A major report from Amnesty International released to coincide with this weekend’s Formula One grand prix has warned that human rights abuses in Bahrain continue “unabated” despite repeated assurances from the authorities that the situation is improving.
The Amnesty report details dozens of cases of detainees being beaten, deprived of sleep and adequate food, burned with cigarettes, sexually assaulted, subjected to electric shocks and burned with an iron. One was raped by having a plastic pipe inserted into his anus.
It said the report showed torture, arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force against peaceful activists and government critics remained widespread in Bahrain.
It was the third time that Mr. Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been detained for posting criticism of the monarchy since a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 2011.
After reading the arrest warrant presented to him at his home on Thursday, Mr. Rajab made a defiant statement into a video camera held by his son, Adam. “My case is related to Twitter,” he said. “This is another attempt to suppress the people’s right to freely express their opinions.”
Before he was taken into custody by a group of at least 17 officers, Mr. Rajab added that he was sorry to see so many policemen gathered around his house “not to arrest a criminal, but to arrest someone who expresses his opinion.”
He was jailed in 2012 for posting a critical gibe about Bahrain’s prime minister on Twitter. Last year, he was arrested for posting messages about a former member of the nation’s security forces who had boasted about joining the Islamic State militant group in Syria. He was convicted both times, spent two years in prison, and was out on bail pending an appeal in the 2014 case.
According to Mr. Rajab’s colleague Said Yousif al-Muhafdah, the new charges relate to accusations by Mr. Rajab that Bahrain tortured inmates in Jaw Prison.
In March, Mr. Rajab shared images of a former prisoner’s wounds on Twitter.
Last week, he posted a link to an opinion article he wrote for Huffington Post on what he said was the use of excessive force to punish inmates who had taken part in a protest inside Jaw Prison.
In his Huffington Post op-ed article, Mr. Rajab wrote:
Jaw is facing a crisis. On 10 March there was a protest in the prison. A family at the visitation centre were told their son was barred from visits. There was an altercation with the inmate’s sister, where a police officer apparently hit her. The inmates in their visitation lobby were all taken back to the main prison buildings, where outrage sparked action.
Some prisoners began barricading their cells in protest. The authorities retaliated by locking the buildings from the outside and calling in reinforcements. Hundreds of police swarmed the prison. Buildings 1, 3, 4 and 6 — the prison is made up of ten — were subjected to a siege situation. The police broke through the barricades and flushed the inmates out with teargas. They marched the inmates out into the courtyards, where every one of them was beaten and humiliated by the police. The forces took shifts terrorising the inmates, passing the baton between Bahraini police and Jordanian units. The inmates were shot at with shotguns and sound grenades, aimed at their bodies. Inmates were forced to address the officers as ‘master’, beaten if they asked to be taken to the toilet (where they were given 30 seconds to relieve themselves), beaten during meals, and forced to insult their families or face more beatings.
“We have witness testimony and photographic evidence showing that human rights abuses are being carried out in Jaw,” Mr. Muhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said on Thursday. “The violations are undeniable, yet rather than address the truth, they are calling Nabeel a liar and a criminal.”
Mr. Rajab’s arrest came just two days after Bahrain’s interior minister assured a delegation of visitors from the United States Congress that he was enacting a series of reforms to ensure the “human rights and freedoms” of citizens would be protected.
A woman I call M. strode down the main road of her village in a burqa, with a large red and white Bahraini flag wrapped around her shoulders, fluttering vigorously in the breeze. She carried a poster, which she allowed me to look at. It had four small plastic dolls glued to the surface. One doll, wrapped in a white shroud, lay inside a small yellow box. Two other dolls had black hoods covering their heads and faces. One of the hooded dolls hung from its feet. The other’s arms were bound behind its back. The fourth plastic doll was imprisoned behind strips of black tape and was next to some rubber bullets and a small plastic cylinder.
“They kill our children,” she explained, referring to the kingdom’s security forces. “They suffocate them. They use all kinds of weapons.” Her hand swept over the rubber bullets and the cylinder, which represented a tear gas canister. The bound and hooded dolls in stress positions didn’t require much interpretation, but she emphasized how commonly both male and female youth are tortured in Bahrain’s prisons.
Then M. flipped the poster over, revealing three black cutout figures hanging from nooses with paper bags over their heads. “We won’t accept anything but a death sentence,” was written in Arabic in black marker across the top. The effigies were identified with signs on their torsos: Salman, Khalifa, and Hamad, the crown prince, prime minister, and king of Bahrain, respectively.
J and I drove past scores of armed riot police on Budaiya highway as her iPhone buzzed non-stop: phone calls, Skype calls and, incessantly, Twitter. I had wondered what the phrase “Twitter revolution” really meant when I heard it used in connection with Iran in 2009 and Egypt in 2011. Here, in the small Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain, I was beginning to grasp the concept.
I was in that country for three weeks as a part of the Witness Bahrain initiative, a group of internationals seeking to document and expose human rights abuses perpetrated by the regime against protesters and activists. Aside from brief spurts of coverage, the crisis in Bahrain had largely been ignored by the U.S. media.
Perhaps the lack of coverage of the predominantly Shi’a uprising against an increasingly repressive Sunni monarchy can be explained, in part, by this: Washington considers that monarchy its close ally; Bahrain is the home of the Navy’s 5th Fleet, and the beneficiary of U.S. arms sales. Perhaps it has to do with the U.S.-Saudi friendship, and the increasing tension between the U.S. and Iran. Bahrain has been portrayed as a battleground for influence between neighboring Saudi Arabia (a supporter of the monarchy) and nearby majority Shi’a Iran.
Ignoring the revolution underway there and its demands for freedom and democracy is, however, perilous. If activists move from largely peaceful demonstrations toward the use of violence, Bahrain could prove the powder keg that might set the Persian Gulf aflame. Peaceful activists like J currently hold sway, but given the brutality I witnessed, it’s unclear how long the Bahraini revolution will remain nonviolent. Continue Reading
A US filmmaker who was trying to capture footage of the anti-government protests in Bahrain has been deported for immigration fraud.
In a statement released on Saturday, Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) said that Seattle-based Jen Marlowe had lied to immigration officials about her reason for visiting.
“Upon arrival, she told immigration officials she came to help a friend who had recently had a baby, but investigation showed the names and addresses she gave were fabricated,” the statement read.
“While in Bahrain, she [had] been shooting a documentary film that requires a proper visa permitting one to work in the kingdom.”
Marlowe, who describes herself as a “human rights advocate”, told Telegraph Expat she had gone to Bahrain as part of the pro-democracy initiative Witness Bahrain, “to observe, document, and expose what is happening on the ground, and to stand in solidarity with the Bahraini people calling for democracy and respect for human rights”. Continue Reading