Bahrain people keep fighting for democracy


This video is called ‘Night raids, torture, sham trials a daily reality in Bahrain‘ – human rights activist.

From Amnesty International:

13 February 2014

Bahrain: Fears of violent crackdown ahead of third anniversary protests

There are fears that the Bahraini authorities may use violence to quash planned demonstrations on 14 February, said Amnesty International, when thousands are expected to take to the streets to mark the third anniversary of the 2011 uprising.

“The authorities’ relentless repression of dissent continues unabated – with security forces repeatedly using excessive force to quash anti-government protests,” said Said Boumedouha, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“Scores of people, including dozens of children have been detained for participating in peaceful protests over the last year. Many of them alleged that they were tortured in detention. Protesters must be allowed to take part in peaceful demonstrations without the fear of reprisal or attack”.

In July 2013 Bahrain’s King issued a draconian decree banning demonstrations, sit-ins and public gatherings in the capital, Manama, indefinitely.

In the three years since the authorities crushed the mass demonstrations of 2011, the human rights situation in Bahrain has continued to deteriorate. Prominent human rights defenders and opposition activists have been rounded up, in many cases merely for calling for peaceful anti-government protests.

Bahrain has witnessed a continuous downward spiral of repression over the past three years, with the space for freedom of expression and assembly rapidly reducing,” said Said Boumedouha.

“The authorities are losing credibility. Repeated promises of reform have been broken. Until concrete steps are taken to show they are serious about respecting its international obligations, it is unlikely Bahrain will make genuine progress on human rights”.

As yet, the authorities have failed to implement key recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) in 2011.

Among several children who have been detained for participating in demonstrations in the past year are 10-year-old Jehad Nabeel al-Samee’ and 13-year-old ‘Abdullah Yousif al-Bahrani, who were arrested by riot police on 16 December 2013 during a rally outside Manama. They were charged with “illegal gathering and rioting” and “attacking a police patrol with stones”.

‘Abdullah said that he was beaten, threatened with electric shocks and forced to sign a “confession”. He denied taking part in the march or throwing stones at the police. The boys have been released but will remain under supervision until a verdict is issued in their case.

Many others including journalists and human rights activists have also been targeted.

Ahmad Fardan, a Bahraini photojournalist, was arrested during a raid on his home west of Manama on 26 December 2013. He has been charged with “participating in a public gathering” after attempting to cover a demonstration in the village of Abu Saiba’ as a photographer. He was slapped on the face, and beaten including on his genitals while in custody. Medical examinations revealed he also sustained two broken ribs.

Last week, a two year prison sentenced was upheld against Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights defender, for his participation in “illegal gatherings” and for “disturbing public order” between February and March 2012. Another activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to four months in prison last month for “destroying government property” after she ripped a picture of the King of Bahrain. She has been in prison serving different sentences for different court cases since February 2013.

Amnesty International believes that both Nabeel Rajab and Zainab Al-Khawaja are prisoners of conscience who have been targeted for their human rights work and is calling for them to be immediately and unconditionally released.

Amnesty International continues to receive reports of torture in detention centres in Bahrain.

“The anniversary’s protests are a test for the authorities to demonstrate internationally that they are committed to protecting human rights. They must allow the peaceful exercise of freedom of expression, association and assembly and release all prisoners of conscience,” said Said Boumedouha.

Failed Promises in Bahrain: Human Rights Violations Linger On: here.

Clashes with police have marked the third anniversary of the Bahrain uprising that had seen numerous human rights violations by the government and wide social discontent of the majority Shia population with the minority ruling Sunni monarchy: here.

Bahrain’s PR sheen can’t hide abuse allegations: here.

Three years after Bahrain joined the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East, human rights defenders are left wondering when the Obama Administration will put action behind its flamboyant 2011 rhetoric about rights, freedom and the rule of law: here.

Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the pro-reform protest movement which came to be known as the 14 February Coalition, human rights violations continue unabated in the country. While many countries have been quite vocal in condemning atrocities committed against protesters in some countries in the Middle East, when it comes to Bahrain, calls from the West for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities have been rather muted. The irony is that when similar atrocities were committed in Libya, Egypt and most recently Syria, Western countries and especially the US and UK, heavily criticised the regimes in those countries for using brute force to counter peaceful protests, and for reigning in citizens for expressing their views. Some 122 Bahrainis have since died from torture, lung infections caused by tear gas, and from live ammunition used by the Bahraini security forces. 1,300 Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with their role in the protests and those still in detention have been tortured and denied access to medical care. Hospital doctors and nurses are harassed for treating victims of the protests. Thousands of workers have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for taking part in the demonstrations: here.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) express their deep concern for the on-going targeting of the detained activist and human rights defender Zaynab Al-Khawaja by the Bahraini authorities who continue their efforts to fabricate new charges and issuing new sentences that aim at extending her detention period in prison and preventing her from exercising her peaceful work in the field of human rights: here.

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Bahrain regime bans US observer from witch trial


This video says abouty itself:

Julian Assange‘s The World Tomorrow: Nabeel Rajab & Alaa Abd El-Fattah

8 May 2012

In the fourth episode of The World Tomorrow, Julian Assange speaks with two leading Arab revolutionaries in the middle of conflict, Alaa Abd El-Fattah from Egypt and Nabeel Rajab from Bahrain.

Alaa Abd El-Fattah is a long time Egyptian blogger, programmer and political activist. His parents were human rights campaigners under Anwar Sadat; his sister Mona Seif became a Twitter star during the 2011 Egyptian revolution, and is a founder of the No Military Trials for Civilians group formed under the post-Mubarak military junta.

El-Fattah was imprisoned for 45 days in 2006 for protesting under the Mubarak regime, and released after “Free Alaa” solidarity protests in Egypt and around the world. In 2011, from abroad, El-Fattah helped route around Mubarak’s internet blockade.

Nabeel Rajab is a lifelong Bahraini activist and critic of the Al Khalifa regime. … Rajab has agitated for reform in Bahrain since his return from university in 1988.

Along with the Bahraini-Danish human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, he helped establish the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights in 2002.

Rajab is reasonably new to the limelight — becoming a face for the Bahrain uprising of February 14 2011, after the sit-in at Pearl Roundabout. Since then, he has been a public face for the revolution, waging a social media war on Twitter with PR companies working for the regime.

After al-Khawaja was imprisoned, he led protests for his release. He has endured beatings, arrests and legal harrassment for engaging in pro-democracy demonstrations. On Saturday 5th of May, he was arrested at Manama airport, and charged the next day with encouraging and engaging in “illegal protests.” Nabeel Rajab remains in detention at the time of broadcast.

From AFP news agency today:

Bahrain Court Bars U.S. Observer from Activist’s Tria

The United States was Tuesday seeking an explanation from Bahraini authorities after a US embassy observer was expelled from the trial of a prominent rights activist.

A representative of the U.S. embassy was asked to leave Monday’s court hearing for Shiite activist Nabeel Rajab, a State Department official confirmed.

“We are seeking additional clarification from the Bahraini government as to why she was not allowed to observe the proceedings,” deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters.

“We believe that an essential element of promoting national reconciliation is ensuring the confidence of all Bahrain’s citizens and our government’s commitment to due process and the rule of law.”

The U.S. has already expressed concern that the Bahraini court refused to free Rajab even though he was eligible for early release after serving two-thirds of a two-year sentence.

Rajab was arrested in the wake of the Sunni monarchy’s crackdown on a month of Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding political reforms and jailed for taking part in “unauthorized” protests.

His sentence was later reduced on appeal to two years from an initial three and according lawyers and right groups he had been eligible for early release late last month.

Bahrain Spotlight: Leading Activist Said Yousif “I’ve Been Forced Into Exile”: here. And here.

Bahrain’s violent repression of its people confirms that authoritarian regimes are more than capable of dealing with political unrest. But don’t be fooled, says Quinn Mecham. The Kingdom’s tenuous ‘ruling bargain’ has been rocked like never before: here.

Qatar dictatorship’s ‘free’ press


This video says about itself:

Qatar Human Rights Official Defends Life Sentence For Poet Who Praised Arab Spring Uprisings

7 Dec 2012

Visit http://www.democracynow.org for the complete transcript, additional reports on this topic, and more information. Watch the independent, global news hour live weekdays 8-9am ET.

Three days after the United Nations climate change conference began here in Doha, a Qatari court sentenced a local poet to life in prison, a move that shocked many activists in the Gulf region and human rights observers. The sentencing of Muhammad Ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami came nearly two years after he wrote a poem titled, “Tunisian Jasmine,” supporting the uprisings in the Arab world. “We are all Tunisia in the face of repressive elites!” al-Ajami wrote. “The Arab governments and who rules them are without exception thieves, thieves!” We speak to his attorney and a member of Qatar‘s National Human Rights Committee.

Qatar. Where thousands of workers die because of slavery-like labour conditions. Where the government jails poets for “insulting the emir” in poems not even mentioning the emir.

Qatar. Where the government has its own “Centre for Press Freedom”.

Translated from ANP news agency in the Netherlands:

Dutchman sacked prematurely at Freedom of the Press Centre Doha

12/03/13, 08:22

Dutchman Jan Cologne was dismissed as head of the Doha Centre for Press Freedom in Qatar, an officially independent institution for promoting press freedom in the Gulf state. Cologne is the second European boss of the media center departing early, local media reported.

His predecessor, the Frenchman Robert Menard, left in 2009, complaining that “he was suffocated by the lack of freedom and independence.”

Qatar is an absolute monarchy in the Gulf of Persia, which is ruled by the al-Thani family. Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Masnad, the mother of the current emir Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, founded the Centre for Press Freedom in 2007.

This reminds me of George Orwell’s novel 1984. Where there is a Ministry of Love administering torture. And a Ministry of Truth, producing lies in the “Newspeak” language. And a Ministry of Plenty presiding over poverty for most people. And a Ministry of Peace, presiding over perpetual war.

Most real governments today are not as blatantly hypocritical as Orwell’s fictional government of Oceania. They have renamed their Departments of War; not to Department of Peace, too obvious to fool people, but to Department of “Defense”. In the USA; in the UK; in the Netherlands; in Qatar. Qatar‘s Ministry of “Defense” “defends” the Qatari monarchy and supposedly “brings democracy” by bloody wars in Libya and in Syria.

In order to compare the government of Qatar‘s absolute monarchy, we don’t even have to go back in time from 2013 to 1948, when Orwell wrote his novel. We don’t have to go from Qatar all the way to England. Now, today, not far from Qatar, there is the absolute kingdom of Bahrain. This dictatorship which keeps violating human rights, has its own Ministry of Human Rights.

Maybe, the Qatar dynasty wil now make Rupert Murdoch its boss of the Centre for Press Freedom. Murdoch considers Bahrain a model of “freedom”. Murdoch practices absolute freedom for burglary, hacking phones, computers, etc. of the British royal family, murdered English girls, rival journalists, etc. etc. for big corporate media, especially Murdoch’s media, and for Big Government spying agencies.

However, I should warn the Qatari princely family about one thing. Rupert Murdoch tends to quarrel sooner or later with his friends. Like with Silvio Berlusconi. And with Tony Blair.

Egyptian anti-dictatorship poet dies


This is a video about Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm, at a demonstration against the Mubarak dictatorship in 2007.

From Al Jazeera:

Egypt’s veteran poet Ahmed Negm passes away

Negm, whose songs were iconic of the 2011 revolution, was an outspoken critic of Egypt’s former regimes.

Last updated: 03 Dec 2013 08:41

Ahmed Fouad Negm, Egypt’s famous poet, died early on Tuesday in Cairo at the age of 84 after a long battle with illness, state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported, citing publisher Mohamed Hashem.

Hashem said Negm’s funeral ceremony will take place at Old Cairo’s famous mosque Al-Hussien, after noon prayers.

Known for his sarcasm and sharp tongue, Negm was a vocal critic of deposed president Hosni Mubarak‘s regime.

His poems had also gotten him jailed by Egypt‘s late president Anwar Sadat, and were banned off state-owned media.

However, the songs he wrote were prevalent in the 2011 uprising.

Revolutionary Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm died yesterday at the age of 84. Netizens from across the Arab world mourn his death: here.

Roque Dalton was the major literary figure and an important political architect of the revolutionary movement in El Salvador and a new film on his life pays due tribute to his creative inspiration, says JOHN GREEN: here.

Yemeni poets, graffiti artists against US drone strikes


A Yemeni boy looks at graffiti depicting a U.S. drone at a street in Sana'a, Yemen, Nov. 6, 2013. Photo: Yahya Arhab / EPA

From TIME magazine in the USA:

Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry

Street artists and poets in Yemen campaign against American drone strikes

By Tik Root / Sana’a, Nov. 30, 2013

An American drone hovers along a main thoroughfare in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. Not a real drone, but rather a 7 foot-long rendition of an unmanned aircraft spray-painted near the top of a whitewashed city wall. Below it, a stenciled-on child is writing: “Why did you kill my family?” in blood-red English and Arabic script.

Painted by Yemeni artist Murad Subay, the Banksy-esque mural sits beside three others also admonishing the United States’ use of drones in Yemen to track and kill terrorism suspects. This drone art is part of Subay’s latest campaign, “12 Hours”, which aims to raise awareness about twelve problems facing Yemen, including weapons proliferation, sectarianism, kidnapping and poverty. Drones are the fifth and arguably most striking “hour” yet completed.

“Graffiti in Yemen, or street art, is a new device to communicate with the people,” says Subay, 26, who after taking up street art two years ago in the wake of Yemen’s Arab Spring revolution has almost single-handedly sparked the growing Yemeni graffiti movement. “In one second, you can send a message.”

The anti-drone chorus in Yemen has grown louder since the Obama Administration took office in 2009. All but one of the dozens of reported drone strikes in Yemen have been carried out since Obama came to office (although strikes here and in Pakistan have been more sporadic in recent months). Operations are rarely acknowledged by American officials but have nonetheless stirred a global debate about the strikes’ legality, morality and effectiveness.

Proponents argue that drones offer an efficient way of fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of the global terrorist network. The Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has endorsed the program, praising ongoing U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism cooperation and the “high precision that’s been provided by drones.” Human rights activists in Yemen and the families of many victims are outraged by the so-called “drone war” in the country, which the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates has resulted in between 21 and 56 civilian deaths. Aside from more conventional methods of protest – such as demonstrations, media campaigns, and the production of often scathing reports – activists are increasingly employing art as a medium through which to express their anger.

“We [have] tried to be a little bit more creative on ways [that] we can really combat the fact that drones are hovering over our cities and villages,” said Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist and project coordinator for the British-based organization Reprieve, which advocates for the rights of prisoners to receive a fair trial. Taking their lead from Yemen’s reputation for recitation, the group organized an anti-drone poetry contest earlier this month. The top prize: $600 or, in Reprieve’s words, “1% of the cost of a hellfire missile.”

A panel of Yemeni poets whittled the more than 30 submissions down to six finalists and a winner. Frontrunners gathered on a recent Tuesday afternoon to share their work. One by one, contestants read their poems aloud. Some delivered their verse – containing lines such as “From above, Death descends upon us,” “Drones are the friend of our enemy” and “Do you fight terrorism with terrorism?” – more fluently than others, but the small audience of mostly friends and fellow activists greeted all of the contestants with equally boisterous applause. The winner: Drones Without Rhyme, a catchy free verse poem with a familiar theme. The winning poet, Ayman Shahari, beamed as he walked on stage.

Despite not winning, Raghda Gamal, a journalist and author of the entry Death Flying Around!, was glad that she had participated. “It’s great to use such art to send your case,” she said. “We can use a lot of tools rather than weapons.”

Reprieve’s Shiban says that creative events like this help broaden discussions in Yemen, a country with high rates of illiteracy and limited Internet penetration. “It’s a way of engaging more sectors of society,” he says.

Subay agrees. “[Art] galleries in Yemen belong to one class. Graffiti is for all people,” he says. Two years ago there was hardly a stencil to be seen on public walls but today, thanks largely to Subay’s campaigns, they are plastered across some of the country’s most trafficked areas. Subay estimates that, in all, millions of citizens have now been exposed to street art.

Shiban is optimistic that cultural forms of protest like poetry and graffiti could be a step on the path toward ending drone strikes and affecting other changes in Yemen. Subay, however, is skeptical that art will alter policy, saying that the United States’ counterterrorism strategy will likely “carry on” regardless.

“Maybe I don’t expect any action [from the U.S.],” said Subay. “But I’ll always keep hoping.”

Whether or not the anti-drone poetry and graffiti influences American policy in Yemen, one thing seems clear: for a region whose people have so often lived under dictators and through times of violence, peaceful protest of this sort can only be healthy.

Qatar regime persecutes poet


This video is called Qatari court upholds jail sentence for poet Mohammed al Ajami.

So, life in dictatorial Qatar cannot only be teriblle if you are an immigrant Nepali construction worker … or an immigrant Moroccan international football player … also if you are a native Qatari poet.

From The Art Newspaper:

No mercy for Qatari poet

Mohammed Al-Ajami has spent two years in solitary confinement for reciting a poem in support of the Arab uprisings on Youtube

By Cristina Ruiz. Web only

Published online: 07 November 2013

Qatar’s Supreme Court last month upheld a 15-year prison sentence handed to poet Mohammed Al-Ajami for reciting a poem in support of the Arab uprisings on Youtube.

This video is a poem in Arabic by Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, supporting the overthrow of Tunisian dictator Ben Ali.

Al-Ajami, 37, a married father of four children, was a third-year literature student at Cairo University when he was arrested in Qatar in November 2011. A year later, after a trial marred by irregularities, the Criminal Court in Doha found him guilty of incitement to overthrow the Emir and condemned him to life in prison—a sentence reduced to 15 years on appeal.

Al-Ajami has spent the last two years in solitary confinement with severe restrictions on visits. Representatives of PEN International, the literary and human rights organisation, were last month denied access to Al-Ajami. “We came to Qatar out of respect for the country’s commitment to the arts and expanded global dialogue and a deep concern that the imprisonment of a writer for his poetry is inconsistent with this stated goal,” said the organisation’s Joanne Leedom-Ackerman.

“We are concerned about the conditions of Al-Ajami’s detention, in particular the restrictions of solitary confinement… [we] continue to call on authorities at the very least to remove him from solitary confinement and allow him to associate with other prisoners, and to lift restrictions on visits from family, friends, and independent observers as mandated by UN principles.”

Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, Phillip Luther said: “[We] consider Mohammed Al-Ajami a prisoner of conscience held solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.”

“He should be released immediately and unconditionally and his verdict quashed,” Luther said, adding “it is particularly alarming to see a sentence like this from Qatar— which is branding itself as a country that embraces the arts and purports to respect international human rights standards.”

The Doha Centre for Media Freedom declared itself “disappointed” that Al-Ajami’s sentence was not overturned, and “concerned about the worrying precedent this sets for issues related to freedom of expression in Qatar”.

“The case has also brought to attention the worrying lack of coverage in local newspapers of a story which has garnered international recognition. This harsh sentence will contribute towards the exacerbation of a culture of self censorship and fear, which will surely deter artists and journalists alike from exercising their right to free expression.”

Al Ajami’s last hope is a direct appeal to the Emir for a pardon, says his lawyer Najeeb Al-Nauimi, adding that this must be decided by Al-Ajami’s family rather than his lawyer.

More censorship in Qatar, also from The Art Newspaper, this time about visual arts:

Strict guidelines imposed on Qatari exhibition prize

Award launched by museums authority and Prada Foundation restrict projects applications from involving sex, drugs, alcohol or politics

By Gareth Harris. Web only

Published online: 07 November 2013

A high-profile new award launched by the Qatar Museums Authority in partnership with the Prada Foundation invites budding art professionals to create their own exhibitions. But the organisers have imposed strict guidelines on the subjects acceptable for the proposed exhibitions.

The initiative, called “Curate”, is open to anyone “with a great concept” for an exhibition—not just curators. Although proposals can encompass art in all media, the terms and conditions for the prize state that applicants must avoid projects that are “sexually explicit or suggestive”; “profane or pornographic”; that “promote alcohol, illegal drugs, tobacco, firearms [and] weapons”, or that advocate “any particular political agenda or message”. Applicants are also advised to avoid proposals that are “derogatory of any ethnic, racial, gender, religious, professional or age group or the disabled”.

The jury for the prize, which includes the fashion designer Miuccia Prada, the architect Rem Koolhaas, the Serpentine Gallery co-director Hans Ulrich Obrist, and Sheikha Al-Mayassa, the chair of the Qatar Museums Authority and sister of the Emir of the oil-rich state, will select the winning proposal to be realised in an exhibition likely to be held in either Qatar or Italy. Entries for the award must be submitted by 31 December; 20 finalists will be selected next February, and the winner will be announced in April.

“The Curate competition is open as stated for all entrants,” says a spokeswoman for the Qatar Museums Authority. “The terms and conditions… cover legal points that are there to protect the organisers and the entrants from infringing any potential governing law in the world. The members of the jury will make up their minds on the basis of their own views.”

“As far as I’m aware the competition is completely open,” says Hans Ulrich Obrist. “It is an important prize to support a new generation of curators and also for finding new unexpected voices in curating outside the art world in architecture, literature and science.” The Prada Foundation declined to comment.

Other international art competitions with an online application process restrict the material that may be submitted to the public portions of its website. For example, the Ukrainian billionaire Victor Pinchuk’s Future Generation Art Prize asks applicants to agree to not post online material that is “defamatory, obscene, indecent, threatening, abusive, harassing or unlawful” or that “incites discrimination, hate or violence towards any person or group”.

However, unlike the Curate award, the Future Generation Art Prize does not impose restrictions on the themes of the art being submitted for consideration. Meanwhile, the organisers of the BP Portrait award, which recently celebrated its 34th year at the National Portrait Gallery in London, state online that “contributions must not contain any offensive content, including offensive language or images, sexual content or imagery or text”.

“Controversial art can unlock communication between diverse nations, peoples and histories,” Sheikha Al-Mayassa recently told the Evening Standard newspaper in London. The Sheikha, who topped this year’s Power 100 list published last month by ArtReview, added that artists can work freely and without limitations in Doha.