This video shows an interview with Nabeel Rajab, a Bahraini human rights activist, conducted at his home on July 9, shortly before he was arrested for criticizing the country’s prime minister on Twitter.
From the Huffington Post in the USA:
Posted: 08/20/2012 7:46 pm Updated: 08/20/2012 10:53 pm
WASHINGTON — A spate of anti-democratic actions in the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain have turned an unflattering spotlight on a six-year-old U.S. free trade agreement sponsored and promoted by Rep. Paul Ryan, the Republican candidate for vice president.
Ryan was the House GOP point man for the Bahrain-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which Congress passed by a wide margin in 2005. By finalizing the deal, Bahrain landed the biggest prize in global economics: unfettered access to American consumers, the largest market in the world.
In return, the oil-rich kingdom agreed to reform labor practices and improve conditions for workers. Ryan and foreign policy leaders said they hoped an economic relationship would help stabilize the Middle East by spurring democratic reforms and improving the region’s human rights record. The 9/11 Commission also said trade deals may improve counter-terrorism operations in Bahrain.
“It’s the carrot approach,” Ryan said in 2009, explaining a positive way to encourage a change in behavior, rather than relying exclusively on punitive or military measures. “This is a way to help expand democratic capitalism, because through each of these trade agreements we require things like the rule of law and forcible contracts, women’s rights, advancements towards openness, transparency and democracy.”
But the hoped-for reforms never materialized. And rather than help change Bahrain for the better, the trade pact is making it difficult for the U.S. to discourage recent misbehavior.
In recent years, Bahrain has repeatedly resorted to brutal tactics to put down a democratic uprising in the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring. Numerous accounts said the regime imprisoned and tortured doctors who had treated protesters.
The trade pact with Bahrain not only took a powerful economic carrot off the foreign policy table, it also eliminated a critical economic stick. Any economic sanctions that the U.S. might seek to impose on Bahrain would violate the terms of the trade deal.
“We know that free trade agreements lead to offshoring and job loss to the detriment of middle-class American families,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) “What may be less known by the American public is that these agreements, supported by the Romney-Ryan ticket, allow global institutions to impede our ability to exert economic leverage over nations with whom we sign FTAs when they do not play by the rules, or act against U.S. interest. In the case of Bahrain, rather than any move toward democracy, we are witnessing gross human rights abuses, including against workers’ rights, with little leverage to change the regime’s behavior.”
Ryan declined to comment.
Breaking the deal and imposing economic sanctions for Bahrain, ironically, could subject the U.S. to retaliatory trade sanctions.
“A lot of times people just say, ‘Free trade breeds democracy, we don’t have to worry about it beyond that.’ And our view is, Where is the evidence for that?” said Celeste Drake, an international trade specialist at the AFL-CIO, which fought the Bahrain deal — as it does most free-trade agreements — and still opposes it. “Often all you’ve done is limited the scope of the how you can try to persuade a country to change its ways.”
Organized labor has been particularly aggrieved with the Bahrain free-trade agreement. A labor dispute filed last year by the AFL-CIO and others accused the kingdom of violating the labor protections of the Bahrain free-trade deal.
Meanwhile, another Republican Congressman, Todd Akin, is in trouble about his stupid misogynistic views on rape.
Romney, Ryan and Rape: A Todd Akin Special Delivery: here.
Human Rights Defender Profile: Ahlam Oun from Bahrain: here.
Human Rights Defender Profile: Mohammed al-Maskati of Bahrain: here.