Bahraini human rights activist speaks

This video is called The Importance of Standing Up For Human Rights: Maryam Alkhawaja at TEDxSOAS.

From in the USA:

Activist spreads word of Bahrain abuse

Exiled Bahraini speaks of human rights issues

By Mohammed Jamjoom CNN

POSTED: 03:03 AM MDT Aug 25, 2013 UPDATED: 06:48 AM MDT Aug 25, 2013

BEIRUT, Lebanon –

Inside a half-empty lecture hall at the American University of Beirut, Maryam Alkhawaja explains her cause.

“The thing about Bahrain is that nobody really knows what’s going on there because there’s not much media coverage,” Alkhawaja said during a recent visit. “But the protests never stopped.”

At just 26, the young woman is already one of her country’s most outspoken rights activists, and she’s on a mission: to make sure “that people across the world, not just the Arab world, across the world, are hearing about what’s going on the ground.”

To carry out that mission, Alkhawaja — who has dual Bahraini and Danish citizenship, and is the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights — lives in exile and travels the world explaining how her people are oppressed.

Back in the auditorium, her audience is small, but extremely attentive.

“Every single day,” Alkhawaja says, “between 15 to 25 different areas come out to protest in Bahrain. Every single day.”

Those demonstrations began in February 2011, at the height of the Arab Spring. Bahraini citizens, spurred by successful uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, demanded democratic reforms and other changes in the way the country was run.

Anger from the majority Shiite population was directed at the ruling Sunni minority.

But Bahrain’s uprising failed to gain the traction of other regional revolutions after a crackdown by authorities in the tiny island state, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Demonstrators say authorities killed dozens of people and arrested, tortured and imprisoned hundreds of others. Opposition leaders have tried to keep the protest movement alive.

For Alkhawaja, the cause continues. She says her countrymen and women will not be silenced, despite the odds they face.

“When you’re talking about human rights, it’s black and white,” she says. “There’s no excuse for committing human rights violations.”

Alkhawaja accuses Bahrain’s government of committing violations on a daily basis, and says her organization exists in part to document those abuses.

The government denies the claims, saying it has implemented tough penalties for those who incite what it calls “terrorism.” …

This kind of sparring is nothing new to Alkhawaja, who was literally born into this line of work.

She comes from a well-known family of dissidents. Her father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in anti-government demonstrations and plotting to overthrow the country’s royal family. Many rights groups have called him a prisoner of conscience.

Her sister, Zainab Alkhawaja, is also a very prominent rights activist, and also currently locked up — having been sentenced to prison for, among other things, insulting the police.

It can all get to be too much, which is why Alkhawaja says she has to detach.

“Part of doing this work is teaching yourself to depersonalize all of the cases that you deal with,” she explains. “When I talk about Abdulhadi Alkhawaja the political prisoner and the torture victim, or the torture survivor, I don’t talk about Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, my father, who I shared my childhood with — I talk about Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, the person who is known to Bahrain and is known to the cause.”

“When I talk about Zainab Alkhawaja, you know, being separated from her three-year-old child, I’m not talking about my sister and my niece,” adds Alkhawaja. “I’m talking about Zainab Alkhawaja the Bahraini citizen.”

Over the past two years, Alkhawaja has become somewhat of a celebrity in the world of human rights activism, and not just in Bahrain.

Regularly invited to conferences around the world, she finds her platform growing every day — with more than 94,000 Twitter followers. She was even named one of Foreign Policy Magazine‘s Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2012.

She seems happy to address anyone willing to listen. Still, she says, it’s never easy.

“The thing with being a human rights defender is that it’s always accompanied with guilt because no matter what you do, you feel you’re not doing enough.”

Which is why Alkhawaja is always connected — either online or on her phone, no matter where she goes — reviewing claims, making cases, tweeting updates.

She was in Lebanon for only a few days, but never stopped addressing audiences both digital and physical, large and small, urging the world to listen to the stories of the oppressed, one voice at a time.

This video from Pakistan says about itself:

Millat-e-Jaffaria Pakistan … rally to support Bahraini people on 1st May 2011

Thousands of people on Sunday marched at M.A. Jinnah Road, an important street of Karachi against the Saudi-Wahabi’s intervention in Bahrain. The marchers condemned the killing of innocent people of Bahrain by the Wahabi forces of Saudi Arabia.

From Tanqeed magazine in Pakistan:

Pakistani Mercenaries Arrive in Bahrain

Aug 2013

By Vijay Prashad

News comes from Bahrain that a detachment of Jordanian troops has arrived in Manama to work alongside Bahraini forces. They plan to quell the Tamarod movement, which takes to the streets on August 14, the 42nd anniversary of Bahrain’s independence from Britain.

It is also one more bout in the long-running campaign for political rights in a principality run, since 1783, by the House of al-Khalifa. Generations have taken to the streets on behalf of liberal rights and political rights, having won for themselves two constitutions (1973 and 2002) that guaranteed a National Assembly. These promises have come to naught, as the al-Khalifa regime holds fast to its feudal prerogatives, untouched by a century of British rule and by a half century of the presence of a mammoth US base in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. In February 2011, as part of the Arab Spring, unrest took hold of Bahrain. It was crushed, once more with help from outside – not only the Bahraini forces but also the Jazeera force of the Gulf Cooperation Council (mainly Saudi troops with mercenaries from elsewhere).

It is in mind of these mercenaries that I write my short note. In 2011, al-Jazeera’s Mujib Mashal reported the presence of as many as three thousand Pakistani troops in the Bahrain armed forces, including the National Guard and the Special Forces.

Bahrain’s own troops number only twelve thousand, with a twelve hundred body National Guard. The Pakistani detachment is a significant emolument for the Bahrain troops. Today, Manama Voice reports that amongst the Jordanian troops that have arrived in the capital, a significant number are once more Pakistanis. This is not the first time Pakistani troops have been involved in the internal struggles in the Arab world – most spectacularly, it was Brigadier Zia ul-Haq, as a “trainer” from the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), who led the 40th armored brigade of the 2nd Division of the Jordanian armed forces to crush the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and to hold off a Syrian attack in northern Jordan. A proper study is needed of the role of Brigadier Zia in these battles. What is clear is that his is the antecedent for the current role of Pakistani mercenaries in Bahrain, poised to crack down on the protesters.

Tragically, the regime in Bahrain has depicted the democracy struggle as a Shia-Sunni battle, with al-Khalifa as the shield of the Sunnis and the al-Wefaq party as the political device not only of the Shias but also of Iranian interference in the Arabian Peninsula. This is a corruption of the facts on the ground. From the first protests in February of 2011, the crowds chanted, “No Sunni, No Shia. We are one.” Bahrain’s feudal regime has, however, played up the Shia-Sunni divide. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, it used a general religiosity to cut down the rise of Nasserite and Communist groups such as the widely successful National Union Committee and the National Liberation Front. The March Intifada of 1965 was the high-point of this left-wing thrust. …

It is a cruel act of history that al-Khalifa turns to Pakistani troops at the time when a widening anti-Shia tendency opens up in Pakistan, with the attacks on Shia shrines and on Shia places of gathering. It provides fertile ground for a regime that wants to attract this anti-Shia thrust, properly fierce in its crackdown against what the regime depicts as a Shia political uprising. Or at least that’s the plan.

The other great irony is that Pakistan and Bahrain share an independence day. It is today, August 14 that the Pakistani troops will oil their guns and march out near the Pearl Monument to fire at Bahraini protesters. One hopes that a splinter of patriotism for their own August 14 would still the hands of the troops. One hopes that the sounds of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’ admonishment to monarchs will ring out in their ears:

sab taaj uchhaale jaayenge
sab takht giraaye jaayenge

Vijay Prashad is the Edward Said Chair at the American University of Beirut. He is the author of Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, 2012) and the co-editor, with Madiha Tahir and Qalandar Memon of Dispatches from Pakistan (LeftWord, 2012).

The translation of the two lines quoted from the poem in Urdu by Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz is:

All crowns shall be tossed
All thrones toppled

As Egypt’s Tamarod (Rebel) campaign spreads to the Arab world, a closer look reveals their nuances, each reflecting its own political grievances: here.

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