News / Middle East

    Rights Activist: One in Every 1,000 Bahrainis in Detention for Political Reasons

    Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights says that bloggers, others active in social media, are facing particularly hard times.

    Residents of the Shiite Muslim village of Malkiya, Bahrain, southwest of Manama, watch - some with stones in hand and others photographing riot police and tanks moving in - Sunday, March 20, 2011
    Residents of the Shiite Muslim village of Malkiya, Bahrain, southwest of Manama, watch - some with stones in hand and others photographing riot police and tanks moving in - Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Human rights groups are expressing concern about escalating crackdowns on Shi'ia protesters by the Sunni monarchy of Bahrain. Inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, protesters took to the streets beginning February 14 to voice demands for reform and equal rights.  At least 27 people are reported to have died and hundreds of people have been detained by security forces.

    Nabeel Rajab is president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. VOA's Cecily Hilleary reached him by phone in Manama and asked him for an update.

    Listen to Cecily Hilleary’s interview with Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab:

    Hilleary: We are hearing reports of the arrests of doctors and nurses today and also of activists. What can you tell us about what is going on today in Bahrain?

    Rajab: The situation is very critical. You have approximately one for every 1,000 citizens detained right now for political reasons. The Bahrain government, it seems, is going ahead in cracking down. Peaceful protesters were calling for democracy and [an] elected government with [a] constitution written by the people as they were inspired by other countries [which] gained democracy through revolutions.

    Nabeel Rajab
    Nabeel Rajab

    Bahrainis thought that they, too, deserve to have democracy, an educated society, [a] society that has a culture, but unfortunately [the] Bahrain situation looks different than the others, because you have an army which is imported from the outside – from Pakistan, Jordan, Syria and Yemen. At the same time our government invited other troops – from Saudi Arabia, to deal with the peaceful protests.

    So this is the situation we are facing. The protests were attacked completely. Villages were seized and surrounded by GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and [by the] Saudi army, and people were killed; thousands were injured, hundred were arrested. Hundreds of people are hiding. Hundreds of people were terminated from their work on a sectarian basis. Many salaries were cut and many students studying abroad were asked to come back, and their financial help was stopped – just because they have said they need to change [their] government or they want to have democracy or just because they participated in a protest outside [a Bahraini] embassy or inside Bahrain.

    Things are pretty bad here in Bahrain. Over 400 people were detained here over the past two weeks.

    Hilleary: You were once arrested. Based on your own experiences, what do you believe they are going through right now?

    Bahraini citizen Sayed Abbas Sayed Mahdi is listed by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights as a victim of beatings by security forces
    Bahraini citizen Sayed Abbas Sayed Mahdi is listed by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights as a victim of beatings by security forces

    Rajab: Taking into consideration our history of human rights and seeing international human rights organizations reports in the past two years, we have [a] culture of torture, committing torture by our government. Bahrain is a very well-known country in practicing torture. Many international organizations have urged Bahrain to stop the systematic torture and urged the government to open an investigation into the systematic organized torture, but unfortunately the Bahrain government always ignores this.

    So I would assume that most of those bloggers, most of those website administrators and human rights defenders are facing torture now and at least one man died [the day] before yesterday and he was imprisoned. And we believe strongly that he died because he was tortured by people interrogating him. So I am afraid that many bloggers and [those] who are active in the net - on Twitter and Facebook – are facing very hard times at this point in time.

    Hilleary: And what about you – are you fearful of speaking out as you do?

    Rajab: Arrests, harassments and intimidation will never stop an activist who believes in his work and believes in the importance of his work. I do believe in my work very much. I was arrested, as I told you, and I was beaten up, but that has encouraged me to do more activism, believing [that] this situation cannot continue. And this activism that we are doing – it has a cost. The cost might reach – it might be our life – but, you know, once we believe in our work, one I believe in my work, I am willing to see [through] the changes that I am fighting for.

    Hilleary: You are speaking with the Voice of America. We have an audience in the Middle East, but also on Capitol Hill and within the administration. If you had a chance to give a message, what would it be?

    Rajab: We would ask our American friends who believe in democracy and who believe in human rights – and that is the majority of Americans – we share the same values, we share the same principles. Human rights organizations in the United States are doing a great job. We ask them, we urge them, to look at our country to help our people, because we know that they respect what we are fighting for to help us by [putting pressure] on the administration to put pressure on the Bahraini government to stop its violence towards peaceful people who are calling for very legitimate rights guaranteed by international conventions, and we thank all these people in the United States who are with us now, who are supporting us, we appreciate their help and that will never be forgotten; it will always be appreciated by our people.

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

    You May Like

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    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.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    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 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.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora