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

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    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.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora