Report from Bahrain

May 14, 2012

The following report was posted on http://nsnbc.wordpress.com. Fellow blogger Christof Lehmann travelled to Bahrain and made the following observations there:

This article should have contained an interview with the Head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested on May 7th, three days before our planned meeting in Manama, Bahrain. Due to the fact that I have been traveling Asia without access to Internet I arrived in Bahrain late on May 9th, not yet aware of the fact that Nabeel Rajab had been arrested.The meeting with Nabeel Rajab should have dealt with three issues. An interview about the Human Rights Situation in Bahrain; eventual Consultations regarding media strategies for the BCHR, since the human rights situation in Bahrain is critically under reported in Western Main Stream Media; and finally, consultations about functioning as “honest broker” between Human Rights Activists in Bahrain and the Government of Bahrain, for the benefit of all citizens of Bahrain. Due to his arrest this meeting could not take place.

I am hereby calling for the immediate release of Nabeel Rajab. Nabeel Rajab is the Head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the Director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights. I am also calling for the withdrawal of all charges that are brought against Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested as he returned from Lebanon on May 5th for an initial period of 1 week.

On May 10th, the day of our planned meeting, Nabeel Rajab was brought before the Manama court. He was charged of “participating in an illegal meeting and urging others to take part in it”. In other words, Nabeel Rajab was charged for taking part in a meeting regarding Human Rights and urging others to take part in the meeting about Human Rights too.

Besides that, the prosecutors also interrogated Nabeel Rajab about a “Tweet” in which he “allegedly” had “insulted government officials”.

Already one year ago charges had been brought against Rajab for “criticizing the authorities of Bahrain”. At this occasion Nabeel Rajab was subject to physical violence and abuse. Rajab has reportedly also been subject to violence in 2005. There is good reason for worrying about Nabeel Rajab´s physical health during his incarceration.

It is likely that Nabeel Rajab was “targeted” or “set up” for the arrest, which would constitute entrapment in a country that has laws against entrapment. The authorities of Bahrain had used, what Reporters Without Borders call ” a spurious pretext to abruptly withdraw its permission for a visit by a delegation of free speech NGOs,” including Reporters without Borders, that had been scheduled to take place between May 5 and 10.

The arrest of Rajab and the charges brought against him are but one more link in a chain of dubious arrests and charges of human rights activists and others, who are demanding much needed political, legal, and social reforms in Bahrain.

If there ever was a “Genuine Arab Spring” the protests and demands for political, legal, and social reforms in Bahrain qualify as such much rather than the CIA, MI6, Al-Qaeda, and NATO organized pseudo-revolutions and insurgencies in Libya and Syria. Contrary to these violent, foreign backed insurgencies, the unrests in Bahrain are based in peaceful, legitimate popular demands for reform in a country that is literally governed by a Monarch and the Al Khalifa family.

Arriving in Bahrain, on the way to the hotel on the Old Palace Road, the most prominent sign read “Down Iranian Conspiracy”. Though one can be understanding of the critical geopolitical situation of Bahrain, which is a front line state between an aggressively expansionist NATO hegemony, and Iran, which asserts it´s legitimate position as regional power, and which is a front line state for Russian and Chinese regional interests, it can seem somewhat narcissistic by the authorities of Bahrain to describe the legitimate popular demands for political, legal and social change as “Iranian Conspiracy”. Further more, it is absolutely counter-productive with respect to the long term stability and security of Bahrain.

If anything, the harsh and violent crack downs, the arrests of human rights activists, medical doctors, and anyone who dares to speak out publicly in contempt of the political, legal and social situation in Bahrain, the governments behavior will contribute to radicalizing the popular unrest. The spirit has come out of the bottle and the people of Bahrain are demanding that which is taken for granted in those countries that constitute Bahrain´s geopolitical backbone. The right to establish political parties, labor organizations, and the right to vote for a government, human rights that at a minimum guaranty those universal rights to which Bahrain has bound itself via the United Nations.

Even though Western Main Stream Media are doing their best to denigrate the popular uprisings and demands for human rights, for political, legal and social reforms in Bahrain, while selling the NATO backed insurgency in Syria as “popular uprising”, it is unlikely that this lack of international focus on Bahrain can facilitate an end to the popular uprising and the popular demands.

Since I was unable to meet Nabeel Rajab, I took the liberty to move away from the glamorous facades of the Diplomatic District and into the small alleys and backyards of Manama. The real Bahrain, with dirty backyards, small houses with even smaller apartments for big families. The Manama where people wonder about that a Westerner dares to enter. The streets and backyards where the “people” of Bahrain live, and where the coffee shops smell of good tobacco.

People there are suspicious. Much more suspicious than what is healthy for a government. When spoken to about the situation and the unrests people repeat the “Iranian Conspiracy Narrative” — that is, until they realize that they can talk safely, that I am not a government agent and that nobody they don´t trust can listen in on our conversation.

The general consensus of those I had the privilege to talk to in confidence is, that people want political reforms, to take part in the political life of Bahrain. They want a more fair distribution of the enormous wealth that is generated in the country. And who can blame them for it. The tower of Anglo American and International Finance Capital of Manama are difficult to ignore, even from the smallest of alleys, houses and overcrowded flats. They want a legal system that does not treat them as subjects but as citizens, and in fact, most of those I have spoken to wanted reforms that would give Bahrain a Political System, Human Rights, Civil Liberties and Laws like those that they believe are most common in Europe or the USA. Not a word about Iran and Sharia. That is, until I have a chance to tell them a few words about the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, European Anti Terror Laws, and a couple of other  outrages that effectively have undermined any remainder of democracy, civil liberties and human rights in Europe and the USA. After a crash course in European and US tyranny, some said, that maybe Iran is better anyway after all.

The arrest of Nabeel Rajab, the arrests of medical doctors who treat wounded protesters, the violent crack downs on protesters are more mistakes by a government of Bahrain that is doing a bad job at making positive use of the dynamics of the “Real Arab Spring”. Rather than making positive use of these dynamics, a continuation of the authoritarian, repressive and violent response to legitimate demands will invariably radicalize the protesters and worsen the situation and in my opinion, the protesters have reached the critical mass that will make it impossible to force the Jin back into the bottle. The best advice for the government of Bahrain to consider is, to make the best of this dynamic. For the benefit of the people of Bahrain, for the country, and for the Al Khalifa family.


Further reading:

One comment

  1. The government of Bahrain will appear before the Human Rights Council on Monday, 21 May, for their quadrennial human rights review.


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