Bahrain human rights woman interviewed


This video is called Huge anti-governmental march during F1 in Bahrain.

From Deutsche Welle in Germany:

21.12.2012

Author Reese Erlich, Manama / cg …

Jihan Kazerooni sits down on a comfortable chair in her large living room in an upscale neighborhood of Manama, the capital of Bahrain. She explains how she got involved in her country‘s Arab Spring uprising.

“When the revolution started on February 14 last year, I wasn’t a participant,” she says. “I was a government supporter, because I didn’t know we had poor people in Bahrain.”

Kazerooni was an investment banker who drove a Lexus and came from an elite family. She is a Shiite Muslim. Most Shiites in Bahrain supported the Arab Spring opposition movement. But Kazerooni’s class background played a much more important role in her initial reaction to the pro-democracy protests than her religious affiliation.

“I believed Bahrain TV that the demonstrators had weapons and they took blood bags from the hospital and poured it on themselves as propaganda,” she said. “One day I took it upon myself to discover what’s going on.”

She visited Pearl Square, the center of protest. It was packed with tens of thousands of Bahrainis – Shiite and Sunni.

“When I reached [Pearl Square], I saw something I would remember for the rest of my life,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep for three days. I saw the police attacking the protestors, unarmed people.”

Within days Kazerooni went from arranging corporate financing to promoting human rights. She became a researcher at the Bahrain Center on Human Rights, the country’s leading human rights organization.

Divide-and-rule tactics?

Kazerooni recalls the solidarity of Sunni and Shiite in those early demonstrations. But since then, she says, the government has worked hard to divide the country along sectarian lines in order to weaken the opposition.

Many Sunnis know the government is a corrupt dictatorship but fear a Shiite takeover even more, according to Farida Ghulam, a leader in Waad, a center-left opposition party. The government has convinced them that the Shiites are determined to create an Iranian-style religious state.

Farida Ghulam Ghulam compares the situation in Bahrain today to the US in the 1950s.

Ghulam said the government has fostered an atmosphere in which Sunnis don’t trust even their old, Shiite friends. “They forgot they were neighbors,” she said, “and denounced them for supporting the opposition. It’s like McCarthyism in the US.”

Ali Salman, head of Al Wefaq Islamic Society, the largest opposition group in Bahrain, acknowledges prejudices on both sides. He blames the monarchy for using clever, divide-and-rule tactics.

“The government told us to hate the Sunnis,” he said, “especially the Moslem Brotherhood and the Salafis,” groups with sharply conservative views on politics and religion. “Meanwhile the government tells the secular opposition that Al Wefaq is hopelessly backward.”

With each group distrusting the other, said Salman, “their only connection can be with the royal family.” …

But Wefaq leader Salman doesn’t consider the current Iranian government a model for Bahrain. He said Iran’s system is far from perfect.

“My opinion is that more freedom would be better in Iran,” he said. …

Newly minted human rights activist Jihan Kazerooni does what she can to bridge the Sunni-Shiite divide. She helped found BRAVO, the Bahrain Rehabilitation and Anti-Violence Organization.

“We concentrate now on rehabilitating torture victims, physically and psycholog[icall]y,” she said.

BRAVO treats Sunni and Shiite without discrimination. Helping such victims is Kazerooni’s way of overcoming religious divisions and building a new, non-sectarian Bahrain.

The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting provided a grant for Reese Erlich’s coverage of Bahrain.

18 thoughts on “Bahrain human rights woman interviewed

  1. Protests Shake Bahrain’s City PDF Imprimir E-Mail

    Manama, Dec 23 (Prensa Latina) Bahraini opponents who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al Khalifa, clashed with police forces in the city of Diya, witnesses stated today.

    According to sources, thousands of people marched chanting slogans calling for the resignation of the head of government and the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

    Popular protests in the kingdom, led by members of the majority Shiite community, began in early 2011 and since then at least 80 people have died in clashes with police and troops sent by Saudi Arabia to quell opposition outbreaks, according to statistics.

    On Monday this capital was the scene of marches called by the Al Wefaq party (Arabic acronym of National Islamic Society) which demanded the formation of a technocrat cabinet to face the dire economic situation and the dismissal of the Prime Minister, who holds the office since 1974.

    The opposition also demands the release of their leaders and doctors and nurses sentenced to severe penalties for treating the wounded in clashes with police during demonstrations.

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  6. January 2, 2013 5:24 pm

    Bahrain professionals aid protesters

    By Roula Khalaf in Manama

    Jihan Kazeerooni never saw herself as a political activist. When Bahrain’s Shia uprising erupted in February 2011, the 34-year-old banker looked on, as if the outpouring of anger was of little concern to her.

    Though a Shia herself, she came from a wealthy family and supported a monarchy drawn from the Sunni minority.

    But then an attack on protesters camped out on a roundabout in Manama , the island state’s capital, changed her life.

    “I didn’t know what it was like for poor people. But I went to see the truth for myself and I saw innocent people being attacked,” she recalls. “It was a turning point for me.”

    Today, Ms Kazeerooni is a human-rights activist, a founder of a rehabilitation and anti-violence organisation that she set up with a group of doctors and lawyers. She is part of an army of young people, many working underground, who try to maintain pressure on the government by documenting abuses.

    Many of the youth still hold regular jobs by day. They are bankers, analysts, technology experts. By night, however, they are the witnesses to a revolt that they say the world has tried to forget.

    Since Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family called on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf neighbours for help in March 2011, security forces have kept protesters away from Manama. As an eerie calm has been restored to the capital, pressure has eased on the rulers of the island of 1.2m people, which is an important US ally.

    But a short drive from Manama, in the Shia villages ringing the capital, the peaceful image is quickly betrayed. Protests erupt frequently, walls are painted with graffiti calling for the downfall of the al-Khalifas and roads are blocked by trees used by residents as barricades to prevent security raids. Opposition politicians say one village was stormed by police more than 300 times in just over a month, with some houses raided several times the same night.

    “People now are past the shock of last year and are more ready to accept that this crisis is here for a long time,” says 27-year-old Mohamed Hassan, an activist who works at a bank. “But hope is fading for a lot of people so they tend towards more extreme solutions.”

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