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Health workers sentenced by Bahrain court

Health workers sentenced by Bahrain court | Revolution News Bahrain |
Mainstream media have been silent about the sentencing of medical workers in Bahrain, convicted of treating protesters injured by government repression.

The Russia-based English-language online news service RT reported Nov. 23 that a court in Bahrain had sentenced 23 health workers to three months in jail for treating injured anti-government demonstrators and for participating in those demonstrations. The protests in question occurred in February and March 2011 as part of the events that came to be called the “Arab Spring.” Many protesters were injured during the Bahrain government's violent repression of those protests, and dozens were killed.

The medical personnel were working at Manama's Salmaniya Medical Center in February 2011 when they treated people injured during the crackdown. According to the RT article, some of the medics spoke out about the behavior of the authorities to foreign media and took part in protests after ambulances were fired on. At least 95 health workers were arrested, and in September 2011, 20 were sentenced to up 15 years in prison.

The record is clear. The Bahraini security forces opened fire on unarmed protesters, and dozens were killed. Medical personnel were arrested, tortured and sentenced to jail and prison for treating injured protesters. Yet, the Yahoo and CNN news feeds and other capitalist media buried the story.

Compare this lack of coverage with the media outcry when protesters were injured or killed during clashes with Libyan and Syrian security forces. Even during the Tunisian and Egyptian uprisings against dictatorial regimes, the news reporting and U.S. State Department's criticism of these client states was virtually nonexistent initially and then subdued.

Even when the people overthrew these regimes and started implementing democratic reforms, it was clear that the State Department saw it as a dangerous outcome. The unasked question was, “Once Egypt and Tunisia implement democracy, will the new governments be allied with U.S. interests in the region?”

The U.S. has even more at stake in the case of Bahrain. The U.S. Navy bases its Fifth Fleet there. If the democracy movement overthrows the current repressive monarchy, will the U.S. be able to maintain control of this base? Given the unqualified support that the U.S. government gives to the Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain, any government brought into being by a popular revolution would probably not be “pro-U.S.”

The interest of the U.S. ruling class in maintaining control over this naval base trumps any alleged concern it has expressed for human rights in Bahrain.

Given these facts, progressive forces must ask themselves why the U.S. government claimed to take such an interest in human rights in Libya under Gaddafi previously and Syria now and yet continues to support highly repressive regimes in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain? The forces in Libya that overthrew the Gaddafi-led government with the help of direct U.S.-NATO bombing, and that carried out racist attacks on Libyans and immigrants of sub-Saharan African descent, can scarcely be characterized as “democratic” and “supporters of human rights.”

The answer has nothing to do with genuine concern for human rights and democracy and everything to do with maintaining the U.S. world empire.

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Bahrain: US citizen detained for over a month without a trial

Bahrain: US citizen detained for over a month without a trial | Revolution News Bahrain |

Bahrain: US citizen detained for over a month without a trial...

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the continued detention for more than a month without a trial of the US/Bahraini citizen Taqi Abdulla by Bahraini authorities. Abdulla has not yet been allowed access to legal representation is deprived from adequate medical care that he needs. 

(Ahlul Bayt News Agency) - The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) expresses its grave concern over the continued detention for more than a month without a trial of the US/Bahraini citizen Taqi Abdulla by Bahraini authorities. Abdulla has not yet been allowed access to legal representation is deprived from adequate medical care that he needs.

Taqi Abdulla is a 24-year-old Bahraini with US citizenship. On the 7 October 2012 at 2 am, Taqi’s home was raided by seven masked men in civilian clothing who broke the front door, terrifying the family and arresting Abdulla. He was taken without a warrant, his phone was confiscated and his mother was told to check with the local police station the next morning.

Abdulla’s family started a search for their son. They went to the Exhibition road police station at 4:30 am where they were told that they do not have him and they should check after 8:00 am. His mother explained the circumstances of her son’s arrest and she was told that her son might be in the Central Intelligence Department (CID). At the CID they were told again that they do not have any track of him in their system and suggested that they go to Al Hoora police station. However, in Al Hoora police station, they were informed that they do not have Abdulla in their custody. His brother went back to the CID where the officer told him that he cannot confirm or deny having Abdulla but he will contact him within the next two days. They also reported his case to the US embassy in Bahrain that noted the information and asked the family to call their emergency hotline for any updates.

According to his family, Abdulla called the next morning asking for clothes and informing them that he is being held in the Dry Dock prison. He told his mother that he was forced into confessing that he participated in burning a police water tank vehicle, even though he was home at the time of the incident. Abdulla told his family that he was put under pressure, tortured, threatened to be raped and have his mother raped if he did not “confess”. Taqi was interrogated without the presence of a lawyer.

His lawyer has recently got consent from the government to allow her to get power of attorney from Tagi, but she is still unable to get permission to visit him or even see him to make the appointment official. His family and lawyer are very concerned over the well-being of Taqi Abdulla as he is suffering from ulcer in the stomach and colon, and is not receiving adequate medical care in custody. Abdulla should be on a special diet which is not provided in prison.

The BCHR urges the United States to interfere and put pressure on Bahraini authorities to immediately:
1. Allow proper legal representation for Abdulla Taqi
2. Give his lawyer access to his case file to follow the due process
3. Investigate the torture claims and ill-treatment
4. Ensure providing Abdulla proper medical care

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Mahazza Nights: Undeclared State of Emergency and Sweeping Violations | Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Mahazza Nights: Undeclared State of Emergency and Sweeping Violations | Bahrain Center for Human Rights | Revolution News Bahrain |

Since November 7th, 2012, an undeclared siege has been imposed around Mahazza, one of the Sitra island villages south of the Bahraini capital of Manama. Police forces and civilian militias, accompanied by National Guards in armored vehicles, have been deployed at the main entrances to the village to erect checkpoints, storm several houses without search warrants while arresting scores of citizens without arrest warrants in semi-marshal law situation. The blockade has resulted in the breaking-in of over 160 homes; during these incidents, citizens’ private property and money are confiscated without record or receipt. In addition to these violations, at least 25 people have been arrested (some of which were later released).

Members of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) paid several visits to Mhazzah area to explore the details of the siege, and conducted interviews with those whose houses were subjected to raids and abuses. Residents stated that a blockade similar to that of Aker area had been imposed on Mhazzah village since November 7th, yet the morning of Thursday, November 22, 2012 represented a shift in the nature of the occupation as the raids took place between the hours of 1:30am and 6:15am, where houses and residents were attacked and their privacy was inhumanly invaded without regard for the law.

Reasons for the Beginning of the Siege

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) announced through their official Twitter account on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 that a fire broke out in a car depot which belongs to one of the car dealerships in the Sitra area. Following this, a total siege was imposed around the village of Mhazzah, one house was broken into and Ahmed Abdullah Ibrahim – age 24 – was arrested. His family stated that a group of civilians, accompanied by police forces, surrounded and raided his brother’s house and arrested him without presenting an arrest warrant or providing details of the charges against him. Over a 15-day period, homes raids resulted in the forceful entry of 62 homes and the arrest of 9 people - as shown in the table below. These violations are in addition to the damages caused by terrorizing innocent people in their own homes and attacking their private property.

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An intolerable status quo in Bahrain

An intolerable status quo in Bahrain | Revolution News Bahrain |
The U.S. must act in Bahrain...

The writer is president and chief executive officer of Human Rights First.

During my 25 years as a lawyer and human rights advocate, I’ve been in many courtrooms in many places. But I’ve never seen anything quite like what I recently witnessed in Bahrain. I sat in on one of the hearings for the 28 medics being prosecuted after treating injured protesters during the democratic uprising last year.

In the chaotic courtroom, the judge dismissed arguments by defense lawyers that their clients had been tortured. That’s when Nabeel Tammam, one of Bahrain’s leading ear, nose and throat specialists, raised his hand and asked for permission to speak. Seemingly mistaking him for one of the defense lawyers, the judge acknowledged Tammam, who spoke the words he had not been allowed to say publicly before any Bahraini judicial authority since his detention in 2011: “My name is Nabeel Tammam. I am one of the medics, and I was tortured.” Tammam described what he suffered at the hands of government officials; the judge quickly ended the hearing.


It has been one year since the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), a body set up to investigate the events surrounding the uprising, issued its report. The BICI confirmed what Human Rights First and other international nongovernmental organizations had been saying for months: that the government had swept up thousands in illegal arrests, used excessive force against protesters and engaged in a pattern of abuse that resulted in at least four prisoners being tortured to death.

To his credit, King Hamad accepted the report’s recommendations and promised to implement them. Several Bahraini government ministers I met pointed proudly to a new police code of conduct and a special office to prosecute human rights abuses. But the people on the receiving end of the policing and justice systems in Bahrain told me that these “paper reforms” have meant next to nothing in the real world. If anything, they say, police conduct has worsened, and the judicial system remains hopelessly politicized.

No senior government figure has been held accountable for last year’s arrests or deaths in custody. Political prisoners remain in jail. All public gatherings have been banned, and last month three men were sent to prison for criticizing the king on Twitter.

Public protests are growing increasingly violent. In recent months, a pattern of clashes involving police and a small minority of protesters has emerged, leaving people dead on both sides. Since the BICI report, the government has imprisoned leading activists, including Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. His colleague Said Yousif told me, “They’re picking off figures in civil society, those who speak out against the government. The Bassiouni report has changed nothing. We’re not seeing any sign of real reform here.” The government recently took Yousif into custody.

Meanwhile, the United States has been conflicted about what to do in Bahrain. The tiny island country in the Persian Gulf hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, and the conventional wisdom is that this prevents the U.S. from criticizing the regime too openly. But the U.S.’ “carrots-only” strategy of trying to bolster reformers in the royal family has not worked. The conventional wisdom has it backward; precisely because of the 5th Fleet’s presence, no other country has a greater stake in seeing a peaceful transition to democracy there. And that requires the United States to find its voice.

Tammam and the other 27 medics received their verdicts on Nov. 21. Five were acquitted while Tammam and 22 others were convicted and sentenced to three months in jail.

The United States, which has sent observers to the medics’ trials, should state publicly what it says in private: The trials fall far short of international standards. This should be part of a more muscular U.S. approach toward its ally.

In a region where threats to U.S. interests abound, it may be tempting for the Obama administration to conclude that, while not ideal, the status quo in Bahrain is tolerable for now. That would be a mistake. There is no status quo in Bahrain. The situation is deteriorating, and pro-democracy activists are growing more desperate. There will either be reform, or a descent into worsening violence. The United States may not be able to control the outcome, but — for its own strategic interests and the good of the Bahraini people — it must do everything it can to persuade the regime to choose the right path.

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Beneath Bahrain's Shia-versus-Sunni narrative, only the tyrants benefit

Beneath Bahrain's Shia-versus-Sunni narrative, only the tyrants benefit | Revolution News Bahrain |

Through its repressive policies, the regime's long-term goal is to shift Bahrain's demographics: diluting the Shia majority.

When you pick up the day's newspaper, it is not likely that you will find much coverage of the ongoing popular revolt in Bahrain. But on the off chance that Bahrain is mentioned, it is almost certain that two words will jump at you: Sunni and Shia. It is even more likely you will see some mention of a Shia revolt against a Sunni monarchy.

This is unfortunate; a very complicated situation is expediently packaged into a soundbite-like myth. That narrative is ahistorical and dangerous because, like all myths, there is a grain of truth to it.

Last year, when Bahrain's revolution began, it was not about sects. Sunnis, Shia along with Bahrain's "sushis" (people of mixed background), non-Muslims, atheists; all came together in Bahrain's version of Tahrir – Pearl Square. Their unifying demand was for a constitutional monarchy to be established in Bahrain. The people were demanding that the king honour his lofty reform promises made when he inherited the position from his Emir father.

This was the third act in a struggle predating the so-called Arab spring. It had started in the 1990s when the people of Bahrain had their own uprising largely forgotten in the west. Then, their demand was a return to Bahrain's more democratic 1973 constitution that gave people a real parliament. Instead, thousands of citizens were arrested and imprisoned. Dozens were killed, many under torture.

In 1999 that cycle was interrupted as Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa inherited power from his late father amid soaring hopes of reconciliation and reform. His first act was to announce a referendum promising to establish a constitutional monarchy.

Initially, the people celebrated Hamad's break with his repressive father's legacy as many voted in favour of the referendum. They were encouraged by the release of all political prisoners, and the return of political exiles back to Bahrain, and a halt of state-sanctioned torture.

In 2002, borrowing a page from Napoleon Bonaparte's playbook, "Hamad the Reformer" engineered his own monarchic putsch. He amended the constitution, granting himself absolute unchecked powers. A rubber-stamp parliament was then created – half appointed by him and the other half "elected", but with no legislative or monitoring powers.

The farce extended to elections as electoral districts were set up to prevent the opposition from ever making significant gains. As a result, if the leading opposition group got 60% of all votes, the new re-districting made it so that they would win only 18 out of 40 seats in the parliament. These measures were at the heart of a comprehensive effort to marginalise and discriminate against the country's majority population: Shia Muslims.

Bahrain's unwritten laws insidiously establish a quasi-apartheid regime preventing Shias from state-owned housing and many government jobs. For instance, there are entire areas like Riffaa, where Shia are not allowed to rent, buy homes or land.

Ironically, the country's largest employer is none other than the interior ministry and the security forces in charge of protecting the regime. Shia Muslims who, according to the latest numbers provided are about 70% of the population, are not allowed to be employed in them. They justify this through what Bahrainis call "political naturalisation".

For two decades, tens of thousands of people from places like Syria, Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan were expediently granted citizenship in Bahrain. All of them are Sunnis.

The regime is thus resolving two problems. A short-term need is filling the security services with politically reliable elements beholden to the monarchy and not to the nation. The long-term goal is to artificially shift the country's demographics: diluting the Shia majority.

Consequently, newly built government houses go to the politically naturalised, while a regular Bahraini family (Sunni or Shia) has to wait up to 20 years to receive housing. Many Bahrainis sit at home unemployed, while politically naturalised people receive a job immediately upon arrival.

These policies are not fortuitous but part of a deliberate attempt to foment sectarian tensions in society, and to play on the region's geopolitical and sectarian fault lines.

In the past, Bahrain's opposition was "Nasser-socialists before they were dubbed communists". Today they are regarded as Iranian agents and terrorists.

Aided by more than 13 different European and American public relations companies at times, the regime aims to turn its blatant repression into a net asset by capitalising on the fear of the enemy du jour: Shia Iran. At the end of the day the fact remains the same: you can be Shia and loyal to the regime, like Sameera Rajab who is minister of information; and you can be Sunni, sentenced by a military court, tortured and serving time in prison, like Ebrahim Sharif.

Next time you pick up a newspaper remember that the sectarian Shia-versus-Sunni narrative only serves Bahrain's tyrants. That is, of course, if Bahrain is written about at all.

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