Bahrain absolute monarchy update

This video says about itself:

6 January 2015

Amina al-Maidan, mother of a U.S. citizen who is imprisoned in Bahrain, appeals to President Obama on behalf of her son, Tagi al-Maidan.

Today, not only news about the absolute monarchy in Jordan, but also about their colleagues in Bahrain.

Index on Censorship condemns the decision by Bahrain to revoke the citizenship of 72 citizens, including journalists, bloggers and activists: here.

We Spoke With Two Men the Bahraini Government Just Labeled Terrorists: here.

Bahrain gags newly-opened TV channel after opposition figure interview: here.

From Al Jazeera:

Spare the people leaders with western educations

There’s no reason to believe that a ‘western educated’ leader will be more democratic or reformist

February 4, 2015 2:00AM ET

by Brian Dooley

Here we go again. Commentators trying to make sense of Saudi Arabia’s royal succession have fallen back on a tired trope identifying “Western educated” with “potential reformist.”

For instance, Saudi Arabia’s new Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, now second in line to the throne, has gained this status in the media thanks to his taking classes (but not completing a degree) at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

The Guardian quotes an unnamed diplomat who said Mohammed would be “a modernizer and a relative liberal and would be the first Saudi monarch with a Western education.” Reuters says, “Unlike [his father] the late Nayef, who was widely regarded as an instinctively conservative man who took policy cues from the country’s powerful clergy, Mohammed was educated in the United States, receiving a degree in political science in 1981.” (Reuters erred on the degree claim, according to Lewis and Clark’s records.) Voice of America reports, “He was educated in the United States,” and quotes an expert’s analysis that “this is someone who has the education and background to move the country forward.” An Al Jazeera profile piece notes how he was “educated in the U.S., earning a degree in political science in 1981, [and] many have considered him an emerging liberal voice within the younger generation of the royal family.” The New York Times said, “Because of his Western education, Mr. Bin Nayef is believed to favor reform on matters like education and opportunities for women.”

Instead of putting such faith in the fine course offerings at Lewis and Clark, these reports could have examined Mohammed’s record. He demonstrated little enlightenment in his years as Saudi’s minister of interior, cracking down hard on dissidents as his government administers beheadings and torture.

The “Western educated” tag is the standard prefix the media use to describe Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain. The U.S. Congressional Research Service, whose reports inform Washington’s policymakers on who’s who in Gulf politics, routinely refers to his Western education. But why? Is it to imply that he’s more moderate than his peers who haven’t benefited from a Western education? More democratic? That he’s more likely to deliver reform than his dictator father — who, by the way, was also Western educated?

The Bahraini crown prince hasn’t managed to lead the tiny island kingdom away from repression since pro-democracy protests first gripped the country in early 2011. In fact, he is part of a Cabinet presiding over an ongoing forceful crackdown against peaceful dissent. The trial of Ali Salman, leader of the country’s major opposition group, opened on Jan. 28, and Bahrain’s most prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, was sentenced to six months in jail on Jan. 20 for a tweet criticizing the security services.

Having a Western education has never shown a strong correlation with pushing a human rights or reformist agenda. Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah El Sisi was educated in the West, as was Syrian despot Bashar al-Assad. Nelson Mandela and Vaclav Havel, by contrast, managed to steer their countries out of repression and into democracy without the pixie dust of graduating from Western universities. Western-educated Theoneste Bagosora is in jail after being convicted for his role in leading the Rwandan genocide. North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was educated in the West. So was Pol Pot. It’s a useless indicator of someone’s human rights credentials, unless you’re an analyst who is searching for something to say about a leader whose record one doesn’t know very well.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not against Western education. I even had one myself. The struggles and socialization of college life can open eyes. But I also wonder about the rarified atmosphere of the Gulf princes’ experience at American or British colleges. I attended universities in the U.S. and U.K. about the same time the crown prince of Bahrain and the deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia did, but I wonder if they had the same experiences I did. Did they spend many nights in smelly dorms packed with other kids arguing the merits of democracy? Did they work several jobs while studying, scrounging food or smuggling toilet rolls out of local cafes? And even if they did, would that make them any more likely to end brutal repression of human rights activists ordered by their fathers?

If Western media see the future of Bahrain and Saudi Arabia as best handled by those with a Western education, they could ask orthopedic surgeon Ali Alekri, who trained at the Irish Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, how he sees the country’s future. That is, if he’s permitted to speak to reporters. He is serving a five-year prison sentence after being tortured to confess to crimes he didn’t commit. Or perhaps they could consult with Saudi economist Mohammad al-Qahtani (Ph.D., Indiana University), if they can get access to him. He’s serving 10 years for speaking out against torture and other human rights abuses.

When it comes to authoritarian regimes, true analysts should start by being honest about who they are dealing with and stop looking for indicators of reform where they don’t exist.

Brian Dooley is the director of Human Rights Defenders at Human Rights First in Washington, D.C.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera America’s editorial policy.

UN rights experts urge Bahrain to release political opposition leader: here.

Bahrain dictatorship censors even Saudi royal owned media

This 2011 video from the USA is called Bahrain government’s media censorship of tortured protesters.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

New Bahrain TV channel al-Arab off air after interviewing opposition grandee

Tuesday 3rd February 2015

A NEW news channel backed by a billionaire Saudi prince stopped broadcasting from Bahrain yesterday just hours after going on air with an interview with a prominent opposition activist.

The al-Arab television station claimed on Twitter that it halted coverage for “technical and administrative reasons” and hoped to be back on the air soon. It only went live on Sunday afternoon.

The unexpected stoppage, apparently on the order of Bahraini authorities, came just hours after the pan-Arab station surprised many viewers by featuring Bahraini opposition activist Khalil al-Marzooq among its first guests.

Bahrain’s Information Affairs Authority media director Yusuf Mohammed said that the channel would resume broadcasting once necessary procedures were completed but did not give further details.

Former deputy parliamentary speaker Mr Marzooq is a senior member of al-Wefaq, the country’s main Shi’ite political bloc.

He was cleared of allegations of instigating violence and having links to a protest faction that authorities blame for bombings and other attacks last year.

Mr Marzooq’s interview featured discussion on Bahrain’s decision Saturday to revoke the citizenship of 72 people, including several leading Shi’ite activists.

Bahrain has faced four years of instability following widespread anti-government protests in February 2011 that were dominated by the country’s Shi’ite majority, which seeks greater political rights from the Western-backed Sunni monarchy.

Al-Arab general manager Jamal Khashoggi told reporters in December that the network would “cover all views” and would not shy away from sensitive Bahraini topics.

See also here.

Al-Arab, which was removed from the airwaves after broadcasting an interview with a Bahraini opposition leader, will not return to Manama: here.

Saudi Arabia’s new king, already another beheading

This video says about itself:

Amnesty remains worried on human rights after Saudi King death

23 January 2015

The Secretary General of Amnesty International says in Davos that the death of Saudi Arabia’s King was not a surprise and that Amesty remains concerned with “the complete lack of basic human rights in that country.”

From daily The Independent in Britain:

King Salman: Just five days in, Saudi Arabia’s new king has already overseen a beheading

King Salman refused to intervene in the beheading of an alleged rapist

Heather Saul

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud has already overseen his first beheading just days after succeeding his brother, ignoring widespread claims that the case against the man was weak.

The controversial killing of Moussa al-Zahrani came shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in Riyadh on Tuesday to pay respects to the late King Abdullah.

Al-Zahrani, a teacher, was executed in the city of Jeddah. He had been convicted of sexually assaulting underage girls in a string of attacks in 2011. Al-Zahrani had maintained his innocence throughout two appeals and released a 20-minute video urging King Abdullah to intervene last year.

His case drew an unprecedented reaction from those living in Saudi Arabia on social media but King Salman, 79, refused to intervene and he was beheaded on Monday.

An Arabic hashtag on Twitter, “We are all Moussa al-Zahrani”, garnered thousands of comments by Saudis, with conflicting opinions over the case.

Al-Zahrani’s relatives had gone on Saudi talk shows and claimed the case against him was riddled with inconsitancies. They said several cases of assault against young girls took place while al-Zahrani was already jailed.

Amnesty International condemned news that an execution had already taken place.

Sevag Kechichian, Amnesty’s Saudi Arabia researcher, told The Independent: “It’s extremely distressing to see that the Saudi executioner has already been at work, just days after King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud ascended the throne.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities should establish an immediate moratorium on executions with a view towards abolishing the use of the death penalty once and for all.”

Al-Zahrani’s brother, Hassan al-Zahrani, said after the execution that his brother, a father of six, could not have committed the crimes he was convicted of.

His death comes after the state publicly beheaded a woman in the holy city of Mecca last week for murdering her seven-year-old daughter. A gruesome video of her death marked the tenth execution in 2015, while 87 people were executed the year previous.

King Salman was governor of Riyadah for 48 years and had already taken on many duties as his brother’s health declined.

The King is believed to be less interested in social reform as King Abdullah was, who engendered a very moderate series of reforms during his reign.

President [Obama] addressed the Kingdom’s poor human rights record before embarking on his visit. He acknowledged that the US willingness to pursue close ties with Saudi Arabia despite human rights abuses often makes America’s allies uncomfortable.

“Sometimes we need to balance our need to speak to them about human rights issues with immediate concerns we have in terms of counterterrorism or dealing with regional stability,” he told CNN.

Mr Obama also suggested he would not be raising concerns about Saudi Arabia’s flogging of blogger Raif Badawi, who was convicted of insulting Islam and sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes.

Return of the Religious Police Worries Reformers in Saudi Arabia: here.

British government mourns Saudi King Abdullah, MPs critical

This video says about itself:

Manal al-Sharif: A Saudi woman who dared to drive

14 June 2013

There’s no actual law against women driving in Saudi Arabia. But it’s forbidden. Two years ago, Manal al-Sharif decided to encourage women to drive by doing so — and filming herself for YouTube. Hear her story of what happened next.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Whitehall’s King Abdullah half-mast flag tribute criticised by MPs

Decision to mark Saudi royal’s death at parliament and Westminster Abbey called ‘extraordinary misjudgment’

Andrew Sparrow, political correspondent

Friday 23 January 2015 14.35 GMT

A decision to mark the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia by flying flags in Whitehall at half-mast has been criticised by MPs.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said it had asked government buildings to fly the union flag at half-mast for 12 hours in line with protocol that says this is appropriate following the death of a foreign monarch.

The Ukip MP Douglas Carswell said it was an “extraordinary misjudgment” in the light of the kingdom’s human rights record.

The houses of parliament and Westminster Abbey are among the buildings in London where the government guidance has been followed after King Abdullah’s death early on Friday.

The tribute was paid even though the sentencing of a Saudi blogger to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam has thrust Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record into the spotlight in recent weeks.

Carswell said the “Sir Humphreys who run British foreign policy” were to blame for the tribute and that they were out of touch with public feeling.

“It is an extraordinary misjudgment by the out-of-touch elite in Whitehall who think it is appropriate to do this,” he said.

“On the day that flags at Whitehall are flying at half-mast for King Abdullah, how many public executions will there be?”

Labour MP Paul Flynn said the tribute was “liable to bring infantile fawning over royalty into disrepute”. It was evidence of the establishment’s “extraordinary subservience” to foreign royals, he added.

In a statement, the DCMS said that it learned of the death of King Abdullah “with great regret” and that government buildings were “requested” to fly flags at half-mast from 8am this morning until 8pm.

It continued: “Any other UK national flags flown alongside the union flag when it is at half-mast should also be at half-mast. If a flag of a foreign nation is normally flown on the same stand as the union flag, it should be removed.”

A DCMS spokesperson said: “In line with long-standing arrangements, the union flag is flown at half-mast on government buildings following the death of a foreign monarch.”

One Westminster source said the decision to fly flags at half-mast, which was widely criticised on social media, was taken at the behest of Buckingham Palace.

Asked to justify its decision to fly its flag at half-mast, Wesminster Abbey said in a statement: “We always fly a flag. It is at half-mast because the government has decided to fly their flags at half-mast today.

“For us not to fly at half-mast would be to make a noticeably aggressive comment on the death of the king of a country to which the UK is allied in the fight against Islamic terrorism.

“Nor would it have done anything to support the desperately oppressed Christian communities of the Middle East for whom we pray constantly and publicly.”

January 23, 2015 – Washington, D.C. – Today, ADHRB released a report assessing the reign of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, who died today after more than a decade of rule. Despite his adopted status as a reformer and peacemaker, King Abdullah’s reign was marked by deterioration in civil, political and human rights in the kingdom: here.

Hypocrisy Dressed Up as ‘Realism’ Justifies American Alliance with Saudi Dictatorship: here.