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

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    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.
    London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunitiesi
    X
    VOA News
    July 25, 2016 5:09 PM
    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Four Brother Goats Arrive in Brooklyn on a Mission

    While it's unusual to see farm animals in cities, it's become familiar for residents of Brooklyn, New York, to see a little herd of goats. Unlike gas-powered mowing equipment, goats remove invasive weeds quietly and without adding more pollution to the air. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this is a pilot program and if it proves to be successful, the goat gardener program will be extended to other areas of New York. Faith Lapidus narrates.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora