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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

Video Secret Service Chief Under Fire for White House Security Breach

Julia Pierson faces tough questions from lawmakers after recent intrusion at White House, says: 'It is clear that our security plan was not executed properly' More

Frustrated, Liberian Students Want Ebola Fight Role

Thousands have volunteered to go to counties, rural villages to talk to people in their language about deadly virus More

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.
Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihadi
X
Mahi Ramakrishnan
September 30, 2014 2:16 PM
Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid