Bahrain, Kuwait monarchies oppress opposition


This video says about itself:

Kingdoms of Loathing: Kuwait & Bahrain step up crackdown on opposition

Published on Feb 5, 2013

The Gulf kingdoms of Bahrain and Kuwait are seeing fresh public outcries against the country’s unelected rulers, who have been stepping up their crackdowns on dissent for the last 2 years. Calls for more rights and democracy are increasingly met with arrests and brutal force, as the conservative monarchs refuse to concede. While the West is accused of turning a blind eye to violations by its key Arab allies, as Lucy Kafanov reports.

Saudi Arabia birdwatching


By Robert Tovey:

Feb 05, 2013

On Thursday, after visiting the Kararah lake area, our birding party doubled back away towards Riyadh on the Mecca road before turning off north west. This was on route 505 according to the map but route 902 according to the road sign.

This is an occupational hazard in Saudi Arabia, road sign numbers and map numbers often don’t agree.

The aim was to use a road (route 505) on the plain which ran parallel with the Tuwaiq escarpment and to come off this road from time to time to visit the foothills of the escarpment.

Desert lark

Desert lark

In the back of my mind was the possibility that we might finally see two of my nemesis birds – and hooded wheatear. Both have been reported as rare around the escarpment but not reported at all in other parts of central Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian vulture is relatively common in the west and hooded wheatear in the far north west of the country but both are very rare near Riyadh.

We chose to come off the main road and head to the escarpment at Dhurma and we found an excellent side road to do so.

100 metres before the slope we had to get out and walk down a shallow wadi because the road came to an end.

It didn’t look that promising at first, only desert lark and white crowned wheatear to see.

White crowned wheatear

White crowned wheatear

We noticed three dead camels which in retrospective were a clue to what happened later. At the time I didn’t think it was anything special because the whole frontage of the escarpment on the plain was scattered with camel herds and presumably the occasional carcass.

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

We stopped, watched and listened once we were close to the slopes. We could hear and see white spectacled bulbul (a.k.a ) and then we noticed a wave or two of birds of prey flying in various directions above the escarpment. The time was about 11 am and the air had warmed up making flying easier for these types of bird.

Adult steppe eagle

Adult

We were given an aerial display by four or five steppe eagle. A fan tailed raven also made an appearance.

Three steppe eagle of varying ages

However, I spotted a single unknown bird which returned a few minutes later as part of a group of three.

Griffon vulture

Almost unbelievably they were all griffon vulture. We came in search of Egyptian vulture and in return we saw the much less likely griffon vulture. Unfortunately, the pictures are poor as they flew high and fast but have nevertheless been verified by an expert.

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture hold wide territories but we also can’t rule out that they were all wintering birds. The map in the Helms guide for the Middle East does show them reaching the western side of the Tuwaiq escarpment in places as the eastern limit of their residential range. However, what I also know is they have been very rarely recorded around Riyadh.

I am pretty sure the dead carcasses seen and presumably others in the plain next to the escarpment are important factors in why we found the vultures.

Resting steppe eagle at "the edge of the world"

Resting steppe eagle at “the edge of the world”

The rest of the day was an anti-climax. We drove on into more desolate areas but with little reward.

It had been a speculative day that is to say one where we drive into new areas with no known previous birding and so not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be worth the eight hours of relatively low key activity for the 15 minutes of great excitement.

On the way back and near sunset we stopped off on the top of the escarpment at the place known as “the edge of the world” A lone steppe eagle was perched on a pylon to greet us.

A list of Thursday’s birds has been compiled by Lou Regensmorter:

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (new to my Saudi list and species number 261) teppe Eagle Desert Lark Common Kestrel Pale Crag Martin Laughing Dove Scrub Warbler Eurasian Collared Dove Asian Namaqua Dove Pallid Swift Hoopoe White-crowned Wheatear Little Green Bee-eater Blackstart House Sparrow Fan-tailed Raven Spanish Sparrow White-spectacled Bulbul Tawny Pipit Greater Hoopoe Lark

Rob Tovey

About Robert Tovey

Dr is a scientist by training and more recently an English teacher. His profession allows him to travel to some of the more difficult-to-get-to places and stay there for years if his inclination takes him. He is a keen bird watcher, blogger and amateur photographer. He has worked in Azerbaijan and Libya and is currently in Saudi Arabia. Rob also has a base in Bulgaria so overall is becoming a bit of birding specialist in very general terms where East meets West.

Bahrain dictatorship on film


This video from Bahrain is called Free Nabeel Rajab now.

By Alastair Lewis:

Bahrain: The Forbidden Country

January 18th, 2013

On a dusty football pitch in Bahrain, a convoy – or rather, a pack – of police 4x4s screeched into the crowd that had gathered there, scattering panicking protesters. As they circled at high speed, passing through the crowd, it was not clear if they were actively trying to hit the protesters, or just to scatter them, but what was clear was that it didn’t seem to matter if they did.

This footage was captured by French film-maker and journalist Stéphanie Lamorré, who travelled to the tiny Gulf Kingdom on a tourist visa, before ‘disappearing’ for a month, to live undercover and film the pro-democracy protest movement in its battle against the authorities.

Related article: Bahrain: little chance since ‘brutal crackdown’ as Formula 1 begins

To avoid the restrictions placed on journalists, the raw film had then to be smuggled across the border and ‘Fedexed to France’, according to producer Luc Hermann who introduced a special screening at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday night.

In the resulting film, Bahrain: The Forbidden Country, Lamorré shows through interviews with three women that Bahrain’s protest movement, out of sight and, for most, out of mind since 2011, has not disappeared.  And her interviewees are difficult to dismiss as simply unthinking trouble-makers.

Zainab, daughter of the Bahraini-Danish human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja whose 110 day hunger strike brought international attention to the Bahraini struggle, spends her days meeting protesters and their families, hearing their stories and tweeting them from her ever-present Blackberry. Her nights are spent at protests.

On the day Lamorré filmed her, she spoke to the family of a 50-year-old mother who had immolated herself in desperation at continuous police raids on her family. Her blog, Angry Arabiya, contains many similar stories.

Related article: Sandhurst took £3m Bahrain gift after regime’s crackdown

Perhaps the most striking story shown in the film is that of Nada, 38, a doctor and mother of two young children who was arrested, imprisoned and claims to have been tortured for the crime of giving medical aid to protestors. An earlier shot had shown other doctors and nurses begging police to be allowed to enter their hospital to treat the wounded. Instead of being treated, the injured were arrested.

At the time of the film Nada was awaiting trial.

The death toll in Bahrain has been small  – as David Cameron says, ‘Bahrain is not Syria‘ – but, as this film graphically shows, protesters are still targeted with tear gas, rubber bullets, buck shot, and, in some cases, live ammunition. It is these protesters – who cannot go to hospital for fear of arrest – that Ouahida treats. Although not a doctor or nurse, she learned first aid, and began to travel under cover of night to treat wounds and pick out buckshot.

Related article: The inside track: how lobbyists have helped launder Bahrain’s reputation

At the end of the screening it is revealed that, just months after filming, Ouahida was seriously injured in a car crash fleeing from the police.

Bahrain, with its population of under one and a half million, its stable monarchy, and its high-income economy, rarely makes the news here.

Lamorré’s film is a welcome break to this silence.

It is available for international distribution from Premieres Lignes Television and is being shown at various film festivals. The film was part of the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Film Week.

Sign up for email alerts from the Bureau here.

Related links: