Anti-women Bahrain regime getting United States weapons again

This video says about itself:

‘Hundreds in jail for exercising their human rights in Bahrain

1 September 2014

A prominent human rights activist, Maryam Al-Khawaja, was arrested shortly after arriving in Bahrain to check on her father, who is hunger striking in prison along with thousands of sentenced activists, a key opposition figure, Nabeel Rajab, told RT.

From Bloomberg news agency in the USA:

U.S. Moves to Lift Bahrain Arms Ban

June 15, 2015 6:00 AM EDT

By Josh Rogin

During a meeting in Paris last month, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised the foreign minister of Bahrain that the U.S. would work to lift its four-year ban on delivering weapons to the Gulf kingdom, imposed because of Bahrain’s brutal crackdown on protesters, activists and political opponents that began during the Arab Spring of 2011 and continues to this day.

The problem with Kerry’s promise — which has not been previously reported — was that he was speaking extemporaneously, four senior administration officials involved in the issue told me. The actual inter-agency decision to scuttle the weapons ban had not been made. U.S. and Bahraini officials have been holding secret negotiations to come to such a new arrangement. U.S. negotiators are now operating with the understanding that lifting the weapons ban is a commitment that Kerry made, and one the U.S. government is working hard to fulfill.

Unlike with previous U.S. government discussions over what to do about Bahrain’s human rights abuses, this time President Barack Obama’s team has not consulted Congress. I caught up with Senator Ron Wyden, who along with Senators Marco Rubio and Patrick Leahy has been pressing the administration to maintain the ban until Bahrain showed more progress on civil rights. Wyden was surprised when I told him the weapons ban could be ending.

“I would have significant concerns about lifting arms sales restrictions to Bahrain. U.S. arms sales should not be aiding and abetting the suppression of peaceful dissent abroad,” Wyden told me. “The State Department‘s own Human Rights reports detail widespread political repression that must be addressed before it considers lifting this ban.”

Earlier this year, Wyden, Rubio and Leahy sent a letter to the State Department urging it to keep the embargo, which was imposed in 2011. At that time, Bahrain was lobbying Congress to lift the weapons ban, with the help of the law firm DLA Piper. The State Department assured the senators that no change was imminent. Now, State Department spokesman Edgar Vasquez confirmed that the negotiations are taking place.

“The issue remains under review, but we have made no decision at this time to resume the shipment of restricted items,” he said.

One senior administration official told me that the White House ultimately has to sign off on any decision to lift the ban. He clarified that the current negotiations are to lift the ban on foreign financing to Bahrain’s military, not to the ministry of interior, which is implicated in most of the human rights abuses. There will be some terms intended to assure that Bahrain continues its path toward reform and makes efforts to reduce the repression of those who oppose the kingdom’s policies.

The reasons for the shift in administration thinking are easy to understand. It has pledged to expedite arms sales to members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, to mollify concerns about the pending nuclear deal between six global powers and Iran. The U.S. is also calling on Arab Gulf states to increase their commitment to fight the Islamic State, and Bahrain is a junior member of the coalition striking the jihadists inside Iraq and Syria. It is also home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“Whether we reach a nuclear deal or not with Iran, we’re still going to face a range of threats across the region, including its destabilizing activities, as well as the threat from terrorist groups,” Obama said at a press conference at Camp David after meeting with Gulf leaders last month. “And so a key purpose of bolstering the capacity of our GCC partners is to ensure that our partners can deal with Iran politically, diplomatically, from a position of confidence and strength.”

The catch is, many of the weapons that the Bahraini military is seeking for “external defense” can be used to suppress internal dissent as well. In addition to F-16 fighter planes, items that have been held back include Humvees, small arms, ammunition and tear gasaccording to the Congressional Research Service. The U.S. imposed addition restrictions last year when the Bahraini regime expelled Tom Malinowski, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights, democracy and labor, for trying to meet with opposition leaders. Some weapons, such as equipment for Bahrain’s coast guard, have continued to flow during the ban.

The embargo was imposed by the administration, not codified in law, so the administration can lift it without congressional consent. Congress could pass a law to prevent the arms sales, but previous efforts were not successful. Still, lawmakers and democracy advocates maintain that Bahrain’s actions since the 2011 uprising began don’t justify any loosening of the restrictions.

A 500-plus-page report by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, set up to investigate abuses by the government following the 2011 unrest, found there was “systematic” and “deliberate” use of excessive force, including torture and forced confessions. GCC military forces were implicated in the abuses, and contrary to the regime’s claims, there was never any evidence to link the protests to interference by Iran.

The inquiry’s report laid out 26 specific recommendations for Bahraini government reform. The State Department, in a 2013 report, stated that Bahrain had fulfilled only five of them. Rubio inserted an amendment into next year’s defense policy bill mandating that the administration compile a new report on Bahrain’s progress.

While Obama administration officials insist that Bahrain has taken some steps in the right direction, a number of experts argue that the regime has actually backslid. They point to the imprisonment of leading opposition figures, including Nabeel Rajab and Sheikh Ali Salman, both jailed on charges related to speaking out against the government.

“The message is clear — the Bahraini government feels confident it can rule with an iron fist without any consequences from the international community,” said Cole Bockenfeld, advocacy director at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “Reforms have clearly not happened, and releasing the arms now would only reinforce the widespread perception that the U.S. isn’t serious about holding its allies accountable on reform.”

The movement toward easing the pressure on Bahrain matches other U.S. shifts in the region. Restrictions on military aid to Egypt, imposed after the military coup in 2013, have largely been set aside, with the support of many in Congress. There’s a feeling inside the administration and in Congress that weapons bans have not changed the behavior of regimes that reacted brutally during the Arab Spring. Now that those revolutions have largely failed, the argument goes, punitive measures yield little benefit.

But the U.S. government’s reversion to a policy that prioritizes stability in the Gulf over the defense of human rights and universal values is shortsighted. It undermines Obama’s high-minded rhetoric on supporting U.S. values abroad. When the next wave of popular demand for dignity and self-determination comes to that region — and it certainly will — the U.S. will probably have far less leverage and credibility with which to support it.

By Lizabeth Paulat:

Bahrain Tells Women to Stay Away From Mosques

June 14, 2015

4:00 am

Women in Bahrain have been banned from attending prayer at their mosques after the second Islamic State (IS) attack in Saudi Arabia within a month. But wait, you might be wondering, why would women in Bahrain be penalized for something a terrorist organization did in another country? Well, apparently one of the suicide bombers disguised himself as a woman before detonating his explosives. Because Bahrain also feels vulnerable, they have now commanded women to stay away from their place of worship.

The Bahraini government has stated this measure is meant to protect all citizens of the country, including women. They also say that because women’s clothing makes them hard to “check” that it’s just easier for them to avoid prayers. This new rule, which is being enforced by Chairman Shaikh Mohsen Al Asfoor, is curious for a number of reasons.

First, only one suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia dressed as a woman. The other bomber, who was far more successful with his mission (killing 21 rather than 3) dressed in normal male clothes. So why not ban both men and women? In addition, the Islamic State is well known for their attacks on anyone who deviates from their severe interpretation of Islam. Yet Christian women have not been stopped from worshiping in the nation’s churches. This rule only extends to Muslim women.

The nation’s religious scholars have given the green light to the ban, saying, “The problem is that these radical men disguise themselves as women by wearing abayas as no one will check them and blow themselves up in the mosques. I will speak to other Sunni clerics to encourage women to pray at home and not in mosques until the situation improves.”

Blaming or punishing women for culturally mandated clothing being a ‘danger’ is at best an ineffective deterrent. Not only does the danger of a terrorist attack never fully go away, but banning women violates major religious and human rights tenets.

In Islam, a woman is absolutely allowed to visit a mosque, and to deny someone their right to visit a place of worship is unlawful within Islam. “Who is more unjust than the one who prevents (people) from the Mosques of Allah” is clearly written in 2:114 of the Qur’an. Further phraseology both in the Qur’an and the Hadith (sayings of the Prophet) are extremely clear about a woman’s right to visit the mosque, all concluding that it is unlawful for a man to prevent a woman from attending her house of worship.

There is one Hadith, commonly cited by sexists within the Muslim world, which tells of the Prophet saying that, “It is more excellent for a woman to pray in her house than in her courtyard, and more excellent for her to pray in her private chamber than in her house.” However, this “saying” was made directly in response to a woman with a newborn asking if she’d get the same amount of “blessings” from praying at home as she would when going to the mosque. Within context, it seems more of an extension for stay at home mothers, rather than a condemnation of women going out to pray.

Depriving women of their right to worship is also contradictory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It also flies in the face of the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

The banning of women from the mosque in Bahrain likely won’t last long. Yet for many Muslim women, who often see the government infringe on their personal and religious rights under the guise of ‘protection,’ it’s little consolation that their freedoms will only be interrupted for a ‘while.’

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said his office has received reports of dozens of prisoners facing torture and ill-treatment in Bahrain’s Jaw Prison. Zeid raised concern about the prison during his speech at the UN Human Rights Council’s 29 session. In March of this year the prison saw a wide and horrific crackdown on inmates and which included severe beatings, insults, degrading treatment and denial from medical treatment and basic rights such as sanitation. “All those detained in relation to their peaceful actions should be released”, the high commissioner said, calling for an investigation into the human rights abuses in Bahrain: here.

Bahrain opposition leader jailed for four years day after UK minister ‘opens’ Royal Navy base in the kingdom: here.

New UK-Bahrain naval base takes colonial-era name. Opposition activists have criticised the construction, a week after opposition leader jailed for four years. See more here.

On Friday, June 19, Ebrahim Sharif, leader of Bahraini liberal secular group Waad, was released from prison. His release has been hailed as an important step for Bahrain, where the Kingdom’s failure to reform since widespread pro-democracy protests broke out in February 2011 has resulted in years of instability. Sharif was tortured and convicted by a military court in 2011 with other peaceful opposition leaders in a violent government response to calls for reform. He was sentenced to five years in jail. A major international campaign has since called for his release, as well as the release of the dozen major figures jailed with him. Sharif’s release came just days after the prominent leader of Bahrain’s main opposition group al Wefaq was sentenced to four years in prison.

Bahrain: Publication of an International Mission Report: Imprisonment, torture and statelessness: The darkening reality of human rights defenders in Bahrain: here.

June 25, 2015. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today urged the State Department not to allow certain arms sales to Bahrain until the Persian Gulf nation makes major improvements on human rights: here.

14 thoughts on “Anti-women Bahrain regime getting United States weapons again

  1. U.S. Arms sales, since WWII, have overridden any humanitarian concerns. Kerry and Obama will roll over and make the deal. If not they risk retaliation from US arms suppliers.


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