An open letter addressed to the Amir of Bahrain
30 August 2000 His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, Amir of Bahrain Greetings We have been following, with great interest, your statements since you assumed power. These statements have concentrated on the need to remove all obstacles that obstruct the development of Bahrain and its people, by positively responding to the wishes of the nation. You have also encouraged constructive criticism in the media and in the seminars that were held recently in the country, and you have stated your willingness to extend dialogue to all issues of concern to the nation. We do value these policies and we look for the day when all the sincere people are allowed to participate in resolving the political crisis that has worsened since 1994. On the occasion of the 25th anniversary for the dissolution of the National Assembly and suspension of key constitutional articles, we see our duty to address you and express our belief that ending the deep-rooted political crisis can only be achieved through a courageous initiative that fulfills the aspirations of the people of Bahrain. These aspirations were clearly outlined in the Popular Petition of 1994 that was signed by nearly 25,000 citizens. Such aspirations have also been frequently repeated by respected citizens in the local media and during presentations made inside and outside the country. These aspirations are: 1. The activation of the constitutional articles that have been suspended since 1975, which concern the elected legislative power. 2. The return of the National Assembly that was dissolved in August 1975. 3. Freeing all political detainees and prisoners. 4. Allowing exiles to return home without conditions. 5. Granting women all political rights in par with men. 6. Respecting public freedoms, the right to free expression and the right to trade unions. 7. Investigation the cases f human rights abuses and taking necessary steps for redressing the situation by punishing the perpetrators and compensating the victims of those violations. 8. Proper treatment of the citizenship problem and granting those called “bidoon” full Bahraini citizenship. The country is in need for the solidarity of its entire people and for the utilization of all energies and capabilities. We trust that you would not agree with the staying of significant number of people outside the country, whose presence outside only indicates the continuation of the crisis. We do look forward for an era of dialogue and openness in order to reach a common ground for progressing the country. At a time of a national tragedy that has been caused by the ill-fated Gulf Air crash and the loss of great number of dear people, we offer our condolences to the families of the victims and pray to God for their souls. Please accept our greetings. Signed by: Abdulhadi Khalaf, Abdulhadi Al-Khawajah, Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi, Abdul Nabi Al-Ekri, Ali Salman, Saeed Al-Shehabi, Mohammed Abdul Jalil Al-Morbati, Mansoor Al-Jamri, Hani Al-Rayyis.
Bahrain: National days of mourning coincide with the 25th anniversary for the dissolution of National Assembly
National days of mourning are being commemorated by the people of Bahrain following the tragedy of the ill-fated Airbus crash off the coast of Bahrain on 23 August which killed all 143 people aboard. Thousands of citizens flocked to mosques around the country to pray and offer their moral support for the families of the victims. The tragedy has brought to light the capabilities and attributes of the honourable people of Bahrain. However, on the first day of the crash one of the individuals who had been imported by the government for running its propaganda machine, Seyed Abdul Adhim Al-Baboli, created a havoc when he distributed false statements about the route of the plane (falsely insisting that the plane was leaving Bahrain to Cairo) and the cause of its crash. Insider sources revealed that this person was ordered to shut-up and to concentrate his efforts within the remit for which he was originally imported to perform, namely to insult the pro-democracy movement that is campaigning for political reforms. Gulf Air’s chief pilot for the A320 fleet, Hameed Ali, provided more details about the ill-fated plane. He rejected the romours and ill-advised statements (originally made by Al-Baboli) about the cause of the crash and about the pilot. He confirmed that the pilot, Ihsan Shakib, 38, was one of the best-trained professionals amongst Gulf Air staff. The Irish wife of the pilot, Tracy Shakib, appeared on TV and her statements were well received by the people of Bahrain who offered their wholehearted support for herself and her three children. These sad days also coincide with the 25th anniversary for the dissolution of the National Assembly on 26 August 1975. Several pro-democracy figures, including Mr. Ali Rabea, Dr. Saeed Shehabi, and Mr. Abdul Rahman Al-Nuaimi, wrote important articles in the Arab press (Al-Quds and Al-Bilad) calling on the Al-Khalifa family to respect the social contract with the people of Bahrain by restoring the elected National Assembly and ending the state of emergency laws, particularly the State Security Law. Commemorating this occasion, a group of 16 British Members of Parliament submitted an motion stating the following “That this House notes that 26th August 2000 is the 25th anniversary of the dismissal of Bahrain’s Parliament and the suspension of its constitution; recognises the importance of 26th August 1975 in the history of the people of Bahrain in their struggle for democracy and the rule of law; is gravely concerned that, 25 years on, Bahrain’s Parliament and constitution remain suspended; supports the people of Bahrain who are calling for the restoration of their constitution and democratically-elected assembly; is also concerned at the continuing human rights violations in Bahrain as documented in the Annual Report of Amnesty International; particularly deplores the arrest of minors and women, the systematic torture and general ill-treatment of detainees, the forcible exile of Bahraini citizens, and the unfair trials conducted by the State Security Court; regrets the Bahraini Government’s refusal to enter into dialogue with the members of the Committee for Popular Petition for the restoration of Bahrain’s Parliament and constitution; and calls on Her Majesty’s Government to urge the Bahrain Government to enter into dialogue with the members of the Committee, to put an end to all human rights violations in Bahrain, and to allow freedom of expression, of press, of association and freedom of assembly. Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, called on the government of Bahrain to respect the country’s constitution and on this occasion, his office will be organising a special seminar entitled “Bahrain: upholding the constitution to end the crisis”, at 1.00 pm, Wednesday 30 August, to be held at Committee Room B, 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), Westminster, London SW1. Bahrain Freedom Movement 28 August 2000 Tel/Fax: +44 20 7278 9089
More details on Airbus Crash in Bahrain
26 August 2000 MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — As Gulf Air Flight 072 approached Bahrain International Airport for a night landing, pilot Ihsan Shakeeb calmly requested a “go around” from air traffic controllers. Shakeeb, an experienced pilot with more than 6,800 flying hours, circled Bahrain International Airport once, then aborted his landing attempt without explanation, according to Gulf Air officials on Friday. Moments later, the Airbus 320 — and its 143 passengers and crew — disappeared from the radar. It had nose-dived into shallow waters off the north of Bahrain. U.S. air accident experts were asked Friday to lead an investigation that will try to determine what happened between Shakeeb’s aborting the landing Wednesday and the plane’s crashing into the sea 60 seconds later. Investigators were trying to work out why Shakeeb broke off his attempt to land, and why the plane crashed miles from the airport. Gulf Air’s chief pilot, Hameed Ali, said Friday that investigators would examine both the speed and altitude of Shakeeb’s aborted landing. “It is very important and I may add that intracockpit communications is even more important. We have not listened to that yet,” Ali told a packed press conference. But, Ali stressed, referring to the pilot, “we have spotted no error in his approach.” Ali refused to speculate on a possible cause of the crash, but emphasized that Shakeeb was an experienced crew member with some 6,856 hours of flying time. The minimum qualifying time for a Gulf Air pilot is 4,000 hours. Three investigators from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board flew into Manama on Friday evening, a civil aviation authority spokesman said. They were whisked to a meeting with Bahraini officials and were expected to start their inquiry immediately. On Saturday, the U.S. and Bahraini teams are expected to meet with six French government experts and a representative of Airbus Industries. They too were to have a key role in determining the cause of the crash. Six Airbus 320s have crashed in the last 12 years. Both of the plane’s “black boxes” — the flight data and voice cockpit recorders — are to be sent to the United States for analysis, civil aviation undersecretary Ibrahim Abdulla Al-Hamer said. An official estimated it could be weeks before the data was available. As Bahraini flags fluttered at half-staff Friday, friends and relatives turned not to investigators, but to the island’s mosques for answers. At the central Grand Mosque, three unidentified bodies wrapped in cloth, one belonging to a small child, lay before the faithful. Mourners raised a photo placard of Shakeeb at a Shiite Muslim cemetery where the pilot’s body was buried Friday. Women dressed in black chadors prayed around the grave as Shakeeb’s father, Ehtisham, sat on a wooden bench receiving condolences. “I feel dead right now,” said Abdullah Majeed, a Gulf Air sales executive, who described Shakeeb as a cheerful friend. Gulf Air has offered professional counseling to the bereaved. It has also pledged $25,000 to each family who lost a relative in the crash. Relatives sought comfort from religious leaders and counselors at a local hotel as they identified their loved ones from photographs of remains. “It’s very difficult to see the pictures,” said Nadr al-Khawaja, a Bahraini whose cousin, her husband and their 9-month-old baby son were killed. “It’s very hard for the parents — it’s torture.” The U.S. Embassy in Bahrain was planning a private memorial service Saturday for a diplomatic courier, Seth Foti, 31, who went down with the plane. Foti, a native of Browntown, Va., joined the diplomatic courier service 14 months ago. Married for three months, he was the sixth courier to die in a crash and the first since 1963. After hours of searching Friday, U.S. Navy divers found the pouches of classified information that Foti was carrying, said Cmdr. Jeff Gradeck, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Salvaging continued at the crash site. Dozens of divers scoured the sandy seabed in search of bits of wing and fuselage. The parts were brought to an airport hangar for reconstruction. Gulf Air has said 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board. Sixty-three passengers were Egyptian, 34 Bahraini, 12 Saudi Arabian, nine Palestinian, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British and one each from Canada, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan, Australia and the United States. Two crew members were Bahrainis and one each from Oman, the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. ————————————- —————————– AL QARARA, Gaza Strip (AP) — Mohammed Abu Hajaj was one of thousands of Palestinian university graduates who escaped the squalor of the Gaza Strip and made a comfortable living in the Persian Gulf. But after 20 years in exile, Abu Hajaj, 46, was getting homesick. This summer, during an extended visit to Gaza, he began looking for a plot of land near his father’s home in the small farming town of Al Qarara in the southern Gaza Strip. Now, instead of settling back in Al Qarara, Abu Hajaj, his wife Hanan and their seven children — who were among the 143 victims of this week’s Gulf Air crash — will be buried in Bahrain, 800 miles from home. In Al Qarara, Abu Hajaj’s 82-year-old father, Mohammed Abdel Kader, sat quietly in a mourning tent made from blue plastic sheets Friday, saying he accepted the deaths as God’s will. As Koranic verses rang out from a tape recorder, the elder Abu Hajaj, wearing a white robe, was comforted by relatives and neighbors who fingered worry beads and sipped bitter coffee boiled in small metal pots on a portable iron grill. Mohammed Abu Hajaj, an Arabic teacher, was one of several thousand Palestinians from the Gaza Strip, many of them teachers, doctors and engineers, who could not find suitable jobs at home and worked abroad, mainly in the wealthy Gulf countries. Abu Hajaj’s seven children, from 1-year-old Osama to 16-year-old Ashraf, knew Gaza only from biannual summer visits to their grandparents’ house. One photograph taken two weeks ago showed the family crowded around a small table. One of the boys clowned for the camera, flashing a V-sign. Little Osama bounced on the table and their mother, 39-year-old Hanan, also a teacher, reached for a soft drink bottle. During this visit, Abu Hajaj had begun talking about returning to Gaza, said his brother, 29-year-old Ali. He looked for a plot of land in Al Qarara, a town of 25,000, and one of the few idyllic spots in crowded Gaza, where farmers grow mangos, water melon and apples. “Mohammed said he became tired of being away from his homeland, and that he is planning to live again in Palestine,” said Ali, his eyes brimming with tears. Abu Hajaj wanted his children to attend Palestinian universities, and felt that with his eldest, Ashraf, only two years away from high school graduation, it was time to prepare, said Ali. However, Abu Hajaj decided to return to his teaching job in the United Arab Emirates for the time being. He initially planned to take a flight two weeks ago, but postponed it after a printing error was discovered in his wife’s Israeli-issued identity card. The family feared that a discrepancy between the ID card and her Palestinian passport would cause problems with the Israeli authorities, and a decision was made to fix the error before leaving for Bahrain. Abu Hajaj’s brother said the family then planned to fly Sunday, but was moved to Wednesday’s Gulf Air flight due to technical problems.
The family will be buried in Bahrain, with Abu Hajaj’s brother, Mohammed, a resident of the United Arab Emirates, and several cousins planning to attend.
Airbus Crash in Bahrain: Prayers for Victims of Crash
MANAMA, Aug 25 (Reuters) – As grieving relatives prepared to bury their dead, international investigators began to probe the mystery of why a Gulf Air Airbus plunged into the sea off Bahrain on Wednesday, killing all 143 people on board. The pilot of Flight GF072 from Cairo made several attempts to land before the crash but reported no technical problems and spoke normally, an airline chief pilot said on Friday. Hamad Ali, Gulf Air’s chief pilot for the A320 fleet, told a news conference the pilot had been cleared to land when he was seven nautical miles from the runway. “All indications at this time appeared to be normal. He continued the descent until one nautical mile when the pilot requested a go-around. The reasons for this are not known. “He did the go-around as requested and approximately one nautical mile from touchdown the plane disappeared from the radar. The whole communication with the control tower was normal, including the pilot’s tone of voice. His voice and his performance were very natural,” Ali said. “I listened to the recorded conversation between the control tower and the pilot. There was nothing indicating that the pilot was under stress.” He said the 38-year-old pilot, who joined Gulf Air in 1979, had a total of 6,856 flying hours. A pilot averaged 600-700 flying hours a year, he said. “The ATC (air traffic control) offered the pilot radar assistance and the pilot accepted,” Ali said later, without elaborating. U.S. EXPERTS ARRIVE FOR INVESTIGATION A Bahrain civil aviation official said a U.S. team from the National Transportation Safety Board arrived in Manama on Friday to join experts already on the spot from Bahrain, Oman and Airbus Industrie, makers of the twin-jet A320. A representative of the Federal Aviation Administration is also due to arrive. Gulf Air’s Chief Executive Sheikh Ahmed bin Saif al-Nahayan told the news conference that the investigation was expected to start immediately after the arrival of U.S. investigators. “Until it is completed Gulf Air cannot speculate on the reasons for the accident,” he said. Ibrahim Abdullah al-Hammar, Transport Ministry Undersecretary for Civil Aviation, told Bahrain television on Friday that Bahraini officials met the Airbus team on Thursday. He said a meeting of regional experts as well as the Airbus and U.S. teams would take place on Friday night, but the official investigation was due to start on Saturday. FAMILIES CRY AT NEWS CONFERENCE Several victims’ families attended the news conference, but some were escorted out when they started crying. Two days after the crash, the grief-stricken families are going deeper into shock, psychologists and trauma doctors said. Seeing photographs of their dead kin on Thursday was the peak of their grief, they told Reuters. “We saw many hysterical cases last (Thursday) night,” said Egyptian trauma doctor Emad Shoary, who accompanied relatives of the 63 Egyptian victims on the flight from Cairo on Thursday. “There are many problems. Some diabetic people are refusing to eat. People are collapsing with shock,” he said. “The families will need counselling for a long time to come.” Many of the families huddled in the foyer of their Manama hotel, all dressed in black mourning clothes. Some sought solace in each other’s arms. Others stared with blank eyes into the distance and many cried silently. Many were wrapped in blankets as Bahraini and Egyptian doctors tried to help them. Egyptian Kamal Boutrous Gaad lost his 33-year-old cousin. “He was flying to Bahrain to take up a job. It was the first time he had ever left Egypt,” he said, choking back tears. Gulf Air President Sheikh Ahmed said the plane’s black boxes, recovered from shallow waters, had not been opened yet. A Gulf Air statement said: “The black box flight data recorder cannot be opened in Bahrain, where it is currently under guard with civil aviation affairs, and it will be sent for examination and interpretation in Europe or America.” NO EVIDENCE OF FIRE IN ENGINE Gulf Air said it had no evidence that an engine on the Airbus, powered by two CFM56-5 engines built by General Electric Co and France’s state-owned SNECMA, had caught fire, as reported by witnesses in Bahrain and initially by Bahrain television. “Gulf Air’s position is that there is no evidence it has seen that there was a fire in the engine. Three Gulf Air employees saw the incident and none of them reported there was anything unusual about the plane,” a spokesman told Reuters. As rescue teams continued to retrieve mangled pieces of the plane, suitcases and clothing from the water, relatives of the victims of the crash, the sixth and most deadly accident involving an Airbus A320 since the sophisticated plane entered service in April 1988, began claiming the bodies of their loved ones to take them home for burial. Gulf Air said it was planning to pay families $25,000 immediately as part of the compensation for each victim. The announcement angered some families. “How can they say a person’s life is worth $25,000?” one relative asked another. REUTERS ——————- ———————————————————————- MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Three bodies wrapped in cloth, one the size of a small child, were lain before the faithful in the Grand Mosque Friday during a special prayer for the dead in honor of the 143 victims of the Gulf Air crash. Bahrain’s Prime Minister Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and other top officials stood side-by-side with 2,000 Muslims reciting funeral prayers before the bodies, which were among the 107 adults and 36 children killed in Wednesday’s air disaster, said Information Ministry spokesman Syed el-Bably. Around the island, weekly Friday prayer services devoted time to funeral prayers for the passengers and crew. Across the street at the Gulf Hotel, relatives of the victims sought comfort from religious leaders and counselors as they continued the painful process of identifying loved ones from books of photographs of remains. “It’s very difficult to see the pictures,” said Nadr al-Khawaja, a Bahraini whose cousin, her husband and their 9-month-old baby son were killed. “It’s very hard for the parents — it’s torture.” Salvage attempts were continuing in the shallow waters at the crash site Friday. Twenty-six U.S. divers joined Bahraini experts scouring the sandy sea floor in search for more bits of wing and fuselage from Gulf Air flight 072. At dawn Friday, the divers began searching for “diplomatic cargo” being carried by a U.S. government courier, according to Cdr. Jeff Gradeck, spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. The State Department has said the courier, 31-year-old Seth Foti, was carrying pouches containing classified information. By midafternoon, there was no word of their recovery. The U.S. Embassy in Bahrain was planning a private memorial service Saturday for Foti. He and his wife of three months, Anisha, met at the embassy, where she had worked briefly last year. Scraps of metal and other remnants were brought to an airport hangar where aviation experts were reconstructing the Airbus 320 for investigators, said Gulf Air spokesman Stephen Tuckwell. Both of the plane’s “black boxes” — the flight data and voice cockpit recorders — were to be shipped abroad for data recovery but aviation experts had not finalized plans on Friday, Gulf Air said. Tuckwell said it could take weeks before the data was recovered. Bahrain’s State television had quoted witnesses soon after the crash who described seeing a fire in one of the aircraft’s engines. Gulf Air officials said there was no fire and other witnesses have said they did not see flames. Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy here said air accident investigators from the National Transportation and Safety Board were en route to Manama on Friday to join Bahraini investigators in determining the cause of the crash. Six French government experts and a representative of Airbus Industries arrived Thursday evening to look into the crash — the sixth for an Airbus 320 in the last 12 years. Flight 072 crashed in shallow water near shore and Ali Ahmedi, a spokesman and an acting vice pres
ident for Gulf Air, has said the pilot gave no indication to air traffic controllers that there were any problems in the plane. Gulf Air said 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board. Sixty-three passengers were Egyptian, 34 Bahraini, 12 Saudi Arabian, nine Palestinian, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British and one each from Canada, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan, Australia and the United States. Two crew members were Bahrainis with one each from Oman, the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt.
Bahrain: Brave citizens were at the forefront for recovering crash victims
The people of Bahrain were deeply saddened by the Airbus crash of Gulf Air flight GF072 on 23 August. The plane plunged into the sea off Bahrain killing all 143 people on board. The passengers were 63 Egyptians, 34 Bahrainis, 12 Saudis, 9 Palestinians, 6 UAE citizens, 3 Chinese, 2 Britons, and several others from other countries. The cause of crash has not yet been identified. The Bahraini pilot, Mr. Ihsan Shakib, was an experienced person who had an impressive record. His British wife and three children were being comforted tonight by relatives and citizens. The residents of Samahij and Dair were at the forefront of the operation for recovering the bodies and belongings of the victims. One citizen and a group of his friends from Samahij salvaged 16 bodies. The residents of Samahij also collected the belongings of the victims, including gold pieces, and forward them to the officials for further handling and investigation. Samahij residents confirmed that at least two victims were alive when they were picked up by citizens. They died later on the boat that was bringing them ashore. Later on, six helicopters, four of them belonging to the US marines, joined the emergency operation that ended with the recovery of all 143 bodies and the two black boxes recorders. The government has not been very open with the news and most of the official statements did not provide adequate information. Most of the news and information came from non-official sources. Bahrain Freedom Movement 24 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Grief As Families Identify Gulf Air Crash Dead
24 August 2000 Extracts from News Agencies MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Sobbing family members, their eyes bloodshot from a night of waiting, collapsed in anguish Thursday as names of their loved ones were listed as victims of the Gulf Air crash that killed all 143 aboard. Grieving relatives attended a meeting where the names of the victims were read aloud by a Gulf Air official, his voice choking on the words. “This is the worst day of my life. I lost a part of me,” cried Khalifa al-Hashil, 45, of Saudi Arabia, whose 35-year-old brother, Mohammed, was on the flight that crashed into the Persian Gulf on Wednesday night. In the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board said two investigators were heading to Bahrain but had not left yet. They were among several teams en route to help the Bahraini lead investigators determine the cause of the crash: Airbus said four of its experts left for Bahrain before dawn Thursday, and the French government’s Accident and Inquiry Office said it is sending two experts. At the crash site, meanwhile, searchers retrieved the cockpit voice recorder Thursday from the shallow Gulf waters, said Ali Ahmadi, a Gulf Air vice president. The flight data recorder from the Airbus A320 had been found earlier. Both were intact, according to Bahrain civil defense chief James Windsor, who received the voice cockpit recorder from U.S. Navy divers who brought it to shore. U.S. Navy helicopters, destroyers and an oceangoing tug with a 10-ton crane helped lead the search and rescue effort a few miles off the northern coast of Bahrain, which is the headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet. By midday Thursday, most of the floating debris had been collected. Only a couple of shoes and some yellow foam bobbed on the surface. Fleet spokesman Cdr. Jeff Gradeck’s office said the waters at the crash site were less than 40 feet deep. Windsor said much of the debris field was in water only six to nine feet deep. “On the seabed, you’ll find bits of aircraft all over the place, spread over the next few kilometers,” Windsor said, looking down from the bow of a small boat cruising over shadowy bits of wings and fuselage less than 10 feet below. Thirty-six of the 143 people on board GF072, an evening flight from Cairo to Manama, were children, officials said. Relatives were brought to a hotel in the capital, Manama, to identify victims from photos taken after all the bodies — badly disfigured from the impact — were recovered. Some women, dressed in floor-length black chadors, could barely stand when names of their loved ones were read. Other relatives fell to their knees weeping and screaming. Funerals for some Bahraini victims, customarily held hours after death, were not expected until at least Friday, largely because of trouble identifying shattered remains. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash. Ahmadi said investigations have begun, but he added that Bahraini officials will wait for the additional experts for a more thorough probe. International civil aviation rules call for an investigation conducted by the country where the accident occurred with participation from countries where the plane was registered, operated, manufactured and designed. The NTSB often sends experts abroad when a small country without NTSB-type expertise requests the agency’s help. An air traffic controller at the Bahrain airport, reached by telephone, described watching the plane attempt to land. “The plane was near the runway, but didn’t land,” he said, asking that his name not be used. “It circled two times and the third time it crashed into the sea.” Ibrahim Al-Hamer, Bahrain’s undersecretary for civil aviation, said the circling was not unusual and the crew reported nothing out of the ordinary. He added that the captain, whom he did not name, had 21 years of experience. Gulf Air said 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board. Sixty-three passengers were Egyptian, 34 Bahraini, 12 Saudi Arabian, nine Palestinian, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British and one each from Canada, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan, Australia and a diplomatic courier from the United States. The crew included two Bahrainis and one each from Oman, the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. In Cairo, where the flight originated, relatives of passengers departed on a special Gulf Air flight to Bahrain to identify bodies. One relative there tried to attack news cameramen and complained about the lack of information. Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations. The plane, delivered to Gulf Air in September 1994, had accumulated 17,177 flight hours in 13,848 flights, the Airbus statement said. Gulf Air’s most recent disaster came in 1983, when a 737-200 crashed during approach to Abu Dhabi after a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment. The crash killed all six crew members and 105 of 111 passengers. ——————————————- CAIRO, Egypt (AP) — Like so many thousands of his countrymen, Rida Hassan was a long-distance commuter, escaping Egypt’s moribund economy for work in the oil-rich Gulf. And like 62 other Egyptians, Hassan was aboard the Gulf Air flight that plunged into shallow water off the coast of Bahrain on Wednesday, killing all 143 people on board. Many of the Egyptians on board were headed for jobs in Bahrain or elsewhere in the Gulf. Thirty-six passengers were children, many of whom had vacationed in Egypt with their families, officials said. Hassan’s uncle, who had rushed to the airport after hearing the list of passengers read on television, said his nephew had come back to Egypt for a month to get married and was returning to his job in a restaurant in Bahrain. The uncle declined to give his name. The impact on Egypt was even more shocking coming less than a year after EgyptAir Flight 990 crashed in the waters off the northeast U.S. coast. All 217 people aboard — most of them Egyptian — were killed. The cause of that crash still has not been determined, providing no closure to the victims’ families, whose grief was reopened earlier this month with the release of a factual report by the National Transportation Safety Board. Walid Mourad, head of the Egyptian Pilots Association, said Wednesday’s crash is a tragedy for the Arab people as a whole, but especially Egyptians. “We are all family and brothers. We all have something in this,” Mourad said. “But for the Egyptians, this is a double blow. Two disasters in a row for the Egyptians.” Egypt lacks the oil wealth of the Gulf and has an economy struggling to revive from decades of socialist stagnation. It has a long tradition of sending workers to Gulf countries to fill everything from skilled to menial jobs. Remittances from workers abroad make up Egypt’s biggest source of foreign exchange. In Bahrain, relatives began the wrenching process of identifying the victims from photographs taken after the bodies were retrieved from the Gulf. Meanwhile, in Cairo, frantic relatives prepared to fly to Bahrain for the sad task of identifying the shattered remains of their relatives. Women in the airport screamed and men tried vainly to calm them. Mohammed Ibrahim el-Naggar was frustrated. El-Naggar said his cousin, her husband who works in Dubai, and their two children aged 2 and 3 were on the downed plane. “No information is being given to us. Absolutely nothing. We were told that there were some survivors but no names were given,” he said. A special Gulf Air flight with 155 relatives of victims, and seven doctors, clergymen and officials, left Cairo Thursday for Bahrain. Transportation Minister Ibrahim el-Dimeiri came to the Cairo airport Thursday to express his condolences to families of the victims as they prepared to leave. Egyptians working overseas save to buy houses and businesses back home. But they often are second-class citizens in the countries where they work. Resentment spilled over in Kuwait last year, when disgruntled Egyptian workers burned vehicles and trashed stores after one
of their compatriots got into a fight with a supermarket attendant. ———————————— MANAMA (Reuters) – Grief-stricken families searched through photographs Thursday to identify victims of the Gulf Air disaster in which all 143 people aboard an Airbus jet died when it plunged into the sea off Bahrain. Among the dead, which included whole families, was a Canadian victim. Canadian foreign ministry officials identified the Canadian victim as Mohammed A. Haram, who was in his late 20s and had relatives living in Beirut. The Airbus A320 plunged into the warm Gulf waters as it approached Bahrain airport after several attempts to land on a flight from Cairo Wednesday night. Relatives were taken to a Manama hotel to identify family members from photographs before being taken to morgues to collect the bodies for burial. “I lost my pregnant wife and 1-1/2-year-old son. They were on holiday in Egypt,” a distraught Bahraini man said. Abdul-Rahman bin Rashed al-Khalifa, administration director at Bahrain’s Civil Defense, told Bahrain television: “We were able to recover all the bodies. I regret to say that we did not find any survivors. All 143 bodies have been recovered.” Rescue teams, including U.S. navy units, worked through the night to retrieve the bodies from the calm Gulf waters. Al-Khalifa said both the black box flight recorder and the cockpit voice recorder had been recovered. A team from the plane’s maker Airbus Industrie, which has refused to speculate on what might have caused the crash, was due in Manama later Thursday to help with the investigation. Al-Khalifa said earlier that most of the first 70 bodies recovered were those of children who were on the doomed GF072 flight. Many Gulf and expatriate families return to their homes in the region around this time of the year to prepare for the new school year after summer holidays abroad. PLANE CRASHED AFTER SEVERAL ATTEMPTS TO LAND The Airbus crashed after it had made several attempts to land at Bahrain airport. Bahrain television initially quoted unidentified officials as saying it plunged into the sea after an engine caught fire. Media reports in the region said the pilot did not indicate to air traffic controllers in Bahrain that he was facing any technical problems. There was no official confirmation of the reports. Film on Bahrain television from the crash site showed mangled pieces from the plane’s fuselage floating on the water. Suitcases, clothes and other personal items floated nearby as helicopters and boats continued to patrol the area. Grief-stricken relatives huddled together in the foyer of the Manama hotel. Women sobbed as men tried in vain to comfort them. Others recited verses from the Muslim holy book, The Koran. One by one they slowly went into the room to look at the pictures. All emerged sobbing. Most of the victims were in body bags with only disfigured faces showing. Some faces looked frozen with fear. Gulf Air’s Acting Vice-President for Personnel, Ali Ahmadi — himself fighting back tears — told reporters at the hotel that some bodies might be difficult to identify. “Apart from identifying the bodies, some of the families have already requested to take the bodies to their home countries,” he said. “Because of the nature of the accident, some bodies may be difficult to identify.” He said the bodies would be taken to Mina Salman port in Manama where families would be able to collect them. He said Gulf Air did not have any reports of technical problems with the plane before it left Cairo. GULF AIR FLYING RELATIVES FROM CAIRO Gulf Air was flying relatives of the 63 Egyptian victims to Manama to identify the bodies. A list from Gulf Air of the names of people killed showed a large number of people with the same surnames, and several media reports said entire families had died. The airline’s list showed that of the nine Palestinian victims, six had the same family name. A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates said the six UAE victims included a man and his son as well as a woman, her husband and their son. Of the 63 Egyptians on board, there are appeared to be at least seven families and Saudi Arabian newspapers said a Saudi family was killed. A Gulf Air official said most of the plane’s passengers were Arabs but there were also a few from other parts of the world. He listed the passengers as 63 Egyptians, 34 Bahrainis, 12 Saudis, nine Palestinians, six UAE citizens, three Chinese, two Britons, and one each from Australia, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan, Korea and Canada. In Washington, a State Department official said an American working as a U.S. diplomatic courier was on the plane. Gulf Air officials did not mention an American among the passengers. There was also a crew of eight: the captain was Bahraini and the co-pilot was from Oman. The male cabin attendant was Bahraini and the five female attendants came from the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. ———— ———- LONDON (Reuters) – The possibility of an engine fault is one of the points of focus for investigators after witness reports of the crash of a Gulf Air Airbus A320 in the waters off Bahrain Wednesday. One witness reported a flash of light from an engine before the jet plunged into the sea, killing all 143 aboard. Another witness reported hearing an explosion. Bahraini television initially quoted unidentified officials as saying the plane had crashed after an engine caught fire. A Gulf Air statement made no mention of this, however. Details on the ultimate cause of the crash depend on painstaking study of the wreckage and data from equipment such as the “black box” flight and voice recorders giving details of the plane’s last minutes in the air. The maker, Airbus Industrie (ARBU.UL), said in a statement Wednesday night that the plane was powered by two CFM56-5 engines, built by General Electric Co (GE.N) and France’s state-owned SNECMA SNEC.UL. “The CFM56 has an excellent reputation for reliability, and it seems an unlikely contributor to a crash,” said Australian aviation expert Gerard Frawley. The CFM56 is a popular engine, powering thousands of A320s, A340s and Boeing 737s. In fact, modern turbofan engines rarely cause aircraft crashes. They sometimes fail, but any twin-jet airliner can keep flying with its remaining engine so an engine problem has to be fairly unusual to bring an aircraft down. When a plane does crash after an apparent power plant fault, experts often wonder whether it suffered a so-called uncontained engine failure. That happens when the hot compressors or turbines inside a jet engine, racing at thousands of revolutions a minute, fly apart and burst through the engine casing. The casing is supposed to be strong enough to contain such explosions, which can stem from such causes as maintenance errors or from the engine sucking in birds. Still, experts say that while uncontained failure is a common focus of early speculation after a crash, usually the cause is something quite unexpected or unpredictable. “Most crashes are caused by human error,” said Frawley, editor of industry monthly Australian Aviation. Airbus Industrie declined to speculate on what might have cause the crash and was sending a team of specialists to Bahrain to help with the investigation. —————————– MANAMA, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Members of several families appear to have perished when Gulf Air flight GF072 crashed into the sea off Bahrain killing all 143 people on board. A list of the names of people killed in the crash, published by the airline early on Thursday just hours after the plane went down, showed a large number of people with the same surname, and several media reports in the region spoke of entire families who died. The Airbus 320, on a flight from Cairo to Bahrain, crashed after it made several attempts to land at Bahrain airport on Wednesday. Bahrain television said it plunged into the sea after an engine caught fire. Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite television showed footage from Cairo airport where relatives of passengers said one woman lost her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. The airline’s list showed that of the nine Palestinian victims, six had th
e same family name. A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates said the six UAE victims included a man and his son as well as a woman, her husband and their son. Of the 63 Egyptians on board, there are appeared to be at least seven families. Bahrain said early on Thursday that all 143 people on board were killed and their bodies recovered. Relatives are to meet in Bahrain later on Thursday to identify the victims. An official had earlier said that most of the first 70 bodies to be recovered were those of children. Many Gulf and expatriate families return to their homes in the region at this time to prepare for the new school year at the end of summer holidays abroad. A Gulf Air official said most of the plane’s passengers were Arabs but there were also a few Westerners. He listed the passengers as 63 Egyptians, 34 Bahrainis, 12 Saudis, nine Palestinians, six UAE citizens, three Chinese, two Britons, and one each from Australia, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan, Korea and Canada. There was also a crew of eight: the captain was Bahraini and the co-pilot was from Oman. The male cabin attendant was Bahraini and five female attendants came from the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. REUTERS
Several families may have perished in Gulf Air crash
By Abbas Salman 24 August 2000 MANAMA (Reuters) – A Gulf Air airliner crashed into the sea off Bahrain killing all 143 people on board, a Bahraini official said on Thursday. “We were able to recover all the bodies. I regret to say that we did not find any survivors. All 143 bodies have been recovered,” Abdul-Rahman bin Rashed al-Khalifa, administration director at Bahrain’s Civil Defense, told Bahrain television. Al-Khalifa had earlier said that most of the first 70 bodies to be recovered were those of children who were on the doomed GF072 Airbus 320 flight from Cairo to Bahrain. Many Gulf and expatriate families usually return to their homes in the region around this time of the year to prepare for the new school year at the end of summer holidays abroad. Al-Khalifa said the black box (flight recorder) had also been retrieved from the wreckage of the Airbus, which went down in shallow waters off the Gulf island state on Wednesday. “We hope to find the cockpit voice recorder soon,” he said, adding that the body of the plane remained submerged in the sea. GRIEVING FAMILIES TOLD TO IDENTIFY BODIES Grieving relatives were asked to gather at a Manama hotel on Thursday morning for the painful task of identifying the bodies. Officials said the plane had made more than one attempt to land before it disappeared from radar screens at 12:30 EDT and plunged into the sea a few miles from the airport’s runway. Witnesses told Bahrain television that they heard an explosion and saw a flash of light from an engine before the airliner fell from the sky. Bahrain television had reported that the plane crashed after an engine caught fire. Ibrahim Abdullah al-Hammar, Transport Ministry Undersecretary for Civil Aviation, told a news conference at the airport early on Thursday that Bahrain would ask the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board to help with the inquiry. A U.S. spokesman for the 5th Fleet based in Bahrain, which helped in the search, said calm seas had aided the operation. “The aircraft crashed in shallow water. The climate is very hot and humid but clear and the sea is calm. So the conditions are near perfect to conduct this type of operation,” he said. MOST PASSENGERS OF ARAB NATIONALITIES A Gulf Air official said most of the plane’s passengers were Arabs but there were also a few Westerners. He listed the passengers as 63 Egyptians, 34 Bahrainis, 12 Saudis, nine Palestinians, six UAE citizens, three Chinese, two Britons, and one each from Australia, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan, Korea and Canada. In Washington, a State Department official said an American working as a U.S. diplomatic courier was on the plane. Gulf Air officials did not mention an American among the passengers. Gulf Air said that of the aircraft’s eight crew members, the captain was Bahraini and the co-pilot was from Oman. The male cabin attendant was Bahraini and five female attendants came from the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. Hammar, of the transport ministry, told the news conference that the pilot failed to land the plane in two approaches and that the plane crashed 10 minutes after the initial approach. “He could not land the plane in the first approach. He asked for a go-round, but did not succeed in landing and during the third approach the plane crashed in the sea,” he said. Gulf Air said in a statement: “The aircraft…was conducting a normal approach into runway 12 at Bahrain International Airport. Approximately one nautical mile from touchdown and at about 600 feet above sea level the aircraft commenced a go-around. “During the go-around the aircraft impacted the sea approximately one nautical mile north of the airport,” it said. The Bahraini Armed Forces said in a statement that nine of its helicopters were leading the search and rescue operation, helped by boats that had recovered bodies and pieces of wreckage. THREE DAYS OF MOURNING Bahrain’s Emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, said in an address on Bahrain Television he had ordered an investigation into the crash and declared a three-day mourning period. Hammar told the news conference that relatives were asked to identify the victims on Thursday before the bodies could be handed over to them. More than 200 relatives and friends of people on board the plane, many wailing in grief, were taken to a special lounge at Bahrain airport where they were receiving counseling. “This is the end of me,” wailed one Egyptian woman, overcome with grief. “I want my son,” another Egyptian woman screamed. “I have two relatives on the plane,” said an Egyptian man with tears streaming down his face. A Saudi man fainted as a Gulf Air official read out to grieving relatives a list of the names of people aboard the plane. “That’s it. They are all dead,” said another man. Bahrain-based Gulf Air, which has a fleet of 30 aircraft, is equally owned by the governments of Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates. The doomed plane was delivered to Gulf Air in September 1994 and had chalked up some 17,177 flight hours, Airbus Industrie said in a statement issued in Paris. It said the plane was powered by CFM56-5 engines — built by General Electric Co and France’s state-owned SNECMA. Airbus would not speculate on what might have caused the crash and said specialists would go to Bahrain to investigate. ——————————————————– MANAMA, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Members of several families appear to have perished when Gulf Air flight GF072 crashed into the sea off Bahrain killing all 143 people on board. A list of the names of people killed in the crash, published by the airline early on Thursday just hours after the plane went down, showed a large number of people with the same surname, and several media reports in the region spoke of entire families who died. The Airbus 320, on a flight from Cairo to Bahrain, crashed after it made several attempts to land at Bahrain airport on Wednesday. Bahrain television said it plunged into the sea after an engine caught fire. Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite television showed footage from Cairo airport where relatives of passengers said one woman lost her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren. The airline’s list showed that of the nine Palestinian victims, six had the same family name. A newspaper in the United Arab Emirates said the six UAE victims included a man and his son as well as a woman, her husband and their son. Of the 63 Egyptians on board, there are appeared to be at least seven families. Bahrain said early on Thursday that all 143 people on board were killed and their bodies recovered. Relatives are to meet in Bahrain later on Thursday to identify the victims. An official had earlier said that most of the first 70 bodies to be recovered were those of children. Many Gulf and expatriate families return to their homes in the region at this time to prepare for the new school year at the end of summer holidays abroad. A Gulf Air official said most of the plane’s passengers were Arabs but there were also a few Westerners. He listed the passengers as 63 Egyptians, 34 Bahrainis, 12 Saudis, nine Palestinians, six UAE citizens, three Chinese, two Britons, and one each from Australia, Kuwait, Oman, Sudan, Korea and Canada. There was also a crew of eight: the captain was Bahraini and the co-pilot was from Oman. The male cabin attendant was Bahraini and five female attendants came from the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. REUTERS —————————————————————– CAIRO, Aug. 24 (Kyodo) — (EDS: UPDATING WITH THE RECOVERY OF ALL 143 BODIES FROM CRASH) The bodies of all 143 people on board a Gulf Air Airbus A320 that crashed into the sea off Bahrain on Wednesday night have been recovered, reports from Manama said Thursday. According to the reports, rescuers, working around the clock, recovered the bodies of eight crew and 135 passengers, mostly from Egypt, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Thirty-six of the passengers were under the age of 18. The Japanese Embassy in Egypt said no Japanese were on the flight. The plane’s flight data recorder has been recovered, but the cockpit voice recorder still rem
ains in the water, the local reports said. The airliner, which went down at around 7:30 p.m., was en route to Bahrain from Cairo. According to initial television reports from Bahrain, fire was seen spewing from one of the two engines on the aircraft. However, some witnesses said they saw no fire, but heard a strange noise coming from the engines. Gulf Air officials said the aircraft had made at least one attempt to land at Bahrain’s international airport before crashing a few kilometers offshore. The airport is located about 5 km northeast of Manama, Bahrain’s capital. Bahrain leader Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa instructed the government to set up a task force to probe the cause 2000 Kyodo News (c) Established 1945 ——————————————————————— LONDON, Aug 24 (Reuters) – The British Foreign Office said on Thursday it was contacting relatives of two Britons who were on the Gulf Air airliner that crashed into the sea off Bahrain killing all 143 people on board. “We can confirm there were two British passengers on the plane. They are presumed dead as there are no survivors reported,” a spokesman said. “We are contacting their families and until we have done so no names will be released.” The doomed Airbus 320 was on a flight from Cairo to Bahrain on Wednesday. A Bahraini official said on Thursday there were no survivors. —————————————————————————————– BEIJING (AP) — China’s official news agency said Thursday that three of its employees were among the 143 victims of a Gulf Air flight that crashed off Bahrain. The three were returning home after visiting their husbands who work at the Xinhua News Agency’s Middle East regional office and Cairo bureau, the state-run agency said in a brief report. The Airbus A320, en route from Cairo to Manama, crashed into shallow Gulf waters Wednesday night after circling and trying to land in Bahrain. ——————————————————————————- Associated Press Writer MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Gulf Air Airbus A320 crashed into shallow Persian Gulf waters Wednesday night after circling and trying to land in Bahrain, killing all 143 people aboard, including 36 children, officials said. All bodies were recovered and there were no survivors, Bahraini Civil Defense Commander Brigadier Abdul-Rahman Bin Rashed Al Khalifa said on state-run television. There was no immediate word on what caused the crash. Civil aviation authorities had said searchers also recovered both flight data recorders, but later corrected that, saying only the flight data recorder had been found. The search continued for the cockpit voice recorder. U.S. Navy helicopters, destroyers and an oceangoing tug with a 10-ton crane joined the nighttime search in about 40 feet of water three or four miles off the northern coast of Bahrain, which is headquarters of the U.S. 5th Fleet. An air traffic controller at the Bahrain airport, reached by telephone, described watching the plane attempt to land. “The plane was near the runway, but didn’t land,” he said, asking that his name not be used. “It circled two times and the third time it crashed into the sea.” The controller saw no flames or sign of trouble before the crash and could not immediately explain why the plane circled before landing. He said the plane’s crew did not report anything out of the ordinary. He gave the time of the crash as 7:20 p.m. (12:20 p.m. EDT). Ibrahim Al-Hamer, Bahrain’s undersecretary for civil aviation, said the circling was not unusual and the crew reported nothing out of the ordinary. He said that the captain had 21 years of experience. He did not name the captain. “I could not believe my eyes,” said Sobeih, 27, a resident of the nearby neighborhood of Al-Fodha who saw the plane go down. “When I saw it heading toward the sea nose down, I screamed ‘Oh my God, this thing is going down.'” Sobeih and Riyadh, 24, another Al-Fodha resident, said the plane flew unusually low over their heads heading to the runway, but took a sharp turn toward the sea. Both men, who would not give their full names, said the plane returned minutes later flying even lower but headed straight to the sea where it crashed. They said unusual noises came from the plane’s engines, but they saw no flames. “I was in a state of shock,” said Riyadh. Gulf Air said in a statement that 135 passengers and eight crew members were on board GF072, an evening Cairo-Bahrain flight. Lists of passengers’ names showed that 36 were under the age of 18, but they didn’t appear to be traveling in any sort of group. Sixty-three passengers were Egyptian, 34 Bahraini, 12 Saudi, nine Palestinian, six from the United Arab Emirates, three Chinese, two British and one each from Canada, Oman, Kuwait, Sudan and Australia. And one passenger was believed to be an American. A State Department official in Washington said Bahraini officials had informed them that a boarding pass indicated that a U.S. diplomatic courier was aboard. The courier’s name was not immediately released. The crew included two Bahrainis and one each from Oman, the Philippines, Poland, India, Morocco and Egypt. Weeping relatives of passengers pleaded with policemen who threw a security ring around the airport outside the capital, Manama. Many did reach the airport, and cries and screams echoed in its halls. Dozens of men and women with reddened eyes and tears flowing down their cheeks wept loudly. Some comforted one another while others screamed out for their loved ones. Three U.S. helicopters, 10 small boats and the USS Katawba, a tug, joined Bahraini helicopters and boats in the search. Bahraini Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa personally directed the effort, the U.S. military said. The U.S. military pulled back three of the ships it had lent to the effort as the search geared down early Thursday, 5th Fleet officials said. Relatives of passengers also gathered at the airport in Cairo. There were angry scenes when one relative tried to attack news cameramen and complained about the lack of information on the fate of the passengers. Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations. Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the emir of Bahrain, declared three days of mourning and said a committee of Bahraini and foreign experts would investigate the crash. In France, Airbus Industrie said it was dispatching a team of specialists to Bahrain to help in the investigation. Al-Hamer, the civil aviation official, said Bahrain has asked the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board for assistance. The Airbus plane, delivered to Gulf Air in September 1994, had accumulated about 17,177 flight hours in some 13,848 flights, the Airbus statement said. In January, an Airbus A310 owned by Kenya Airways crashed into Atlantic Ocean shortly after takeoff from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Lagos, Nigeria. Ten people survived, and 169 died. An Air Inter Airbus A320 crashed in 1992 in Strasbourg, France, killing 87 people. Gulf Air’s most recent previous disaster came in 1983, when a 737-200 crashed during approach to Abu Dhabi after a bomb exploded in the baggage compartment. The crash killed all six crew members and 105 of 111 passengers.
URGENT NEWS: Gulf Air Jet Crashes Off Bahrain
CAIRO, Aug. 23 (Kyodo) — A Gulf Air Airbus A320 jetliner with 143 people on board crashed into the Persian Gulf Wednesday night, killing at least 70 people, news reports from Manama said.
Rescuers have recovered the bodies of more than 70 people, most of them children, from the scene of the crash, about 6 kilometers from the Bahrain international airport. So far, there is no report of survivors.
The airliner, which went down at around 7:30 p.m., was en route from Cairo.
Rescue workers, joined by U.S. naval ships and helicopters based in Bahrain, found the wreckage of the aircraft as well as debris on the crash scene, news reports from Manama said.
According to initial TV reports from Bahrain, fire was seen spewing out from an engine of the twin-engine aircraft.
The Associated Press, quoting an official of the Bahrain airport control tower, said the aircraft circled around the airport two times in an attempt to land and crashed on its third landing attempt.
Gulf Air, based in Bahrain, is jointly owned by Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
By ADNAN MALIK (23 August 10.27 pm) Associated Press Writer
By Nick Mead, PA News
Gulf Air tonight issued an emergency phone number for worried relatives in the UK after an Airbus A320 crashed into the Persian Gulf with 143 passengers and crew on board. Seventy bodies have been recovered from the wreckage, but no survivors so far, officials in Bahrain said.
The plane crashed shortly before arriving in Bahrain from Cairo after one of its engines caught fire, Bahraini state television said.
Flight GF072, carrying 135 passengers and eight crew, crashed about four miles north of Bahrain, 30 minutes short of its landing time, a Gulf Air spokesman said.
Bahraini television said a fire in one of the aircraft’s engines caused the crash.
An air traffic controller at the airport in Bahrain said he saw the plane circle the runway twice before it crashed into the sea and exploded.
The crew did not report anything out of the ordinary to the control tower, he added.
US Navy helicopters from the US Navy’s 5ft fleet, based in Bahrain, joined the rescue operation, the Pentagon said.
Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates.
Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations.
The information line for relatives in the UK is 0845 604 0171.
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Gulf Air Airbus A320 on a flight from Cairo to Bahrain with 143 passengers and crew crashed Wednesday in the Gulf waters near the state of Bahrain, state television said. It made no mention of survivors, saying only that a rescue operation was under way to recover bodies and that only the aircraft’s wreckage has so far been found. Interrupting normal programs, the television said the crash was caused by a fire in one of the aircraft’s engines. The aircraft crashed about three to four miles (4.8 to 6.4 kilometers) north of Bahrain, it added. Information Ministry officials had earlier said the plane plunged into the sea shortly after taking off from Bahrain airport on a flight to Cairo. An air traffic controller at Bahrain airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, described watching the plane from the tower circle the runway twice in an attempt to land, then on the third attempt plunging into the sea and exploding into flames. He gave the time of the crash as 1620 GMT. He saw no flames or sign of trouble before the crash and could not immediately explain why the plane circled before landing. He said the plane’s crew did not report anything out of the ordinary. In the capital, Manama, dozens of ambulances were seen heading toward the airport. U.S. Navy helicopters based in Bahrain are participating in the search and rescue operation at the crash site, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington. Bahrain is the regional home of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet. Two helicopters hovered low over the site of the crash with their flood lights switched on. Bodies retrieved from the scene were being ferried in ambulances to the Salmaniya hospital, the country’s largest, according to doctors. A huge traffic jam swiftly built up the entire length of the eight-kilometer (five-mile) long road from Manama to the airport east of the capital. Weeping relatives of flight GF072 passengers pleaded with policemen who threw a security ring around the airport. The airport controller later said the terminal was crowded with relatives of the passengers and crew. Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations. am/hh 23 August, 2000 11:09:00 pm The television said the crash was caused by a fire in one of the aircraft’s engines. The aircraft crashed about three to four miles (4.8 to 6.4 kilometers) north of the airport, it added. Information Ministry officials had earlier said the plane plunged into the sea shortly after taking off from Bahrain airport on a flight to Cairo. An air traffic controller at Bahrain airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, described watching the plane from the tower circle the runway twice in an attempt to land, then on the third attempt plunging into the sea and exploding into flames. He gave the time of the crash as 1620 GMT, but a statement by Gulf Air gave it as 1630 GMT. He saw no flames or sign of trouble before the crash and could not immediately explain why the plane circled before landing. He said the plane’s crew did not report anything out of the ordinary. Two Bahraini men from the residential area of Al-Fodha close to the airport told The Associated Press that the plane flew over their heads at an unusually low altitude heading to the runway, but took a sharp turn toward the sea. Only giving their first names — Riyadh, 24, and Sobeih, 27 — they said the plane returned minutes later flying at an even lower altitude but headed straight to the sea where it crashed. They said unusual noises came from the plane’s engines, but they saw no flames. In the capital, Manama, dozens of ambulances were seen heading toward the airport soon after the crash. U.S. Navy helicopters based in Bahrain are participating in the search and rescue operation at the crash site, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington. Bahrain is the regional home of the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet. Two helicopters hovered low over the site of the crash with their flood lights switched on. Bodies retrieved from the scene were being ferried in ambulances to the Salmaniya hospital, the country’s largest, according to doctors. A huge traffic jam swiftly built up the entire length of the eight-kilometer (five-mile) long road from Manama to the airport east of the capital. Weeping relatives of flight GF072 passengers pleaded with policemen who threw a security ring around the airport. The airport controller later said the terminal was crowded with relatives of the passengers and crew. In Cairo, only a handful of relatives of the passengers were at the airport in search of information on the fate of their loved ones and friends. There were angry scenes when one relative tried to attack news cameramen and complained about the lack of information on the fate of the passengers. The Gulf Air office at the airport was closed. Gulf Air is owned by Bahrain, the Gulf states of Oman and Qatar, as well as Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. Based in Bahrain, it flies to 53 international destinations. am/hh 23 August 2000, 11:10:00 pm MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — A Gulf Air Airbus A320 on a flight from Cairo with 143 people on board crashed Wednesday night in the Persian Gulf as it tried to land in Bahrain, officials and state television said. Civil Defense Commander Brigadier Abdul-Rahman Bin Rashed Al Khalifa told Bahrain television that 70 bodies had been retrieved within the first few hours of the crash. He said no survivors have been found. —————————- DOW JONES NEWS (10.59 pm) 70 Bodies Recovered So Far In Airbus Crash In Bahrain ———— —— By Abbas Salman 23August, 2000 10:27:00 pm MANAMA (Reuters) – A Gulf Air Airbus jet with 143 people aboard crashed in Bahraini waters Wednesday and rescue teams reached the wreckage. Bahrain’s state television said the plane crashed into the sea when an engine caught fire. Airport officials told Reuters the Airbus-320 was approaching Bahrain on a flight from Cairo when it disappeared off the radar screens at 1630 GMT. A Gulf Air official also said the plane was on its way from Cairo to Bahrain with 143 people, including eight crew members, on board. A Bahraini statement said: “The operations to retrieve bodies and look for missing people are going on and only the wreckage of the plane has been found.” “The search is also on for the black box,” it said, adding that the Airbus, Flight GF072 from Cairo, crashed around four miles in the waters north of Bahrain. Around 50 relatives of those on board the plane, many wailing in their grief, were taken to a special lounge at Bahrain airport where they were meeting airline officials. Qatar’s al-Jazeera satellite television quoted Bahraini Information Ministry officials as saying coast guard and marine forces quickly rushed to the site of the crash to start rescue operations. A spokesman for the U.S. Sixth Fleet based in Bahrain told Reuters that the fleet was helping with rescue operations. “We are helping with all kinds of rescue operations and the situation is well contained,” the spokesman said. Another spokesman said U.S. navy helicopters, including two from the USS George Washington carrier in the Gulf, also were helping with the rescue and that several “small patrol crafts and several ships were en route.” They said they had no information if there were any survivors of the crash. Bahrain-based Gulf Air, which has a fleet of 30 aircraft, is equally owned by the governments of Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi emirate in the United Arab Emirates. ——— ———– MANAMA (Aug. 23) XINHUA – Only wreckage of a crashed Gulf Air plane off Bahraini coast Wednesday night has been found so far in the waters and no survivors were mentioned. And the rescue operation is under way and helicopters from the U.S. Navy 5th Fleet in Bahrain are assisting in search for the survivors. The two-engine Airbus A320, carrying 135 passengers and eight crew and on a flight from Egyptian capital Cairo to Bahrain went down at 1630 GMT in the Persian Gu
lf 4.8 to 6.4 kilometers north of Bahrain after two attempt landing, a Bahraini official said. Bahraini officials had earlier said the flight GF072 plunged into the waters shortly after taking off from the Bahraini International Airport in the country’s capital of Manama. Witness reported a fire in one of the engines of the plane. Gulf Air belongs in equal parts to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the government of Abu Dhabi, the largest of seven sheikdoms making up the United Arab Emirates. The Bahrain-based Gulf Air operates a fleet of 28 planes and flies to 53 international destinations. There are altogether 1,100 A320s in service around the world. Copyright XINHUA NEWS AGENCY —————
Bahrain: 25th anniversary of dissolution of parliament commemorated by the government with more violations
More forcible deportations were reported last week. Mohammed Al-Zuheiri and his family returned from Iran to his homeland only to be stopped at the airport, intimidated and then forcibly deported. Another citizen returned from the United Kingdom and faced the same treatment. Mr. Abdul Halim Al-Halwachi returned home but was not allowed to step inside his homeland. Instead, the interior ministry’s officials at Bahrain International Airport forcibly deported him to the UK. The government of Bahrain is the only “national” government in the world that forcibly deports the natives of the country while at the same it imports mercenaries from outside Bahrain and grants them free citizenship. More detentions were reported in the past weeks. On 27 July, the following children were detained in Abo-Saiba’a: Seyed Mahmood Alawi Ibrahim, 16, Seyed Jawad Hassan, 16, Seyed Hassan Ali, 16, Seyed Sadiq Mohammed, 16, and Seyed Ammar Alawi Omran, 16. Another teenager, Hassan Dawood Salman was arrested on 24 July. All were kept for ten days, tortured and then released. During the past week, several 15 and 16-year old youths were arrested in Hamad Town (fourth roundabout), amongst them: Hussein Ali Hassan. Abdul Karim Hassan Ibrahim, 35, from Dair, was detained and ill-treated for one day last week. The following teenagers were arrested in Daih recently and transferred to Budaya Police Station for interrogation. They had been released but they are summoned every now and then for interrogation by the intelligence services. These are: Ahmed Radhi Salman Al-Oneisi, 19 years, Ahmed Abdulla Ali Rabea, 18, Mohammed Saleh Jaffer Mushaimaa, 19, Hussain Ali Rustom Habib, Rustom, 16, Ali Abdulla Saad, 16, Hassan Abdul Rasool, 19, and Hesham Ali Hussain, 19. Moreover, the following were arrested three months ago and nothing is yet known about them: Mohammed Mansoor, 12, Mortadha Ali Al-Oreibi, 17, Abdulla Zabil, 14, Seyyed Gaffer Hussain, 15, Hussain Saeed Zabil, 17 (this is his second arrest), Hussain Ali Shamtoot, 17 (spent by now six month in detention), Ahmed Mansoor Qambar, 17 (four months in detention by now), Nabil Hassan Al-Bonni, 16, and Aqil Hassan Al-Bonni, 17. The London-based Al-Quds newspaper published an important article on 22 August for the pro-democracy figure, Mr. Ali Rabea. Mr. Rabea questioned the possibility of solving the political and economic issues on the basis of unconstitutional laws. He described how the political situation deteriorated since the dissolution of the parliament on 26 August 1975. He explained that the laws that triggered the dissolution of the parliament (the State Security Law) has been and continues to be implemented to repress the aspirations of the nation. He pointed out that the wishes of the people of Bahrain were clearly stated during the seminars organised by the clubs in the past weeks. All have demanded the restoration of political and civil rights of citizens . He clarified that for the Amir’s recent announcements to be realised there is a need to start addressing the issues head-on, by implementing the constitutional framework that has been suspended for the past 25 years. Bahrain Freedom Movement 23 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: International campaigners urge the government to respond positively to citizens’ demands for political rights
Mr. Daniel Blackburn, the Administration and Research Director of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR) issued an appeal on 16th August urging the government of Bahrain to respond positively to the demands submitted by members of the General Committee for Bahraini Workers (GCBS). Mr. Blackburn stated that the petition submitted by the GCBW is an historic document that will be judged by all observers as a balanced and legitimate approach, which ought to be listened to. Mr. Blackburn said, “The ICTUR has been invited to join the Bahrain trade unionists in campaigning for the right to organize trade unions in Bahrain. ICTUR is aware of the position of workers committees in Bahrain and urge the government to heed the request of the GCBW and the trade unions groups, which have called for the lifting of the ban, which outlaws trade unions in Bahrain. ICTUR considers the GCBW official petition handed to the prime minister on 31 of July to be a balanced document and one entirely in accordance with the principles of the International Labour Organisation and the Arab Labour Organisation. As such these are generally accepted principles throughout the world. ICTUR is most disappointed to learn that the prime minister has restated his opposition to trade unions and continues to deny the right of freedom of association to Bahrain’s workers. ICTUR will be publishing news of this petition in our respected journal “International Union Rights” which is read in over 80 countries worldwide. Our readers will be most concerned to learn that an opportunity to introduce laws and principles in accordance with International labour laws and human rights documents has been rejected in this way. The International community awaits news of improvement for workers rights in Bahrain.“ A spokesperson for the Bahrain Human Rights Organisation (BHRO) said “it is high time for he government to recognize the right of Bahrainis to form trade unions and human rights associations in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International laws and the Constitution of Bahrain”. To mark the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the National Assembly and the political developments in Bahrain, Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group, will be hosting a special seminar entitled “Bahrain: upholding the constitution to end the crisis”. The seminar will be held on Wednesday 30 August 2000, at 1.00 pm, in the UK House of Parliament, Committee Room B, 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), Westminster, London SW1. Bahrain Freedom Movement 20 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
UK Parliament: Seminar on Bahrain
To mark the 25th anniversary of the dissolution of the partially-elected National Assembly and the political developments in the Gulf island of Bahrain Lord Avebury, Vice-Chair of the UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group “Bahrain: upholding the constitution to end the crisis” Time: 1.00 pm, Wednesday 30 August 2000 Place: Committee Room B, Venue: 1 Abbey Gardens (Annex to the House of Lords), Westminster, London SW1
Bahrain: In a show of force, the PM orders GCBW to adjourn scheduled elections
On 14 August, a day before leaving the country on a private tour, the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa summoned an urgent meeting with Executive Committee of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers (GCBW). The interior and labour ministers also attended the meeting. The urgent meeting was called following an extra-ordinary meeting by the GCBW that discussed the response of the PM to the letter submitted by the GCBW demanding the restoration of labour rights in accordance with Bahrain constitution which states in Article 27 “Freedom to form associations and trade unions on a national basis and for lawful objectives and by peaceful means shall be guaranteed in accordance with the conditions and procedures prescribed by the law”. The prime minister had formally rejected all labour demands on 6 August, and during the meeting on 14 August, the prime minister stated to the members of GCBW that they must adjourn the next elections scheduled to take place next November. As an absolute dictator, the prime minister did not explain his reasons and ordered all attendants to abide by his orders. The presence of his interior minister was the clearest message to the GCBW member who had earlier been threatened that the interior ministry will not hesitate to use its unlimited powers to suppress them. Earlier in the day, the GCBW had gathered in an extraordinary meeting and agreed on the following: 1. Pulling out and boycotting the meetings of the High Council for Vocational Training and General Organisation for Social Insurance until the government allows representatives from the General Assembly of the GCBW to attend these meetings. 2. Insisting on the holding of elections for the joint committees in 18 companies according to the schedule setout by the General Assembly on 29 July. The elections shall take place next November without the intervention of interior and labour ministries as in previous years. 3. Rejecting the orders of interior ministry and going ahead with the election of the main GCBW in February 2001. 4. Insisting on pursuing all legitimate demands as has been detailed in the letter submitted by the president of the GCBW to the prime minister. These are the demands for the right to unionise and collective bargaining as per international and Arab agreements setout by the International Labour Union and Arab labour and human rights organisations. 5. Insisting on the right of the General Assembly for freedom of expression and access to local media. The response to these resolutions was swift and dictatorial. The prime minister summoned an urgent meeting in a muscle show and ordered the adjournment of elections, thereby challenging the will of the labour movement. Bahrain Freedom Movement 16 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: 29th anniversary of Bahrain independence
Twenty-nine years ago, on 14 August 1971, Bahrain gained its independence from the United Kingdom. Bahrain had been under British control since 1820. British involvement in Bahraini affairs increased every year and in 1869 it was Britain that intervened to end a civil war inside the Al-Khalifa family that had cost the country its stability. Britain removed a branch of the Al-Khalifa family and appointed a 21-year Isa bin Ali as ruler for the next 54 years. The 54 years of Isa bun Ali were one of the worst periods in Bahrain history when serfdom and exacting tribute became the norm. The indigenous population that existed before the arrival of Al-Khalifa to Bahrain were dispossessed from their lands and converted into serfs in their own farms. A feudal governing system meant that each member of an Al-Khalifa family was awarded an area to rule arbitrarily as he wished. Each sheikh exacted tributes and extracted taxes, the worst of which was called Raqabeyya. This is a poll tax imposed on the indigenous population only. These tributes, land-confiscations and feudal practices emanated from a medieval concept adopted by the Al-Khalifa family. It is the concept of Al-Fateh, meaning “The Conqueror”. According to this medieval and backward concept, the conqueror legitimizes to himself the exacting of tributes, killing of people and confiscation of lands from those who lost in the battle. The Al-Khalifa considered the indigenous population as losers in a battle with them in 1783 and as a result of this they had to be subjected to the mentality of “Al-Fateh”. In 1895 and in 1922, the indigenous population revolted against this feudal and inhumane system and it was Britain that intervened and removed Isa bin Ali in 1923. His son came to power with the promise of ending those practices and with the formation of modern administration. Soon, the cosmopolitan Bahraini society took shape. In 1938, the first national movement surfaced calling for establishment of parliament, trade unions and rule of law. It was crushed and its leader were forced into exile. In 1954-56 another national uprising surfaced and in this case the British army was deployed, the movement was crunched and its leaders were sent into exile. In 1971, the ruling family faced regional challenges when Britain decided to pull out. The Shah of Iran laid claim to Bahrain while the people desired independence under a modern sovereign state. The Al-Khalifa family promised to be modern and to abide by a constitution that was ratified in 1973. A parliament was formed in 1973 but in 1975, the then Amir dissolved the constitutional body following a request from the prime minister, who still governs Bahrain in an absolute manner. In place of the parliamentary laws, the prime minister imposed a State Security Law that provided with absolute and unaccountable powers to govern the country as he wished. In 1994, the most powerful uprising surfaced in response to the return of absolutism and medieval practices. The county was being driven back to the times preceding 1923, a process that continues to date. The struggle of the cosmopolitan society of Bahrain has remained steady and will continue until the achievement of constitutional rights. The despots who believe in medieval concepts will have to upgrade themselves for the modern age, or go. Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 August 2000 Te/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Citizens released after prolonged arbitrary detention
The interior ministry released three people on 12 August: Jaber Al-Shu’ala, Majeed Milad and Jaffer Al-Sayyah. Mr. Al-Shu’la had completed his sentence over two years age, but the interior ministry continued jailing him. Majeed Milad and Jaffer Al-Sayyah were detained in January 1995 and sentenced to three years. They were released in 1998 for few days and then re-detained under the provisions of the State Security Law. Such cases clarify how the authorities deal with the people of Bahrain. The interior ministry’s officers are considered above the law and are not held accountable for their atrocities. The regime is eager to present a false image for itself. It is using some cheap individuals to publicise false claims of respect of human rights. The regime also appointed a human rights committee whose only achievement to date is the glorification of the government. On 12 August, a group of 18 lawyers and citizens submitted a proposal to the government requesting permission to form a non-governmental committee for human rights. The people of Bahrain have no faith in government’s appointees and the request of these 18 citizens will be the real test for the government’s intention towards respect of human rights. The International Secretariat of OMCT (World Organisation Against Torture) issued an urgent appeal on 11 August about the detention of seven children in Daih at the beginning of August. OMCT recalled that Bahrain is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37b) which states that “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” Furthermore, that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” OMCT urged Bahraini authorities “to take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the persons and order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges or, if such charges exist, bring them before an impartial and competent tribunal and guarantee their procedural rights at all times; put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary detention of people by the police and abrogate 1974 State Security Law and all national laws which are not in compliance with international human rights standards; guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child.” Bahrain Freedom Movement 14 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Labour representatives summoned and threatened
The ancient prime minister of Bahrain reaffirmed his rejection of all moves aiming at restoring the political rights of citizens. He ordered his labour minister, Abdul Nab Al-Shu’ala to meet with the Executive Committee of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers (GCBW) on 6 August and to warn them of the grave consequences awaiting them if they were to continue demanding their right to unionise. The GCBW submitted a petition on 31 July to the prime minister demanding the following: 1. Guaranteeing the right for forming a trade union and the development of labour laws, especially Chapter 17 of the Labour Law. Raising the standard of the laws to the level required by the International Labour Organisation and Arab Labour Union regarding union rights and collective bargaining. This requires the development of the GCBW to the status of a trade union (Bahrain Labour Union) and the return of exiled unionists. 2. Granting the representatives of the GCBW the right to participate in the trilateral councils, in the High Council for Vocational Training, and in Social Insurance, as specified by the basic law of the GCBW. 3. Granting the right of access to places of work to verify the conditions of employment and to solve workers problems. 4. Granting the GCBW the right to supervise the elections of workers’ committees and to lay down guidelines and byelaws for organising the forthcoming 8th election. 5. Granting freedom of expression to the GCBW in local media. 6. Putting an end to the intervention of the interior ministry in the activities of the GCBW and to put an end to the ministry’s rejection of candidates for election. 7. Removing the obstacles created by the labour ministry that were put in place in 1995, since the present minister took over. The response of the despotic prime minister to these demands was swift. He ordered his labour minister to summon leading members of Executive Committee of GCBW (Abdul Ghaffar Abdul Hussain, Saeed Al-Sammak, and Yousif Abdulla Yousif) on 6 August and to inform them that all their requests and demands were totally rejected. The prime minister’s message was clear: the labour ministry will continue to supervise the GCBW’s elections; the interior ministry will continue to intervene in the selection of candidates for elections, and the labour minister will continue to have his powers to intervene in the affairs of the GCBW and to dissolve it as and when. The labour minister also demanded that the GCBW officially withdraws the petition or faces the consequences of its insistence on them. Such a move by the prime minister confirms what the opposition has been saying for years, that he is the biggest obstacle to political reforms in Bahrain. He is not only the prime minister, but he is also the prime businessman who unfairly competes with citizens in all types of trades, and he is the prime jailer and extinguisher of hope in the country. Bahrain Freedom Movement 11 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Intelligence department bans a lecture on democracy; Children detained and ill-treated
Only six days after the Amir stated to the CNN that he “would follow his people’s will on introducing democracy”, the intelligence department intervened on 8 August to ban a meeting organised by Al-Ahli Club. The club invited the well-known lawyer, Mr. Hasan Radhi to deliver a lecture on “constitutional rights of citizens”. Many people had taken the words of the Amir about political openness on face value and went ahead to organise a series of meetings. Moreover, the local press had published the announcement for the lecture and many citizens intended to participate. Several of those who approached Al-Ahli Club on the evening of 8 August were informed that the intelligence department had ordered a ban on this particular lecture. The prime minister and his cronies could not bear to hear citizens debating their constitutional rights. The entire government and its practices are unconstitutional. The citizens are repressed and discriminated against by an oppressive regime that does not believe in the rights of Bahrainis to live with dignity and honour in their homeland. The prime minister sees himself as the biggest loser from any marginal openness that the Amir might be thinking of. He is more concerned with crowning his greedy son (also a minister of transport) as his successor for the post of premier. He understands that this is something opposed by his own Al-Khalifa family and he knows that he and his son are disliked figures, locally and regionally. While the Amir spoke about reforms, all what is implemented nowadays is concerned with imposing more repressive structures against the citizens. There are daily reports about meetings of the “social spies”, referred to by the ruling family as “mukhtars”. These are individuals selected by the interior ministry to monitor social functions and to report any public event to the interior ministry for direct repressive action. The police stations have been empowered to detain and ill-treat citizens in a vastly decentralized structure that is aimed at diluting responsibility for torturing citizens. The detention and torturing of citizens continues on a regular basis despite all the claims of the Amir. In the first week of August the following teenagers were arrested in Daih: Ahmed Radhi Al-Ansi, 19, Mohammed Saleh Mushaimaa, 19, Ahmed Abdulla Al-Khair, 16, Hussain Ali Rustom, 17, Ali Eid Saeed, 15, Mohammed Hassan, 13, Mahmood Hassan, 15, Talib Ali Al-Asfer, 13, Hamza Ali Al-Asfer, 12. These citizens were transferred to Al-Khamis for interrogation and torturing. Bahrain freedom Movement 9 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Pro-democracy movement calls for serious steps for introducing reforms
The pro-democracy forces inside and outside Bahrain have expressed their views towards the positive statements of the Amir. A follow-up seminar has been organised for Tuesday 8 August, at Al-Ahli Club where the lawyer Hasan Radhi is expected to present his views to an intellectual audience about nature of democratic process. On 22 August Mr. Mahommed Al-Hafedh will be speaking at the club about the practical aspects of democracy, while Dr. Abdul Latif Al-Mahmood is scheduled to talk about the concept of consultation in Islam on 29 August. The pro-democracy movement is positively responding and the challenge will be for the government to abide by the constitution of the country. On the other hand, the torturer Abdul Aziz Atteiat Allah Al-Khalifa is also attempting to show his face in some public gatherings. He has asked Sanabis Club to allow him to speak about the future municipalities elections. Many hundreds of the residents of Sanabis had suffered from the torture sessions that were conducted and directed by the same person who unashamedly is attempting to present another image for his misdeeds. The government has divided the capital into suburbs with alien names attached to these suburbs. However, it is expected that other areas in Bahrain will also be divided into new boundaries and these will be used for the municipalities’ election, possibly next year. Municipalities’ election existed in Bahrain between 1926 and 1956 under the British. The ruling family has banned these elections since 1956. In December 1999, the Amir promised to allow the resumption of local elections, and the opposition welcomed that announcement. However, opposition forces took a different view towards the announcement of the prime minister that the Shura Council would be elected in 2004. This is because the prime minister wants his governmental committee to be a replacement for the constitutional National Assembly. Unlike the National Assembly that was dissolved in 1975, the governmental committee (Shura Council) has no legislative or monitoring powers and has no constitutional basis. The opposition has called on the Amir to take serious steps towards improving the political situation in Bahrain. This can start immediately by releasing all political detainees and all those who had been sentenced by the unconstitutional State Security Court. The opposition also called on the Amir to stop the programme of importing people from outside Bahrain. More than 400 tribesmen (from Bani-Morrah tribe) were imported recently and given free passports. The passports are being used by the ruling family as a discretionary weapon against the people. Other people were promised passports in return for their silence. Bahrain Freedom Movement 7 August 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
DUBAI, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said on Wednesday he would follow his people’s will on introducing democracy and invited human rights activists to visit his Gulf Arab state.
Asked by Cable News Network if he was ready to introduce democratic reforms, the emir said “That will be in accordance with the wishes of the people.”
“We will always see what the wishes of the people are… As a leader, I will follow a course acceptable to the people,” Sheikh Hamad added, according to an Arabic text of the interview provided by the official Gulf News Agency.
Political unrest erupted in 1994 when the island’s majority Shi’ite Moslem community demanded political and economic reforms from the Sunni-led government. Disturbances have abated since 1998.
Bahrain, the Gulf’s financial hub, is a close U.S. ally and hosts the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet which monitors international sanctions against Iraq.
Sheikh Hamad said Bahrain would continue to act as a rear base for international weapons inspectors in Iraq if Baghdad agreed to allow new monitors in.
International human rights organisations have accused Bahrain of human rights violations, including the torture of prisoners and opposition activists.
Sheikh Hamad denied the mistreatment of political opponents and said he was ready to allow free access to human rights groups, including Amnesty International. “I am willing to carry them on my private aircraft and they can meet any group,” he told CNN.
The emir came to power last year after the death of his father. He has taken cautious steps to ease tension, releasing several political prisoners, including prominent Shi’ite Moslem cleric Sheikh Abdul-Amir al-Jamri.
Bahrain: Opposition welcomes Amir’s statements and calls for implementation of reforms
Newspapers in Bahrain responded with anger following the news broadcast by Al-Jazeera TV Channel that the Amir had undergone an operation in London. The government-controlled newspapers said the Amir had merely received a medical check-up. Claims of sicknesses of both Amirs of Bahrain and Qatar have been floated by bothsides in the past weeks as part of the on-going psychological and media wars between the two governments following the hearing in the International Court of Justice at the Hague regarding the dispute over Hawar islands. More important were the statements made in an interview with the Amir that had been broadcast by CNN on 2 August. The Amir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa pledged that “political reforms would be introduced into Bahrain and that these changes would reflect the wishes of the people.” This statement is indeed welcome and the opposition hopes that the Amir meant what he said. The people of Bahrain are living under the repressive regime of the State Security Law and State Security Court. The wishes of the people were made clear for all the world to read and hear. They are basic and legitimate and can be met without any danger posed to the Amir or his ruling family. The reforms needed are centered around the abrogation of the State Security Law and Court, the restoration of the National Assembly with its full constitutional powers, the return of all exiles and the freeing of all political detainees and prisoners, especially those sentenced by the unconstitutional State Security Court. The Amir said he would “welcome any visit to Bahrain from Amnesty International representatives, so they could see the current situation in the country.” This is also a welcome step and again the opposition hopes such statement will be implemented and do not end up in the same was as other statements ended in vain. Amnesty International was not allowed to meet with independent organizationd or with detained leaders last time. The Amir appears to have rebuked his Defence Minister who repeatedly said in the past months that the biggest danger comes from Iran when he said to CNN that “relations with Iran are excellent” and denied that “Tehran was a threat to Bahrain”. These statement may strip out the intelligence department from its language. Since the early 1980s the interior ministry had been claiming yearly “attempts plotted by Iran to topple the government”. The intelligence department will now be forced to look for another country to blame for the events that might flare up again when the the government decides to go back to its policies of crackdown and repression against the people of Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement 3 August 2000
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Bahrain: Return of democracy requires a solid pledge and a clear programme
The General Committee for Bahraini Workers (GCBW) submitted an official request to the government to lift the ban on the right of Bahrainis to form trade unions as specified by the constitution of the country. The government has consistently cracked down on any attempt to form a trade union since 1956. The GCBW has not been allowed to transform itself into a trade union since its creation by the government in the eighties. Demands for the restoration of parliament according to the constitution is becoming a primary pillar of Bahraini politics. The 1994 uprising has established the political agenda inside and outside Bahrain. The plan of the prime minister for election of the Shura Council was not received well by the people. Bahrainis enjoyed a parliamentary life according to the constitution in 1973-75 and it was the prime minister himself who instigated the collapse of that successful experience. The people of Bahrain will not accept anything less than the parliament of 1973-75 with its full constitutional powers. The talk about appointing another Shura Council with some female-members can not be considered a development in the political process. It is an attempt to buy time so that the government delays the return of the parliament further. By this August, it will be 25 years since absolute dictatorship has had its time and over-times in Bahraini politics. The statements made by the men of the prime minister (such as Mohammed Mutawwa) that the “return of parliament is still an option” are intended as a test language to calm people but without providing any solid programme for the return of the parliament. It is also noted that the editor of the government-controlled daily newspaper, Akhbar Al-Kahlij, stated in a gathering of students inside Bahrain that parliamentary life could return. He then asked all the students to pledge loyalty and support for the government in relation to the crisis with Qatar. Moreover, the Indian Club in Bahrain has said that some 2000 people from the Indian community in Bahrain had signed a letter of support for the government of Bahrain in relation to the crisis with Qatar. These acts are extra-ordinary practices that are now being promoted by the government. It is feared that the vague promises of a return of parliament is something linked to the situation with Qatar rather than a serious belief in the return of democracy to Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement 1 August 2000
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August 2000 Commentary:
25th anniversary of the suspension of constitution
Twenty five years ago this month, the Constitution of Bahrain was suspended and the first National Assembly abruptly dissolved. It could have been a matter related to a lack of cooperation between the legislative and executive powers, that would have been sorted out within the framework of the constitution. Perhaps this assumption was behind the lack of immediate hostile reaction from the people against that move. But as time dragged on, it became clear that the real reason lies in the nature of the ruling family, and more specifically, the prime minister. Together with Ian Henderson, he asked the former ruler, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, to take that unprecedented step. The latter issued the Amiri Decree No. 4 of 1975 suspending the articles of the Constitution. It was a step on a dangerous road. As the two months allowed by the Constitution for a return to the ballet boxes elapsed, the situation turned into despair and the hope for a return to constitutional rule were gradually dashed. Instead of referring to the Constitution, the Al Khalifa adopted a draconian law introduced in 1974, known as the Sate Security Law. It empowers the minister of the interior to order the administrative detention of any political suspect to a period of three years without charge or trial. The State Security Court (SSC) was thus established on the basis of that law to deal with political activists. The country suddenly returned to its former hereditary dictatorship. A black era had started. Over the past quarter of a century, the political situation never recovered, and the country went through a bleak period under a reign of terror unleashed by the security apparatus under the command and control of the notorious Ian Henderson. Having first served in Kenya during the colonial rule, he had developed special skills in interrogation and torture. The British Government introduced him to the Al Khalifa in 1966 who were more than happy to offer him the job of security chief. Having rebuilt the Special Branch, he became well-equipped to deal ruthlessly with any dissent. In the sixties and seventies hundreds of Bahrainis were arrested, tortured and exiled by Henderson’s apparatus. The situation took a turn to the worst in the eighties. The bodies of torture victims started to pile up, while the Al Khalifa ignored the pleas to abandon the torture regime and return to constitutional rule. The torture system has become one of the worst in the Middle East and many human rights organisations took a courageous stand against its practices and called for the overhaul of the political system . The government has, hitherto, remained non-committal on the basic demands of the people. It was the former Amir, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who issued the Amiri decree 25 years ago to dissolve the parliament and suspend the Constitution. That decree has remained in force until now. Sheikh Hamad took office after his fathers demise on 6 March 1999, but refrained from taking a historic step towards the reinstatement of the Constitution. He has, however, taken small steps to minimise the international outcry against the excesses of his uncle, the prime minister, such as releasing some prisoners and allowing back some exiles. He has left the emergency laws in place and has not taken positive steps to uphold the rule of law in the country. The outburst of popular anger in 1994 took everyone by surprise. The people’s uprising became a landmark in the history of the country and has shaken the hereditary dictatorship to its core. The uprising erupted in the light of the sudden upsurge in public desire to uphold the rule of law in the country. The constitutional movement was already a strong one. Having started in 1992 with a petition signed by the cream of the society, it continued its struggle to force the Al Khalifa to listen to logic. The call of the people passed unheeded. But the fallouts have been much greater than the regime had expected. The world community suddenly became aware of the internal situation in Bahrain, and the United Nations became aware of the crisis. The European Parliament issued two resolutions calling on the Government of Bahrain to reinstate the Constitution and respect human right. International Human Rights Organisations took serious steps to expose the serious human rights violations in the country. The Government reacted by investing heavily in public relations, employing numerous foreign companies and persons to defend its reputation outside. The change of rulers led to a peripheral change in the attitude of the ruling family towards the people. Sheikh Hamad has taken some steps to enhance his image inside and outside the country. Friendly governments have advised him on these steps. Now that the people of Bahrain are re-living their recent political history with anguish and expectations, the world has a duty to stand by this peaceful nation, and take all necessary steps to ensure that its government takes serious steps towards democracy and respect of human rights. The people of Bahrain have shown enormous resilience and exhibited great self-restraint. They faced the bullets of the Al Khalifa with patience and determination, but refrained from being sucked into a cycle of violence. The freedom-loving people of the world have expressed support to the cause of the people convinced that their demands are moderate. The struggle will continue as long as the rule of law is not upheld in the country. Perhaps Bahrain is one of the few countries which has more jails than hospitals. The torture cells were at certain periods overcrowded. The victims of torture stood up in the face of their torturers and demanded their rights. They are still doing so behind bars. The Al Khalifa torture chambers still house hundreds of innocent citizens. Those who want to support the regime for financial gains have chosen not to listen to the pleas from behind bars. But there are many noble voices in the world which declare their support to the just struggle of the people of Bahrain. The hereditary dictatorship must not be allowed to win; they must be made to pay for the ill-treatment of the innocent. We take this sad anniversary to express our determination to continue our just struggle for justice and freedom. Those freedom-loving institutions and individuals who have supported our cause over the past quarter of a century deserve respect and appreciation. Our people will never forget their support, and will repay in kind. Dictators and despots must be challenged by the world community. This is the only way to achieve peace and stability in the world.
Bahrain Freedom Movement August 2000
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