12 thoughts on “Bahrain keeps fighting for democracy

  1. Bahrain job purges linger as protest flashpoint

    By: BRIAN MURPHY | 09/08/11 8:25 AM

    Associated Press

    Ali al-Ekri
    AP Photo/Hasan Jamali
    Dr. Ali al-Ekri, center, and an unidentified man hug each other at al-Ekri’s home Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Al-Ekri was one of several medical workers released from jail Wednesday pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.

    One afternoon in May, police in Bahrain led away security guard Mahdi Ali from his job at the Gulf kingdom’s state-controlled aluminum plant. He claims he was blindfolded and beaten so severely that the bruises still have not healed.
    His only offense, he insists, is being part of Bahrain’s Shiite majority as it presses for greater rights from Sunni rulers who have Western allies and powerful Gulf neighbors on their side.
    The 44-year-old Ali now counts himself among Bahrain’s purged: Hundreds of Shiites — some say thousands — dismissed from jobs or suspended from universities for suspected support for demonstrators.
    “My only crime is being Shiite,” said Ali, who claims he has been effectively blacklisted from finding a new job. “I’ve paid for it by being dismissed, arrested, tortured and insulted.”
    With Bahrain’s Arab Spring crisis moving into its eighth month, the mass dismissals remain a major point of anger feeding near-daily street clashes on the strategic island — which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
    The coming weeks could be critical in assessing the chances for any significant reconciliation efforts in Bahrain. The alternative is an increasingly divided and volatile nation where the region’s biggest political narratives intersect: Western security interests, Gulf Arab worries about spillover uprisings and Iran’s ambitions to cast wider Middle East influence.
    “Bahrain had these tensions long before the current Arab upheavals. And it may end up as one of the most enduring and most complex dilemmas after the Arab Spring has run its course,” said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.
    Shiites account for about 70 percent of the population of some 525,000 people, but claim they face systematic discrimination by the 200-year-old Sunni dynasty. Bahrain’s rulers, meanwhile, court Western and Sunni Arab backing by raising fears that Shiite power Iran is pulling the strings of the protests as a foothold to undermine other Gulf monarchs and sheiks.
    Bahrain’s Shiite groups have pledged to boycott elections Sept. 24 to fill 18 parliament seats left vacant since Shiite lawmakers walked out in March to protest the government’s crackdowns. A fresh wave of protests could be timed to try to overshadow the voting and embarrass officials.
    There already are signs of escalating violence after months of low-level skirmishes.
    Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and bird shot early Thursday to break up crowds gathered to welcome doctors freed from prison after staging a hunger strike. “Down, down Hamad,” chanted crowds in reference to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa as they waited for some of the doctors, who still face charges of aiding the protests.
    The broadest aim of the protests is to break the monarchy’s monopoly on power and open room for Shiites in top government and security posts. But the smaller battles — such as the job and university purges — have often become the focus of outrage by protesters and denunciations from rights groups.
    “We are calling for our forgotten civil rights,” said Sayed Ahmad, spokesman for a committee formed by activists to aid workers claiming they were pushed out of their jobs. “We don’t want to fight Sunnis, but we will stand up against anyone … trying to cleanse a sect just because of their political views.”
    Ahmad estimates close to 4,000 Shiite workers have lost their jobs since the protests began in February — many fired for missing work either to join the demonstrations or because they were too nervous to venture out during clashes that have left at least 33 people dead.
    Bahrain’s biggest labor group, the General Federation of Bahrain Trade Unions, put the figure at about 2,500, but no definitive numbers are available and its unclear whether all dismissals were protest related.
    Government officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
    Last month, however, King Hamad urged companies and universities to take steps toward bringing back workers and students pushed out for alleged links to the protests.
    Some doors have been opening. Hundreds of people have returned in the past month, including more than 400 university students and more 100 workers at the state oil company.
    But many activists complain that reinstatements are spotty and still leave hundreds without jobs. Former workers at the state aluminum plant plan a march to Bahrain’s Labor Ministry on Sunday in what they call “the rage of the dismissed.”
    “I’ve been almost seven months without a salary,” said former computer technician at the plant, Mustafa Sadiq, a 39-year-old father of three children. “If this was the case in Europe, there would be massive protests until they got their rights back.”
    The firings also have been brought to the attention of an independent commission investigating alleged abuses during Bahrain’s unrest. The findings by the five-member commission — which includes international judicial and human rights experts — are expected Oct. 30.
    A statement by New York-based Human Rights Watch in July called on Bahraini authorities to investigate the dismissals of more than 2,000 workers “apparently as punishment” for backing the protests or following labor union appeals for sympathy strikes.
    In Washington, the powerful AFL-CIO labor group has asked U.S. officials to suspend a five-year-old free trade accord with Bahrain in retaliation for the mass job dismissals and the firing of union leaders. The pact is just one of 17 such bilateral trade agreements with Washington, which also includes Israel, Jordan and Oman in the Middle East.
    This week, investigators are conducting the final interviews for the independent fact-finding commission, which is headed by Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, an Egyptian-born professor of international criminal law and a former member of U.N. human rights panels.
    Among the accounts is a 29-year-old Bahrain University professor who says she was fired in April and later roused from her apartment at 2:30 a.m. and beaten at a police station until dawn. She claims police then presented her with a prewritten confession detailing links to the protests.
    “They forced me to admit to something that I did not do,” said the woman, who asked for anonymity because of fear of reprisals from authorities. “Then they let me go.”
    She claims she is not banned from leaving the country or even renewing her passport.

    “And all because I am Shiite,” she said.

    http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/2011/09/bahrain-job-purges-linger-protest-flashpoint#ixzz1XNlGYP00

  2. Jobless in Bahrain: Workplace purges still stoke protest anger

    By Associated Press, Published: September 8

    DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — One afternoon in May, police in Bahrain led away security guard Mahdi Ali from his job at the Gulf kingdom’s state-controlled aluminum plant. He claims he was blindfolded and beaten so severely that the bruises still have not healed.

    His only offense, he insists, is being part of Bahrain’s Shiite majority as it presses for greater rights from Sunni rulers who have Western allies and powerful Gulf neighbors on their side.

    ( no / Associated Press ) – Dr. Ali al-Ekri, center, and an unidentified man hug each other at al-Ekri’s home Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Al-Ekri was one of several medical workers released from jail Wednesday pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.
    ( no / Associated Press ) – Anti-government protesters clash with riot police late Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Riot police stormed the area after hundreds of people began to gather at the Daih home of Dr. Ali al-Ekri, one of several doctors and medical workers released from jail Wednesday evening pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.
    ( no / Associated Press ) – Well-wishers waving Bahraini flags welcome Dr. Ali al-Ekri, seated left inside the vehicle, at his home Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Al-Ekri was one of several medical workers released from jail Wednesday pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.
    ( no / Associated Press ) – Anti-government protesters wait in a street as clashes with riot police break out in the neighborhood late Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Riot police stormed the area after hundreds of people began to gather at the Daih home of Dr. Ali al-Ekri, one of several doctors and medical workers released from jail Wednesday evening pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.

    ( no / Associated Press ) – Dr. Ali al-Ekri, center, and an unidentified man hug each other at al-Ekri’s home Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Daih, Bahrain, on the outskirts of the capital of Manama. Al-Ekri was one of several medical workers released from jail Wednesday pending a verdict in his trial on charges stemming from the spring uprising in the Gulf island monarchy.

    The 44-year-old Ali now counts himself among Bahrain’s purged: Hundreds of Shiites — some say thousands — dismissed from jobs or suspended from universities for suspected support for demonstrators.

    “My only crime is being Shiite,” said Ali, who claims he has been effectively blacklisted from finding a new job. “I’ve paid for it by being dismissed, arrested, tortured and insulted.”

    With Bahrain’s Arab Spring crisis moving into its eighth month, the mass dismissals remain a major point of anger feeding near-daily street clashes on the strategic island — which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

    The coming weeks could be critical in assessing the chances for any significant reconciliation efforts in Bahrain. The alternative is an increasingly divided and volatile nation where the region’s biggest political narratives intersect: Western security interests, Gulf Arab worries about spillover uprisings and Iran’s ambitions to cast wider Middle East influence.

    “Bahrain had these tensions long before the current Arab upheavals. And it may end up as one of the most enduring and most complex dilemmas after the Arab Spring has run its course,” said Sami Alfaraj, director of the Kuwait Center for Strategic Studies.

    Shiites account for about 70 percent of the population of some 525,000 people, but claim they face systematic discrimination by the 200-year-old Sunni dynasty. Bahrain’s rulers, meanwhile, court Western and Sunni Arab backing by raising fears that Shiite power Iran is pulling the strings of the protests as a foothold to undermine other Gulf monarchs and sheiks.

    Bahrain’s Shiite groups have pledged to boycott elections Sept. 24 to fill 18 parliament seats left vacant since Shiite lawmakers walked out in March to protest the government’s crackdowns. A fresh wave of protests could be timed to try to overshadow the voting and embarrass officials.

    There already are signs of escalating violence after months of low-level skirmishes.

    Security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and bird shot early Thursday to break up crowds gathered to welcome doctors freed from prison after staging a hunger strike. “Down, down Hamad,” chanted crowds in reference to Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa as they waited for some of the doctors, who still face charges of aiding the protests.

    The broadest aim of the protests is to break the monarchy’s monopoly on power and open room for Shiites in top government and security posts. But the smaller battles — such as the job and university purges — have often become the focus of outrage by protesters and denunciations from rights groups.

  3. Thousands of Bahrainis march, demand change
    Sat, 10 September 2011

    MANAMA — Some 20,000 protesters marched near the Bahraini capital of Manama yesterday, shouting anti-government slogans in the Gulf island. Waving Bahraini flags, they raised their fists in the air as small-scale protests and clashes with security forces erupt almost daily outside Manama, in the villages. Anxieties are also now rising ahead of a by-election scheduled for later this month.
    The election aims to fill seats of parliamentarians from the Wefaq party who resigned earlier on. The government said the demonstrations had a sectarian agenda instigated by outside rivals. The Friday March, organised by Wefaq, was entitled, “No backing down, we are insistent on our demands.” The protesters have demanded a greater share in government as well more powers for the legislature.
    The government tried to respond by launching a National Dialogue to initiate reforms, but many opposition figures ignored the talks calling them cosmetic. Wefaq eventually pulled out of the dialogue.
    Some residents worried there could be more clashes in Bahrain. Saudi Arabian and UAE forces entered Bahrain earlier this year to help the government put down protests, citing fears of outside interference.
    Protesters yesterday wrote out the Arabic word “Salmiya” along the sidewalk where protesters were marching. The word, which means, “Peaceful”, was spelled out using empty tear gas canisters and sound grenades.
    Pumping their fists, protesters also shouted out “Thank you, thank you” as a speaker recited the names of some 47 medics who had treated demonstrators in February. — Reuters

  4. Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States Acknowledges the Tenth Anniversary of September 11, Reaffirms Strong Bi-Lateral Ties

    WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — On the tenth anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States Houda Nonoo reaffirmed Bahrain’s strong and enduring support for the United States.

    “The attack on the United States on September 11, 2001 will be a day that the world will remember forever. Ten years later, Bahrain stands with its ally the United States as Americans reflect on those heartbreaking events. The civilized world’s resolve against extremism and intolerance strengthened that day,” Ambassador Nonoo said.

    “Threats against global peace, tolerance, and freedom still exist in our world even a decade later. Bahrain’s enduring commitment to the United States remains strong. Now, and in the future, Bahrain will continue to work with our ally the United States to bring an end to terror and help create a peaceful co-existence for the world’s people,” Ambassador Nonoo concluded.

    SOURCE Kingdom of Bahrain

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