British arms kill Middle East democrats

This video is called BRITAIN: STOP ARMING THE WORLD!

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

It’s business as usual for merchants of death

Monday 29 August 2011

by Paddy McGuffin, Home Affairs Reporter

A huge surge in British arms exports to the Middle East and north Africa shows that for all its talk it is “business as usual” for the government, campaigners said today.

The Foreign Office has pledged to revoke export licences to regimes where they may have been used to suppress democratic protest during the “Arab spring” uprisings.

But the most recent figures show that arms exports between February and June increased by almost 30 per cent on the same period the previous year.

And while the Foreign Office revoked an estimated 160 armaments export licences in February, around 600 remain in place – including licences to sell shotguns and ammunition to Bahrain where the monarchy has brutally suppressed peaceful protests.

In the second quarter of 2011 Britain exported £30.5 million worth of armaments to countries including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen.

Among weapons sold to the regimes were sniper rifles and other small arms, ammo and sub-machine guns.

Concerns were first expressed by campaigners earlier this year that the weapons – sold by British arms manufacturers and granted export licences from the government – may have been used in the bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests across the Middle East and north Africa.

Reports that armaments sold to Bahrain and armoured vehicles sold to Saudi Arabia had been used to quell demonstrations against the Bahraini monarchy led to the Foreign Office promising an urgent review of all military exports to the region.

But campaigners said the new figures showed that Britain continued to breach its own arms export rules, which state that the government will “not issue an export licence if there is a clear risk that the proposed export might be used for internal repression.”

Campaign Against Arms Trade spokeswoman Kaye Stearman told the Star: “This is very, very shocking, but sadly not surprising. It just goes to show that all the government’s fine words about defending democracy and not selling arms to tyrants were just that – words. It is business as usual.”

In the first quarter of 2011 Britain approved export licences to Bahrain for components for assault rifles, combat aircraft and machine guns.

During the same period it approved licences for the export of components for combat vehicles, military helicopters, sniper rifles and military support aircraft to Saudi Arabia.

The government claims that it has some of the most rigid and transparent export controls in the world, a claim rejected by campaigners.

War on Want chief executive John Hillary said: “It is outrageous that Britain should still be exporting arms to a region in such crisis. We’ve seen the murderous consequences of these arms exports in country after country.

“It is unacceptable for the government to be supporting arms export licences to the Middle East.”

Bahrain’s Use of NSN Technology to Torture Activists Shows Need for Corporate Accountability and Home Government Oversight: here.

British Medical Association (BMA) action on Bahrain: here.

GENEVA: The UN rights chief warned Tuesday that the situation in Bahrain remains “tense and unpredictable,” with small protests still being repressed and hundreds of cases involving demonstrators pending trial: here.

UN demands Bahrain release prisoners detained for exercising freedom of speech: here.

Bahrain’s contribution to the Arab Spring: here.

11 thoughts on “British arms kill Middle East democrats

  1. Bahrain says poet included in protest pardon

    (AP) – 1 hour ago

    MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahrain says a royal pardon for some protest-linked suspects includes a 20-year-old woman sentenced to a year in prison for reciting poetry critical of the Gulf nation’s crackdown on an uprising.

    A statement Tuesday from Bahrain’s information authority says the king’s pardon extends to Ayat al-Qurmezi, who gained prominence for verses denouncing the attacks on Shiite-led protesters.

    The statement, however, did not give the full total of those pardoned Sunday by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

    Al-Qurmezi was convicted in June of anti-state charges. Hundreds of people were arrested after protests began in February.

    Bahrain’s majority Shiite claim they face widespread discrimination by Sunni rulers.

    Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.


  2. From heroes to pariahs: Bahrain athletes pay a steep price

    Associated Press
    Aug 31, 2011

    Brothers and former Bahrain national football team players Mohammed, left, and Alaa Hubail were arrested after joining peaceful protests with other athletes.

    When civil unrest broke out in Bahrain, brothers Alaa and Mohammed Hubail stayed in their family compound and refused to take part. They feared their reputations as top footballers would make them easy targets for police.

    But Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa soon came out in support of peaceful protests. It was the green light the Hubail brothers were looking for and they joined a march of several hundred athletes to Pearl Square, the epicentre of Shiite-led protests against Bahrain’s Sunni rulers.

    It was a terrible miscalculation.

    Two weeks after the February march, Alaa Hubail was interrogated on state-run television and called a traitor. He and his brother were arrested a day later along with Ali Saeed Abdullah, the national team goalkeeper, as they trained at their Al Alhi club.

    They were among six players from the national team who were put in prison, where they say they were tortured for taking part in the protests.

    Mohammed Hubail was tried and sentenced to two years in jail; he is free while he appeals the sentence.

    Alaa’s case is pending. They have gone from celebrities to pariahs among Bahrain’s pro-government faction – barred from playing on the national team and blacklisted from the local league for what they contend was simply following the advice of the Crown Prince.

    “I served my country with love and will continue as much as I can,” Alaa Hubail, a prolific striker, who was the top scorer in the 2004 Asian Cup, said at his home in the Shiite-dominated village 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 backlash against the Hubail brothers was part of a government effort to silence opposition to the regime. Besides the arrest of hundreds of citizens, students were expelled from universities, government employees were fired, and doctors and nurses put on trial for treating injured protesters.

    Protesters were denigrated and interrogated on state television and accused of anti-state conspiracies in trials before a secretive security court. Even some of the slightest infractions were dealt with harshly. A 20-year-old woman was sentenced to a year in prison for reading a poem critical of Bahrain’s king.

    Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain’s Shiite majority took to the streets on February 14 to demand the country’s more than 200-year-old Sunni dynasty ease its control on top government and security posts. After days of mostly peaceful protests, the regime cracked down on the protesters, resulting in the deaths of more than 30 people and the detention of thousands.

    “The Kingdom of Bahrain does not advocate the abuse of human rights,” Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority said in a statement. “The allegations of mistreatment or torture of medical personnel, and others currently in the courts, for alleged crimes in the Kingdom of Bahrain are of grave concern to us.”

    Of all the demonstrators, athletes would have seemed to be the least likely to be targeted. Many had close ties to members of the royal family and were involved in the regime’s campaign to raise its global profile through sports.

    It was a strategy that resulted in the kingdom securing the region’s first Formula One race – the Bahrain Grand Prix – and being added to the European Tour schedule with the Volvo Golf Champions tournament.

    The protests, however, forced the cancellation of this year’s Bahrain GP and the next Volvo golf event.

    And having athletes take to the streets appears to have touched a nerve among several ministers, who launched attacks in state media calling the sportsmen disloyal and ungrateful after many had been rewarded with cushy jobs, houses or luxury cars.

    Then, the arrests began.

    More than 150 athletes, coaches and referees from football to table tennis were jailed after a special committee, chaired by Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the Bahrain Football Association chairman, identified them from photographs of the protests. A half-dozen football clubs, all from Shiite villages, were fined US$20,000 (Dh73,000) each and remain suspended.

    Most athletes have since been released, but those interviewed by the Associated Press remained stunned by the government’s actions – especially the jail terms, the alleged beatings and the charges of being agents of Iran or Hizbollah.

    Many spoke reluctantly, saying they feared their comments could get them longer jail sentences, but most said the time had come to speak out after all they had endured.

    “I only went to the roundabout for 30 minutes. I never said bad things about the government, especially the King,” said Tariq Al-Farsani, a well-known former bodybuilder, who was arrested on April 15 and spent about two months in jail. “The sports people only went there because they want freedom for the people. Everybody went there. It wasn’t a big thing.”

    All the athletes interviewed told the same story: They are now jobless, running out of money and living in a legal limbo.

    Most have not been allowed to return to government jobs, all are banned from representing the nation and are awaiting a date for their trials to resume.

    “When I saw all this happen to me, I feel like I’m nothing. They don’t care about anyone who served the country, who made history for this country,” said Saleh Hasan, a nine-time Bahrain table tennis champion, who was banned as a national coach and lost his job at the Ministry of Education. “Seventy days in jail. This is their appreciation to me. I’m thinking a lot of ending my sportsman career … The things they do to me has given me another chance to think. All my history was a big mistake for this country, if they will treat us like this.”

    Several athletes are still in jail, including brothers Mohammed and Ali Mirza, who played for the national handball team that went to the 2011 World Cup in January, and the 16-year-old Iraqi footballer, Zulfiqar Naji, who played for Al Muharraq’s junior team.

    In a statement about the athletes, Eyad Hamza, the director of Clubs Affairs at Bahrain’s General Organisation for Youth and Sports, said no one was jailed because of their profession, but that it was his “understanding that people have been detained for various reasons to do with the maintenance of public order or threats to national security”. He said Bahrain’s Independent Commission of Inquiry is investigating the allegations, including claims of torture, and a report is due at the end of October.

    As to whether athletes can return to their teams, he said this is a matter for individual clubs and team managers to sort out, not the government.

    “The idea that there is some kind of conspiracy against sports people is ludicrous,” Hamza said.

    “Bahrain is proud of its patriotic sports men and women and looks forward to seeing their talents on display at the forthcoming Gulf Cooperation Council Games in Bahrain [in October].”

    Like most Bahrain athletes, the Hubail brothers say they never dabbled in politics. Football, by far the most popular sport on the island, was all that mattered to them.

    “Football is our life, the third thing after water, after food,” said their father, Ahmed Hubail, as he talked in the sparsely decorated family room of their two-story villa.

    “Me, too. I’m an old man and I play football.”

    Pressure from Fifa helped gain the brothers’ release in late June, but their ordeal did not end there. They were put on trial for protesting.

    They were left off the list of players for the team’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although Peter Taylor, the coach, has said he would not rule out adding them at some point.

    The uncertainty over their fate has left the family angry and bitter – much like many Shiites in their neighbourhood of narrow lanes and mostly drab, one-story homes.

    Neighbourhoods like this have become the centre of the lingering protest movement against the government, places where the walls are alive with graffiti denouncing the royal family and a game of cat and mouse ensues nightly between truckloads of heavily armed riot police and stone-throwing youths.

    On a recent night, the loud booms of stun grenades mingled alongside the sounds of elderly women banging huge pots in a sign the protest was about to start.

    Drivers beeped their horns in alliance with the protesters as the acrid smell of tear gas drifted across rooftops.

    The Hubail brothers are not taking part in the protests any more and once again spend most of their days inside the family compound.

    Alaa has recently signed a deal to play for an Omani football club, but Mohammed is still searching for a team. He refused to return to his former club, Al Alhi, after they insisted he sign a statement admitting his crimes.

    Mohammed still cannot get over his treatment in prison – claiming he was blindfolded, handcuffed, kicked and beaten with hoses by the police – and is angry that neither the executives from Al Alhi nor any of his fellow players stood up for him.

    He has begun to question whether he will ever play football again.

    Even if the charges are dropped and the national team offers him a spot, Mohammed Hubail is not sure he wants to wear Bahrain’s red and white jersey.

    “Sure, I want to play. But first we need a solution to all of this,” he said.

    “I need to know what is going to happen to me. For our community, the nation, how long are we going to be like this?”


  3. On Bahrain:

    On 28 August the doctors and their families went to the military court for the fourth session of their case, but it was simply adjourned to 9 September. The lawyers requested that the medics be released on bail, but this was refused. At the next session they will hear from the witnesses for the defence. All the doctors and nurses are on hunger strike as from the first day of Eid al-Fitr in protest at their unlawful detention and trial in military courts. Their demands are: immediate release, fair trial in a civilian court with the presence of the human rights committee, and a repeat of their interrogation in front of the defence lawyers. It’s time for the British government to stop being “concerned” and to act before one of these brave people dies.

    Janet Salmon

    Richmond, Surrey


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