Monday, April 18, 2011

Stop Me If You've Heard This One

Here's one for you: what do a prominent defense attorney, a vascular surgeon, and a champion bodybuilder have in common? If you answered that they were all arrested by the Bahraini government in the past week, bringing the total to some 571 people in state custody without having been charged with a crime (according to the BCHR), you are right. Please proceed to the Interior Ministry in Salmaniyyah to claim your prize, a year's subscription to Al-Watan.

Around 11:00pm on Friday, police stormed the home of Mohammed al-Tajar, who is well-known for defending opposition figures and other highly political cases, most recently the 25 Shi'a activists who were on trial for "terrorism" and for attempting to overthrow the Bahraini government back when people still viewed that as the pinnacle of injustice and lawlessness in Bahrain. (Incidentally, though 23 of these 25 were pardoned in the early stages of protests some weeks ago, one cannot look back on this episode without thinking, "If 250,000 people in the streets couldn't overthrow the Bahraini government a month ago, these 25 activists must have been dangerous fellows indeed.")

Beyond the most high-profile case of al-Tajar, we find also that the vascular surgeon mentioned above, Sadiq Abdullah, "is one of nearly 20 Bahraini doctors who have been arrested or gone missing since the government crackdown began. Human Rights Watch claims that at least eight doctors have been arrested in the last week alone." And, last but not least, "Tareq al-Fursani, a gold medalist in several Asian championships," was the latest to be arrested from among Bahrain's Shi'a sports stars accused of having taken part in demonstrations.

Beyond arrests per se, the Guardian is reporting continued attempts by the Bahraini authorities to recall government-funded students from the U.K. for their participation in an anti-government rally in Manchester. Thankfully, the Foreign Office not being the U.S. State Department, they publicly rejected the maneuver, saying in a statement,
"We have made clear to the Bahraini government that, unless these individuals commit a criminal offence in the UK, they will be free to carry out their activities in line with UK laws."

Next in the ongoing crackdown on professionals, the Bahrain News Agency on Sunday announced the firing of 111 Ministry of Education employees for participation in strikes and demonstrations (a.k.a.
"flagrant violations" of the country's civil service law).

Then consider this ominous-sounding article in the pro-government Gulf Daily News describing a "day of reckoning" for businessmen who did not display sufficient loyalty during the past three months:

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for Bahrain businessmen who sat on the fence and kept silent while the country was confronting a coup attempt.

"We were astonished that no voice rose from the trade sector against the unrest, although it was the first to suffer damage," His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa said.

He expressed his dismay as he received at Gudaibiya Palace traders and businessmen, who flocked to renew their allegiance to the leadership and voice support for the measures taken by the government to maintain security and stability.

So essentially the Prime Minister summoned leading businessmen to his palace simply in order to chastise them en masse. I have a feeling that the effective tax rate for these individuals just went up considerably.

Finally, since it doesn't look good to have a non-functioning parliament in a country that likens itself to a democracy, Bahrain will hold new elections to replace the 11 al-Wifaq MPs whose resignations were accepted. If I understand this correctly, the elections will take place only in those districts no longer represented (i.e., the districts of the resigned officials). I haven't looked to see which districts these are, but I wonder if this might help explain which MPs' resignations were accepted and which not. It may also relate to the aborted attempt to dissolve al-Wifaq, which presumably would have then been barred from official participation in the upcoming elections.

Finally again, Prof. Augustus Richard Norton has done everyone the favor of writing into the Boston Globe to respond to that ridiculous op-ed on Bahrain I dissected a while back. He writes,

JULIETTE KAYYEM (“Bahrain is the line in the sand,’’ Op-ed, April 9) informs Globe readers that Iran is seen as “a guiding force’’ in the Arab uprisings, especially in Bahrain. There is no credible evidence that Iran guided, planned, or inspired the peaceful demonstrations that began in mid-February, notwithstanding the sometime shrill claims of the Bahraini monarch and his entourage. It is striking that Kayyem, a former official in the Department of Homeland Security, has nothing to say about the economic despair and discrimination that afflict the majority of Bahrain’s population — factors that lent impetus to the protests but that have been minimized by the rulers.

Kayyem makes the odd claim that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened after an opportunity for reform had been missed. It is quite likely that the Saudi-led intervention was precisely intended to sabotage US-encouraged reforms. The Saudi monarchy has long been committed to quashing reform, both inside the kingdom and in the smaller states of the Gulf, not least in its Bahraini dependency.

The repression, censorship, and punitive policies now being pursued in Bahrain may open up opportunities for Iranian meddling, but this will stem from the avoidance of reform, not from people peacefully seeking better treatment from their government.

Update: I almost forgot. Today is the first day of the Zainab al-Khawajah-inspired mass hunger strike in Bahrain, claiming to be the world's largest. It seems that some U.S. academics are also taking part in solidarity.

Also, it turns out that, despite recent appearances, in fact it IS still illegal to kill people in Bahrain--but evidently only if they work for the government. The BNA is announcing that 7 anti-government protesters will stand in military court accused of "premeditated murder of a government employee."


  1. An interesting article that reflects what is really happening in this small island, Bahrain. A so called 9 years old "king" without a kingdom! Arab klans in full action.

  2. up until a few weeks ago there were still coins circulated with the pearl monument & State of Bahrain written on them... "kingdom", suurrrreee....


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