Bahrain, Kuwait monarchies oppress opposition


This video says about itself:

Kingdoms of Loathing: Kuwait & Bahrain step up crackdown on opposition

Published on Feb 5, 2013

The Gulf kingdoms of Bahrain and Kuwait are seeing fresh public outcries against the country’s unelected rulers, who have been stepping up their crackdowns on dissent for the last 2 years. Calls for more rights and democracy are increasingly met with arrests and brutal force, as the conservative monarchs refuse to concede. While the West is accused of turning a blind eye to violations by its key Arab allies, as Lucy Kafanov reports.

Saudi Arabia birdwatching


By Robert Tovey:

Feb 05, 2013

On Thursday, after visiting the Kararah lake area, our birding party doubled back away towards Riyadh on the Mecca road before turning off north west. This was on route 505 according to the map but route 902 according to the road sign.

This is an occupational hazard in Saudi Arabia, road sign numbers and map numbers often don’t agree.

The aim was to use a road (route 505) on the plain which ran parallel with the Tuwaiq escarpment and to come off this road from time to time to visit the foothills of the escarpment.

Desert lark

Desert lark

In the back of my mind was the possibility that we might finally see two of my nemesis birds – and hooded wheatear. Both have been reported as rare around the escarpment but not reported at all in other parts of central Saudi Arabia.

Egyptian vulture is relatively common in the west and hooded wheatear in the far north west of the country but both are very rare near Riyadh.

We chose to come off the main road and head to the escarpment at Dhurma and we found an excellent side road to do so.

100 metres before the slope we had to get out and walk down a shallow wadi because the road came to an end.

It didn’t look that promising at first, only desert lark and white crowned wheatear to see.

White crowned wheatear

White crowned wheatear

We noticed three dead camels which in retrospective were a clue to what happened later. At the time I didn’t think it was anything special because the whole frontage of the escarpment on the plain was scattered with camel herds and presumably the occasional carcass.

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

Three dead camels. Photo taken by George Darley-Doran

We stopped, watched and listened once we were close to the slopes. We could hear and see white spectacled bulbul (a.k.a ) and then we noticed a wave or two of birds of prey flying in various directions above the escarpment. The time was about 11 am and the air had warmed up making flying easier for these types of bird.

Adult steppe eagle

Adult

We were given an aerial display by four or five steppe eagle. A fan tailed raven also made an appearance.

Three steppe eagle of varying ages

However, I spotted a single unknown bird which returned a few minutes later as part of a group of three.

Griffon vulture

Almost unbelievably they were all griffon vulture. We came in search of Egyptian vulture and in return we saw the much less likely griffon vulture. Unfortunately, the pictures are poor as they flew high and fast but have nevertheless been verified by an expert.

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Second picture of Griffon vulture

Griffon vulture hold wide territories but we also can’t rule out that they were all wintering birds. The map in the Helms guide for the Middle East does show them reaching the western side of the Tuwaiq escarpment in places as the eastern limit of their residential range. However, what I also know is they have been very rarely recorded around Riyadh.

I am pretty sure the dead carcasses seen and presumably others in the plain next to the escarpment are important factors in why we found the vultures.

Resting steppe eagle at "the edge of the world"

Resting steppe eagle at “the edge of the world”

The rest of the day was an anti-climax. We drove on into more desolate areas but with little reward.

It had been a speculative day that is to say one where we drive into new areas with no known previous birding and so not knowing what to expect. It turned out to be worth the eight hours of relatively low key activity for the 15 minutes of great excitement.

On the way back and near sunset we stopped off on the top of the escarpment at the place known as “the edge of the world” A lone steppe eagle was perched on a pylon to greet us.

A list of Thursday’s birds has been compiled by Lou Regensmorter:

Eurasian Griffon Vulture (new to my Saudi list and species number 261) teppe Eagle Desert Lark Common Kestrel Pale Crag Martin Laughing Dove Scrub Warbler Eurasian Collared Dove Asian Namaqua Dove Pallid Swift Hoopoe White-crowned Wheatear Little Green Bee-eater Blackstart House Sparrow Fan-tailed Raven Spanish Sparrow White-spectacled Bulbul Tawny Pipit Greater Hoopoe Lark

Rob Tovey

About Robert Tovey

Dr is a scientist by training and more recently an English teacher. His profession allows him to travel to some of the more difficult-to-get-to places and stay there for years if his inclination takes him. He is a keen bird watcher, blogger and amateur photographer. He has worked in Azerbaijan and Libya and is currently in Saudi Arabia. Rob also has a base in Bulgaria so overall is becoming a bit of birding specialist in very general terms where East meets West.

Bahrain dictatorship on film


This video from Bahrain is called Free Nabeel Rajab now.

By Alastair Lewis:

Bahrain: The Forbidden Country

January 18th, 2013

On a dusty football pitch in Bahrain, a convoy – or rather, a pack – of police 4x4s screeched into the crowd that had gathered there, scattering panicking protesters. As they circled at high speed, passing through the crowd, it was not clear if they were actively trying to hit the protesters, or just to scatter them, but what was clear was that it didn’t seem to matter if they did.

This footage was captured by French film-maker and journalist Stéphanie Lamorré, who travelled to the tiny Gulf Kingdom on a tourist visa, before ‘disappearing’ for a month, to live undercover and film the pro-democracy protest movement in its battle against the authorities.

Related article: Bahrain: little chance since ‘brutal crackdown’ as Formula 1 begins

To avoid the restrictions placed on journalists, the raw film had then to be smuggled across the border and ‘Fedexed to France’, according to producer Luc Hermann who introduced a special screening at the Commonwealth Club on Tuesday night.

In the resulting film, Bahrain: The Forbidden Country, Lamorré shows through interviews with three women that Bahrain’s protest movement, out of sight and, for most, out of mind since 2011, has not disappeared.  And her interviewees are difficult to dismiss as simply unthinking trouble-makers.

Zainab, daughter of the Bahraini-Danish human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja whose 110 day hunger strike brought international attention to the Bahraini struggle, spends her days meeting protesters and their families, hearing their stories and tweeting them from her ever-present Blackberry. Her nights are spent at protests.

On the day Lamorré filmed her, she spoke to the family of a 50-year-old mother who had immolated herself in desperation at continuous police raids on her family. Her blog, Angry Arabiya, contains many similar stories.

Related article: Sandhurst took £3m Bahrain gift after regime’s crackdown

Perhaps the most striking story shown in the film is that of Nada, 38, a doctor and mother of two young children who was arrested, imprisoned and claims to have been tortured for the crime of giving medical aid to protestors. An earlier shot had shown other doctors and nurses begging police to be allowed to enter their hospital to treat the wounded. Instead of being treated, the injured were arrested.

At the time of the film Nada was awaiting trial.

The death toll in Bahrain has been small  – as David Cameron says, ‘Bahrain is not Syria‘ – but, as this film graphically shows, protesters are still targeted with tear gas, rubber bullets, buck shot, and, in some cases, live ammunition. It is these protesters – who cannot go to hospital for fear of arrest – that Ouahida treats. Although not a doctor or nurse, she learned first aid, and began to travel under cover of night to treat wounds and pick out buckshot.

Related article: The inside track: how lobbyists have helped launder Bahrain’s reputation

At the end of the screening it is revealed that, just months after filming, Ouahida was seriously injured in a car crash fleeing from the police.

Bahrain, with its population of under one and a half million, its stable monarchy, and its high-income economy, rarely makes the news here.

Lamorré’s film is a welcome break to this silence.

It is available for international distribution from Premieres Lignes Television and is being shown at various film festivals. The film was part of the Centre for Investigative Journalism’s Film Week.

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Kim Kardashian, Bahrain torture, and cigarettes


This video is called Al-Khalifah’s Bahrain: shooting and torturing women and children.

By Sara Lepley in the USA:

December 4, 2012

Kardashian makes controversial visit to Bahrain

Kim Kardashian’s gushing tweets that all Americans should visit the Kingdom of Bahrain is akin to celebrities endorsing cigarettes.

Just as celebrities are not excused when promoting a cancer-causing product because they are unaware of the harmful effects of smoking, Kardashian’s ignorance cannot excuse her from promoting a country that teargases and tortures its own people.

Yet, during her recent visit to the country, she tweeted that she is “in love with the Kingdom of Bahrain,” despite news concerning the country’s crimes against humanity.

According to the Washington Post, Bahrain has ceaselessly sought “international approval and the appearance of normality.” The country has been under keen scrutiny for maliciously trespassing on basic human rights. Not only has the regime teargased any protestors calling for human rights and democracy, but it has also tortured doctors attempting to treat these victims. In fact, during Kardashian’s trip alone, fifty protestors whose signs simply read, “God is great” were teargased by the government.

Media reports describe these fifty protesters as orthodox (Sunni) Muslims. Hard-line ultra-pious Muslims, similar to the Saudi state religion, are a minority in Bahrain, often supporting the monarchy. However, the regime bans all protests, not only against its own dictatorial rule; or against the recent Gaza war; but also of fifty people exercising their right of free speech against Ms Kardashian’s choice of clothes.

Kardashian’s visit and clear approval allots Bahrain a refreshed image, portraying it as beautiful,

In Bahrain, birds, the human rights movement, and other things are beautiful. The torturing dictatorial government is not.

ignoring its violations against human rights. This not only counters international attempts to expose the true Bahrain, but also completely undermines the severe offenses against its people.

All is not lost, however. The media and the American government can use the coverage as a way to reestablish the atrocities and generate aid to the people of Bahrain.

If that would happen, then it would be an improvement indeed. But it would be against what the United States government has done so far: selling weapons to the Bahraini absolute monarchy. And against what much of the (corporate) media has done so far: taking hush money from the Bahraini regime.

Clamorous reed warblers in Bahrain


In Bahrain, there are not only clamorous royals and their propaganda lackeys, clamouring that their absolute monarchy is really a land of freedom … and clamorous political prisoners, clamouring because of being tortured … fortunately, there are clamorous reed warblers and other birds as well.

Clamorous reed warbler, photo by Jem Babbington

From Jem Babbington:

Nicole and I went ringing again at Alba Marsh on Friday morning. A very early start from Saudi Arabia to get across the causeway and to the Alba Marsh site in Bahrain by first light was undertaken and after setting the nets it became apparent there were a few more birds about than the previous week.

As it turned out we caught a few more birds also, but almost all of them were Clamorous Reed Warblers with four re-traps from 2011 or 2012 amongst them all from the same site. I like Clamorous Reed Warblers more than almost any bird we catch and it was good to catch so many in a single session with the final total being nine birds.

We also caught a single Graceful Prinia, one Red-Backed Shrike (which was a new ringing species for me) and the first returning Common Chiffchaff of the year. A few birds were seen but not caught including two Purple Herons, two Eastern Marsh Harriers and lots of waders mainly Little Stint, Common Greenshank and Common Redshank.

We met a local hunter who had killed a Eurasian Teal and had a beautiful juvenile Gyr Falcon in his car which he said he was training to hunt.

Bird poaching in Lebanon


Sad, after this good bird news from Lebanon … to have to read and see this.

Lebanon poacher with dead white stork

From Wildlife Extra, with more horrible photos there:

Birds massacred in Lebanon – Unfettered hunting a disgrace

Birds of all shapes and sizes killed in their thousands – Our thanks to the Lebanon Eco Movement for their help with this article.

November 2012. We have been contacted by someone from Lebanon who wants to highlight the terrible situation there, where birds are shot indiscriminately in there thousands. As Lebanon is at the cross roads between Europe, Asia and Africa, many of the birds are killed while migrating to and from their breeding grounds.

Hunting in Lebanon banned in 1995

The environmental situation in Lebanon is very chaotic. Hunting was banned by a law issued in 1995, and this law is still in force, though almost totally ignored. A new hunting law was agreed in 2004, but has never been implemeneted. There is no enforcement of this law, and some believe that Lebanon should go back to the pre-1995 situation where hunting was legal, but regulated by season and species. There are, as everywhere, repsonsible hunters too, but the irresponsible shooters are giving Lebanon a terrible reputation.

Almost all birds hunted

The fashion is that the hunters seem to boast about their kills, and the bigger, the rarer and the larger the number the better as far as they are concerned.

Lebanese Eco Movement

The Lebanese Eco Movement says “All kinds of birds are being hunted, and most of hunters are indifferent to the matter of protected birds. We are witnessing the murder of many protected birds, mainly soaring birds (aquatic birds and raptors), including pelicans, storks, cranes, raptors.”

“As for the birds that can be hunted, there is no respect for the numbers and limits. We are witnessing birds being killed in thousands. A single hunter may kill more than one thousand birds. Hunters are of all ages; they may be as young as 10, even though Lebanese law prohibits holding weapons for ages less than 18.”

“Hunting mainly takes place during weekends, but hunters can be seen any day of the week, at any place, even inside cities and between houses.”

This massacre is of worldwide importance and especially for Europe as most migrating birds passing through Lebanon are moving from Europe towards Africa or vice versa. It’s very sad and discouraging to see birds that are protected in Europe by thousands of activists, hundreds of organizations, and millions of dollars, being murdered in Lebanon without any action from the government, and without any pressure from the European countries.

Lebanon is facing a huge problem yet the Minister of the Environment does not appear to be taking any action at all.

The images we have illustrate the wide variety of birds that have been killed. As well as the vulture and pelicans, scroll down to see some of the carnage, including storks, cranes, many raptors including eagles, and hundreds and hundreds of smaller birds.

Whilst we know that the Middle East is in turmoil at the moment, and that protecting birds will not be high on the agenda of many countries, but this senseless slaughter will have dire consequences for the local environment as well as for many of the bird populations of Europe, Africa and the Middle East.