After the cloud of tear gas

Focus on Bahrain needed to prevent more human rights violations

Today, as the protesters have made their way from the suburbs of Manama, Bahrain, undoubtedly heading to Pearl roundabout, the security forces quickly made it known – through their sheer presence, the eventual dispersal of tear gas – that they would try to stem the tide of demonstrators at the infamous site. And in the days leading up, the government has continued crackdown and suppression efforts, denying foreigners and foreign press access to Bahrain and hiring public relations firms.

Today marks a year since protesters gathered at Pearl roundabout in Manama, demonstrating against the undemocratic monarchy of Bahrain and calling for reform. Yet, unlike other Arab Spring movements, Bahrain’s demonstrators have often been ‘shouting in the dark’, to employ the title of an Al Jazeera English documentary that chronicled the protests and the resulting crackdown.

Instead of democratic reforms, Bahrainis have faced severe repression, torture, and arbitrary detention. Just last week, Bahrain and Danish citizen and human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja wrote a letter to the Danish Foreign Ministry from prison calling for them to push for his release:

Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s letter to the Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs from prison, 8 Feb 2012

In it, he points to an official 500-page government inquiry in Bahrain that documented cases of torture. In addition, there was the highly publicized cases of over a dozen doctors, surgeons, and nurses at a Manama hospital who were sentenced to several years in prison after being tortured to confess. Their alleged ‘crime’: Doing their job as doctors and treating the wounded and dying protesters coming from Pearl roundabout after security forces cracked down.

All these cases, and yet it seems the torture continues in Bahrain. Within the last year, demonstrators have continued to take to the streets; and many are apprehended, detained, and torture by security forces. We hope on this anniversary that the international world focuses on Bahrain.

“What Bahrainis need is international pressure, international attention to stop the torture, stop the human rights violations; then, we can fight for democracy ourselves,” said Maryam Al-Khawaja, daugher of Abdulhadi and current foreign affairs officer from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, during a panel discussion last year.


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