The big lie that the Saudi crown prince had a “reformist” agenda has been laid bare by the arrest of women and men activists calling for real reforms. This week at least 10 activists — seven women and three men — were detained and denied any access to lawyers. The detentions are seen as a culmination of a steady crackdown on perceived critics of the government. The sweep began a week ago, on May 15, when police detained the 10 in the capital, Riyadh, and transferred them to the city of Jiddah. Their exact whereabouts now are unknown. Saudi media say the arrests were carried out by forces from the Presidency of State Security, a body that reports directly to the king and crown prince. The detained women are: Lujain Al Hathloul, Aziza Yousuf, Dr Eman AlNafjan, Dr Aisha Al Man’e, Dr Hussa AlSheikh, Madiha Al Ajroosh and Walaa Shubbar. The three detained men are: Dr Mohammad Al Rabi’a, Dr Ibrahim AlMudaimegh and Abdul Aziz Al Mash’al.
In a statement released today, Human Rights Watch called for the immediate and unconditional release of those detained. Sarah Lea Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said: “Every government that believed that the Saudi crown prince is a reformer and a champion for women should demand the immediate and unconditional release of all human rights activists,” Whitson said. “It’s not real reform if it takes place in a dystopia where rights activists are imprisoned, and freedom of expression exists just for those who publicly malign them.” Amnesty International says Prince Mohammed’s promises of reform “fall flat amid the intensifying crackdown on dissenting voices in the kingdom.”
The Alkhalifa regime in Bahrain adopted a similar policy arresting more women this week. From Nuwaidrat town two women were incarcerated on 17th May: Zakiya Al Barbouri and Fatima Dawood. They were snatched from their homes by masked members of the regime’s Death Squads on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. Nothing has been heard of them since. Another woman activist is also being persecuted in the worst possible way. Najah Al Sheikh, who had been detained several times since the beginning of the Revolution on 14th February 2014, has been taken to court for calling to stop the Formula 1 (termed as the Blood Formula by native Bahrainis). When she appeared at Alkhalifa court on 21stMay the judge refused to examine the torture inflicted on her at the notorious AlMuharraq police station where she endured horrific torture including rape. He adjourned the trial until 25th June. She is one of 11 native Bahraini women undergoing severe persecution by Alkhalifa “reformists”.
On 20th May Alkhalifa court revoked the nationality of nine people and sentenced them to between three and 15 years in jail as part of the crackdown on native activists. This year, more than 200 people have been stripped of their nationality, including 115 in a mass trial earlier this month. The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy says 728 people have been stripped of their nationality since 2012, after the tribal monarchy led a crackdown against protests by majority natives. On the same day regime’s court adjourned the trial of the world renowned human rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, until 5th June to announce its verdict. He is charged with using twitter to denounce the Saudi-led war on Yemen in which the Alkhalifa are participating. Anyone who tweets against the official policies of the ruling tribe is liable for five years jail. There is pressure on the dictator to release Mr Rajab whose detention for peacefully expressing his view on the illegitimate war has embarrassed their allies in Washington and London.
Last Thursday 17th May regime forces raided at least 13 areas; Sitra, Karbabad, Demstan, Saar, AlDaih, Shahrakkan, Aali, Hamad Town, Abu Quwwa, AlJufair, Abu Saiba, Iskan al Shakhoura and Malikiyah. Several native Bahrainis were detained while their families were subjected to horrific treatment on the first day of Ramadan. On 18th May young native Bahraini, Ali Fakhar,25, was arrested at Hamad town. He had been given several jail sentences totaling more than 20 years with more to come.
To mark the first anniversary of the bloody attack on the house of Ayatullah Sheikh Isa Qassim (23rd May 2017) people in various towns and villages staged protests in the past few days. The regime’s forces attacked the house killing at least five people and ended the presence of the Sheikh supporters in the vicinity of the house. He has been under house arrest for the past two years. The town, Duraz has been under siege ever since. No one from outside the town is allowed to enter. Barbed wires and cement slaps surround the area while the residents have to endure hours in the queues at the two entry points. Four other points were closed two years ago. The attack came two days after President Trump promised King Hamad there would be no more ‘strain’ in the U.S.-Bahraini relationship.
Bahrain Freedom Movement