From Al Jazeera, with video there:
Royal wedding invite angers Bahrain activists
Activists condemn Al-Khalifa’s invite to British royal wedding, which comes in midst of bloody crackdown on protests.
Last Modified: 24 Apr 2011 12:23
The crown prince of Bahrain is on the guest list for the wedding of the UK’s Prince William and Catherine Middleton in London next week, as criticism of the violent suppression of opposition protesters continues.
Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, was one of more than 40 foreign royals invited to attend the British royals’ wedding in Westminster Abbey on Friday.
Human rights advocates were quick to condemn the decision to invite al-Khalifa to the ceremony.
Najib Rajab, president of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera that protesters were expecting the British to take a “tough stance,” rather than invite those accused of grievous human rights abuses to the high-profile celebrations.
“Calling our crown prince at a time when people are being killed … for demanding their political rights and peacefully protesting, is extremely disappointing,” he said in a phone interview.
“They’re losing the hearts and minds of the people in this region.”
Like similar protests movements across the Middle East and North Africa, Bahraini demonstrators have been demanding democracy, human rights and freedom of speech since mid-February.
Al-Khalifa’s regime has responded to the calls for constitutional monarchy by deploying massive numbers of troops.
Hundreds of doctors, nurses, teachers, unionists have been beaten, sacked or forcibly disappeared in recent days, Rajab said.
“Unfortunately I’m banned from travelling otherwise I’d be travelling there [to London] to protest outside the wedding,” Rajab said.
In Bahrain, where a Sunni minority monopolises the political power, the government has cast the popular revolt in a sectarian light, arguing that the Shia majority is being supported by Iran and Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have sent security forces to Bahrain to help crush the uprising.
Royal invitees from elsewhere in the Arab world include heads of state from Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Kuwait.
Reacting to al-Khalifa’s inclusion on the guest list, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, the London-based human rights organisation, told Al Jazeera that there has been a “dramatic deterioration” in human rights conditions in Bahrain over the past month.
“We would expect any government hosting senior representatives of the Bahraini government to use this opportunity to press strongly and publicly for the government to halt its crackdown on freedom of expression, which has included the arrest of at least 500 people, whose whereabouts are in most cases unknown,” he said.
Amnesty International has called on North American and European governments to be as vocal about human rights in their small Gulf ally as they have been in support of opposition uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt.
North American and European governments were and are not exactly “supporting opposition uprisings” in Tunisia and Egypt. As Egyptian dictator Mubarak tried to drown the Egyptian revolution on blood, Joseph Biden, Vice President of the USA, claimed dictator Mubarak was not a dictator. French Prime Minister Fillon supported Mubarak right till the end. The French Sarkozy government offered dictator Ben Ali of Tunisia arms to suppress the people’s movement.
As for Libya: NATO is not helping, but hijacking, and in this way gravely damaging, the Libyan movement against Gadaffi’s dictatorship and privatization policies.
“Do you accept that the murderer of his people Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa heaping among the guests at a royal wedding on the land of Britain?” wrote Y-Shaheen El Heloo, an activist who contacted Al Jazeera via email.
Activists on Twitter were also vocal concerning the invite.
“I call on people of conscious all over the world to condemn the invitation of #Bahrain’s prince to #RoyalWedding,” @MariaSelba wrote.
@tunis_demor, meanwhile, asked: “Can concerned Britons get #Bahrain Crown Prince arrested at the #royalwedding using universal jurisdiction law?”
On Friday, Physicians for Human Rights, a US-based NGO, issued a report condemning Bahraini security forces of “systematic attacks” on medical staff.
Al-Wefaq, the leading Shia opposition party, accused the authorities of razing some 30 Shia holy sites since it imposed martial law last month, many of them historic buildings.
From daily The Morning Star in Britain:
Human rights campaigners and anti-monarchy groups have condemned the invitation of royal dictators from Bahrain and elsewhere to the royal wedding.
Among those whose names appear on an invitation list which has been branded a “Who’s Who of tyrants” are the crown prince of Bahrain, the king of Swaziland and a representative of the Saudi royal family.
The Bahraini monarchy has brutally suppressed recent democratic protests with the aid of Saudi and Qatari forces.
Saudi Arabia and Swaziland have long been accused of gross human rights abuses, detention and torture.
Swazis boycott Royal concert: here.
Britain: Cleaners employed at the royal household are demanding a living wage as their share of the millions the Windsors receive from the public purse: here.
Royal wedding guest list includes friends, family – and a few dictators: here.
Crackdown sees mosques wrecked
BAHRAIN: The main opposition party says authorities have demolished 16 mosques as part of a crackdown on Shi’ite dissent over the past month.
Al Wefaq said that 30 Shi’ite places of worship, including the 16 mosques, have been destroyed since martial law was declared in the kingdom last month.
It said that the destruction is a punishment for weeks of anti-government protest by Bahrain’s Shi’ite Muslim majority.
Apr 24, 1:13 PM EDT
Bahrain crown prince declines royal wedding invite
By SYLVIA HUI
LONDON (AP) — Bahrain’s crown prince on Sunday declined an invitation to attend Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding, saying he did not want the Gulf nation’s unrest to tarnish the celebration.
Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa sent his regrets to Prince Charles after questions emerged over the British monarchy’s decision to invite a member of Bahrain’s Sunni ruling family, which has waged a wide-ranging crackdown against Shiite protesters calling for more freedoms.
Bahrain’s rulers have imposed martial law and are backed by a Saudi-led military force to try to quell the uprising. At least 30 people have died in Bahrain since mid-February, including four who died while in official custody, and many well-known activists and lawyers have been imprisoned.
The news helped to avoid a potentially awkward situation during the April 29 wedding. Campaigners in Britain complained when palace officials said Saturday that the prince was attending the nuptials, and some petitioned Foreign Secretary William Hague to revoke the invitation.
Prince Salman said he was “saddened and troubled” by British reports about his attendance.
“While these (media reports) have certainly highlighted a number of significant issues currently facing the Kingdom of Bahrain, they have fundamentally misrepresented my own views, outlook and position on recent events and thus, clearly sought to involve my potential attendance as a political proxy for wider matters involving Bahrain.”
A Buckingham Palace spokesman confirmed that it was informed Sunday about the prince’s decision.
The prince said Bahrain has the highest respect for Britain’s royal family, and that he wished William and Middleton “all good wishes for Friday and every possible happiness for the future ahead.”
Al Khalifa was among more than 40 foreign royals invited to the wedding. Other foreign royals who are attending include kings, queens, princes and princesses from countries including Denmark, Norway, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, and Swaziland.
The royals will mingle with a handful of celebrities, including soccer star David Beckham and his wife Victoria, singer Elton John, director Guy Ritchie and Mr. Bean actor Rowan Atkinson.
About 1,900 people were invited to the Westminster Abbey ceremony.
© 2011 The Associated Press.
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