As the news from Bahrain continues to get worse, the opposition once more takes nonviolent action to move the world to intervene. Inspired by Zeinab Alkhawaja (@angryarabiya) hundreds of Bahrainis and their supporters worldwide will begin a four day hunger strike beginning Monday:
This peaceful civilized movement has been suppressed brutally. And that was not enough for the criminal Bahraini regime and the Saudi nasty invader… what they planned for and what they are doing now is a decadent sectarian, ethnic cleansing. More than 25 martyrs were killed; four of them were killed under the brutal torture in custody. There are more than 500 detainees that no one knows what the situation they are living in detention is, 30 of them are women, and 116 of them are kids, all of them were arrested because they had a mouth that wanted to speak for freedom…
Me, you, anyone of your family might be with them in any moment… just being one of the people who passed by a protest one day is an enough reason to be arrested, save the detainees lives and save yourself from being arrested…
One more time Bahrainis will prove to the whole world that they are peaceful civilized people; they are going to raise their demand through a hunger strike this time, join it pro-freedom protest against the unjustness in Bahrain…
Zeinab’s own hunger strike continues and her health is quickly deteriorating. When family members took her to a hospital for care, they were informed that treatment would require notification of the authorities – who are known to then arrive and kidnap the patients – so she is home without treatment and getting weaker.
The medical situation in Bahrain was documented this week by Paul McGeough of the Sydney Morning Herald:
Amid reports of some hospitals being empty of patients, MSF accused the regime of using health facilities as ”bait”, with police sweeps looking for injuries consistent with involvement in protests – and then hauling away the patients.
A report by MSF concluded that the regime crackdown had ”paralysed” hospitals and turned them into ”places to be feared”.
Human Rights Watch staff saw a patient being informed that his details would have to be included in a request for blood as part of his treatment – and 90 minutes later, the arrival at the hospital of a 10-strong police team who hauled the patient away…
At a media conference early this week, the acting Health Minister, Fatima al-Balooshi, argued that scores of doctors and staff at the Salmaniya and other hospitals had joined a ”conspiracy against Bahrain from the outside” – code for Iran. She confirmed that 30 doctors and nurses had been arrested and that another 150 were under investigation.
Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, a consultant lawyer to Human Rights Watch, wrote this week: “[Barack Obama] calls Syria’s response to its protesters ‘abhorrent’, but he loses his voice when it comes to Bahrain. He is apparently conceding to Saudi Arabia, whose rulers seem determined to stamp out any uncontrollable democracy – one perhaps under Iranian influence – in the neighbourhood.”
The claim of Iranian influence is more and more used by the US as an excuse for inaction and yet even the Wall Street Journal reports that this claim has more to do with US support for a Saudi government fearful it’s own people may rise.
And just what actions does this US wink and nod excuse? Over just the past few days a leading human rights attorney has been disappeared, over 1000 have been fired from their jobs because they supported the demonstrations and now:
Four members of the Bahrain National Soccer team were disappeared a few days ago:
Al’a Hubail is a legend in the world of Bahraini soccer. In 2004, along with his brother Mohammed, he led the national team on a rollicking VCU-esque run into the Asian Cup semi-finals. Hubail then became the first Bahraini player to win the prestigious Golden Boot Award after scoring five goals against the continent’s best team.
Now, the winner of the Golden Boot has gotten the boot; expelled from the national squad and arrested after news cameras caught him at an “anti-government” protest aimed at Bahrain’s royal family. His soccer-playing brother, Mohammed, who stood alongside him at a peaceful protest across from Bahrain’s shoot-first army and the imported armed forces of Saudi Arabia, was also sacked from the team and put into custody. Both brothers, along with two other players, were cuffed and frog-marched off the practice field in front of shocked teammates.
And the crackdown is not just aimed at sports stars and activists:
Over the past week, three of my cousins have been arrested and they are all teachers, two women and one man, who is the headteacher of a school, along with 50 other full-time teachers. They have all been arrested in their classrooms for joining the strike and signing a petition to remove the education minister. Tanks were surrounding the school and riot police entered and arrested them.
My young brother, 15, was coming back from school last Sunday, and the bus had been stopped at a checkpoint and the riot police entered.
The officer had a Saudi accent and he asked the whole bus: “Which of you went to Lulu Square? You are Shia dogs, why is there no photo of King Hamad in the bus?”
He asked the other officers to check the books of random students to see if the photo of King Hamad was there (all school books have his photo) and they found a number of students who ripped or damaged the photo.
They started to beat them up inside the bus and then arrested them and threatened the other students. “The bus will be searched every day and we had better see the king’s photo inside the bus tomorrow, otherwise you will not go home.”
And still Obama remains silent. Time magazine’s Michael Scherer sums up the shame of Obama’s unwillingness to speak for civil rights in Bahrain:
In this context, it is worth remembering one other statements by President Obama.
I do have an unyielding belief that all people yearn for certain things: the ability to speak your mind and have a say in how you are governed; confidence in the rule of law and the equal administration of justice; government that is transparent and doesn’t steal from the people; the freedom to live as you choose. Those are not just American ideas, they are human rights, and that is why we will support them everywhere.
President Obama can be a president who defines support as little more than stern rhetoric in the face of horrific abuse. He can be a president that defines support as air strikes when civilians are threatened. But if he wants to claim a moral rationale for the latter, he must take moral responsibility for the former. His legacy will be both, not the one he chooses.