One Reason Obama’s Not Supporting Civil Rights In Bahrain – It’s Spelled FTA

AngryArabiya's father, uncle, brother-in-law and husband, used with permission

As of tonight, there is still no word on AngryArabiya’s father, brother-in-law and husband –or her uncle who was arrested three weeks ago. She wrote last night:

This will b one of the most difficult nights of my life, wat condition is my wonderful & kind husband in. I close my eyes & I see his smile

My father, husband & bro in law r prolly being interrogated &tortured now. It kills me that a criminal regime is doing this 2 my loved ones

With yesterday’s announcement by the government of two activists dying during their detention and the release of these photos showing “Torture Marks on the body of Issa Sager who was tortured to death in prison yesterday” the situation for AngryArabiya’s family and all the other political prisoners is desperate.

Human Rights Watch has called for the release of Alkhawaja and for him to have access to an independent physician given that he was beaten unconscious during the raid.

“The brutal beating of rights activist Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja by police during a warrantless predawn raid adds cruelty on top of illegality,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “He should be released immediately.”

HRW ends with this comment:

“Washington and the European Union have been disturbingly vague in their response to Bahrain’s brutal suppression of democracy activists,” Stork said. “President Obama properly calls Syria’s response to protesters ‘abhorrent,’ but the routine depredations in Bahrain, in apparent deference to Saudi Arabia, pass without any public criticism.”

One of the reasons for this “disturbingly vague” response is America’s corporate interest in Bahrain. In late 2004, were negotiating for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the monarchy (it was eventually ratified in 2006) and a State Department cable released by Wikileaks shows just how such commercial arrangements are viewed by Washington. AlKhawaja was under arrest at the time of the Agreement negotiations as well – note carefully what the US concerns were in this discussion between the Ambassador and the Crown Prince:

id: 21993?date: 10/25/2004 10:24?refid: 04MANAMA1618?origin: Embassy Manama?classification: SECRET//NOFORN?destination: 04MANAMA1489|04MANAMA1558?header:?This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
—————– header ends —————-
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001618
REF: A. MANAMA 1489 B. MANAMA 1558
Classified By: Ambassador William T. Monroe. Reason: 1.5 (B)(D)

… 3. (C) The Crown Prince asked the Ambassador how the Embassy viewed his labor reform proposals, based on a McKinsey and Company report that recommended incentives to hire Bahraini workers rather than expatriates (ref a). The Ambassador applauded the effort to address Bahrain’s structural?employment problems, but wondered how a plan that in effect raised labor costs would impact on Bahrain’s export competitiveness. The Crown Prince said that the plan called for increasing productivity to compensate for higher wages.

4. (C) The Ambassador asked if the fact that human rights activist Al-Khawaja had used the McKinsey Report’s critiques of the Bahrain economy to launch his personal attack on the Prime Minister (for which he was subsequently arrested) would affect his efforts to push forward the McKinsey proposals.?The Crown Prince said it would not. He said that Al-Khawaja case was now in the courts, being handled through legal channels. The Ambassador noted that, in vigorously pursuing the case, the government had in fact increased Al-Khawaja’s notoriety and popularity among at least a part of the population. The Crown Prince acknowledged that this was true, but said that was not entirely a bad development. Al-Khawaja is very secular, he observed. (emph. added)

The Ambassador also asked about a terror prosecution against four Sunni Bahrainis and the response:

The Crown Prince said that the action against Al-Khawaja (a Shia) might actually make it easier to move?against the four terrorist suspects (Sunnis). “Balance,” he said, “is very important in Bahrain.”

The summary ends with comments from the Crown Prince about the US occupation of Iraq:

The Crown Prince stressed that it was critically important that we stay the course in Iraq and not withdraw prematurely before Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining order.

While the above exchange happened during the Bush presidency, we have yet to see any signs that the Obama White House has any greater commitment to human rights than Bush.

You can show your support for Al Khawaja by calling the US State Department and the Bahraini embassy to demand the release and protection of Al Khawaja and all the political detainees:

The Bahrain desk of the US State Department can be reached at 202-647-8821.

The US Embassy in Bahrain can be reached at (973)1724-2700 or via email to Chargé d’Affaires Stephanie Williams at

The Bahrain Embassy to the US can be reached at 202 342 1111 or via email to Ambassador Ms. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo at

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