1995: The year when the Al-Khalifa failed to reconcile with the representatives of the people

12 December: Students savagely beaten-up, while military forces are put on show For the third week running, the security forces continue to savagely attack the young students of Bahrain, beat them up inside the schools, arbitrary expel scores of them and arrest others. Today 12 December 1995, Al-Nuaim Secondary School, was attacked by armed security forces who mrecilessly used batons for beating the students. A fire was seen blazing inside the school as a result of the clashes.

A petition signed by parents have been submitted to the ministry of the education protesting at the attacks , beating and detention of their sons. Absenteeism is increasing and schools in Jedhafs, northern, central and western regions as well as Sitra are witnessing between 70-95 absence rate. The student has made a call for strike on Wednesday. The students of Bahrain University are also calling for boycotting the classing for the rest of the week.

The headmasters and ministry officials order attacks on students as part of the new policy adopted by the military men put in charge of the education sector. These events are exacerbating the situation and may lead to renewed clashed on the streets of Bahrain, something the security forces seem to invite.

The situation in the country was worsened when on Sunday (10 December), military camps and armoured vehicles were displayed from midnight till 2.00 pm. On Monday 11 December, columns of military vehicles, armoury and and estimated 4000 soldiers were seen crossing into Bahrain from Saudi Arabia via the causeway linking the two comnutries. These military forces headed towards Hamlah Military sites. These are thought to back up the Bahraini military forces that might be deployed against unarmed civilians.

The notification for resignation of seven senior judges (due 15 January 1996) has come to strengthen the calls for democracy in the country. While the popular movement continues its drive for restoration of the constitution and parliament, the judges have joined in calling for the independence of the judiciary from the executive branch. Recently the labour movement officially submitted a paper to the government demanding the right of labour to form unions in accordance with the constitution.

Street clashes ignited after a halt of 4 months

The Bahraini security forces have besieged the house of Sheikh Abdul Amir Al-Jamri on the dawn of 29 December 1995. Bani Jamra, the home village of Sheikh Al-Jamri, together with the nearby village of Duraz were encircled by units of riot police and all entries and exists to both villages were blocked. The house of Sheikh Al-Jamri and the grand Zain al-Abedin mosque (situated in front of Al-Jamri’s house were both put under siege).

On Thursday night, 28 December, Sheikh Al-Jamri addressed a mass gathering in the Zain al-Abedin mosques and some 40,000 people attended for a religious celebration. The authorities had cancelled two earlier celebrations, one in Momin mosque of Manama on 25 December and the other in Al-Sedek mosque in Duraz on 26 December.

Sheikh Al-Jamri has for the last few weeks (since his release on 25 September) led the Friday prayers in Al-Sadek mosque of Duraz. Every Friday, he delivered a sermon that covered main political issues related to the peaceful campaign for the restoration of the constitution. He called on the government to respect human rights in Bahrain and treat citizens fairly. Last night the person in-charge of Al-Sadek mosque, Haji Hasan Jarallah, was summoned by the Al-Khamis police headquarters. After an intimidating experience the elderly man was forcibly taken to the mosque to be locked by police and all keys were confiscated.

The government released Sheikh Al-Jamri in September after spending six months in jail. The release was part of a deal struck with security officials whereby the government would release a thousand detainees by the end of September and pave the way for political dialogue. Sheikh Al-Jamri and his colleagues established calm in the country and street protest ended. However, due to differences amongst the ruling establishment non of what has been agreed on materialised and for the last six weeks the security forces have stepped up their operations detaining people and intimidating opponents.

As a result of this aggressive attitude of the Bahraini security forces, street clashes resumed on 29 December after a halt of four months. Thousands of youth starting pouring in the area defying the siege and at around 11.30 am, the security forces started attacking the gathering youth using batons and tear gas. Demonstrations erupted in Duraz around 1.00 pm and the security forces deployed rubber bullets together with tear gas. The traffic on Budayya Highway is tense and dangerous. Later in the night, Sheikh Al-Jamri accompanied by some fifty cars marched their way to the grand mosque in Al-Qufool (Manama) whe he addressed a mass gathering.

Attacking freedom of expression

Mr. Ahmad Al-Shamlan, one of Bahrain’s distinguished lawyers and writers was summoned to the intelligence department in Manama yesterday 19 December. With him was Mr. Hafedh Al-Sheikh, the well-known Bahraini journalist. Both had participated alongside many other professionals and thinkers from the Gulf countries in a live programme broadcast by Radio Qatar on 7 December. The phone-in programme debated the problems faced by GCC countries and answered several questions about Bahrain’s pro-democracy movement.

Mr. Al-Shamlan was subjected to intimidating treatment yesterday, 19 December, starting at 8.00 am and lasting till 10.30 pm. The harassment continued today, 20 December, in front of the investigating judge. Many lawyers volunteered to defend Al-Shamlan and Al-Sheikh. These lawyers included Abdulla Hashim, Hassan Bedaiwi, Ahmad Al-Thekair, Hassan Radhi, and Ali Al-Ayyobi. The investigating judge charged Ahmad Al-Shamlan and Hafedh Al-Sheikh with “inciting hatred to the political system in Bahrain”. Failing to prove such point both Al-Shamlan and Al-Sheikh were released on bail of 500 dinar (approx. $1500) each and both had been banned from traveling outside the country.

This attack on freedom of expression was extended further on 20 December by the arrest of Sheikh Hassan Sultan, one of the five leaders who negotiated with the interior ministry the release of political prisoners in return for calming down the situation and starting dialogue on restoration of parliament. Sheikh Sultan was arrested from his home village of Dar Kulaib (west of Bahrain) around 1.00 pm (11.00 GMT). He was made to pay 500 dinars for a sermon he delivered in a gathering.

On 18 December, the intelligence department summoned a religious scholar, Sheikh Mohammed Al-Rayyash and threatened him with a revenge in the form of a car accident or a mad man random attack. Al-Rayyash returned to his mosque and delivered a sermon detailing the threats he received from the intelligence department and declared that anything happens to him is the responsibility of the government.

Also, on 20 December Mr. Mahdi Rabea, a journalist, was detained in a dawin raid on his home in Duraz. His fate is not yet known. Also on the same.

On 21 December, several dawn raids ended up in the detention of many people. Some of those known are Jasim Rahmah (Bilad Al-Qadeem), Mohammed Redha Shehab and Nadir Al-Asfoor (both from Duraz), Abdul Jalil Abdul Nabi and Ali Al-Jabal (both from Sanabis).

Many phone calls have also been made to opposition activists inside and outside the country. The phone calls are made by the Bahraini intelligence department and are full of insults, abuse and threats. While these phone calls are indicative of the low level of such people who have been torturing members of the opposition inside jails and detention centres, they are being recorded and monitored to provide a damning evidence. Experts listening to the tapes remarked that such wrong-doing is coming from a desperate and bankrupt government, and will certainly fire-back.

Deployment of the army in a muscle show

The people of Bahrain woke-up on Sunday 10 December, to witness the tents, cabins, sand bags, armoured vehicles, automatic machine guns and military personnel that were deployed after midnight. This follows the departure of the prime minister yesterday, 9 December, on his annual absence from Bahrain. Sheikh Khlaifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, brother of the Amir of Bahrain, usually leaves Bahrain during the celebration of the National Day, due on 16 December. In his absence, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al- Khalifa, son of the Amir, assumes the position of prime minister in addition to his role as Heir Apparent and chief of Bahrain Defense Force. Sheikh Hamad is known for his preference to using his military forces for combating pro-democracy movement.

Military forces were positioned all over he country at entrances and exits of all strategic areas including the causeway linking Bahrain to Saudi Arabia. Many of these military personnel do not speak Arabic and have orders to use force for frightening the people of Bahrain.

The deployment lasted until 2.00 pm, when a rushed decision seems to have been taken for withdrawing the units.

One tank rolled-over from a trailer on the road to the causeway (coming from Isa Town), creating a huge traffic jam. Bahrainis were cracking jokes about the bewildered army deployed in such a haphazard way.

Later on in the night and for the next three days, live ammunition, explosions were heard together with sirens and fighters breaking the sound barriers. When many citizens phoned the Civil Defence Directorate to enquire about the explosions, they were told that the Directorate heard no explosions or siren and things are normal. However, Al-Ayyam and Akhbar Al-Khaleej official newspapers reported that manoeuvres with friendly forces were conducted using live ammunition to smash targets and to destroy enemy positions.

On 25 December, the Amir received Qatar’s deposed Amir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al-Thani for “cordial talks” with Sheikh Khalifa. The Bahrain Defense Minister was also quoted that he is prepared to fight 100 wars for each small disputed island. The raising of these critical issues was coupled with extensive use of military forces to clamp down on opposion gatherings around the country.

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