"Voice of Bahrain Homepage"

June 1997

See Also the Report on the Debate in the UK Parliament

Collective punishment resisted

The security forces attacked a traditional procession in Sanabis on 1 June injuring scores of people. The residents marched peacefully inside Sanabis when the security forces mounted their attack deploying tear gas and rubber bullets. Eyewitnesses spoke of many people of all ages falling on the ground. Scores were arrested on the spot. During that attack, the security forces deployed rubber bullets and tear gas before storming houses and damaging at least 50 private cars as part of the collective punishment policy adopted by the ruling Al-Khalifa family against the indigenous population.

Martyr Abdul Zahra

Another martyr fell on 6 June 1997. The security forces that attacked the residents of Sanabis on 1 June beat Abdul Zahra Ibrahim Abdulla, between 27 years old. Mr. Abdulla was beaten severely by the foreign forces and had been in a critical condition since June 1st.

Collective punishment continued

Clashes continued for the second day around the principal residential area of Sanabis. The 9th of June marks the third day of the martyrdom of Abdul Zahra Ibrahim Abdulla, who was beaten to death by the security forces. The mass gathering ended the commemoration by marching to the grave of the martyr and from there to the main highway. The demonstration led by citizens (men and women) of all ages demanded that those responsible for the killing of Mr. Abdulla to be put on trial.

Friday, 13 June, witnessed some of the worst events this year. Following the destruction of houses in Sanabis, the security forces imposed a siege against Sanabis on Thursday 12 June. During their aggression, the mercenaries deployed rubber bullets (4″ size) and steel-pellets bullets (100 off, 3mm size steel pellets in each bullet that spread in the hit body or object). Iman Saeed Al-Manami, 7-year old girl, was hit by a steel-pellets bullet and is now in hospital. Mansoor Abdul Nabi Fardan Al-Jerdabi, 20, was hit in the chest and in the eye by the steel pellets. Ali Juma had three of his ribs broken. Abdul Amir Darwish, 23, and Jasim Abdul Hussain Al-Eskafi were also hit by steel-pellets bullets. Abd Ali Jasim Isa, who had been arrested and severely tortured,was transferred to Salmanya Hospital, Ward 11, suffering from a critical sickness.

Bilad al-Qadim was attacked on 12 June. On Friday, 13 June, the residents challenged the foreign forces by putting-on coffin-cloths and going out on the streets. Security forces attacked private properties and damaged many cars as well as houses as part of the collective punishment programme. A siege was impose and helicopters were deployed together with sporadic live ammunition. Clashes lasted between 4.00 pm till 11.00 pm (local time). At 3.30pm, (13 June) a group of foreign forces entered Duraz and started threatening the citizens that they will be punished if a procession starts. At 5.00pm, the citizens had gathered and the security forces started firing rubber bullets and tear gas. Four lorries packed with forces arrived on the scene and clashes intensified with the forces fleeing the area in the face unarmed citizens. Helicopters were then deployed together with sporadic live ammunition. Collective punishment started with the damaging of private cars and ransacking of houses. Budaya Highway was blocked for 2 hours until 7.00pm. Duraz remained under attack until 8.30 pm. Many people were injured and arrested, some of them in critical conditions.

The government announced that four Asians died in a mysterious fire in Manama on 13 June. Unlike the interior ministry which claims that citizens in detention die of heat attacks, the opposition denounced all acts of violence resulting in the death of people, citizens or otherwise. The opposition called for independent enquiry in all events of violence for establishing the causes and punishing the perpetrators.

On 14 June, a loud explosion shocked the Diplomatic Area at around 8.00 am of Manama. News agencies said a gas cylinder caused the explosion. Another explosion was reported in Manama around 7.00 pm.

A politicised job market

A delegation from the Arab Labour Union (ALU) left Bahrain on 28 May after failing to achieve any of the intended targets of the visit. The ALU had submitted an official complaint to the Arab Labour Organization against the detention and exiling of unionists in Bahrain as well as complaining against the banning of labour unions in Bahrain. The constitution of the country allows for the establishment of unions, but the government wants to replace unions with powerless workers committees. The ALU delegation, headed by Hassan Jammam, was not allowed to meet with the interior minister as had been promised. Labour policies in Bahrain are politicized in line with the semi-official sectarian policy of the Al-Khalifa government. Unemployment amongst the Shia community is politically driven. There are some 35,000-40,000 unemployed.

According to official figures (see Asharq Al-Awsat of 8 May 1997) the total work-force in 1995 was 258,900. Only 39.3% of these were nationals (ie 101,800 citizens are in the labour market). Many influential members of the ruling Al-Khalifa family are involved in the importation of cheap labour from the Indian sub-continent. Most of these labourers are imported on a “Free-Visa” arrangement, whereby the “enslaved” labourer is dumped in the labour market for chasing any job opportunity. The importer (agent) charges a percentage of whatever income the labourer earns. According to government figures, an average of 80 Free-Visa labourers are imported every day in the country (2400 per month, 28,800 per year) from the Sub-Indian Continent to work in all types of activities. According to the same official figures, 7% of the private sector work-force (ie 2479 persons) earn salaries less than 100 dinars per month ($267/month). There are 9 Bahraini citizens whose salaries are less than 50 dinars/month. The percentage of national labour has fallen from 43% in 1981 to 39.3% in 1995.

Housing the imported troops

It was announced on 25 June that Abu Dhabi Development Fund is to donate $27 million to Bahrain for building a residential town to be named after the UAE President Zaid bin Sultan al-Nahayan. These were good news, had it not been for the statement of heir apparent, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, who said that these would be reserved for loyal people. Such a term is clear reference to the thousands of people who had been imported from Syria and Yemen in the past year. The Al-Khalifa imported what they consider as their Bedouin relatives, for recruitment in the so-called National Guard.

Al-Khalifa security summit

The Torturer Abdul-Aziz bin Attiyatulla Al-Khalifa was appointed as the governor of Manama on 2 June. Bahrain administration is being divided into four regions. All governors will report to the interior minister. All affairs concerning each region must pass through the governor whose remit includes maintaining security and ensuring loyalty. The governors are expected to head a sub-council of 15 mukhtars (chosen individuals). The opposition condemned the scheme as a further attempt to consolidate backward and alien tribal rituals on the civil society of Bahrain.

The heir apparent summoned an emergency meeting for the ruling family for the deployment of more foreign forces against the citizens of Bahrain. In a characteristic manner, the heir apparent published the news in the local papers on 24 June saying, “The Crown Prince and Commander in Chief of the Defence Force, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, yesterday chaired a meeting regarding strategies for the joint endeavour for national security, to ensure stability and to promote development in Bahrain”. The attendants of the meeting were “the Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the Minister of Defence and Deputy Commander in Chief of the Defence Force, Lt Gen Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the Commander of the National Guard, Staff Brigadier Sheikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa, Interior Undersecretary Major General Sheikh Ibrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, the BDF Chief of Staff, Maj Gen Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman Al Khalifa, the Chairman of the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research, and Defence Undersecretary Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, and a number of senior officers”.

These names were published for spreading fear amongst the public by implying that the ruling family is poised for attack. At the same time, the local papers continued mentioning the presence of the Jordanian intelligence chief for the same purpose of spreading fear. The official Gulf News Agency reported on 22 June that the Amir, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa “received a Jordanian security delegation led by Lt-Gen Samih al-Battikhi, director of the Jordanian General Intelligence Department. During the meeting, the Amir and Battikhi exchanged cordial words on brotherly relations, the latest developments in the Gulf and Arab arenas, and issues of common concern”. The agency also reported that Battikhi was received by the heir apparent and the prime minister.

It is worth noting that on 6 November 1996, GNA also reported that “Prince Abdullah Bin Husain, commander of the Special Operations of the Jordanian armed forces left Manama this afternoon. During his visit to Bahrain, Prince Abdullah attended a tactical exercise conducted jointly by the Special Force Unit of the Bahrain Defence Force and the Special Forces of the Jordanian armed forces…”. Earlier on 18 August 1996, the son of the heir apparent (also the under-secretary in the Defence Ministry) ended a visit to Jordan.

The idea of using Jordanians for internal oppression dates back to 1984 and was floated in 1984 during a meeting in Washington between then US President Reagan, Egyptian President Hosni Mobarak and Jordanian King Hussain. Since then, it has always been flagged whenever the Al-Khalifa rulers realised that they are in no way near to silencing the nation.

The use of Jordanians intelligence officers is in itself an old practice with many senior torturers already in Bahrain. No amount of foreign security help can force the people to their knees. The Al-Khalifa have already used their foreign security agents, such as Henderson, Akkori, Affoni (both Jordanians), Yemeni and Pakistani torturers against our people to no avail. The opposition believes that the people of Bahrain can not be wiped out from their lands and the movement for restoration of basic rights could not be stopped. A statement by the BFM directed to the enlightened members of the ruling family said, “it is time for realising that the Bahraini society can only be governed properly through the constitution of the country. If the present attitude continues, then calamity is the end result. The rulers and the ruled might also be heading for non-retrievable situation, unless the present policy is brought to a halt”.

Unity with Qatar, please!

On 17 June 1997, the Amir of Qatar in a press conference with Qatari papers (see Al-Hayat of 17 June) responded to the call made by Bahrain’s crown prince for unity with Bahrain saying: “The call for unity comes from a clean heart. However, the issue in Qatar, is that we must submit this call for the people to vote on it, because such a matter must come from the hearts of the people, instead of leaders who might be on good or bad terms from one day to another”.

The Bahrain Freedom Movement, Popular Front in Bahrain and the National Liberation Front had issued a joint statement on 31 May stating: “The ruling family is attempting to divert attention from the demands of the constitutional movement by imagining a fictitious environment of economic gains and by talking about “breakthrough-solution” for the border dispute with Qatar. While we hope that the government succeeds in solving the dispute with Qatar, we also hope that the ruling family starts to wake-up to the inevitable changes taking place in today’s world. Elections and democracy are sweeping the world and are reaching the Gulf. We believe that there is no real exit to the crisis except through the establishment of serious dialogue with the Committee for Popular Petition (CPP). We are committed in our constitutional approach that is bound by national unity and consensus and we call upon all sections of the society to mobilize their peaceful activities for the democratic future of Bahrain, as outlined in the popular petition that was signed by 25,000 citizens”.

A totally rejected council

Confidential reports indicated that justice minister has started appointing persons for the religiously rejected “High Council for Islamic Affairs” intended for taking-over religious institutions. A person by the name “Mohammed Baqer bin Sheikh Sa’eed Al-Mubarak” is believed to have been appointed for one of the positions. The affected people have already declared a policy of total rejection and boycott.

On 22 June, the interior ministry issued orders to leaders of mosques and assembly halls (matams) for switching-off microphones during the forthcoming religious programmes. Such arbitrary orders are designed for intimidating the citizens.

No Human Rights in Bahrain

Amnesty International (AI) and Arab Organization for Human Rights (AOHR) issued their annual reports in the past few days with Bahrain’s government scoring some of the worst offences and abuse of human rights. AI said “several hundred people, among them prisoners of conscience were arrested in connection with demonstrations demanding the restoration of democratic rights. Most were held incommunicado for months without charges or trial. At least 150 people (in the past year) received unfair trials before the State Security Court. Torture was widely reported, and an increasing number of women and children were ill-treated. At least one person died in custody, apparently as a result of torture, and four people were reportedly shot or beaten to death by members of the security forces. Three people were sentenced to death and one person was executed, the first execution in nearly 20 years. Bahraini nationals suspected of opposition political activities continued to be banned from entering the country….”. The AOHR pointed out that some 500 Bahrainis remained forcibly exiled, while torture and unfair trials before he State Security Court continued.

Citizens in security courts

on 28 June, a security court headed by a member of the ruling family sentenced 16 citizens. The unconstitutional court divided the citizens into two groups, 10 and 6. The group of 10 was sentenced as follows: Three received 5 years sentence, three received 3 years sentence, tow received 1 year sentence, and two were acquitted. They were also fined from BD 300-800 ($800-2,136). The group of 6 was sentenced between 2-3 years: Mohsin Ahmad Ali Abdul Rasool, 3 years, Faisal Ibrahim Kadhim, 3 years, Basim Ahmad Mansoor, 3 years, Hassan Ahmad Mansoor, 3 years, Nadir Ibrahum Kadhim, 2 yers, Seyyed Mohammed Abbas, 2 years. The sentences of this court are all considered null and void by the Bahraini constitution as well as by the international human rights organizations. The opposition calls for the release of all-political prisoners and detainees, especially those sentenced by this feudal court.

On 18 June, the medieval security court seven citizens for terms up of five and half years, as follows: Iskandar Ahmad Suleiman, 5years, 6 months; Hussain ali Ahmad al-Satarwah, 2 years; Ali Hassan Ali Abdulla Al-Ramel, 2 years; Abdul Hadi Saleh Ibrahim, 1 year; Khalil Jaber Fardan Isa, 1 year; Salah Abbas Habib Ahmad, 2 years; Saeed Ali Hassan Khalaf, 1 year, 6 months. An eighth person: Mahammed Hassan Ali Al-Ramel, who is outside the country, was also named by the court but not sentenced.

Reuters reported on 14 June that a security court convicted six citizens “of possessing unlawful leaflets, but said the men should be set free because they had already spent 14 months in jail, a lawyer said”. “The court found them guilty but (found) that the period they had spent in jail was enough,” the lawyer told Reuters. The six defendants were also fined 200 dinars ($531) each, he said. The six Bahrainis – imprisoned since their arrest in April 1996 – are Hassan Qassab, Shaker al-Mahouzi, Mirza al-Qatari, Saleh Hassan, Ali Isa Ahmed and Hussain Howaida”.

Sheikh Ali Al-Nachas is killed

The Bahraini interior ministry killed Sheikh Ali Al-Nachas, a blind person, about 50 years old, on 29 June 1997. During the morning, the well-known torturer Adel Flaifel summoned two persons and told them that Sheikh Al-Nachas is now dead.

Sheikh Ali Al-Nachas was detained in January 1996 and sentenced for one-year accused of delivering political sermons in mosques. Released in February 1997 only to be re-detained a short time later accused of delivering similar sermons in a local mosque. For the past 2-3 months he had been suffering from ill-treatment in detention. Reports spoke of his health deterioration as a result of this ill-treatment.

Two weeks ago, his house was one of the houses (in Bilad al-Qadim) ransacked by the security forces and his wife was beaten severely inside her bedroom.

The son of Sheikh Al-Nachas, Abdulla, also in jail, was released for three days during the funeral. This release was due to the presence of the ICRC. Abdulla was interviewed by the BBC Arabic Service. His statements moved the nation. He said that “all this suffering is just because we called for the restoration of the parliament”. It is feared that upon his return to his cell and after the departure of the ICRC, he could be subjected to torture for his statements. Bilad al-Qadim was besieged by security helicopters and forces on the day of martyrdom. On the next day, thousands of people gathered in Bilad al-Qadim and demanded and end to government’s brutality.

The information minister, Mohammed Al-Motawwa was quoted by local papers today saying, “the security forces are monitoring the movements of these (opposition) elements for repulsing all their die-hard attempts”. Hence, the killing of Bahrainis.

29 June: Sheikh Ali Al-Nacahs, 50, blind cleric, died in custody. Thousands of people converged on Bilad al-Qadim to offer their sympathy and condolences for the family of Sheikh Ali Al-Nachas. Leading national figures, such as Ali Rabea and Mohammed Jaber Sabah, were amongst the first to visit the family of the martyr. Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal condemning the killing of Sheikh Al-Nachas and calling for bringing those responsible to justice. In the first day of martyrdom (29 June), the foreign forces attacked Bilad al-Qadim and arrested scores of people. Sheikh Al-Nachas was forcibly buried in Hoora Cemetery. The son of Sheikh Al-Nachas, Abdulla, 19, was in jail when his father martyred. Because of the presence of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) he was released for 3 days. In an interview with the BBC Arabic Service he shocked the nation by describing how his father was ill-treated and denied medical care when he needed it. Abdulla also said that his father campaigned peacefully for the restoration of the parliament. It is feared that the intelligence department might torture him when he returns to prison and after the departure of the ICRC.

In an interview with the Mideast Mirror of 30 June, the ex-MP, Dr. Abdul Hadi Khalaf said the death of Al-Nachas is an indication of how bad the prisons’ conditions are. He also said the root problem is that the Al-Khalifa consider themselves “conquerors” and treat the nation as “conquered people”.

Reuters reported on 22 June: “British Foreign Office Minister Derek Fatchett started a tour of three Gulf Arab states on Sunday to confirm London’s commitment to security in the Gulf and boosting political and economic ties. Fatchett, who arrived in Oman and is also due to visit the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, is the first British minister to visit the Gulf since Britain’s Labour government took power last month. “His discussions will focus on a broad range of regional issues including Iraq, Iran and the Middle East peace process,” a statement released by the British Embassy in Muscat said. “Mr Fatchett will confirm Britain’s commitment to enhancing political and commercial relations with each country and to maintaining the security of the Gulf region as a whole,” the statement said. Britain’s trade with the six Gulf Cooperation Council states — Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar — rose by more than 20 percent in the first 11 months of 1996 to 5.93 billion pounds compared with the same period in 1995″. Bahrain was not included in the tour and in the past days the government ordered one of its mouthpieces to write articles in Al-Ayyam newspapers (latest article is dated 21 June) attacking the British Labour Government.

On 22 June, the interior ministry issued orders to leaders of mosques and assembly halls (matams) for switching-off microphones during the forthcoming religious programmes. Such arbitrary orders are designed for intimidating the citizens. A statement by the BFM directed to the enlightened members of the ruling family said, “it is time for realising that the Bahraini society can only be governed properly through the constitution of the country. If the present attitude continues, then calamity is the end result. The rulers and the ruled might also be heading for non-retrievable situation, unless the present policy is brought to a halt”.

Unfortunately, the situation continues to look grim. The collective punishment programme, and the vicious cycle of violence caused by aggressions of the security forces against the citizens are further weakening business confidence and worsening recession. A Japanese investment bank (Okasan) and the Gulf Riyadh Bank have closed down. Many permits were offered to foreign institutions up-front, but these businesses have yet to take a decision to come to Bahrain. For the situation to prosper, stability is needed, and such stability can only be achieved through the restoration of constitutional rule.

Following calls by the leading religious and political figure, citizens have rallied around the victims of the aggressions of the security forces. Many people have had their houses ruined and properties destroyed as part of the collective punishment programme implemented by the Al-Khalifa family against the indigenous population. The Al-Khalifa assumes that the international community would not condemn these crimes so long as the sufferers come from the Shia community. This is also based on a medieval concept, which the ruling family believes in. Believing they are the children of Al-Fateh (the Conqueror) means -in accordance with medieval politics- “a Conqueror may legitimately appropriate lands, shed blood and commit indecency against the conquered nation”. This inhuman concept lies at the heart of all the practices of a ruling mentality that attempts to continue with its medieval practice in time and place of advanced humanism.

The government paraded the funeral of the four guest Indian persons as if the citizens were responsible for such a criminal act. The security forces raided houses, damaged and committed all types of arson against the peaceful nation. The chief arsonists are members of the foreign security forces who are paid – as mercenaries – to commit all types of crimes. Religious and political figures have all denounced violence and called on the ruling family to updates its mentality and attitude to match today’s world and hence save Bahrain from disasters.

While the country suffers, the ruling family continues to imagine prosperity. One report – The 1997 UN Human Development- rated Bahrain as the 43rd country in terms life expectancy, education and per capita income according to real gross domestic product (based on 1994 figures). The report does not address lack of fair wealth distribution or the lack of basic rights, which Bahrain, under the Al-Khalifa, would rank the worst. Last year, a US Heritage Foundation ranked Bahrain as one of the freest economies. This of course considers the “freedom” which the ruling family and a tiny parasitic section enjoy. Such “free” practices result in the daily importation of an average of 80 new labourers (2400 per month, 28,800 per year) from the Sub-Indian Continent into Bahrain’s job market in return for commissions charged from this new form of slavery. Thirty months on since the start of the uprising and this “free” practice never ceased.

By Barry May

DUBAI, June 19 (Reuter) – After a lull of several months, sporadic civil unrest that has gripped the Gulf Arab state of Bahrain for more than two years has flared anew with a spate of arson attacks on homes and small businesses.

Deaths and injuries have been caused by fires described by a government official as “continued acts of terrorism.”

Impoverished Shi’ite Moslem villages in the Gulf’s smallest and least wealthy oil-producing country are once again the scene of protests and agitation. Riot police patrol in jeeps by day and by night, when many of the villages are blacked out.

There has been no sign of concern among large international firms in Bahrain, which is the Gulf’s main banking and financial centre and is connected to Saudi Arabia by a 25 km causeway.

“Those of us living in dodgy areas hear the odd bomb at night,” one expatriate businessman said. “But nothing close.”

A car which exploded in the heart of the capital Manama last week caused no casualties, a government official said, but destroyed the vehicle and badly damaged another parked nearby.

“It’s a reaction to a massive government crackdown on thousands of Shi’ite Moslems,” another foreign resident said.

Shi’ites comprise two-thirds of the population of Bahrain, which has been ruled for two centuries by the Khalifa family who are members of the rival Sunni branch of Islam.

“Some people say it’s a message to the government that despite the crackdown on activists people have not backed down from their demands for political and economic reforms,” the resident said by telephone.

Among those demands are more job opportunities for Shi’ites.

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