2011-05-16 #Bahrain one little step forward two big steps back

The Bahrain regime is playing a rather odd game of promising dialog and reform to international observers, while it continues its repression.

Small signs of goodwill

The trial of 20 political detainees, which was meant to take place on the 8th of May was postponed the 12th of May to allow all the detainees time to review the charges and to prepare.

It is even said that some lawyers were allowed to be present at some interrogation.

However the special military court set for the occasion fails to meet the minimum standards for a fair trial and has led to the following sentences :

Trial observers were refused entry to the military court.

Some of the healthcare professionals that were detained for obscure reasons were also released.
View the updated list here.

The king also announced on the 9th of May the lift of emergency state for the 1st of June, the ministry however said no date was definite on when the Saudi forces will go.

According to Bahrain News Agency the interior ministry also arrested five prison guards on 11th of May for violating human rights.

According to Al Jazeera, the king also pleaded for dialogue with Iran, which was so far suspected of orchestrating the opposition.

The government of Bahrain is now saying that “young people were given pills which affected their minds and made them do unusual things”. Read also

On the 3rd of May the Information Affairs Authority held a special session on Twitter of Questions and Answers with Fawaz Al Khalifa, on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.
On this occasion they recognized that foreign journalists were not allowed to enter the country anymore, but Simeon Kerr, from the Financial Times was said he would get his visa even though “not everyone agreed on his coverage”. He should be in Bahrain in a week.

So is Bahrain government really ready to end its crackdown on pro-democracy supporters? Is Bahrain government ready for dialogue? Are those small encouraging steps marking the end of a blind deadly repression?

The regime of Bahrain continues its repression

Shia community has been the privileged target of the ruling family since the beginning of the protests. Making it a sectarian issue allowed dividing the country. With shia religious sites still being destroyed, Shia are still the target of the government.

Ruins of what is believed to be AlWatya mosque in Maqaba.

Karanah village has been reported as being stormed by tear gas on the 11th of May, Karanah, a mainly shia village, were tanks and police cars have been spotted on the 6th of May.

Repression of a funeral procession in AlDaih village on the 16th of May.

Repression of a funeral procession in Duraz.

Security forces deliberately throwing tear gas
on the roofs of Civilian houses, Sitra, 11th of May.

This video which has been taken down already and downloaded again in supposedly showing a shia shop being vandalized.

According to UOBleaks, which twitter account has been reported as blocked in Bahrain, the number of seats for each college in the university has been manipulated on sectarian grounds.
Students are also now asked to sign a loyalty pledge to the king. You can read the translation here.

According to Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights students are forced to sign the document, security guards are stationed in each colleges, new surveillance cameras have also been installed and fences are used around colleges.

It has also been reported that students were fired from university following comments they made on facebook or pages they’ve faved.

Read Wednesday April 13 update on WL Central to see how Facebook is being used to crowd source threats and to target Bahraini demonstrators and bloggers. Read also.

Pro democracy citizens are also targeted using twitter.
Whether harassed, threatened or arrested, many Bahraini voices went silent on twitter.

For their tranquility I decided not to name them but it concerns at least seven important bloggers.

More than 2000 people were also sacked on the ground that they participated or may have participated to the protests back in February and March.
Bapco for instance fired 300 employees. Loyalty and allegiance to the king is now a pre-requisite for employement.

According to Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Deputy Secretary General for the FIDH, Chairman of CARAM Asia and MENA Advisory member of Human Rights Watch, "Bahraini regime practiced Sectarian cleansing against Shia in all state institutions and companies owned ", as a large majority of the sacked employees are shia.

Human Rights activists are still targeted too.
Nabeel Rajab has been detained, beaten and then released. He is also the victim of a widespread smear campaign, along with Maryam AlKhawaja, and he has been banned from travelling.

Saeed Ayyad, a citizen concerned with human rights, which house was burned got arrested the day after.

New testimonies of beating and torture under custody were reported.

Activist describes electroshock, torture by government forces

A 16-year old tells how she was severely beaten as Gulf kingdom cracked down on protests.

On the 8th of May credible sources were reporting that Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, a prominent human rights activist, was seen at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital with several fractures.
The 9th of May the government tried to deny such allegations, stating that they were fabricated for political intents.
Mohammed AlMuharraqi, describing himself as a Consultant Surgeon at the BDF, admitted the same day that Abdulhadi did indeed have a one hour surgery for a “minor” facial fracture. He deleted the tweet afterward, but a screenshot has been made.

Abdulhadi was also threatened with gang rape on the 16th of May for refusing to apologize.

The government of Bahrain is also trying to reinforce its military and political power

PR campaigns are an old tool of the regime.
The last campaign, “we are all Hamad” is a national campaign to renew loyalty and allegiance to the king.
A facebook page has been set up on that purpose and people are encouraged to like it, promote it and use the different pictures on their websites and social media accounts.

Politically, shortly after Malaysia and Saudi Arabia signed a security pact, the prime minister of Malaysia announced he’d fully back all decisions made by the GCC states and was ready to send “peace keepers” to Bahrain.

Pro democracy citizens are now asked to boycott malaysian products.

The GCC invited Morocco to join, and Jordan, which faced protests earlier this year, made a request.
None of them being a part of the gulf, this strange perspective was mocked on twitter with the #funnyGCC hashtag.

Human Rights defenders and pro democracy citizens still mobilized

Because of this ongoing repression, mobilization of Human Rights defenders and pro democracy citizens is still very strong.

People keep on demonstrating and holding candlelight vigil, even though the perspective of being arrested, wounded or killed is still important.

Candlelight march in Duraz 14th of May.

Protest in AlDeer village 13th of May.

Protest in Sitra 12th of May.

On the 10th of May Maryam Alkhawaja, Head of the Foreign Relations Office at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights was present at The Oslo Freedom Forum.

On the 13th of May, The Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission held a special hearing for Bahrain.

You can read the testimony of Joe Stork
Deputy Director for Middle East and North Africa Division on Human Rights Watch here.

The US state department failed to appear at the commission.

The same day, representatives of human rights groups sent a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly urging the United States to support efforts at the United Nations Human Rights Council to convene a special session on Bahrain in order to condemn the harsh violations of human rights by government forces.

On the 14th of May Maryam was present at the Columbia journalism School to speak about Bahrain.

Watch live streaming video from columbiajournalism at livestream.com

On the 15th of May, Nabeel Rajab spoke to Al Jazeera.



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