Torture, not Olympics, for Bahraini athletes


This video is called ESPN E: 60 Athletes of Bahrain.

Not only for Saudi Arabian women will there be no 2012 London Olympics

By Diana Sayed, of Human Rights Defenders:

London 2012 Calling: But Not for Bahraini Athletes

6-19-2012

To say that Bahrain has had a tumultuous year is an understatement. Since protests first broke out on February 14, 2011, Bahrain has come under increased international scrutiny for the ruling family’s brutal response to peaceful demonstrations. The crackdown has altered—and sometimes ended—the lives of a wide range of activists and citizens. Last week, for example, a court upheld the guilty verdicts of eleven of the twenty prominent medics arrested for treating protesters.

Now, just weeks from the London Olympics, another group of Bahrainis faces an uncertain future: athletes.

Their saga began on February 21 of last year as thousands gathered at the Pearl Roundabout for peaceful protests – among them, hundreds of athletes. No one expected them to be targeted since they had helped raise Bahrain’s international profile. But they were not immune.

Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, is president of the Bahrain Olympic Committee and will be attending the London Games. After the protests, Sheikh Nasser went on TV and called for “a wall to fall on the heads” of all those who demonstrated. He then headed a committee that targeted 150 athletes and sports officials, including a disabled athlete. All this was captured on ESPN’s documentary ’60 Athletes of Bahrain’.

Then, the arrests began.

Over 150 athletes, coaches and referees 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. Their crime? Peacefully calling for democratic reform. Of those imprisoned, many were tortured. Eight of the most prominent athletes were jailed, beaten, and charged with being agents of Iran or Hizbollah. They were given an unfair trial in a military court and sentenced to between two to twenty years in prison. It wasn’t until the end of June 2011, when FIFA threatened to freeze Bahrain’s membership, that many of the athletes were released. The government also fined a half-dozen football clubs US$20,000 each and suspended them from the league.

The most famous of the persecuted athletes are two national football team players, the brothers A’ala and Mohammed Hubail, who were jailed and prosecuted. Mohammed was sentenced to two years in prison. Football, by far the most popular sport in the Kingdom, is their passion. “Football is our life, the third thing after water, after food,” said their father, Ahmed Hubail to the Associated Press.

They were left off list for the team’s 2014 World Cup qualifiers, although Peter Taylor, the English coach, has said he would not rule out adding them at some point. Even if the charges are dropped and the national team offers him a spot, Mohammed Hubail is not sure he would wear Bahrain’s red and white jersey: “Sure, I want to play,” he told the AP. “But first we need a solution to all of this. 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?”

Several athletes remain in jail, including brothers Mohammed and Ali Mirza, who played for the national handball team that went to the 2011 World Cup in January, as well as the 16-year-old Iraqi footballer, Zulfiqar Naji. Many others are in legal limbo as they wait for their trials to resume. Prohibited from returning to their government jobs, they are running out of money and struggling to support their families.

The Olympic Charter declares that “The goal of Olympism is to place sport at the service of the harmonious development of humankind, with a view to promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity,” and that “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”

It’s hard to see how the Olympic community can welcome Sheikh Nasser. His persecution of athletes is surely not in the Olympic spirit.

Bahrain riot police block demonstration on eve of 11-year-old’s trial: photo here.

Bahraini jailed for blogging: here.

24 thoughts on “Torture, not Olympics, for Bahraini athletes

  1. Pingback: Bahrain dictatorship’s Internet crackdown | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Bahrain, modern slave trade center | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Londoners against Olympic missiles | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: Bahraini torture prince to Olympics, British weapons to Bahrain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: Bahrain torture of doctors | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Athletes-torturing Bahraini prince and Paralympics | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  7. Pingback: Bahrain dictatorship’s British government supporters | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  8. Pingback: Leeds United, from football to Bahrain dictatorship propaganda | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  9. Pingback: Bahrain football corruption? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  10. Pingback: Bahraini torture prince in Qatar football World Cup scandal | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  11. Pingback: Bahraini torture princes in Florida IronMan | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  12. Pingback: Bahrain dictatorship arrests athletes again | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  13. Pingback: Bahraini torture prince at Oxford university | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  14. Pingback: Bahraini torture prince investigated by British police? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  15. Pingback: King of Bahrain sends his torturing sons to Yemen war | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  16. Pingback: Bahrain human rights and football update | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  17. Pingback: Bahrain, torture and football update | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  18. Pingback: Bahrain, football, torture and Britain | Dear Kitty. Some blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.