Bahrain: Time to support regime change and end occupation – Bahrain Freedom Movement

07/11/2011 – 9:59 p | Hits: 2544

Proceedings of seminar hosted by Lord Avebury, Vice-chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group on 1st November, 2011. Despite the lack of support from the West, the people of Bahrain have not been deterred from pursuing regime change which started on 14th February. The Al Khalifa regime, propped up by the Saudi army has failed to impress their allies with their continued repression and lack of any reforms. What is the reality on the ground, the prospects of a solution and the likely outcome?

LORD AVEBURY: The Secretary General of NATO was quoted on BBC Radio last night as saying that regime change in Libya was necessary for their mandate of protecting civilians to be implemented. What’s different in Bahrain? Nobody expects NATO to go in there and set off a war against the GCC, but we could start by asking the Saudi Arabians and the UAE to withdraw so that the people of Bahrain can exercise the same right of self-determination as the people of  Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and we hope, Palestine and Syria.

So what are the steps that could lead to the liberation of the people of Bahrain from the yoke of the al-Khalifa oppressors?

Whatever the Bassiouni Commission may say, the people have no confidence in their inquiry, Comments made by Cherif Bassiouni himself exonerating the king and the Prime Minister from responsibility for the extrajudicial killings, tortures, detention without trial, military courts, and manipulated court proceedings were highly improper and cast doubt on the independence of the whole inquiry. 

In addition, we don’t know what the final deadline is for the scope of the inquiry. We certainly hope it will deal with the life sentences passed on leaders of the opposition and human rights activists, many of whom we have welcomed at previous meetings here in the Palace of Westminster: Abdul Wahab Hussain; Hasan Mushaima, who is being denied medical treatment for cancer; Mohammed Habib al-Muqdad, who was held incommunicado and tortured both physically and psychologically over several months as I expect to be confirmed by the doctors appointed by the Basiouni Commission; Abduljalil al-Muqdad; Abduljalil al-Singace, whose crutches were taken from him in prison so that he was forced to crawl along the passage to get to the loo Saeed Mirza al-Nouri, and the leading human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, whose whole family has been targeted by the regime whether they have been involved in the struggle or not.

Yesterday we were asked what would be the one thing the Foreign Office could do to help the campaign for democracy and freedom in Bahrain. We should demand that all these and the hundreds of other political prisoner victims of the al-Khalifas’ malice be unconditionally released and compensated for the injuries inflicted on them by the Government’s torturers.

DR FOUAD AL IBRAHIM: Saudi intervention must end: The Arab Spring is undergoing a crucial turning point as the foreign intervention in the revolution in Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Libya became a prime factor of the political impasse and the continued bloodshed. 

In the eyes of many people in the Arab world, the foreign intervention in the Arab Spring tends to provide all possible support to the despots in the region, and not to encourage the process of democratization.

With the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain on March 17th, Western governments, the international community, and international institutions such as Security Council failed to commit themselves to their values  and to condemn the Saudi regime and  exercise the necessary pressure on their Gulf allies to withdraw their forces from the island. 

In this regard, we recall the shameful statement made by the Secretary of State Mrs Hillary Clinton right after the Saudi forces despatched to Bahrain. She states ‘Bahrain has the right to seek assistance from GCC..’.  Such a statement meant to legalise the foreign occupation and the crackdown on pro-democratic movement. 

The failure extends also to their political attitude towards the brutal regime of Al-Khalifa and its severe violations of human rights. Above all, unlike the open and unlimited support to the protesters in Syria, these parties turned a blind eye and sometimes gave  implicit and moral support to the dictatorships in the Gulf region, namely GCC states. 

The recent EU’S condemnation of the Saudi military occupation of Bahrain and the call for the complete withdrawal of all foreign forces is highly appreciated by the both the Bahraini people and the Arab peoples in general, taking into consideration the stereotypical view that Gulf despots rely on their Western protectors to pursue their despotic policies. 

In light of the recent development, namely the EU’s condemnation of Saudi occupation of Bahrain and the call for the withdrawal of all foreign forces, it is the time for Preside Obama’s administration to take a long awaited step, and follow the same path as  the EU in respect of condemning the Saudi military intervention in Bahrain. The US ongoing allegations of supporting the pro-democratic movements are now tested, which need to interpret words into deeds and to encourage democratic transformation in the GCC states.

Indeed, with the success of Egyptian revolution in February 2011, it became clear that Obama’s administration tended to pacify the Saudi regime at the expense of the will of the peoples in Yemen, Bahrain and elsewhere in the region, including Saudi Arabia. 

Since the beginning of the Arab uprisings, the US and European governments appeared to have been attempting to contain the consequences of these uprisings without regard to their commitment towards freedoms and human rights. The most frustrating element in this respect is the collaboration between the agents of democracy and agents of dictatorship, leading to the abortion of pro-democratic movements in the Gulf region. 

As the Saudi regime is considered a complete partner in the crushing of the uprisings in Bahrain and Yemen  and a prime instigator of uprisings in Syria and Iraq, the US administration turned a blind eye to the repressions of women, whose basic rights were severely denied, including the right to drive, let alone the right to vote. The US administration also ignores the Saudi regime’s harsh measures against freedom seekers in the country. There are some 30,000 prisoners in Saudi Arabia, most of whom are without legal representation and defined charges. Those who criticise the regime’s policies find themselves behind the bars. Three  young people were recently arrested following the broadcast of the so called (We were deceived) program about poverty in the country. 

Many cases of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia occurred in the course of  the Arab Spring and could be easily observed. My understanding is these violations would not happen if the  US administration adopted a  different approach to the regional issues and relinquished its soft attitude towards its allied dictators in GCC states.

In search of stability, prosperity, and security in the Gulf region, US administration and the West as a whole are in need of a profound vision based of the geopolitics realities, the socioeconomic developments and the growing awareness of freedoms and rights among the majority youth, who represent the main force of change.

In summary, the foreign factor is playing an undermining role in the Arab Spring. As a result, more victims, economic loses, and social and political instability  may continue should the US and EU allies offer the despots the military and security equipments to suppress the demands for democracy.

Aimed at essential transformation to democratic states, the peoples in the GCC states would like to see a creative initiative, leading to the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Bahrain and the region as a whole, and the revival of the initiative of  the democratization process in the region.  

DR ABDUL HAMID DASHTI. Dr Abdul Hamid Dashti, the renowned international lawyer delivered a short speech. He said that it is now eight months since the Bahraini revolution started. I like to highlight this peaceful movement which took place at the same time as other revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, hoping that the world would support it. But that support never came because of double standards, the narrow interests of some countries and the oil money of the Saudis. All attempts are made to abort it while it is presented in false descriptions. Bahraini people have been denied their basic rights. Yesterday I returned from America after meeting several NGOs and Congressmen. I had meetings with the Washington Institute for the Near East, the National Endowment for Democracy and other bodies. Most of those we met were aware of the Bahraini Revolution more than other, and were dismissive of the false accusations presented by the regime including those of sectarianism, violence or attachment to Iran. They expressed support to the people of Bahrain and against dictatorship, that they had told the regime of the need for reform and are still continuing to do so. They said that President Obama mentioned Bahrain’s revolution 19 times and expressed the need for dialogue. The Free Trade Agreement between  the USA and Bahrain demands that Bahrain observed its obligations in accordance with international law. Members of both houses of the Congress had tabled strongly-worded resolutions against arms sales to Bahrain and written to  both the White House and the State Department to put pressure on the regime. Many of them said that what they  had done was  small compared to the sacrifices of the Bahraini people in the face of the Al Khalifa and Saudi aggression. The US is obliged to take practical steps in the near future as the human rights abuses  are continuing. These abuses are crimes against humanity according to international conventions and the International Criminal Court protocols. Both the Al Khalifa and the Saudi regimes are trying to impose new realities on the ground, to establish the occupation, complete the demographic change and continue attacks on the people in order to break their will. Many of those we had met in USA are awaiting 23rd November to see the outcome of Bissiouni’s commission

TARA O’GRADY Coordinator of Irish doctors supporting Bahraini medics spoke with passion about the human crisis in Bahrain and described the actions of the group, their continued pressure on governments and NGOs to exercise pressure on the Al Khalifa regime. She described the lack of legitimacy of the arrest and trial of doctors, dismissing the outrageous charges that the doctors had weapons or planned to overthrow the regime. She expressed outrage at the US attempts to stop the sale of weapons to Syria while ignoring the plight of the Bahraini people. It is becoming more obvious that the international pressure is embarrassing the regime and its allies. Each court scraps the lesser charges as a face-saving step after the fiasco had turned  world opinion against the regime. The US, she said, claims that the weapons are not intended for the police force which is accused of violations. But we are aware that it is not only the police force which is violating people’s rights and killing civilians but the military are also involved.

MOHAMMED MUSHAIMA, the son of the political leader, Hassan Mushaima, gave a brief account of his experience during one full year of detention which began on 13 the September 2010. 

I would like to thank you first for this opportunity, and would pass special thanks for lord Avebury for this event and also pass my father’s special greeting for him.

It is hard for any human to comprehend another’s experience, joy, and sadness except if he encountered, felt or examined something similar. For this I will try my best to express this experience in an imaginative way so it could be comprehended better.

To understand what it felt inside a prison, Bahraini prison to be exact, one should imagine himself a crippled, paralyzed person with only his eyes and  mouth to have control over, inside a hospital, where the nurses and the doctors have no passion for their profession. You can ask but no answer is given, you can scream, but expect only more pain to receive, and above all you should always be certain that you will be neglected all the time.

I was arrested in September 13th last year (2010)  before the “Arab Spring” where I was tortured for trivial charges only because I was the son of political figure. While my attorney was able to prove that I was absent in another country while my so called crime was committed, the judge found it justice to sentence me for a whole year for crimes I was unable to do.

I spent a whole year away from family, friends, and my studies which the government gave me a scholarship for excellence which was revoked as a way of taking vengeance against my father. Inside the first incarceration I spent five months in a small room with six other persons which had other cases then mine ranging from prostitution to drugs and above all murder cases. I spent those five months with nothing to do but sit in that room where books or  anything  else to kill time  were not allowed.

I had previous injuries  to  my back which I told the doctors, the police and the officers about.  I needed special medical attention which they denied  to me for the whole time of my imprisonment, and I was only treated with pain killers on extreme occasions. 

Then after the sentencing I was moved to the central jail on February 8th, which I thought  would be a better place, only to be surprised that soon after my arrival and after the 14th of February the whole jail was closed and we were to sit inside our rooms, which were smaller then my previous room. In  very cold weather  the central cooling was  turned on and the water heaters turned off. It was torture on all the prisoners. All the police  – except the officers – where either of Yemeni, Pakistani, or Syrian origin, and their hatred surfaced after 14th February  and what followed it.

There was special attention to me, the bad kind, after the February 14th and what followed. I wasn’t able to see my family for five months while it was usual to have a visit every other week. Almost after every phone call, I would be punished by beating or solitary confinement or insult. I was handcuffed from the back although I  told them several times about my medical condition. The officer and the police used to tell me that your father will be executed or  tortured. One  officer came and told me that my father was dead only to play with my emotions.

We were in a state of terror where we could be taken away at  any time, by anyone; officer or policeman of any rank no matter how insignificant and  they could do  anything with us:  beat us, put us in  solitary confinement, deny family visits and  weekly call. They were  even  able to stop us from going  to the clinic, or buying  anything.  They only provided the bare essentials for hygiene.

In the central jail I suffered more torture ” with other means as the officer “Hamad Al Madahka” put it” taking me from a solitary prison to another, not keeping me in a place more than five days, making me stand with my medical problem for long periods in the cold or in heat, beating me, stepping over my face and above all insulting me, my family and my religion which was the hardest to bear.  If I was to judge, I would say that my agony measured with the stories I heard  was just a drop in the ocean. The worse was still to come. They started discriminating against us more by disallowing us to have our prayers callings, taking our prayer books, and destroying the Quran which we and they read from.

I finished my sentence, and was eligible for early parole but of course I was denied this and had to  wait for three more months for release. I went out and only a month or so after I was attacked along with my brother in law who was visiting our house and  we were beaten  by the riot police. He suffered  a broken knee.  I sustained  three fractures in my backbone along with  a tear in my knees and foot and have been on crunchers ever since.

I would apologies to  my fellow prisoners for it is impossible to understand a day to day, hour by hour agony in just a few minutes, but I tried my best and I hope I succeeded in a fraction.

On behalf of my family, I also would like  to mention my father who lay in prison and we were not given any information about his  medical status.  He is a  cancer patient who was administered three  shots of some unknown medication  while he was handcuffed and blindfolded. We call upon you to help us free him so he can get his treatment before it’s too late. He he is a political figure, but he is a human being after all.

I thank you for your good listening and apologies if I took too long. Thank you.

MOHAMMED FAKHRAWI the nephew of Martyr Karim Fakhrawi described the way his uncle had met his end at the hands of torturers. He had been summoned to appear at a police station and when he went he was arrested. For a week he had endured extreme forms of torture and his cries were heard by other inmates. He was killed brutally and his body was handed to his relatives. His brother was warned against allowing anyone to take pictures of his mutilated body. However the  youth stormed the mortuary and took several photos which are available on the internet. Despite the family’s attempts to seek justice not a single torturer has been arrested or reprimanded. Mohammad said that the family would not rest until justice has been achieved.

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