News / Middle East

    Bahrain Continues Crackdown Behind the Scenes

    Thousands chant anti-government slogans as they march during a funeral procession for Sayed Hameed Mahfoodh, 61, whom relatives allege was killed by police, in the western Shiite Muslim village of Saar, Bahrain, April 6, 2011
    Thousands chant anti-government slogans as they march during a funeral procession for Sayed Hameed Mahfoodh, 61, whom relatives allege was killed by police, in the western Shiite Muslim village of Saar, Bahrain, April 6, 2011

    Authorities in Bahrain are carrying out a continued crackdown against opposition supporters. Human rights groups report nightly raids in residential areas, violence at checkpoints and arbitrary arrests. Many say a lack of widespread international condemnation is partly to blame for the situation as much of the world focuses on other regional conflicts.

    The calls for regime change that have been echoing through the Middle East have been silenced in Bahrain after Gulf military forces were called in to help quell protests that began in mid-February and brought the island kingdom to a standstill.

    On Sunday, Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa declared stability had returned, but most analysts, like Sa'id Boumedouha from Amnesty International, say there is a dark side to the country’s re-established order.

    "Definitely, the situation now, from a human rights perspective, is much worse than before the protests started," said Boumedouha.

    Human rights officials say Bahraini authorities have detained hundreds of opposition supporters, with some reportedly being tortured, as the government appears to be targeting anyone who actively participated in the pro-democracy demonstrations.

    At least 27 people, including three police officers, have been killed since protesting began. Boumedouha said dozens of other people are reported missing and feared dead.

    "There is this climate of fear now. You can’t talk to people. People are very worried about their future, about their safety and I’ve heard that there are people in hiding, so it is extremely worrying."

    Authorities detained Nabeel Rajab, the president of Bahrain’s Center for Human Rights and outspoken critic of the government, on March 20.

    "They handcuffed me in my bedroom as my eight-year-old daughter woke up seeing 25 masked men with rifles and machine guns in their hands," he said. "They took me inside a car and they tortured me and beat me inside the car. Then they took me to the interrogation department, they asked me stupid questions, then they sent me back home."

    Rajab said Bahraini companies have fired hundreds of employees who went on strike to support the opposition movement. He also said since a three-month state of emergency was declared on March 15, freedom of expression in the country has come under attack.

    A prominent pro-democracy blogger was arrested recently - and released shortly afterwards - and three top editors of a Bahraini newspaper critical of the government were fired on Sunday.

    Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, spokesperson for the Information Affairs Authority, Maysoon Sabkar, said the government decided to take action against the al-Wasat  newspaper only after it was found publishing false information that threatened to "escalate the crisis" in the country.

    "The Information Affairs Authority, based on the violations found, has filed a cased based on Law 47/2002 on regulating press, printing and publishing," said Sabkar. "The public prosecution is currently taking the necessary legal measures."

    Analysts say the conflict in Bahrain is increasingly dividing the country along sectarian lines. Most of Bahrain’s protesters have been Shi’ite Muslims, who are said to represent about two-thirds of the population, but claim they are treated like second-class citizens by the ruling Sunni minority.

    Last week, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashed al-Khalifa rejected claims that the government had launched a campaign targeting Shi’ites, insisting authorities were only doing what was necessary to ensure law and order.

    However, a Bahraini national who wished to remain anonymous for safety reasons said Shi’ites are routinely pulled aside at checkpoints across the country. "If there is any name [that is] Shi’ite, not Sunni, here they stop you on the side of the road and they will give you a lot of questions. They will ask you, 'Do you love the king? Do you love the prime minister?' If you will not say that [you do] then they will start to beat you."

    Bahrain’s rulers have repeatedly suggested that Shi’ite-dominated Iran has had a hand in orchestrating the nation’s uprising to extend its influence in the region. A number of Iranian officials have voiced support for Bahraini protesters, but protest leaders claim to have no links to Tehran.

    Senior spokesman of the al-Wefaq opposition group, Khalil al-Marzooq, said the Bahraini government is using the Iran card to undermine the opposition’s genuine demands of a more representative government.

    "We want to have a fully authorized parliament and we have to have an elected government. There is nothing wrong to continue demanding it. We’ve said it clearly: no way for a religious state, we want a civilian state. We want everybody to feel secure and comfortable with the system."

    A major concern among human rights campaigners continues to be the military’s occupation of Bahrain's main hospital.

    Security forces stormed the Salmaniya Medical Complex on March 16. Witnesses say injured protesters were signaled out, with some being detained and taken away without explanation. One man was later found dead.

    At a news conference last month, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Khalid al-Khalifa said troops were deployed to Salmaniya to help liberate the hospital after it was paralyzed by people protesting there.

    "Who blocked the hospitals? It’s not the government or the army. The army opened the hospital of Salmaniya because we have clear evidence and many cases to show how people were denied access to Salmaniya Hospital and how Salmaniya Hospital became a source of misinformation."

    A nurse at the hospital, who asked not to be named, said the military occupation is costing lives. She is calling on the United States and other world powers to take notice. "Tell Obama this is our message. Where is he now? We want to see him and we want him to take one step for us. We are dying here."

    Al-Wefaq spokesman Khalil al-Marzooq said that without outside intervention, the situation in Bahrain is unlikely to change. "Without the international interference in terms of forcing the authorities here to stop killing, to stop these atrocities, to stop all the violations to human rights, I don’t see a positive political solution coming."

    Critics suspect many nations have been reluctant to take a firm stance on Bahrain because of the nation’s strategic importance as a Western ally in the oil-producing Persian Gulf region. Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

    Follow our Middle East reports on Twitter
    and discuss them on our Facebook page.

    You May Like

    Turkey, West in Standoff Over Syrian Refugees

    Turkish government refuses to admit refugees, the first in a wave of civilians fleeing offensive by Assad regime in northern Aleppo countryside

    Jailed American Testifies About Islamist Involvement in Mumbai Attacks

    David Headley testifies via video link that Pakistan-based Islamic terror group made two failed attempts to mount strikes in Mumbai in months prior to coordinated assault

    These Are the 10 Smartest US States

    A new report breaks down the nation's best and brightest

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.