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Saudi divisions exposed, Parliament debates Bahrain’s HR

As a result of a brave encounter between Bahraini pro-democracy activists and a senior Saudi prince signs of disquiet within the house of Saud have emerged. As two of them, Sayed Ahmed Al Wadaei and Moosa Abd Ali were walking near Belgrave Square ten days ago they spotted the prince with his entourage outside his London residence. They shouted anti-Saudi slogans infuriating Prince Ahmad Bin Abdelaziz, a brother of King Salman. He approached the protesters and criticized the conduct of the Yemen war. When the protesters mentioned the Saudi-led aggression on Yemen, the prince said: “We [the Al-Saud] have nothing to do with what is happening… Certain officials are responsible such as the king and the crown prince. I hope the war in Yemen ends after tomorrow.”  These statements reverberated in Riyadh leading to more princes fleeing and joining Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz in London. The Bahraini protesters published the recorded encounter.

Meanwhile the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has reiterated his criticism of the arms supplies to Saudi Arabia. Yesterday he tweeted: @Theresa May shamefully continues to allow arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite war crimes and the deaths of 50,000 people in Yemen so far. In recent months several countries have decided to stop arms supplies to the Saudi aggressors: Canada, Belgium, Norway, Germany and Finland.

In her opening statement of the 39th session of the Human Rights Council on 10th September the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said: In Bahrain, a large number of cases of revocation of citizenship has been reported to the Office. The legislation underpinning such actions should be reviewed in line with Bahrain’s obligations under international law. Reports of possible exclusion of Bahraini citizens from the forthcoming elections of the National Assembly are disturbing. All human rights defenders who are currently arbitrarily detained should be released, including Nabeel Rajab.

Yesterday a significant debate was held at the UK’s Parliament on the human rights in Bahrain. It was held at the request of Andy Slaughter, MP, who represents Hammersmith. He kicked off the debate with a barrage of facts and figures about the violations of human rights with deep analysis of the situation and an elaborate investigation into the issues of torture, executions, revocation of nationality and arbitrary arrests of men and women. The role of the British Government in propping up the regime was highlighted in some details. Other members of the All Party Group on the Gulf joined in the debate with more embarrassing questions to the government. Three MPs with financial interests from the Alkhalifa government defended the regime and avoided the facts and figures presented by Mr Slaughter and others. The minister admitted that Bahrain is a country of concern despite the support it receives from UK’s Conservative government.

In a letter to Bahrain’s dictator, a group of 11 of literary icons urged the ruler to ensure Hassan Mushaima receives fair treatment in detention amid reports he had a much-cherished collection of 100 books, dictionaries, and religious texts confiscated while locked up in the notorious Jau prison (Bahrain’s Alcatraz). The leading writers are piling pressure on the Alkhalifa tyrant to intervene in the case of a detained political leader who was stripped of the right to read in jail. Bahrain’s opposition leader, Hassan Mushaima, 70, was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government at the height of the Arab Spring. The signatories are: Lisa Appignanesi, Margaret Atwood, Amanda Craig, Ariel Dorfman, Daniel Hahn, Ruth Padel, Elif Shafak, Gillian Slovo, Ali Smith, Preti Taneja and Claire Tomalin.

The letter comes as his son Ali enters his 42nd-day hunger strike outside Bahrain’s embassy in London, where he is calling for his father’s access to healthcare, family visits, and his books. He has lost 16 kg since he started on 1st August. Last week he was joined by Zainab Al Khawaja, daughter of Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, another prominent political and human rights figure.

On 10th September Alkhalifa regime marked “Back-to-school” week by arresting five under-aged schoolboys in vicious raids on their homes in Duraz town: Sayed Ali Sayed Taha, Sayed Murtadha Sayed Sadiq, Sayed Ahmad Sayed Moosa, Montadhar Al Rayes and Hussain Mohammad Saleh.

As a result of mismanagement, corruption and misappropriation of public wealth, Bahrain now faces a precarious debt problem, precipitated by low oil prices from 2014 to 2017 and expansionary national budgets that helped control its often-restive population. Bahrain’s public debt reached 89 percent of its roughly $33 billion gross domestic product in 2017, while the government’s fiscal deficit reached 13 percent of GDP. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecast that public debt could reach 100 percent of GDP in 2019 — an unheard of red line for the wealthy, oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Bahrain is also facing low foreign currency reserves; in June 2018, the country had enough to cover only 1.5 months of imports. In addition, the Bahraini dinar has hit exchange-rate lows this past year that it hasn’t seen in 17 years.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

12th September 2018 (info@vob.org   www.vob.org)

 

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