Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the USA


This video is called Footage of Saudi military convoy entering Bahrain.

From the Belfast Telegraph in Ireland:

All religions are suffering in the Middle East mess

By Eamonn McCann – 23 July 2014

In March 2011, Saudi Arabian tanks rolled into Bahrain to put down a pro-democracy movement demanding fair elections, freedom of speech and an end to imprisonment without trial.

The Saudis made short work of unarmed demonstrators gathered at the Pearl Roundabout in the centre of the capital, Manama. An unknown number was killed. Hundreds of injured were ferried to hospitals. Reporters described heavily-armed masked men controlling the entrances and dragging away people arriving by car or ambulance.

Twenty doctors were arrested for “felonies”, including treating the injured, and “treasonous activities”, including giving interviews criticising the crackdown. In September 2012, nine doctors were sentenced by a military tribunal to terms of up to five years.

More than 1,000 workers were sacked and many jailed for trying to form trade unions.

Protests were mounted outside Saudi and Bahraini embassies in many capital cities. A delegation from the International Federation of Journalists tried to hand in a petition to the Bahrain embassy in Brussels protesting against the imprisonment of Bahraini journalists, only to have the door literally slammed in their faces.

A rally at Marble Arch in London marking the second anniversary of the Manama massacre was addressed by exiled members of the Bahraini opposition and spokespersons for the Stop the War Coalition and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. There was no representation from those who have been choking social media, complaining that opponents of the ethnic cleansing and slaughter of Palestinians do not apply the same standards to Muslim countries which deny democracy as are applied to Israel.

Most of the repressive Muslim-majority States – the Saudis, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, etc – are in the pro-Western, pro-Israeli camp.

‘Pro-Israeli’ is an ambiguous word here. These repressive governments may often have policies compatible with those of the government of Israel (and the USA, and other NATO countries).

Meanwhile, they are often ‘anti-Israel': not in the sense of legitimately criticizing Israeli government actions, but in promoting anti-Semitism: hatred of all Jews, not only in Israel but all over the world, pro-Israeli government, anti-Israeli government or undecided.

When a Dutch journalist arrived at his hotel room in the ‘moderate’ ‘pro-western’ Kingdom of Jordan, he found next to his bed on the nightstand a copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is an infamous nineteenth century anti-Semitic forgery, not against the government of Israel which did not exist, not against Zionism, but against all Jews. Among its promoters were the government of Czarist Russia, United States cars millionaire Henry Ford, and nazi Germany.

In pro-Western Saudi Arabia, the royal government promotes the Protocols.

So did another pro-Western monarch, the late Shah of Iran. During his reign, an Iranian translation of the Protocols was published. In an interview, the Shah expressed his belief in a ‘Jewish conspiracy’.

Throughout the Bahrain events, neither the US nor any of its allies did anything more than mumble. The reason is plain: Bahrain is an oil-rich state, it houses the headquarters of the US Fifth Fleet which patrols the Gulf on 24-hour alert for any indication of challenge to US client states, and is an increasingly important hub for global finance.

In November 1990, President George HW Bush and his wife, Barbara, travelled to Saudi Arabia with a clutch of Congressional leaders to celebrate Thanksgiving with the 400,000 US troops then stationed in the country. When the Saudi authorities learned that the president intended to say grace before the Thanksgiving dinner, they told him there’d be none of that Christian nonsense here.

Bahrain punishes pro-democracy group for meeting with US representatives: here.

British government helps Bahrain dictatorship persecuting dissidents


This video is called Systematic torture in Bahrain.

From Middle East Eye:

Has Britain become Bahrain’s lapdog?

Alastair Sloan

Tuesday 22 July 2014 19:31 BST

Bahraini human rights activists are speaking out about increasing persecution at the hands of the British authorities

Could it be possible that the British government is now acting as Bahrain’s political policeman? Yes, according to Bahraini exiles living in London – most of whom have fled persecution in their homeland and now claim the British government is giving them a hard time for it.

Suspicions were first raised to me earlier this year, when two fleeing activists were detained and nearly deported back by suspiciously over-zealous UKBA officials at Heathrow airport. Both had strong asylum cases, but the seeming prejudice against them may well point to a wider pattern of discrimination.

Mohammed Ahmed, a prominent blogger and media fixer had been arrested and tortured in August 2013. He had previously been arrested and beaten in April 2012, whilst working with a journalist from the Sunday Telegraph, and because of his pro-democracy activism had a history of nasty run-ins with Bahraini security services. In February of this year, he decided he’d had enough and ran for London.

His travelling companion, Hussain Jawad was chairman of the prominent rights group the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights. He too was arrest by Bahraini security agents in November 2013, shortly after he lodged a formal complaint against the government, claiming that they were harassing human rights defenders. Over 50 bloggers across the world demanded Hassan’s release during his arbitrary detention in Bahrain where he spent 46 days in prison before being bailed. Upon his release, Jawad too decided he’d been left no other option but to flee.

Amnesty International declared Jawad a prisoner of conscience, even setting up a publically available website to detail his case, as did Frontline Defenders, an international charity which supports the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders across the globe. Yet, on arriving at Heathrow in February, both men were taken aside by UKBA officials. They were taken to separate detention centres outside London and found themselves in medium security prisons, operated by UKBA for detaining and deporting illegal immigrants.

It quickly emerged that the pair had been placed on a special programme called DFT (Detained Fast Track), a process designed for uncomplicated cases where the applicant clearly has no right to asylum and needs to be returned as soon as possible. They were denied legal aid and had their case labelled all but hopeless, despite the fact they knew they had strong grounds for asylum and would face likely persecution, incarceration and the threat of torture upon their return.

Were it not for an 11th hour intervention by specialist solicitors, Jawad and Ahmed would have faced almost certain deportation. As it is, they were released a few days later and are currently proceeding forward with their applications.

Speaking to Bahraini leaders and activists living in London (there are perhaps five hundred exiles who have fled here), they clearly believe that the UKBA detention was politically motivated, and that the Bahraini community is being “systematically targeted,” by, they suspect, the British government acting on behalf of the Bahrainis.

The detention of Ahmed and Jawad, one exile told me, was a display by the UK and Bahraini governments to show the democracy movement who was in charge.

These are strong allegations, but when asked, the spin doctors in the Home Office dismissed the allegations, explaining that they couldn’t comment on individual cases.

This is odd as the Home Office is often very vocal about terrorists like Abu Hamza or Abu Qatada, or indeed hunger-striking Isa Muazu last year, leading one to conclude that they only respond when it suits them.

When you highlight this little discrepancy though, the Home Office does have an answer. It seems that they merely don’t comment routinely on cases – so a case of one rule for terrorists and another for human rights defenders.

In May, more evidence emerged that the British could be doing the bidding of the Bahrainis, and that what had happened to Ahmed and Jawad may well be routine.

On 30 April, two Bahraini exiles living in London were raided by a counter-terrorism unit from the Metropolitan Police. It was 6:00 am. Their families were also detained. Both were charged with terrorism-related offences, which, according to the human rights activists, were most likely fabricated by the Bahraini authorities.

Given the sensitive nature of the raid, it is suspicious that a Twitter account in Bahrain tweeted about the men’s arrest at 4:00 am, two full hours before Metropolitan Police kicked down their doors in London.

“Urgent: British authorities arrest Iranian agents (Safawi) and Karim Almahroos and Abdul Rauf Alshayeb is now being handed over to Bahrain,” tweeted @mnarfezhom.

The @mnarfezhom account is, according to the research and advocacy group, Bahrain Watch, most likely operated by a member of the ruling al-Khalifa family, and functions as a cyber-vigilante, mobilising die-hard royalists.

There have also been other signs that the relationship between Bahraini human rights defenders and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth office have in their words become “hostile”.

Desk officers in the FCO are regularly briefed by global human rights defenders. Nearly all of these meetings invite a participatory mood in which organisations large and small can air their concerns in a receptive environment.

This vital lobbying opportunity has increasingly been choked off to Bahrainis. In a conversation with an official in May, an activist swears that UK authorities parroted Bahraini regime propaganda. When asked why the regime was tear-gassing so excessively each night, the UK officials allegedly said that “the attacks by the Bahraini police are just self-defence against the Molotov cocktail throwing youth.” This line is all too familiar to those reading the Bahraini state press.

When the activist retorted by saying that the youth throw Molotov cocktails because of the harsh police tactics that on occasion prove fatal, the officer allegedly replied: “Well, it’s always someone else’s fault isn’t it?”

But could it really be true that the British government is aiding and abetting the ruling al-Khalifa monarchy to perpetuate its oppression? This is incredibly hard to prove but it would not be the first time that British officials have got their hands dirty to keep the al-Khalifas in power.

Colonel Ian Henderson, a colonial era British policeman who worked for the al-Khalifa family for nearly thirty years, was investigated in 2000 by the Home Office for his alleged complicity in torture while in Manama. Eventually, no charges were filed, but UK journalist Robert Fisk wrote a scathing expose that unearthed widespread instances of abuse.

If this kind of behaviour has and is happening, it is likely a case of “I scratch yours, you scratch mine.” Bahrain itself is small and not that energy-rich, but it is a key part of the GCC which all but controls OPEC. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, have sunk vast resources – from money and fuel to soldier and weapons – to prop up the al-Khalifas who they see as a bulwark against Iranian and Shia expansion in the region.

There are also large geo-political gains to be made by keeping the Khalifas on the throne. Bahrain is conveniently positioned in the Gulf and is seen as a vital base for protecting key shipping lanes. The British and American presence in the Middle East is generally based in and coordinated out of Manama harbour, and billions in expensive defence equipment is stationed there.

While these are underlying factors for the possible collusion between the British and the Bahrainis, a new large-scale defence contract was thrown into the mix at the start of the year, which could explain why we have seen this more hostile attitude.

Negotiations about the highly-prized British BAE Systems £4bn deal to supply Saudi Arabia with 72 Eurofighter Typhoons, had been unusually tense.

There have already been suggestions that this tension may have led to unusual and secretive government “favours” being introduced to buttress the deal. Defence sales by British companies are assisted by UK government operatives from the highest levels.

Speculation on what these “sweeteners” could have been, has so far centred on the Muslim Brotherhood investigation announced by No.10 shortly after the Saudi arms deal went through. The timing played nicely into the political aims of Saudi Arabia’s rulers, and there was subsequent outrage from ambassadors, newspaper columnists and MPs, who all denounced this as and shameful “favour” for the Saudis.

But the Muslim Brotherhood investigation might not have been the only unusual favour discussed and the timing of the first reports of Bahrain persecution would also help to explain the growing mistrust, bad blood, and of host of allegations that have started flying around.

Alastair Sloan  focuses on injustice and oppression in the west, Russia and the Middle East. He contributes regularly to The Guardian, Al Jazeera and Middle East Eye. Follow Alastair’s work at www.unequalmeasures.com.

U.S. Highlights Bahrain Sectarianism in New Religious Freedom Report: here.

Saudi, Bahraini ISIS fighters in Iraq, Syria


This video says about itself:

Al Jazeera Journalist Explains Resignation over Syria and Bahrain Coverage

19 March 2012

Ali Hashem: Al Jazeera [with links to the regime of Qatar] has become a “media war machine” and is “committing journalistic suicide”.

From Gulf Daily News (Bahrain; pro-regime):

5,500 Gulf citizens fighting with ISIS

By Raji Unnikrishnan

Monday, July 14, 2014

ESTIMATES suggest up to 5,500 Gulf nationals are fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), according to a UAE-based expert.

Around 4,000 of them are thought to be from Saudi Arabia, while the rest are believed to be from other GCC countries.

However, Dubai-based Near East and Gulf Military Analysis (INEGMA) research and development director Dr Theodore Karasik said he expected those figures to grow in the coming months.

“Of the GCC states, Saudi Arabia has the highest amount of nationals in ISIS – perhaps up to 4,000 fighters,” he told the GDN yesterday.

“The rest of the GCC states have much lower numbers, between 1,000 and 1,500.

“Those numbers are likely to grow in the coming months given the announcement (by ISIS) of the Caliphate and successes on the ground.

“Young people, who are being termed ‘third generation Jihadis’, are willing to join this gang of religious fighters.” …

The GDN reported yesterday that Bahraini cleric Shaikh Turki Al Ban’ali had allegedly been photographed giving a sermon for ISIS supporters in Mosul, Iraq.

Dr Karasik claimed Al Ban’ali was actually serving in the ISIS “government” as a religious leader and mufti – a Muslim legal expert empowered to give rulings on religious matters – along with Saudi nationals Omar Al Qahtani (aka Abu Bakr) and Osman Al Nazeh Al Asiri.

He said the three clerics had previously been in Syria, where Sunni rebels are waging a bloody civil war against the Shi’ite government of President Bashar Al Assad.

Recruitment

“As Shariat leaders, these three are responsible for religious discourse as well as aspects of recruiting,” claimed Dr Karasik.

Bahrain welcomes ISIS: here.

A former Bahraini intelligence official is reportedly conducting activities to set up a Bahraini branch for the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Levant to act against the pro-democracy opposition in the tiny Persian Gulf country: here.

‘Thank God for the Saudis': ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback U.S lawmakers encouraged officials in Riyadh to arm Syrian rebels. Now that strategy may have created a monster in the Middle East: here.

Obama has few good options in Iraq — but the worst choice would be emulating George W. Bush: here.

Saudi government help for Isis extremists in Iraq


This video from the USA is called Willful Deceit: Michael Moore Speaks Out on The Iraq War Anniversary, Bush Crimes.

It says about itself:

24 March 2013

Bush Perverted, Distorted and Tarnished America’s Image Beyond Repair.

This video from the USA is called Bandar Bush. About Saudi royal and secret police boss Prince Bandar, nicknamed ‘Bandar Bush’ because of his close relationship to the Bush dynasty in the USA.

From daily The Independent in Britain:

Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

World View: A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany

Patrick Cockburn

Sunday 13 July 2014

How far is Saudi Arabia complicit in the Isis takeover of much of northern Iraq, and is it stoking an escalating Sunni-Shia conflict across the Islamic world? Some time before 9/11, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, once the powerful Saudi ambassador in Washington and head of Saudi intelligence until a few months ago, had a revealing and ominous conversation with the head of the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove. Prince Bandar told him: “The time is not far off in the Middle East, Richard, when it will be literally ‘God help the Shia’. More than a billion Sunnis have simply had enough of them.”

The fatal moment predicted by Prince Bandar may now have come for many Shia, with Saudi Arabia playing an important role in bringing it about by supporting the anti-Shia jihad in Iraq and Syria. Since the capture of Mosul by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis) on 10 June, Shia women and children have been killed in villages south of Kirkuk, and Shia air force cadets machine-gunned and buried in mass graves near Tikrit.

In Mosul, Shia shrines and mosques have been blown up, and in the nearby Shia Turkoman city of Tal Afar 4,000 houses have been taken over by Isis fighters as “spoils of war”. Simply to be identified as Shia or a related sect, such as the Alawites, in Sunni rebel-held parts of Iraq and Syria today, has become as dangerous as being a Jew was in Nazi-controlled parts of Europe in 1940.

There is no doubt about the accuracy of the quote by Prince Bandar, secretary-general of the Saudi National Security Council from 2005 and head of General Intelligence between 2012 and 2014, the crucial two years when al-Qa’ida-type jihadis took over the Sunni-armed opposition in Iraq and Syria. Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute last week, Dearlove, who headed MI6 from 1999 to 2004, emphasised the significance of Prince Bandar’s words, saying that they constituted “a chilling comment that I remember very well indeed”.

He does not doubt that substantial and sustained funding from private donors in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to which the authorities may have turned a blind eye, has played a central role in the Isis surge into Sunni areas of Iraq. He said: “Such things simply do not happen spontaneously.” This sounds realistic since the tribal and communal leadership in Sunni majority provinces is much beholden to Saudi and Gulf paymasters, and would be unlikely to cooperate with Isis without their consent.

Dearlove’s explosive revelation about the prediction of a day of reckoning for the Shia by Prince Bandar, and the former head of MI6’s view that Saudi Arabia is involved in the Isis-led Sunni rebellion, has attracted surprisingly little attention. Coverage of Dearlove’s speech focused instead on his main theme that the threat from Isis to the West is being exaggerated because, unlike Bin Laden’s al-Qa’ida, it is absorbed in a new conflict that “is essentially Muslim on Muslim”. Unfortunately, Christians in areas captured by Isis are finding this is not true, as their churches are desecrated and they are forced to flee. A difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis is that the latter is much better organised; if it does attack Western targets the results are likely to be devastating.

The forecast by Prince Bandar, who was at the heart of Saudi security policy for more than three decades, that the 100 million Shia in the Middle East face disaster at the hands of the Sunni majority, will convince many Shia that they are the victims of a Saudi-led campaign to crush them. “The Shia in general are getting very frightened after what happened in northern Iraq,” said an Iraqi commentator, who did not want his name published. Shia see the threat as not only military but stemming from the expanded influence over mainstream Sunni Islam of Wahhabism, the puritanical and intolerant version of Islam espoused by Saudi Arabia that condemns Shia and other Islamic sects as non-Muslim apostates and polytheists.

Dearlove says that he has no inside knowledge obtained since he retired as head of MI6 10 years ago to become Master of Pembroke College in Cambridge. But, drawing on past experience, he sees Saudi strategic thinking as being shaped by two deep-seated beliefs or attitudes. First, they are convinced that there “can be no legitimate or admissible challenge to the Islamic purity of their Wahhabi credentials as guardians of Islam’s holiest shrines”. But, perhaps more significantly given the deepening Sunni-Shia confrontation, the Saudi belief that they possess a monopoly of Islamic truth leads them to be “deeply attracted towards any militancy which can effectively challenge Shia-dom”.

Western governments traditionally play down the connection between Saudi Arabia and its Wahhabist faith, on the one hand, and jihadism, whether of the variety espoused by Osama bin Laden and al-Qa’ida or by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s Isis. There is nothing conspiratorial or secret about these links: 15 out of 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, as was Bin Laden and most of the private donors who funded the operation.

The difference between al-Qa’ida and Isis can be overstated: when Bin Laden was killed by United States forces in 2011, al-Baghdadi released a statement eulogising him, and Isis pledged to launch 100 attacks in revenge for his death.

But there has always been a second theme to Saudi policy towards al-Qa’ida type jihadis, contradicting Prince Bandar’s approach and seeing jihadis as a mortal threat to the Kingdom. Dearlove illustrates this attitude by relating how, soon after 9/11, he visited the Saudi capital Riyadh with Tony Blair.

He remembers the then head of Saudi General Intelligence “literally shouting at me across his office: ‘9/11 is a mere pinprick on the West. In the medium term, it is nothing more than a series of personal tragedies. What these terrorists want is to destroy the House of Saud and remake the Middle East.'” In the event, Saudi Arabia adopted both policies, encouraging the jihadis as a useful tool of Saudi anti-Shia influence abroad but suppressing them at home as a threat to the status quo. It is this dual policy that has fallen apart over the last year.

Saudi sympathy for anti-Shia “militancy” is identified in leaked US official documents. The then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote in December 2009 in a cable released by Wikileaks that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups.” She said that, in so far as Saudi Arabia did act against al-Qa’ida, it was as a domestic threat and not because of its activities abroad. This policy may now be changing with the dismissal of Prince Bandar as head of intelligence this year. But the change is very recent, still ambivalent and may be too late: it was only last week that a Saudi prince said he would no longer fund a satellite television station notorious for its anti-Shia bias based in Egypt.

The problem for the Saudis is that their attempts since Bandar lost his job to create an anti-Maliki and anti-Assad Sunni constituency which is simultaneously against al-Qa’ida and its clones have failed.

By seeking to weaken Maliki and Assad in the interest of a more moderate Sunni faction, Saudi Arabia and its allies are in practice playing into the hands of Isis which is swiftly gaining full control of the Sunni opposition in Syria and Iraq. In Mosul, as happened previously in its Syrian capital Raqqa, potential critics and opponents are disarmed, forced to swear allegiance to the new caliphate and killed if they resist.

The West may have to pay a price for its alliance with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies, which have always found Sunni jihadism more attractive than democracy. A striking example of double standards by the western powers was the Saudi-backed suppression of peaceful democratic protests by the Shia majority in Bahrain in March 2011. Some 1,500 Saudi troops were sent across the causeway to the island kingdom as the demonstrations were ended with great brutality and Shia mosques and shrines were destroyed.

An alibi used by the US and Britain is that the Sunni al-Khalifa royal family in Bahrain is pursuing dialogue and reform. But this excuse looked thin last week as Bahrain expelled a top US diplomat, the assistant secretary of state for human rights Tom Malinowksi, for meeting leaders of the main Shia opposition party al-Wifaq. Mr Malinowski tweeted that the Bahrain government’s action was “not about me but about undermining dialogue”.

Western powers and their regional allies have largely escaped criticism for their role in reigniting the war in Iraq. Publicly and privately, they have blamed the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for persecuting and marginalising the Sunni minority, so provoking them into supporting the Isis-led revolt. There is much truth in this, but it is by no means the whole story. Maliki did enough to enrage the Sunni, partly because he wanted to frighten Shia voters into supporting him in the 30 April election by claiming to be the Shia community’s protector against Sunni counter-revolution.

But for all his gargantuan mistakes, Maliki’s failings are not the reason why the Iraqi state is disintegrating. What destabilised Iraq from 2011 on was the revolt of the Sunni in Syria and the takeover of that revolt by jihadis, who were often sponsored by donors in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. Again and again Iraqi politicians warned that by not seeking to close down the civil war in Syria, Western leaders were making it inevitable that the conflict in Iraq would restart. “I guess they just didn’t believe us and were fixated on getting rid of [President Bashar al-] Assad,” said an Iraqi leader in Baghdad last week.

Of course, US and British politicians and diplomats would argue that they were in no position to bring an end to the Syrian conflict. But this is misleading. By insisting that peace negotiations must be about the departure of Assad from power, something that was never going to happen since Assad held most of the cities in the country and his troops were advancing, the US and Britain made sure the war would continue.

The chief beneficiary is Isis which over the last two weeks has been mopping up the last opposition to its rule in eastern Syria. The Kurds in the north and the official al-Qa’ida representative, Jabhat al-Nusra, are faltering under the impact of Isis forces high in morale and using tanks and artillery captured from the Iraqi army. It is also, without the rest of the world taking notice, taking over many of the Syrian oil wells that it did not already control.

Saudi Arabia has created a Frankenstein’s monster over which it is rapidly losing control. The same is true of its allies such as Turkey which has been a vital back-base for Isis and Jabhat al-Nusra by keeping the 510-mile-long Turkish-Syrian border open. As Kurdish-held border crossings fall to Isis, Turkey will find it has a new neighbour of extraordinary violence, and one deeply ungrateful for past favours from the Turkish intelligence service.

As for Saudi Arabia, it may come to regret its support for the Sunni revolts in Syria and Iraq as jihadi social media begins to speak of the House of Saud as its next target. It is the unnamed head of Saudi General Intelligence quoted by Dearlove after 9/11 who is turning out to have analysed the potential threat to Saudi Arabia correctly and not Prince Bandar, which may explain why the latter was sacked earlier this year.

Nor is this the only point on which Prince Bandar was dangerously mistaken. The rise of Isis is bad news for the Shia of Iraq but it is worse news for the Sunni whose leadership has been ceded to a pathologically bloodthirsty and intolerant movement, a sort of Islamic Khmer Rouge, which has no aim but war without end.

The Sunni caliphate rules a large, impoverished and isolated area from which people are fleeing. Several million Sunni in and around Baghdad are vulnerable to attack and 255 Sunni prisoners have already been massacred. In the long term, Isis cannot win, but its mix of fanaticism and good organisation makes it difficult to dislodge.

“God help the Shia,” said Prince Bandar, but, partly thanks to him, the shattered Sunni communities of Iraq and Syria may need divine help even more than the Shia.

One law for Bahraini royals, another law for non-royal women


This video is called Government of Bahrain torturing detained in prison until death.

In Bahrain, there is one law for the royal family, and quite another law for commoners.

From eTurboNews:

Bahraini prince arrested for being drunk and disorderly on BA flight

July 29, 2012

So much for Ramadan… A drunk Arab prince was threatened with 50,000-volt Tasers by gun cops after trying to storm the flight deck of a British Airways jet.

The billionaire, 28 — who was sozzled by 10am — had jumped up from his £2,700 First Class seat to complain to the captain about “poor” service before the Boeing 777 took off from Heathrow to Bahrain.

Crew members called armed cops, who pointed stun guns at the prince after he refused to calm down.

The royal — said to be a close relative of Bahrain’s King Hamed bin Isa Al Khalifa — was hauled off Flight BA125 and taken to the West London airport’s police station. The prince had his DNA, mugshot and fingerprints taken before being released on bail.

A passenger said: “We were terrified when the armed police came on and started pointing Tasers at him.”

A BA spokesman confirmed a customer “was off-loaded from the London to Bahrain service” and appeared to be “intoxicated”. Scotland Yard said a man was arrested on suspicion of being drunk and disorderly.

From Digital Journal:

The consumption of alcohol is allowed in Bahrain, but only for non-Muslims. In 2010 the Shura Council approved a ban on all Muslims drinking alcohol in the tiny Gulf state. Under Bahraini law the penalty for a Muslim drinking alcohol is a three-year jail sentence. However, Gulf royals often flout the Islamic rules they impose on their subjects, indulging in alcohol and other prohibited activities.

Now, about non-royals.

From International Business Times:

Bahrain: Woman Charged With Smoking in the Day During Ramadan

By Ludovica Iaccino

July 9, 2014 14:39 BST

A woman has been charged with insulting Ramadan as she smoked a cigarette during daylight hours while she was being questioned at Bahrain International Airport.

According to Gulf Daily News, the 32-year-old Egyptian woman, whose name was not disclosed, was stopped by the airport’s officers who wanted to search her luggage.

As she refused, the officers escorted her to the lieutenant’s office for questioning.

The woman allegedly insulted the lieutenant, knocked off his hat and then smoked a cigarette.

“I had a cigarette as I was not fasting because I was travelling,” the woman said in her statement to prosecutors.

“I needed to travel back to my home country for Ramadan and I was late to board my flight.

“I accidentally knocked off the policeman’s hat because I was waving my hands around trying to explain to him that I was late for my flight and that’s why I did not want a thorough examination of my luggage.”

As well as smoking a cigarette during daylight hours, the woman was also charged with insulting a police officer.

She was released on 500 Bahrain dinar (£775; $1326) bail by the Lower Criminal Court.

The trial was adjourned until 14 July.

Nabeel Rajab: ‘Bahrain Has Turned into Dictatorship Kingdom‘.

Britain: Home Office Poised to Deport Bahraini Teen Isa Haider Alaali Despite Torture and Imprisonment Risk.

Bahrain Strengthens Punishment for Insulting King Hamad: here.

A visiting American government official was ordered to leave Bahrain immediately after he met with a few prominent Shi’ite opposition leaders earlier this week: here.

Bahrain should immediately drop charges against two prominent opposition members for meeting with a US diplomat on July 6, 2014. Bahrain should repeal the law that bars leaders of political societies from meeting with foreign diplomats without government permission: here.

Amnesty International issued the following Urgent Action yesterday on behalf of Dr. Sa’eed Mothaher Habib Al-Samahiji, who is to serve a one-year sentence for “publicly insulting the King of Bahrain”. Dr. Sa’eed Al-Samahiji is a prisoner of conscience and jailed solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression: here.

Bahrain: Deteriorating Human Rights Situation: here.

Bahrain’s recent expulsion of a U.S. State Department official after visiting with a Shiite opposition leader was the result of pressure from Saudi Arabia, indicating relations between the U.S. and Riyadh are further deteriorating: here.

English PEN has joined a coalition of 29 NGOs to call on the newly appointed Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to reassess the Foreign Office position on Bahrain as a matter of urgency. Read the full text of the letter here.

Bahrain dictatorship news update


This May 2014 video is called Human Rights Watch Release on Bahrain‘s System of Injustice: Nazeeha Saeed.

By Annie Piotrowski in the USA:

The Freedom Chat Transcripts: Bahraini Journalist Nazeeha Saeed

July 8, 2014

The Freedom Chat is a new video series by Sampsonia Way featuring interviews with journalists and other media workers facing censorship and repression in their home countries. In these Q&A’s, conducted via video chat, journalists talk with Sampsonia Way about press freedom, anti-free speech legislation, and exile.

In the Freedom Chat Transcripts, we share the entire interview with our subjects, including material not included in the video.

An island nation in the Arabian Gulf, Bahrain experienced an outpouring of political unrest and protest during the Arab Spring in 2011. Yet, unlike Egypt, Tunisia, and others, the Bahraini monarchy’s human rights abuses, as well as the falling level of press freedom, have not been widely reported by Middle Eastern or international news outlets.

While the Bahraini government continues to react against the 2011 protests with strict censorship laws and state-controlled media, independent and civilian journalists work to provide objective reports at the risk of torture, imprisonment, and even death. In our latest Freedom Chat installment, we speak to one such journalist: 32 year-old Nazeeha Saeed, who in addition to working as an international correspondent, has challenged human rights abuses through the Bahraini legal system.

While covering Bahrain’s pro-democracy protests in 2011, Saeed was imprisoned and tortured in a local police station. After her release, she brought charges against her torturers and endured a two year trial only to find that the defendants would be acquitted of their crimes. Now, as the Bahraini correspondent for France 24 and Radio Monte Carlo Doualiya, she advocates for press freedom in the Middle East by continuing her work as an independent journalist, speaking out against human rights abuses, and using social media to report untold stories.

In this Freedom Chat, Sampsonia Way spoke to Saeed via Skype about the state of journalism and censorship in Bahrain and her struggle for justice.

What legal penalties exist for journalists in Bahrain?

Since Bahrain does not have specific laws governing journalism, journalists are tried under criminal law. This means they can face any kind of penalty: Fines, prison, and even death if they are accused of being a traitor.

Why do you think the situation in Bahrain has received so little media coverage?

The Arab press is less interested in Bahrain because there are bigger and bloodier scenes else-where in the Arab world: Iraq, Syria, Libya. In contrast, the Bahraini situation seems very peaceful, and both Arab and non-Arab international media ignore it.

A lot of Middle Eastern press is not independent and follows the political agenda of government leaders. We can call what is happening in Bahrain an “uprising,” but if the governments don’t support what’s happening, the media won’t cover it.

You are one of many Bahraini journalists who are active on Twitter. To what extent does the government censor social media?

The Ministry of Information has a special unit just to supervise social media that checks for criminal acts like insulting the king or any of the country’s icons.

Since 2011, using social media has become a call for all people, not just journalists. It’s a tool and window to write about things that the media doesn’t cover. If there were a protest here to-night, most media outlets wouldn’t be interested in it because protests are small and happen every day. Instead, social media is the place where people talk about these events and post pictures and videos.

You mention the crime of insulting the king. How has this been used against writers?

We have a new law which says that if you use any media tool, even social media, to insult the king, you can go to prison for one to seven years. In Bahrain, the royal family is a red line. If a corrupt minister is from the royal family, you can say that the ministry is corrupt, but not the minister himself.

In addition, the opposition‘s slogan is “Down with Hamid,” in reference to the Bahraini king. If you use this slogan at any time, you face the charge of insulting the king. Anyone who wants to overthrow the regime in favor of a republic or a constitutional monarchy risks this accusation.

Do censorship laws apply equally to professional journalists and civilian journalists?

Citizen journalists are more at risk because they don’t have a media outlet to defend them. Therefore, they are more frequently accused of insulting the king and trying to overthrow the regime.

How did the 2011 protests in Bahrain affect media censorship?

The uprising in Bahrain affected the media a lot. Even the media outlets which had improved from 2001 to 2011 went back to square one. They are once again biased towards the government and throw accusations at the opposition and the protesters.

We’ve lost neutrality in the local newspapers and media and news reports have become illogical. For example, there are reports that all of the protesters are backed by foreign countries.

In 2011 you were arrested and tortured. Can you tell me about the process of bringing your torturers to court?

I was one of hundreds of people who were tortured in that police station. It wasn’t just the mistake of one or two officers. At that time, torture was the Ministry of the Interior’s policy against anybody they thought opposed the government.

Bringing that case to court was unprecedented. Many international organizations supported me. However, after two years of going to court and facing my torturers again, there was no justice. In the end, they were acquitted.

Have other journalists pressed charges against their torturers?

No, they haven’t. I encouraged my colleagues to file a case against their torturers, but there were many difficulties. In my case, the media channel that I worked for supported me. My colleagues were working for local newspapers and TV, and nobody supported them.

They also don’t believe the system will help them because, in my case, the system didn’t grant justice. In addition, they didn’t know their torturers, since most of them were blindfolded. In my case, I was very aware of who they were.

To what extent do you consider yourself to be an activist as well as a journalist?

To be honest, I don’t consider myself an activist. I am a journalist who defends freedom of speech and press, who wants this country to have freedom of speech, media, and press. This will lead to democracy, freedom, justice, and other good things for Bahrain.

July 8, 2014 — When Bahrani reporter Nazeeha Saeed went to cover an anti-government protest May 22, 2011, in the capital city Manama, she anticipated seeing a resurgence in public resistance after military forces had shut down demonstrations two months earlier. Saeed did not expect to be summoned to a police station where she would be detained, interrogated and tortured for 13 hours about her reports on the uprisings: here.

Reporters Without Borders condemns the detention of the person the authorities say is the well-known satirical blogger Takrooz (@Takrooz). He has been held on charges of “inciting hatred against the regime” and “using expressions that incite sectarianism” ever since his arrest at Manama airport on his return from Thailand on 18 June: here.

Bahrain absolute monarchy transphobia arrest


This video from the USA says about itself:

Bahrain Student Protesters In Prison

11 October 2011

Six college students were sentenced to 15 years in prison for their roles in protests against the government of Bahrain. Ana Kasparian and Jayar Jackson discuss on TYT University.

In the absolute monarchy Bahrain, people may be arrested for many reasons or pretexts. You may be arrested for supporting human rights; for playing as a child; for treating wounded patients if you are a doctor; for photographing if you are a photographer; for a sense of humour if you are a blogger; etc. etc.

One more reason for going to the infamous prison system in Bahrain, where torture is rampant: governmental hatred of LGBTQ people.

From Gulf News:

Man arrested for cross-dressing in Bahrain

Suspect says work at beauty salon demands fashionable, elegant looks

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

12:09 July 7, 2014

Manama: A man was sentenced to one month in prison followed by deportation after he was apprehended for wearing women’s accessories and makeup in Bahrain.

The expatriate Arab was arrested by a police patrol as he was walking “in a feminine way” in the Bahraini capital Manama and attracted the attention of the servicemen.

He said that he worked in a women’s beauty salon and that his profession demanded that he always looked elegant and wore the latest fashion accessories to set a positive example for his clients.

The public prosecution was not convinced by the arguments and charged him with encouraging debauchery. He was subsequently referred to a court that ruled to keep him in jail for one month.

Cross-dressing is banned in Bahrain and in the other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states — Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Foreigners who are apprehended for their “unacceptable looks” in public are often jailed for a short period before they are sent home.

Local conservatives have regularly called for tougher measures against cross-dressers and gays, accusing them of spreading vice, particularly among young people.

Bahrain: More Minors Detained for Prolonged Periods Without Conviction: here.

Ringing birds in Bahrain


This is a video about a bridled tern, on 3 July 2013. This individual landed at an unusual place for this tropical species: among Arctic terns on the Farne islands in England.

Every now and then, news from Bahrain which is not about torture or political imprisonment.

By Jem Babbington:

Ringing terns – Al Jarrim Island south (Bahrain)

5 July 2014

On Friday 20 June I set off at 02:30 hrs to go to Bahrain to ring terns. I met up with Jason, Nicole, Ali, Mahmood, Ahmed and a couple of others to go out to the island at 04:00 to ring tern chicks. This is one of the best days ringing of the year for me and it is amazing to be on an island full of breeding terns.

Ali has a new more powerful boat now that he also uses to take people diving in Bahrain and it has two 250 HP engines and a covered roof, so is very fast. We arrived at the island at 06:00 hrs and set about first ringing Bridled Tern chicks. They nest under cover of the vegetation and are incredibly well camouflaged and sit tight so good eyesight and a lot of help are required.

We do these first as it is extremely hard work and want to do it in the coolest part of the day before temperatures rise into the 40’s Celsius. There were three ringers and we ringed a total of 143 Bridled Tern chicks that is slightly less than normal. After this we set up our corral to catch Lesser Crested Tern Chicks that are all gathered together in large crèches of baby terns with hundreds of adults looking after them.

As they are all in large groups we walk the birds down into our corral and transfer them to large baskets for processing. Since this capture technique was devised we have become much more proficient and we catch lots of birds in a short time and process them as quickly as possible so they can return to their parents for shade.

We keep the birds in covered baskets with a wet towel on top to keep them cool and we have not lost a single bird doing this. We ringed 997 Lesser Crested Tern chicks and ran out of rings, this being the biggest number of birds we have singed in a single day since we started going to the islands.

We also ringed three White-cheeked Tern chicks a species that has not bred on this island in the previous three breeding seasons I have visited. They do breed on the middle island but we have only been here once and it was a nice surprise to see the adults feeding young on the south island. Another nice surprise was to see an adult Bridled Tern I photographed with a ring on, indicating it is one of our birds.

We have ringed hundreds of young birds and a single adult that Nicole rescued from a fishing net so it is impossible to tell if this is a young bird returning to breed or not. We also found at least ten Indian Reef Heron nests with large young in them. Normally there are only one of two nests but this year the numbers are much higher so some reason.

An interesting fact was that under every Indian Reef Heron nest a Bridled Tern chick was hiding. I would like to thank Ali and all the helpers for this excellent days ringing.

More about birds in Bahrain: here.

Bahraini blogger arrested for humour


This video says about itself:

Bahrain Blogger Lamees Dhaif

22 June 2011

Bahrain Blogger Lamees Dhaif and her family have been harassed because of Lamees’ posts criticizing the Bahrain government. She is now based outside of Bahrain and unable to blog. She shares her story in the Arab Spring session during Netroots Nation 2011 held in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Asked if she’s scared that there will be consequences of her speaking out at Netroots Nations 2011: “I know that I will pay for it with a very high price. But if I keep quiet, more and more people are paying every day.”

From Global Voices Advocacy:

Bahraini Satirist Blogger Takrooz Arrested

Translation posted 5 July 2014 7:19 GMT

The Bahrain Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of yet another netizen, who reportedly faces accusations of “inciting hatred against the regime.”

The satirist micro-blogger, nicknamed Takrooz, was arrested at the Bahrain International Airport, while on his way back from Thailand, said the ministry in a statement on June 18, 2014, without disclosing his name.

A day later, many Bahrainis were fuming on Twitter, saying the arrest was futile and served no purpose other than to further demonstrate the government’s true colours in stifling opposition voices online. Scores of netizens have been arrested by the regime since anti-government protests started in Bahrain on February 14, 2011. Among them are Mahmood Al-Yousif, Mohamed Almaskati and Global Voices author Mohamed Hassan.

Bahrain is regarded as an enemy of the Internet according to the Reporters without Borders’ 2014 report and is ranked second in the number of detained journalists per capita in 2013 according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

With nearly 18,000 Twitter followers and 100,000 tweets, Takrooz has been an active voice in charting the government crackdown on activists. Bahrain Watch, a research and transparency group, reported that Takrooz’ Twitter account was repeatedly targeted for surveillance by the Bahraini government. His tweets, in Arabic, cover abuse by law enforcement personnel, anti-corruption content and everyday concerns of the average Bahraini.

Nabeel Rajab: Bahrain’s people are a casualty of Washington’s political compromises: here.