shia activists, and went out of its way to be non-sectarian. Its slogans included demands that Bahrain’s powerful prime minister for the past 40 years, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, step down and for fair elections. It also wanted equal rights for all, including an end to anti-Shia discrimination under which the majority were excluded from joining the 60,000-strong army, police and security forces. Security jobs went instead to Sunni recruits from Pakistan, Jordan, Syria and other Sunni states who were immediately given Bahraini citizenship.

    Sometimes the anti-Shia bias is explicit. One pro-government newspaper prominently published a letter that compared the protesters to “termites”, which are intelligent but multiply at alarming speed, and “are very similar to the 14 February group that tried to destroy our beautiful, precious country.” The writer recommends exterminating the “white ants so they don’t come back”.

    The purpose of the systematic torture and mistreatment inflicted on the detainees is first to create a feeling of terror in the civilian population. It is not only protesters or pro-democracy activists that are being targeted. Al-Jazeera satellite television, based in and funded by neighbouring Qatar, which played such a role in publicising protests and their attempted repression in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya, was initially much more reticent about reporting events in Bahrain. But al-Jazeera revealed this week that the Bahraini police have been raiding girls’ schools, detaining and beating schoolgirls, and are accused of threatening to rape them.

    One 16-year-old called “Heba” was taken with three of her schoolfriends and held for three days, during which they were beaten. She said an officer “hit me on the head and I started to bleed” and she was thrown against a wall. Although the girls were beaten severely, she said, they scarcely felt the pain because they were so frightened of being raped. The Bahraini opposition party Al Wefaq says that 15 girls’ schools have been raided by the police and girls as young as 12 threatened with rape.

    Aside from intimidation there is a further motive for the beatings and torture: namely, to extract evidence that, against all appearances, the opposition is planning armed revolt and is manipulated by foreign powers, notably Iran. The aim, in the case of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, was evidently to beat out of him a confession that he was attempting to “topple the regime forcibly in collaboration with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country”.

    The al-Khalifas are aware that their strongest card in trying to discredit the opposition is to claim it has Iranian links. US embassy cables revealed by Wikileaks show that the Bahrain government was continually making this claim to a sceptical US embassy over the years, but has never provided any evidence. This propaganda claiming Iranian plots is crude, but plays successfully in Sunni Gulf states that see an Iranian hand behind every Shia demand for equal rights and an end to discrimination. It also gets an audience in Washington, conscious that its Fifth Fleet is based in Bahrain and fearful of anything that could strengthen Iran.

    The Bahraini monarchy, having effectively declared war on the majority of its own people, is likely to win in the short term because its opponents are not armed. The cost will be that Bahrain, once deemed more liberal than its neighbours, is turning into the Gulf’s version of Belfast or Beirut when they were convulsed by sectarian hatred.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/patrick-cockburn-bahrain-is-trying-to-drown-the-protests-in-shia-blood-2284199.html

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