Archive for the ‘GCC’ tag
New York- On April 2-3, 2011, I traveled to Manama, Bahrain for a fleeting 24 hours to get a glimpse into the island kingdom’s crushed revolution. I was only allowed out of the airport after a friend who works as a junior diplomat at the American embassy there came to my rescue. The Pearl Roundabout, whose eponymous sculpture had been torn down on March 18, was forbidden to both visit and photograph by the time I arrived. The area, in the heart of the island’s steaming hot capital, had become a closed militarized zone upon my visit. My ruse to visit the area was to take a taxi to the adjacent fish souq manned by South Indians and Bangladeshis. The authorities quickly caught on however and the jig was up. In a taxi on the way to the souq, the driver had mentioned off handedly that a local coin had been taken out of circulation because it simply depicted the vanished Pearl sculpture. I went to a number of businesses in Manama trying desperately to get my hands on one of the verboten coins thinking surely it would still exist as change in someone’s cash register. I asked at the coffee shop that I darted into while trying to evade the Bahraini police. Nope. Then the Carrefour, then the Virgin store and so forth. All of the salespeople told me they had been instructed to rubbish the Pearl coins when they received them as payment. I quickly realized I would only be able to score one once outside the country.
My way of exacting revenge was via Ebay. As soon as I reached New York at the end of that trip, my first order to business was to track down the banned 500 fils coin depicting the Pearl Monument. The coin took quite some time to arrive but I finally got my hands on the prize (from every conflict I collect recently or soon-to-be defunct currencies like the Taliban afghani, the Saddam dinar etc).
The Bahraini uprising began sadly a year ago today. The grievances have been stifled by the ham-fisted policies of the government there and its big brother in neighboring Saudi Arabia. The United States has not only callously failed to act there, wary of losing its military lookout facing Iran (ie the 5th fleet) but has also been debating buttressing the regime was a massive weapons deal disproportionate to the kingdom’s tiny size and populace. While the infamous $53 million arms deal sits in limbo, a smaller $1 million arrangement has been allowed to go forward according to Human Rights Watch. Bahrain is a travesty in part because it is simply allowed to go on. The monarchy continues to suppress calls for both moderate reform and those more radical for its overthrow and the conversion of Bahrain into a representative democracy. Joshua Landis, the author of Syria Comment, referred to the regime of Bashar al-Assad as “the last minoritarian regime in the Levant” who is “destined to fall in this age of popular revolt”.
In the Persian (or Arabian) Gulf however, sits yet another minoritarian regime, that of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. The Hamad government has been described as destined to fall by no one unless there is a statement by Hassan Nasrallah or some ayatollah in Qom I’m unaware of. America’s clumsy, lopsided policy when it comes to Bahrain is then easily exploited by those who did not want to see Qaddafi fall and seek to uphold Assad at least rhetorically because of their deeply ingrained anti-American worldview. Amidst all of this nonsense, in the towns and villages outside the once glitzy capital of Bahrain, it is the Shia civilians there that continue to suffer.
New York-I’m posting the verbatim email I received from Maryam al-Khawaja just now on a vicious attack on @NabeelRajab. I interviewed Nabeel twice in 2011. Those articles can be read here and here. Luckily he was released not long after. Though it is easily the most oft overlooked corner of the Arab world’s uprisings, Bahrain’s bitter struggle is far from over with no end in sight. Of course I can’t help but think how things would play out differently if the fifth fleet were to depart for good.
Bahrain: Vicious Attack on Human Rights defender Nabeel Rajab
06 Jan 2012
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies hold the authorities in Bahrain full responsibility for the life and safety of human Rights defender Nabeel Rajab.
The President of Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) and Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) Nabeel Rajab was beaten severely by the security forces in Bahrain then moved in an ambulance to Salmaniya hospital after participating in a peaceful protest in Manama earlier tonight (video of the attack on the protest). He has told his lawyer on a phone call following the attack that the policemen gathered around him suddenly and started to beat him. He informed the lawyer that while lying on the ground he was beaten all over his body and specially on his back and face and that his face injuries are serious. He has an injury just below his right eye. He was then taken to Salmanyia hospital which is still controlled by a heavy security presence since last March. Human rights activists from Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and his lawyer Mohammed Al-Jishi who have headed immediately to the hospital were prevented from seeing him. His Son Adam Rajab saw his dad in the hospital, carried by police, he said Nabeel’s face was swollen. When Adam tried to take a picture of his dad he got pushed and his phone was taken from him. Dr Alaa AlShehabi reported from the hospital that Nabeel is surrounded by 8-10 security officers and that he is suffering from concussion, back pain and bruises to his back and face. He told Dr Alaa that he was attacked by a group of police officers with sticks, he was kicked, punched & beaten all over his body and especially on the face. BCHR member Said Yousif AlMahafdha was able to see Nabeel for a moment by was then asked by Minister of interior officers to leave immediately.
BCHR knew that Nabeel is being interrogated right now, though he can’t talk and is currently on a wheel chair. His family was not allowed to stay with him.
Following the same attack, Sayed Yousif AlMahafdha, active member of the BCHR, was also injured with a stun grenade in his leg and arm. In addition, supporters gathered in solidarity outside Nabeel’s house in Bani-Jamra were attacked with tear gas.
This is an urgent appeal, the fact that the ministry of interior is controlling access to Nabeel with heavy security presence around him and preventing taking photos is very worrying and we are concerned about his health and life. Rajab is believed to be under arrest, until authorities with the Ministry of Interior allow visitation or reveal Mr. Rajab’s status.
There is an imminent fear of torture, in case Rajab was transferred to a detention facility, particularly that there is a trend of targeting human right defenders in Bahrain, who are frequently subjected to torture and other ill treatment while in detention.
GCHR, BCHR and CIHRS believe that the security forces attack on human rights defender Nabeel Rajab is directly related to his legitimate work in defense of human rights and democracy in Bahrain.
We are deeply concerned that this latest attack comes as part of an increasingly hostile environment that human rights defenders in Bahrain are facing which has included the repression of peaceful demonstrations in the villages of Bahrain, the arbitrary arrest of nonviolent protesters on daily basis, and the attacks and intimidation of human rights defenders who are defending the people’s rights in Bahrain.
We condemn in the strongest possible term this vicious attack on a well known human rights figure inside Bahrain and on the regional and international levels. GCHR, BCHR and CIHRS, are gravely concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Nabeel Rajab and hold the government of Bahrain responsible for his safety.
I am posted up at my friend Arif’s
place villa here in Abu Dhabi for a few very hot days. I spent yesterday getting my Afghan visa in 41 Celsius heat which was no easy task seeing as the embassy had moved without notifying anyone, least of all Abu Dhabi’s beleaguered taxi drivers who, like Dubai, seem to all be from coastal Kerala or the Kurram tribal agency on the Durand Line. As soon as I set out for the day, I lost the keys to the flat in one of the taxis and was stuck outside for a considerable amount of time which is considered perfectly safe for the tens of thousands of Bangladeshi and Pakistani construction workers working 12 hours shifts but ill advised for such hapless Westerners such as myself. Fortunately Arif arrived home before I fainted in front of the Tamil caretaker washing the neighbor’s Range Rover.
Today well I slept all day and then we went to an exhibit of Ottoman era Islamic art at the absurd Emirates Palace Hotel and had very bland pizza at a nearby Sbarro. So today I inhabited a much more “civilized” existence here to even out from yesterday’s drudgery.
While neighboring Dubai, puffed up on credit and hype, has come crashing down from its inflated pedestal, Abu Dhabi is still going relatively strong by comparison with its core oil economy intact. Arif pointed me to a couple of scathing articles in the UK press poking holes in Sheikh Maktoum’s plastic paradise in the Independent and the Times. I have always been disturbed by the massive and quite obvious abuses of human rights here and in the other Gulf Cooperation Council states and it’s good to see this situation is finally coming to light.