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Bahrain Silencing through Job Threats In move reminiscent of the repressive measures of the 90s and 80s of the past century, the human rights activist Dr Abdul Jalil Al Singace has been removed from his post as the Head of the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bahrain. The removal is seen by many observers as a politically motivated action in line with the many anti-human rights measures taken by the Government of Bahrain in recent months. The measures have been directed against leading figures who are active in highlighting the deficiencies of the Government’s policies in an attempt to silence the opposition. The removal of Dr Al Singace is considered part of an orchestrated and widespread campaign of clamp down on the writers, politicians and human rights activists. The Government of Bahrain has again shown incompetence and intolerance in dealing with the pro-democracy movement. The political system has been managing the country from a unilateral point of view, continuously and intentionally marginalizing the people of the country. Such a system is not qualified to march with the country into democratic practice. The removal of Al Singace from his position as Department Head will not be the end of the story. It has been learnt from previous experiences that the Al Khalifa ruling family will continue increasing its pressure on the opposition figures as they insist on their struggle for the reinstatement of the constitutional rights. This increase in pressure may lead to the eventual dismissal of Dr AL Singace in order to force him to relinquish his political activities and change his views. The opposition in this tiny country called Bahrain has gained enough experience and wisdom to know that such pressures cannot break the will of the people, nor can it weaken their desire and determination to fight for political rights. Only the tyrants of this world fear the words of the free people. Freedom seekers will never be hampered by repressive measures. The expression of opinion and the criticism of the government failures will continue unabated. Truly, the word is mightier than the sword. Bahrain Freedom Movement

21 March 2005

Discrimination: UN Wants Bahrain to Explain Mazen Mahdi, Arab News MANAMA, 17 March 2005 — The United Nations has asked Bahrain to prove its compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination which it had signed in 1990, as a key opposition figure who was fired from his job on Tuesday accused the government of fostering division on the basis of one’s sect. Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Sengase, who was the head of mechanical engineering department at the College of Engineering of the University of Bahrain, described his dismissal as politically motivated and in retaliation for his involvement in opposition campaigns and activities. Al-Sengase made the comments in a speech during a ceremony to honor webmaster Ali Abdel Imam and two of his aides who were released on Monday after two weeks in jail. The accusations come as the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) asked the Bahraini government for a detailed report on steps it had taken to eliminate discrimination, after it refuted the government claims presented during the Geneva meetings late last month and earlier this month that racial discrimination did not exist in Bahrain. The CERD said that the Bahraini government did not provide specific data on the ethnic composition of the population — by race, descent, ethnicity, language and religion, as well as the socio-economic status of each group. Manama is required to provide the data, which the CERD said was vital to assess the extent of the implementation of the treaty, in its next report scheduled for April 2007. The CERD move came as a blow to the high ranking delegation that was headed by former opposition figure and present Minister of Labor, Dr. Majeed Al-Alawi, whose comments sparked a wave of criticism inside Bahrain. It also comes as an embarrassment for the government since a shadow report presented by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) — which was dissolved in September by Al-Alawi when he was minister of labor and social affairs — prompted the CERD to make its recommendation. Al-Sengase, who is No. 3 in the country’s largest opposition group Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, said he was warned by a senior Interior Ministry official that he would lose his job because of his political involvement. The accusations of discrimination are not new, but it is the first time anyone claims that he had lost his job because of political activity since 1999 when King Hamad launched his reform program.

Al-Sengase, who continues to lecture at the university despite his dismissal, said he was consulting his lawyer to take legal action to overturn the decision.

Bahrain Frees Website Trio Mazen Mahdi, Arab News MANAMA, 16 March 2005 — Bahrain has freed three men detained for operating a website critical of the government. But Ali Abdul Imam, a 27-year-old computer engineer, and colleagues Hussein Yousif and Mohammed Al-Mousawi, who were released late Monday, still face charges over spreading material seen as hostile to the government and royal family. “They freed all of us and now I am at home with my family,” said Imam, who ran The site receives about 200,000 hits each day. The three men were detained two weeks ago on charges of defaming the king, inciting hatred against the regime and spreading rumors and lies that could cause disorder. According to their lawyer Ahmed Al-Arrayed, they were released after the public prosecutor waved a 1,000-dinar ($2,660) bail which they refused to post. Imam said he and his colleagues had not been told when they would be questioned again or if the public prosecutor would respond to their request to bring an independent web expert into the investigation to help clear up technical matters. “We sought to prove to the prosecutor that anyone can log on to the website and post any material. We can control the material after, not before, it is posted,” Imam said. Last Thursday, police dispersed dozens of supporters who rallied outside the police station where the three were held. Another protest was staged outside the prosecutor’s office Sunday. Calls for the men’s release also came from Paris-based media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. Imam said he would meet his colleagues to decide the fate of their website. However, the state-run Bahrain Telecommunications Co. (Batelco) was told Monday to permanently block the site. The move is part of an ongoing probe by prosecutors into the trio. Batelco was also ordered to take the necessary technical measures to remove any pictures and data considered defamatory. A handful of other sites have also been banned by the state. In 2002, Bahrain’s Information Ministry censored Internet sites on the grounds of inciting sectarianism or propagating lies, sparking protests by activists. Some analysts said the anti-government rhetoric had included comments that were excessive and counterproductive. King Hamad, whose government keeps close tabs on the media, last week urged editors to show self-restraint for the sake of national unity. “There are no limits to freedom, but this freedom should be based on patriotism,” he said days after the website arrests. Other site administrators, who campaigned for the release of Imam and his colleagues, said they fear more arrests. “The government is limiting freedom of speech and censoring the local press. There are some issues you can never talk about in any newspaper,” said one webmaster, speaking in a Manama cafe. “Many times, writers whose articles are rejected by newspapers come and post them on our web site. Some of them are prominent opposition figures,” the 32-year-old engineer said. Bahraini villagers have set up websites to complain about lack of services such as public housing and infrastructure in their poor areas.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has launched some political reforms, but the opposition says the steps fall short of their aspirations and demand a bigger role in running the country of around 650,000 people.

Bahrain: Persecution of a human rights activist following international condemnation of Al Khalifa discrimination against the majority population Following the Al Khalifa debacle in Geneva, they resorted to policies of revenge against human rights activists. The firs victim is Dr Abdul Jalil Al Singace, the head of a faculty within the Mechanical Engineering Department at the University of Bahrain. The President of the university, Maryam Al Khalifa, received the orders from her family to demote the human rights activist following his two visits to London and Washington in which he highlighted the plight of the majority of the population. This week the order was put into effect by the Al Khalifa president, who obtained her degree from Cairo, and had very little experience to run an academic institution. She was appointed to the post following the dismissal of the former military head, Mohammad Jassim Al Ghatam, and the decision by the Al Khalifa to control the public lives of the Bahrainis. They have no faith in non-Al Khalifa. Meanwhile there has been a local and international solidarity with Dr Al Singace who has been persecuted for exercising his natural rights of free speech and engagements with international bodies as part of his pro-democracy activities. International news agencies have given good coverage to his case, while some politicians in London and Washington are taking the case seriously. The Al Khalifa have lost the respect of international community for their policies which aim at nationalizing all forms of activism. Dr Al Singace is in consultation with his lawyers on the steps that can be taken, although no one has a trust in the Al Khalifa-controlled judiciary. In a clear provocation to the people of Bahrain the Al Khalifa have sent their most notorious torturer, Abdul Azia Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa to the president of the Al Wefaq Society, the largest political society in the country with implicit threats against the society. Dr al Singace is an elected member of the Executive Committee of Al Wefaq and is in charge of the foreign relations committee, for which he is being persecuted. Mr Al Khalifa, whose crimes of torture are well-documented, was promoted by the ruler, Sheikh Hamad, to become the head of the Al Khalifa security apparatus, which is responsible for the recent attacks on the general freedoms of the people, including the arrest and maltreatment of those who exercised their right of expression on internet websites. One of the demands of the Bahraini people is to try Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa for the crimes that he had committed over two decades. The implicit threats that he gave to the Al Wefaq are taken seriously by the society, and there is a great anxiety among the people of Bahrain now that Sheikh Hamads programme has transformed into a legalized dictatorship. The sudden upsurge in revenge policies by the Al Khalifa followed their condemnation by the UN Commission on Eliminating All Forms of Discrimination, for their institutionalized discrimination against the majority Shia population on all levels of government. The Al Khalifa attempted to pre-empt the decisions of the Commission by sending a 12-man strong delegation headed by the minister of labour to give false evidence. The people of Bahrain were represented by three Bahraini human rights activists who managed to tear apart the Al Khalifa arguments and reports. The panel experts eventually issued their report which rejected the Al Khalifa arguments and gave them one year to implement real reforms or face further international condemnation. It was a day of victory for the oppressed people of Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement

17th March 2005

The following is an article published in the March Issue of the French Magazine Le Monde Deplomatique Far from democracy in the gulf Bahrain: the royals rule President George Bush has hailed Bahrain’s progress towards democracy. Yet Bahrain’s emir proclaimed himself king three years ago, promulgated a constitution giving him full powers and has attacked the few remaining civil liberties. Arbitrary imprisonment is commonplace and one of the main human rights organisations has been closed. By Marc Pellas THE police officer who took Abd al-Hadi al-Khawaja, vice-president and executive director of the Bahraini Centre for Human Rights (BHRC), into custody in the middle of the night, cautioned him with these words: “You have accused the prime minister of corruption. You are charged with fomenting hate of the regime and broadcasting misleading news. You are under arrest.” There was every likelihood he would spend several years behind bars. The Bahraini police arrested Khawaja on 24 September 2004. Two days earlier, speaking at a symposium on poverty and economic rights, he had linked Bahrain’s bankrupt economy, increasingly unequal distribution of wealth, government corruption and the predicament of 80,000 people struggling to survive below the poverty line. Five years ago things seemed quite promising. On 15 February 2001 the new emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, organised a referendum to approve a National Action Charter, which affirmed the political system’s democratic basis, the separation of powers and the supremacy of popular sovereignty. It seemed to mark the end of 25 years of oppression (1) in Bahrain, reputedly one of the Gulf’s worst dictatorships. Security forces had tortured adults and children with impunity, and had fired on unarmed demonstrators with live rounds. Hundreds of intellectuals and executives had to go into exile. About 1% of the population was in prison; constitutional rights had been suspended since the dissolution of the first elected parliament in 1975. In an apparent change of course, the new ruler discussed the spirit and terms of the charter with opposition parties. They accepted the monarchy and the hereditary dynasty in power, as well as its far-reaching executive powers. In exchange they obtained guarantees that genuine legislative democracy would be restored. The referendum proved an unexpected success, with 98.4% of the 198,000 voters endorsing the charter. The purpose of this political opening was to start a virtuous circle in society and government, boosting confidence and foreign investment, give a new impulse to a stagnant service economy and reduce lower-and-middle-class unemployment (15% of the workforce). Restoring constitutional rights had two key aims: to restrict the concentration of wealth, in particular property, in the hands of the ruling caste; and to halt widespread corruption. More than 200 years after invasion and conquest by the Khalifa family in 1783, many Bahrainis – 65%-70% of whom are Shia Muslims – still feel their country is occupied. The excitement following the referendum coincided with the release of political prisoners, triumphant return of exiles, proclamation of an end to torture and repeal of the State Security Act (3). Then the government and opposition set about deciding how political parties would work within the limited framework of the 1973 constitution accepted by both sides. Opposition movements were preparing to celebrate the first anniversary of the adoption of the charter when, on 14 February 2002, the emir proclaimed himself king. The next day, on opening their newspapers, they discovered he had promulgated a new constitution, which had been decided without prior consultation and came into force immediately. There was no longer any social contract between the monarch and his sovereign people. The constitution set up a parliament, divided into an upper and lower chamber. The 40 members of the Council of Deputies (lower chamber) would be directly elected. But the king would appoint the 40 members of the Shura Council (upper chamber), an advisory body originally set up in 1992. He would also name the prime minister and cabinet, members of the constitutional court and all judges. If the two chambers disagreed, the Council of Deputies would not take precedence. In theory the king might require a two-thirds majority in parliament for a law to be passed, thwarting any attempt to introduce new legislation. Lest there be any doubt as to the seat of real power, the king can amend the constitution at will and pass laws by decree. In the months after the constitutional coup, a series of royal decrees established the rules for future democratic process. They ranged from measures setting electoral boundaries to a ban on any examination by MPs of decisions by the previous government. One decree directly contradicted the UN convention against torture, ratified by Bahrain. It granted immunity from prosecution to police officers and members of the internal security forces who operated torture chambers from 1975 to 1999, and protected them from any applications for compensation by victims or their families (4). The opposition denounced the award of Bahraini nationality and voting rights to an increasing number of foreigners, especially Jordanian, Syrian, Egyptian and Pakistani judges, police officers and civil servants, and people from countries belonging to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (5). It claimed that issuing tens of thousands of passports to grateful Sunnis might upset Bahrain’s sociological and demographic balance (6). No one was surprised when the two main opposition movements – the National Accord Association (Shia) and the National Democratic Action Society (secular) – and two smaller groups – the Nationalist Democratic Rally and the Islamic Action Association – announced they would not field candidates for the general election in October 2002. They hoped to highlight the constitutional crisis and limit turnout at the election (7). When two pension funds under government management went bankrupt in April 2003, an official inquiry was set up. The committee issued a report of its findings, recommending that parliament hear evidence from the three ministers directly concerned. To counter any risk of the personal implication of Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa (the king’s uncle, and prime minister since independence in 1971), the government donated $45m and several plots of land in the capital to the two funds. But not before the speaker of the Council of Deputies and prime ministerial protege, Khalifa al-Dharani, had asked fellow MPs not to rock the boat. This was a barely veiled reference to the dissolution of the first national parliament after its refusal to pass the State Security Act (8). Nor did the authorities relax their control of political life, maintaining severe restrictions on press freedom and the right of assembly. Under the circumstances the four main opposition movements had little choice but to react. Encouraged by assurances from sources close to the king, they organised a conference, on the symbolic date of 14 February 2004, to present the work of Arab and European constitutional experts contradicting the official line. The aim of the conference was to attract international attention and frame proposals for restoring dialogue with the regime, in the hope of finding a way out of the constitutional crisis. But events took a different turn. Only a few hours before the conference was due to start, the authorities announced it had been banned. Members of the dreaded National Security Agency met foreign guests – European lawyers and academics, MPs and representatives of NGOs – at Manama airport and sent them straight home. With the conference centre no longer available, the 300 Bahraini participants fell back on the Oruba Club, a favourite venue for civic and cultural events over the past 60 years. After two days of discussion they published a declaration that criticised the political deadlock that had gripped Bahrain for two years. Since the arrest of Khawaja, disbanding of the BHRC, temporary closure of the Oruba, and resum
ption of arrests during protest demonstrations, the pace of political life in Bahrain has changed. On 21 November a court sentenced Khawaja, considered a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, to a year in prison. But he was released the same day, thanks to a royal pardon. The GCC summit in Bahrain in December was a flop, shunned by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah. He was furious about a free-trade agreement with the US (9) and in no mood to receive a lesson from the Khalifa family on how to stay on good terms with Washington. In January the king confirmed the appointment of 10 members of the Khalifa family as ministers (including the prime minister) of the 21 member cabinet. Then the court opposed the opposition’s traditional right of petition to the sovereign. Its refusal was understandable. The opposition had united and collected 70,000 signatures – a third of all registered voters – to demand that the constitutional law comply with the principles established in 1973. Building on the success of this operation, the opposition organised a second constitutional conference, and announced it would boycott the next general election unless changes were made to the constitution and electoral boundaries. The government-sponsored press countered with accusations of systematic opposition and anarchy. Under these conditions the only hope of restoring dialogue between the regime and the opposition is a new law on democratic rights, covering the right to peaceful assembly, freedom of association and the formation of political parties. Though political organisations are currently tolerated, they are denied the status of political parties. Civil society hopes that the new law will strengthen individual and collective rights, but some people fear that the regime’s old guard will seize the opportunity to make a mockery of King Hamad’s democratic pretensions. No one really knows whether it is the king or his uncle, the prime minister, who has the final word. With the end of the second Gulf war in 2003 and the worsening crisis in Iraq, the Bush administration proclaimed the strategic necessity of promoting democracy in the Arab world. This initiative, floated by the neo-conservatives, would pave the way for a peaceful Middle East on good terms with the US and Israel. The Arab principalities, sultanates and kingdoms of the Gulf had to stop allowing nepotism, tribalism and sectarian values to govern the allocation of property, investment and jobs in the public or private sector. Bahrain, the neo-cons argued, would be an ideal test for democratic transformation, its elected bodies exerting almost no real power. Here was a chance for Washington to show what could be achieved. However, there was no question of upsetting the traditional balance of power, which would risk opening the door to nationalists, communists or Islamic fundamentalists. Nor was there any question of embarrassing the royal family, which had obligingly turned Bahrain into a base for the US navy (10), air force and special forces. The US Army Central Command, now responsible for “shaping the Central Region for the 21st century” (11), is also based in Bahrain. In September a report by the Defence Science Board (12) questioned this approach and said: “Today we reflexively compare Muslim ‘masses’ to those oppressed under Soviet rule. This is a strategic mistake . . . Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom’ but rather, they hate our policies.” The board argued that the challenge facing the US was not to put across the right message, but “a fundamental problem of credibility” in the eyes of Muslims. Every day in the media they could see that “American occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq has not led to democracy there, but only more chaos and suffering”. It will be difficult to convince public opinion in the Middle East of the sincerity – and the realism – of the Bush administration’s plans to promote democracy, until it is seen to ask as much of its allies, particularly in the Gulf and Egypt, as it demands of Iraq or the Palestinian Authority.

Perhaps that is why the state department explained that talks between the former secretary of state Colin Powell and King Hamad on 29 November 2004 had stressed the importance of progressing with reforms and protecting individual freedom. If such were the case, it would mean the end of the road for Bahrain’s political old guard, worn out and discredited after three decades of oppression and failure.

Bahrain: Condemnation of arbitrary detentions and discrimination against natives As the three prisoners of conscience remain in behind bars for expressing their views on the internet, international condemnations of the Al Khalifa dictatorship is gathering momentum. Several international human rights organizations have either issued statements to condemn this human rights violation or are in the process of doing so. Meanwhile, the lawyer of the three detainees (Ali Abdul Imam, Hussain Yousef and Sayyed Mohammad Al Alawi) said that the appear before the Prosecution Directorate on Sunday which will decide their fate. This means that the President of the defunct State Security Court, Abdul Rahman bin Jaber Al Khalifa, will declare the decision of the Al Khalifa family with regards to those young men. In the past, he had sentenced hundreds of Bahrainis to imprisonment for peaceful expression of opinion. He it notorious for his human rights violations as the most senior Al Khalifa judge. The ruling family has now broadened its attack on the freedom of expression by filing cases against peaceful religious demonstrations during Ashoora, accusing participants of anti-Al Khalifa slogans and carrying banners that do not comply with their policies. The interior ministry, run and directed by the ruling family, has threatened to take action against individuals and groups who organized religious congregations (ma’tams) at Hamad Town without the approval of the Al Khalifa ruling family. Hamad Town is a residential development built in the nineties and inhabited by Bahrainis of different religious affiliations. The Shia inhabitants, which are the majority, have been denied adequate places of worship and congregation. They have only two mosques compared to 20 mosques granted to others. Discrimination on the basis of sectarian affiliation, was the subject of the report that was discussed last week by the experts at the UN Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva. Representatives of the people gave a damning “shadow” report outlining the deep-rooted policies of discrimination adopted by the Al Khalifa. The Al Khalifa delegation failed to convince the experts with their case and were damned as liars and distortionists. They denied that any sort of discrimination had existed in the country. But they failed to answer questions on how the Shia who constitute 70 percent of the population are allocated only five cabinet ministerial posts in the 22-member cabinet, only one undersecretary out of more than thirty, only 46 percent of the municipality seats, less than 30 percent of the “elected” part of the Shura Council, and only 47 percent of the appointed part of it. They failed to answer questions on the discrimination against the Shia majority in public offices, education opportunities and in the ministries of Defence, Interior, Foreign and other institutions. As a reaction to the presence of independent representatives of the people of Bahrain and their courageous performance that exposed the crimes of the Al Khalifa in Geneva against the native inhabitatnts of the islands which they had occupied by force in 1783, the ruling family passed a jail sentence on one of the them. The well-known human rights activist, Abdul Ra’uf Al Shayeb, was sentenced to two months imprisonment on the basis of a cooked up charge of entering a house without the permission of its owner. In April last year, he was arrested after his return from a similar trip to Geneva and in an attempt to blackmail him into submission to their evil policies. Several statements by international human rights organizations (such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International) were issued at the time.This time, they were so outraged by the performance of the people’s representatives in Geneva that they issued their verdict in his absence. Upon his return yesterday to Bahrain he received a hero’s welcome. The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights issued an urgent appeal to international human rights organizations to intervene to stop the continuous repression of the Al Khalifa against the native inhabitants of the land. Bahrain Freedom Movement

9th March 2005

Massive protests against the Al Khalifa repression A major crackdown against the opposition has unfolded in the past few days, with arrests, threats and closure of electronic sites as the Al Khalifa struggle to preserve the false image they had created outside the country. The week started with the arrest of three writers who have been running an independent electronic site known as “Bahrainonline”. For the past four years, this site has become stronger than the official media put together, and has attracted young writers disenchanted with the Al Khalifa dictatorship. The Al Khalifa have employed technological and political means to close Bahrainonline and other independent sites, but the young generation have mastered modern techniques which allowed people to access banned sites adopting other proxies. The arrest of these young men: Ali Abdul Emam, Hussain Yousef and Sayyed Mohammd Al Alawi is a sign of desperation and a further conclusive evidence that Sheikh Hamad’s programme is nothing but a sham. They have been charged with five offences in accordance with antiquated laws dating back to the black era, and the notorious Press Law imposed by a royal decree in 2002. These draconian laws curtail the freedom of expression and are in contravention of international laws and standards. More arrests followed on Wednesday evening (2nd March). Three people (from Sitra, Jurdab and Hamad town) belonging to the recently-formed Committee of the Unemployed, were arrested as they distributed leaflets urging people to support the committee and join a planned picket in the capital over the weekend. They were maltreated by the officials of the security apparatus run by the notorious torturer, Abdul Azia Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa, and interrogated as to who is behind their committee, their aims, what they intend to do. They were threatened with further reprisals if they took more anti-Al Khalifa civil actions. Furthermore, the Al Khalifa issued a verdict against the well-known human rights activist, Abdul Ra’uf Al Shayeb, and sentenced him to two months imprisonment and a payment of BD300 ($700) for allegedly entering a house without the permission of its owner. The charge was refuted in court by eyewitnesses who testified that Mr Al Shayeb was arrested in the street by a gang of pro-Khalifa thugs. Mr Al Shayeb is known for his pro-democracy and human rights strong stands and his unwillingness to sell out to the Al Khalifa dictatorship. After a trip to Geneva last year to attend the annual meeting of the UN Human Rights Commission, he was arrested and held for a week during which the charged were forged against him. He was planning a demonstration against the torturers during last year’s Formula 1 race in Bahrain. International Human Rights groups and organizations issued statements in his support as they clearly saw the political dimension in his arrest and the trumped charges against him. More protests are planned for this year’s races and Al Shayeb’s arrest is seen as an attempt to forestall these protests. It is yet another flagrant oppressive measure in which the rights and freedom of citizens are violated for the sake of image making. Mr Al Shayed is also viewed by the Al Khalifa as one of the main obstacles to their plan to settle the case of the torture victims without taking action against torturers, several of whom are from the Al Khalifa themselves. He is the official spokesman of the Committee of Martyrs and Torture Victims which has refused all offers from the Al Khalifa short of charging the torturers headed by Abdul Aziz Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa. The latest sentence passed against Mr Al Shayeb is well-calculated. First it was passed one day after he left Bahrain to attend the annual meeting of the UN Commission for Human Rights which is underway. Second, the sentence itself is made up such that it will ensure his absence from the scene for the duration of the Formula 1 race. His arrest has been ordered as soon as he sets foot on the airport in Bahrain. The past week has witnessed numerous protests as the country embraced itself for more political tension. On Monday 28th February, the first protest in solidarity with the three prisoners of conscience was held in the capital. It was attended by hundreds of people who raised banners against the Al Khalifa dictatorship. A second protest was held on Tuesday which was also well-attended. A committed for the defence of the prisoners of conscience has now been formed and is expected to organize more protests in the coming days. It was supported by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights which was infuriated by this flagrant violation of the most basic of human rights. The committee comprises activists as well as relatives of the detainees. The next days are likely to witness more pickets and protests as the Al Khalifa attempt to enforce their heavy-handed policies and adopt repressive measures against the rising tide of opposition to their totalitarian rule. Bahrain Freedom Movement

3 March 2005

Crackdown on freedom of expression and democratic values The arrest by the Al Khalifa of three people for peacefully expressing their views and managing an independent website has exposed, once again, the true dictatorial nature of this despotic rule and engulfed the country into a new crisis. Ali Abdul Imam, the overall coordinator of “Bahrainonline” electronic site, Hussain Yousef and Sayyed Mohammad Al Mosawi were arrested last month by the notorious state security apparatus which is run by the notorious torturer, Abdul Azia Atiyyat Allah Al Khalifa. More seriously, Atiyyat Allah ordered the holding of Mr Abdul Imam’s sister, as a hostage until he handed himself to the Al Khalifa torturers. She was released after her brother handed himself voluntarily. The Al Khalifa arrested him for fifteen days pending further investigation. The two other prisoners of conscience are also accused of anti-government views. In February, a young man was arrested for carrying a banner on his car rejecting Al Khalifa’s 2002 document and demanding the 1973 constitution, the only source of legitimacy of the Al Khalifa rule. When the opposition held their second constitutional conference last month, the Al Khalifa banned foreign experts and guests from attending it arguing that no foreigners should be involved in the internal politics of the country. Yet the Al Khalifa are relying on a large team of foreigners for advice and security, and have invited many outsiders to support their dictatorship. Last year many people were arrested for collecting signatures calling for the reinstatement of the only contractual document between the people of Bahrain and the Al Khalifa. These are clear signs of the failure of Sheikh Hamad’s programme of deception and absolute dictatorship. The constitution that he imposed on the people three years ago gives him absolute power that no other monarch in the world gives himself and is a source. Yet he has attempted to sell his programme to the world as one of reform and democracy, and compared his kingdom to the “oldest constitutional monarchies” in the world. The recent arrests are a clear manifestation of a regime that worried about the exposure of its true nature both to the general public and to the outside world. It is an indication of the depth of frustration within its hierarchy as it seeks to acquire international recognition on the basis of deception supported by the huge oil income which is denied to the people of Bahrain. Despite a three-fold increase in the oil prices over the past three years, none of the extra oil revenue has been spent to improve the welfare of the people. Instead the Al Khalifa have smuggled billions of dollars to their foreign accounts. They blundered the country’s wealth to their own advantages; they used financial incentives to woo former opponents and foreign friends, while none of the social programmes needed by the people has ever materialized. There is no system of social security, while assets of the pension funds and the religious endowment were blundered by the prime minister and his henchmen. These practices are known to everyone but the Al Khalifa have guarded their details for fear of political backlash inside and outside the country. The Al Khalifa have nationalized almost every aspect of the political, social and religious life. Any activity that is conducted outside their system is banned and anyone involved is arrested and maltreated. They have designed the security, judiciary and media to work in coordination in order to present a favourable image. However, Sheikh Hamad has now reached a stage of deep confidence in his position that he has let loose his fascist soldiers in those departments to silence any sign of active opposition. Over the past three years, the Al Khalifa have sought to close independent sites that are critical of their policies. The have directed the national telecommunication company, Batelco, to ensure that access to these sites is blocked. The genius of the new generation of Bahraini youth has rendered this policy a failure by using various proxies to these sites. Sheikh Hamad has attempted to woo the organizers of these sites but failed. His policy was to allow some room for expression in the mosques, but he did not tolerate any written criticism of his rule. His constitution has serious contradictions and unworkable stipulations. It gives him absolute power in all branches of government, making him a practicing monarch, but it also makes him above the law and cannot be criticized for what he does. This is a legalized absolutism and dictatorship that no civilized society could tolerate. Sheikh Hamad’s anger has now led to the arrest of these young men, who are highly educated and exposed to cultures of democracy, openness and civil society ideals that the cannot allow themselves to be governed by the Al Khalifa’s ancient laws and mentality. Since local media is all but closed to any free expression of dissatisfaction of the regime, electronic sites have become an attraction that focused their activities. Now they are being persecuted for expressing their views against the Al Khalifa crimes. It is time that the outside powers to understand the reality of the Al Khalifa dictatorship. Those powers who seek to spread the culture of freedom and democracy must not be blinded by the Al Khalifa policies of deception. They need to look no further than the Al Khalifa constitution itself to realize how dictatorship has been legalized. The recent arrests offer a further evidence how old habits die hard. Arrests, hostage taking, maltreatment are all familiar in this tiny island in the Gulf. These developments must be condemned in the strongest terms by anyone who seeks to promote democracy and freedom in this troubled area. The Al Khalifa mentality is definitely unsuitable for the creation of a modern society run by democracy and pluralistic government. Efforts must be made to ensure the immediate release of these prisoners of conscience, those who ordered their arrest must be punished in accordance to international laws and the Al Khalifa must be remanded for their uncivilized actions. Meanwhile, the peaceful struggle of our people will continue until the Al Khalifa dictatorship is defeated and real democracy established. Bahrain Freedom Movement

1 March 2005

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