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.

How Bahraini dictatorship destroyed Bahraini football

This football video is called Asian Cup Nation 2007 Bahrain 2 vs 1 S.Korea.


How the Arab Spring brought a cruel end to Bahraini football’s golden years

This headline is misleading. Not the Arab Spring attacked Bahraini sports cruelly; but the crackdown on the Arab Spring by the forces of the Bahraini regime, and the forces of the Saudi, Qatari etc. regimes.

Nov 2, 2013 10:00:00 AM

In a special report from the Middle East, Omar Almasri explains how political interferences disrupted the progress of Bahraini football and set the nation back

2004, a year Bahrainis will never forget. In that year, China hosted Asia’s biggest football tournament. It was the AFC Asian Cup and Bahrain, with its golden generation of players, shocked the entire continent by reaching the semi-finals frustrating the likes of China and Japan along the way.

With the continued progress and rise of Bahraini football, which included two consecutive World Cup play-offs, nothing looked to be stopping this momentum from pushing forward. But that was not to be case, as the nation was about to be hit with its biggest crisis since gaining independence in 1971.

After the successful downfalls of the oppressive regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, anti-government supporters and political activists flooded the social media networks with messages of a huge, pro-democracy protest and rally on February 14, 2011 in the now torn down, Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain.

What first started out as peaceful rallies calling for more government action and improvements, took an ugly turn for the worst. Three days into the protests, gunshots were fired at the Pearl Roundabout by government forces leaving four people dead and hundreds more injured, in a day now widely known as “Bloody Thursday”.

After the upturn of events, protesters heightened their demands, calling for the end of Al Khalifa rule of the island – a demand not taken lightly by government supporters who took to the streets themselves organizing pro-government rallies near Al–Fateh Mosque, one of Bahrain’s most popular landmarks.

In the midst of all the turmoil and divide, football got involved. Fifa has long voiced that football and politics don’t mix with each other but not in this case.

Pictures and videos of well-known and popular football players like Ala’a and Mohammed Hubail, and Sayed Mohammed Adnan, all Shias, joining the anti-government protests spread all over Bahraini forums and social media sites like wildfire, angering many who once idolized such figures labeling them as ‘traitors’ and ‘criminals’, and calling for their arrest.

“What was, and still is, ongoing for athletes in Bahrain, is a campaign organized by the Bahraini regime in revenge against the backdrop of these athletes participating in peaceful protests demanding democracy,” Faisal Hayyat, a Bahraini sports journalist/critic and host of political satire show ‘Sha7wal’ who was among those arrested by the Bahraini government, informed this writer.

“One look at the list of these detained athletes reveal obnoxious, sectarian revenge, because all these athletes belong to a specific group – the Shiite community, the majority of which are pressing for democratic reforms and changes.”

Amidst the outrage, Ala’a Hubail and his cousin, Mohammed Hubail, along with former national team keeper, Ali Saeed, were among over 160 sporting figures arrested with accusations ranging from kidnapping, attacking patrol officers, burning tires, providing protection for the wanted, killing a police officer, burning homes down among others.

“Many of these figures were arrested and detained without any substantive evidence against them,” Hayyat explained.

“They were detained under arbitrary circumstances; forcibly taken from their homes unlawfully and without a search warrant, and providing dubious confessions coerced under appalling subjugation and mental and physical torture, facts later emphasized by the regime-endorsed Bassiouni Report.”

In the meantime, Sayed Adnan, in fear of his safety, sought refuge in Australia, after his former club, Qatar‘s Al Khor,abruptly terminated his contract, eventually signing on with Brisbane Roar in the A-League.

“This (the Arab Spring) had never happened, all the countries saying to the king or government they want them to step down. Our situation was difficult; it was just to fix the government. Everybody wants a good life and that’s it,” Adnan said in an interview with The Brisbane Times, which according to Times‘ sports editor Phil Lutton, he was “unwilling to do at first” due to the fraught and alarming situation at home.

“But I didn’t go there to say ‘because you killed my cousin, I go to protest’. I go because we don’t want any problems with each other. It doesn’t matter, Sunni, Shia, Christian, we don’t care. We just want to live as before and respect everyone.”

After Fifa pressure, the charges against Ala’a and Mohamed, and other sporting figures, were dropped and Ala’a left to ply his trade in Oman with Al Taleea.

”I served my country with love and will continue as much as I can,” Ala’a stated after his arrest in his hometown of Sitra.

“But I won’t forget the experience which I went through, for all my life. What happened to me was a cost of fame. Participating in the athletes’ rally was not a crime.”

The abuse and torture of Bahrain’s footballers and athletes such as Alaa were put into question upon newly elected AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, who allegedly played a major role in their abuse. …

“The allegation is that his office was involved in pointing out soccer players who participated in protests; an allegation he has denied,” Middle East football expert James Dorsey explains.

“His assertion that sports and politics are separate is a fiction and a position held globally by sports executives that increasingly is being challenged. What is more difficult for him to confront is his failure to speak out on behalf of penalized players against the background of an independent, government endorsed investigation (Bassiouni Report) that concluded that there had been abuse.”

Many human rights organizations, including Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) and Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR), protested his candidacy in light of these allegations including the forceful demotion of Premier League sides Malkiya and Al Shabab to the second-tier, two clubs that had players attending protests, among others.

Despite the hardships, Hubail put up a respectable showing during his stint in Oman, and even harboured thoughts of a potential return to the Bahrain national team setup, when quizzed about it by Oman’s Al Shabiba.

“Who doesn’t think about representing his country?” he said. “It’s an honor for any athlete to be a part of his or her nation, no matter which sport they play in. Besides, I didn’t retire internationally like some have reported. But, in the end, it’s up to the manager and I have to respect that.”

Unfortunately, with the team undergoing transition and such, that wish may never come true. …

“Arresting some of your best players is never a good idea and as Bahrain were punching above their weight anyway by coming very close to qualifying for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, it was even worse,” ESPNFC’s John Duerden stated.

“Qualification for the 2014 World Cup confirmed that the team is fading somewhat as a force. The 2013 Gulf Cup did nothing to dispel such feelings and there is a long road ahead for the national team. Only a united Bahrain has a chance of success and at the moment, the country is far from that.”

But, in contrast, the hopes and prospects of political reforms and reconciliation – with the government imposing a ban on protests, inefficiency in implementing recommended “correlative actions” provided by those responsible for the Bassiouni Report – the BICI (Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry) – which are conferred by a number of organizations, including ADHRB (American for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain) and POMED (Project on Middle East Democracy), and their ongoing, relentless arrests and detainments of opposing figures and protesters to suppress dissent for even the most miniscule of accusations – look rather dim, stuck – according to Al Wasat editor Mansoor Al Jamri – in a political “cul-de-sac”.

Bahrain: The Bahraini Regime Detains the Signatories to Notification of Organizing a Peaceful Demonstration: here.

Bahrain- Ongoing judicial harassment against BYSHR co-founders and members for their cooperation with the UN: here.

Kuwaiti, Saudi persecution for tweeting

This video says about itself:

Amid chants of ‘peace’ and ‘peaceful’ pro-democracy demonstrations in Kuwait, Friday, March 11, 2011. Stateless nomadic Kuwaitis, born and raised in Kuwait, are protesting for the right to citizenship after Friday Jummah (congregation) prayers let out of the mosques, in a ‘day of rage’ protests across the Gulf, in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

From Associated Press:

Kuwait upholds sentence for Twitter ‘insults’

Friday, Nov. 1, 2013 | 12:15 a.m.

A rights activist in Kuwait says an appeals court has upheld a 10-year prison sentence against a social media commentator for posts considered offensive to Islam and the rulers of fellow Gulf states Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Monday’s ruling highlights the escalating crackdowns in the Gulf on perceived online dissent and the deepening cooperation among Gulf nations, fearing political challenges inspired by the Arab Spring.

Saudi Arabia led a Gulf military force in 2011 that helped Bahrain‘s Sunni monarchy battle a Shiite-led uprising seeking a greater political voice.

Activist Nawaf al-Handel says the appeals court refused to lower the June 2012 sentence against Hamad al-Naqi.

Al-Naqi, a Shiite, claims his Twitter account was hacked.

Twitter Prisons for Tweeting in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia: here.

Saudi Arabia May Have Freed ‘Blasphemous’ Journalist But The Press Remains Chained: here.

Bahrain dictatorship’s anti-exhibition violence

This video is called Bahrain Revolution – My only wish.

In the video, a Bahraini child reads a poem, in English.

From Associated Press:

Group: Bahrain police close uprising exhibition

Updated 4:32 am, Wednesday, October 30, 2013

MANAMA, BahrainBahrain‘s main opposition group says security forces have stormed a building housing an exhibition dedicated to the Arab Spring-inspired uprising in the violence-wracked Gulf nation.

Wednesday’s raid comes two days after the opening of the museum-style site, which included scenes depicting Bahrain‘s 32-month unrest, such as protesters killed in clashes or running from tear gas.

More than 65 people have been killed in violence since Bahrain‘s Shiite majority launched protests in February 2011 for a greater political voice in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. Some rights groups place the death toll higher.

The main Shiite political group Al Wefaq said riot police closed off the building in the capital Manama.

Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain Police Raid Arab Spring Exhibition: here.

Bahrain dictatorship jails even moderate oppositionists

This video is called CNN – Bahrain security forces torture doctors, medics and patients.

By Rosa Shahnazarian:

Opposition leader arrested as social tensions rise in Bahrain

24 September 2013

Khalil al-Marzouq, Assistant Secretary General of Bahrain’s main Shia opposition association al-Wefaq, was taken into custody on September 17. The opposition leader was first summoned to a police station, where he was allegedly interrogated for seven hours in the presence of his lawyer.

According to Public Prosecutor Nayef Yousfi, after the interrogation, Marzouq was “charged under the Law for Protecting the Community from Terrorist Acts, with inciting and advocating terrorism, and using his leadership position in a legally organized political society to incite crimes.” The Public Prosecutor’s office ordered Marzouq’s detention for 30 days, pending an investigation. If convicted, he will face a lengthy jail sentence, and his citizenship may be revoked.

The Public Prosecutor’s statement accuses Marzouq of being “affiliated with the terrorist organization” and contends that he had been “speaking at many forums, inciting and promoting terrorist acts, advocating principles which incite such acts, supporting violence committed by the terrorist coalition, and legally justifying criminal activities.”

Marzouq and the al-Wefaq organization has repeatedly signaled that they posed no threat to Bahrain’s reactionary monarchy. In February, during a visit to Washington to discuss his party’s position, Marzouq said that al-Wefaq has banned slogans calling for the overthrow of the regime and the prosecution of the ruling al-Khalifa family from its own demonstrations. He said that al-Wefaq sought to share power with the ruling family in a constitutional monarchy.

Al-Wefaq had also participated in the official National Dialogue talks, set up by the monarchy this July, that include government representatives.

In a September 6 speech in the Saar district west of the capital, Manama, Marzouq warned the regime that the people would only continue to resist if it kept using force to impose its political and religious views. He said that attempts to force an end to the crisis would fail the test of time, as new generations would “ultimately come to rise against the tyrants and oppression, just as relentlessly as waves are coming to crash on shore.”

In the course of Marzouq’s speech, a masked man handed him a white flag, associated with the February 14 Movement—a coalition of organizations that took part in the Pearl Square demonstrations in early 2011, shortly after the Egyptian revolution began.

After his arrest, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, demanded Marzouq’s immediate and unconditional release, calling him “a prisoner of conscience.” She insisted that he has come under attack solely because of his “vehement criticism of the government.”

Al-Wefaq has called Marzouq’s interrogation and arrest “reckless” and “a clear targeting of political action in Bahrain.” It believes Marzouq’s detention is partly a reaction to a European Parliament resolution passed last week, calling on the monarchy to stop attacks on peaceful protesters and to allow an independent human rights investigation.

The UN Human Rights Council recently published a joint statement of 47 governments condemning Bahrain’s human rights record. In addition, the government has received rebukes from the UK and US ambassadors to Geneva.

The United States and its European allies are intervening in an attempt to shore up the regime in Bahrain, forcing it to make certain cosmetic concessions to limit popular opposition (See also: “Bahrain gripped by renewed protests”). They view this as all the more pressing due to the country’s unstable sectarian balance. The majority of Bahrain’s population is Shiite, but the country is ruled by the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family.

Washington considers the stability of the regime to be critical, as Bahrain houses the US Fifth Fleet’s main base in the Persian Gulf. The US government backed the bloody crushing of the Pearl Square protests by the al-Khalifa monarchy, supported by Saudi forces.

The ongoing, US-instigated sectarian war in Syria and the threats of US wars with Syria and Iran, two Shia-led countries in the region, have set the entire region on edge. The Bahraini king’s uncle, Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Sulman al-Khalifa, is the object of deep popular hatred, and the royal family fears that if it allows opposition Shia groups any leeway, this might open the door to further incursions on its power.

On Wednesday, the day after Marzouq was detained, political opposition associations, including al-Wefaq, announced their decision to suspend their participation in National Dialogue talks.

On Thursday, the day after withdrawing from the National Dialogue, Al Wefaq Secretary General Sheik Ali Salman met Norwegian political affairs envoy Hakon Smedsvig in Manama.

The meeting took place in defiance of a decree issued by the Minister of Justice earlier this month. Political groups are only authorized to meet with foreign diplomats after notifying the Ministry of Justice three days in advance, and meetings are required to take place in the presence of an official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Western governments, including the US, have sharply criticized the decree, which interferes with their efforts to negotiate with opposition groups to help provide the regime a bogus “democratic” facelift. In a statement issued after the decrees, State Department spokesperson Marie Harf expressed regret about the deteriorating state of US-brokered talks between the regime and opposition groups, and the restrictions on “communications with foreign governments and international organizations.”

Bahrain must immediately release opposition leader: here.

Call to release political prisoner in Bahrain: here.

Bahrain: Authorities Order Suppression of Political Activities and Freedom of Expression: here.

Lawyer: Bahrain court sentences American-born protester to 10 years: here.

Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture, Human Rights Watch said today, based on reports from victims, family members and legal rights activists: here.

Bahrain absolute monarchy update

This video from Bahrain says about itself:

Bahrain police target women [in a] car by teargas directly, [causing] them to suffocate.

From Associated Press:

Bahrain opposition defies ban on meeting diplomats

Updated September 20, 2013 – 10:51am

MANAMA, Bahrain — Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition group is defying a ban by the island’s Sunni government to have direct contacts with foreign diplomats.

Al Wefaq‘s secretary-general, Sheik Ali Salman, met Norwegian political affairs envoy Hakon Smedsvig on Thursday in the Bahraini capital, Manama.

Bahrain’s Western-backed monarchy earlier this month banned all diplomatic contacts by political groups unless they receive official permission. The move was sharply criticized by Western governments, including the U.S.

This week, authorities detained a top Al Wefaq official on allegations of inciting violence. In return, the group announced a boycott of reconciliation talks with the government.

The strategic Gulf nation has been gripped by unrest since an uprising launched in early 2011 by [the] majority seeking a greater political voice.

Bahrain arrests opposition leader; U.S. shrugs: here.

Dispatches: US Thinks Arresting Peaceful Opposition is OK – in Bahrain, at Least: here.

Bahrain: US Embraces Cruel Dictators Who Host the Navy and Supply Our Oil: here.

Ham and Iron: America’s Middle East Policies in Action: here.

Amnesty urges Bahrain to free opposition ex-MP: here. And here.

A Bahrain court yesterday jailed five Shias for periods up to 10 years: here.

Bahrain: Targeting the Healers: When Governments Attack Health Workers in Times of Conflict: here.

Bahrain is mourning the death of a five-year-old boy who was left on a school bus for up to six hours with outside temperatures soaring above 30 degrees Celcius: here.

Security forces in Bahrain “routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture,” a report by Human Rights Watch claimed today: here.

Bahraini women demonstrate against dictatorship

Bahrain’s rebellion continues in spite of domestic and regional pressures: here.

So you remember John Timoney, right? Philadelphia’s police commissioner in the late 1990s/early 2000s, the man responsible for a) fairly effective crime control but b) civil liberties fiascoes like this one in the City of Brotherly Love in 2000 and this even worse one in Miami, where he ended up. As I wrote early last year in a Daily News cover story, our man John of Arabia took the money and ran to Bahrain, where the monarchs (yes, they still have these) needed some advice on how to put down the Arab Spring and pro-democracy protesters without getting all torture-y about it. Timoney is still earning his king’s ransom: here.

Zainab al-Khawaja, an opposition activist in Bahrain who charted the uprising in the country on her @AngryArabiya Twitter feed until she was detained this year, has sent an audio message to her supporters from prison: here.