STATEMENTS

Bahrain’s Revolution enters 8th year, activists to disrupt MBS’s visit

Today marks seven years since the largest-ever revolution had taken place in Bahrain. The people feel victorious despite the enormous repression and human rights violation by an ailing tribal regime. The ruling tribe owes its survival over the past seven years to the presence of six armed forces in the country; Saudi, Emirati, Jordanian and Pakistani in addition to the American and British naval bases. Within a month of the eruption of the 14th February Revolution in 2011, the regime lost control and appealed to its neighbours for immediate help. The presence of these armies is a clear infringement of Bahrain’s sovereignty. It is time the UK has abandoned the sinking Alkhalifa boat to the fate of despots and dictators.

The 7th anniversary of the 14th February Revolution has been marked by the people inside and outside Bahrain. Despite pre-emptive crackdown by regime’s forces over the past two weeks, most of the areas witnessed protests and demonstrations last night. From the early hours of this morning, the people have engaged in countrywide civil disobedience with many shops closed, protests roaming the alleyways and roads and online social media outlets mobilized to highlight the situation in the “kingdom of silence”. The counter-revolution forces led by Saudi Arabia have been dismayed that their seven years occupation of Bahrain has failed to stem the rise of anti-regime sentiments or the main slogans calling for its downfall. Live ammunition has been used by regime’s forces in addition to chemical and tear gases and shotguns.

In London the Bahrain Opposition Block organized a meeting at the Parliament on Thursday 8th February, hosted by Francie Molloy, MP. It was addressed by notable speakers and a clear message was sent out for the UK Government to stop supporting the regime.  On Saturday a protest was held outside Downing Street to call for a change in the UK’s policy on Bahrain. A rally was held at Marble Arch on Sunday 11th and a photo exhibition was organized at Trafalgar Square on Monday 12th. In USA there were several events at universities and a protest outside the Bahraini Embassy. In Berlin there was a special meeting to commemorate the martyrs and a protest at the Bahraini Embassy.

To pre-empt the activities to mark the seventh anniversary of the Revolution, regime forces have committed heinous crimes against the people. Children were snatched from their homes in the middle of the night. On Friday 9th February, Sayed Ayman Sayed Hashem Jaffar AlMahfoodh was detained from his home at Saar Town. Mohammad Ali Jaffar and Daniel Hasan AlSayegh were snatched at Bani Jamra Town. A day earlier, two youths were arrested; Hussain Abbas Ahmad and under-aged Mohammad Abdul Karim Fateel from Bani Jamra. Last week scores of prisoners at Jaw notorious jail, including inmates on death row were attacked by officers for no reason except revenge and intimidation. Ali Hakim Al Arab and Hussain Al Shakar were attacked by those officers. Their bodies show extensive wounds as a result. Another inmate; Ibrahim Ghuloom suffered a stroke, taken to hospital but returned with his partial paralysis worsening.

The scheduled visit by the Saudi crown prince to UK next month is gradually becoming more of an embarrassment to both sides than a step forward in their relations. Anti-war and human rights activists have stepped up their activism to stop the visit. They were heartened by a statement by the Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, calling for the visit to be put off. A public petition on the Parliament’s website has attracted more than 10,000 signatures in less than two weeks, while a Parliamentary Early Day Motion (EDM) has been signed by at least 24 MPs. Protests are planned for the visit which is believed to be scheduled for 7-9th March. In an article published by The Independent on 7th February Andrew Smith of CAAT (Campaign Against Arms Trade) said: The Crown Prince may have convinced Theresa May and her colleagues that he is a “moderniser” and a force for liberty, but the UK public has not been so easily fooled. When the Crown Prince arrives he will be met with protests and opposition from across the political spectrum. Poll after poll has shown that the overwhelming majority of the UK opposes arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Next month, campaigners will take to the streets and send the message loudly and clearly that this visit is not in our name and that the Saudi Crown Prince is not welcome.

Woman human rights defender Nuha Al-Balwi, who is active online in supporting civil and political rights for women, was arrested in the last week of January 2018. She is a college student from Tabuk. On 5th February her detention was extended for another month. A Saudi court has jailed a prominent newspaper columnist after he criticised the country’s royal court, in the latest sign of the diminishing margin of free speech despite the kingdom’s push for more social liberalisation.  Saleh al-Shehi, who writes for al-Watan, the daily paper, was sentenced to five years in prison followed by a five-year travel ban for insulting the royal court and its employees, state news television reported on Thursday.

 Bahrain Freedom Movement

14th February 2018 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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