STATEMENTS

Campaign to free Saudi, Bahraini women; Hakeem’s freedom haunts Khalifis

The plight of women in at least three GCC states is causing alarm among international human rights bodies. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are viewed as most repressive in terms of women rights. There are currently 13 women activists behind bars in Bahrain and similar number in Saudi Arabia. The UAE’s human rights records are being exposed as one of its female citizens seeks asylum in the West. Hind Albolooki is currently at a detention centre in Macedonia after she fled her country. Friends and human rights groups fear for the safety of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al-Maktoum, 33, daughter of Dubai’s ruler who was seized from a yacht off the coast of India in March 2018 and has not been heard from since. Last month a Saudi young girl, Rahaf Al Qanun fled Saudi Arabia and was granted asylum in Canada. While these women have personal issues with their society, religion or family, the most pressing cases relate to imprisoned women activists whose numbers are increasing. This issue has tarnished the image of Saudi crown prince who had promised political reforms but whose record has been irrevocably smeared by the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

Yesterday native Bahraini woman activist, Hadeer Abdulla Abadi had her detention extended by thirty more days. She has languished at the Khalifi torture dungeons since 14th January 2019. Twelve other women are behind bars. Fears are growing for three of them after telling the outer world of their ordeal. On Monday 11th February Hajer Mansoor, Najah Yousuf and Medina Ali addressed a Press conference at the UK’s Parliament organised by SNP MP Chris Law and addressed by Laboour MP Lloyd Russell. The women presented harrowing details of the torture they had endured at the hands of the Khalifi torturers who are widely believed to be  “trained” by British officers from HM Prison Inspection Directorate. The audience were shocked to hear that sexual abuse is widely used as a weapon against native Bahraini women. On 6th February another woman native was sentenced to five years in jail and revocation of citizenship for opposing Khalifi hereditary dictatorship. Zakiya Al Barbouri had been subjected to harrowing torture to sign false confessions.  She is the third woman to be stripped of nationality at the hands of the Khalifi foreign occupiers of Bahrain. Zainab Marhoon and Maryam Al Mousawi had their citizenship revoked last year.

In a landmark decision, Thailand has released the Bahraini athlete Hakeem Al Oraibi after almost three months of detention. It was one of the major political and public relations defeats of the Khalifi tribal regime which has sought Hakeem’s extradition to face more torture at their notorious dungeons. The Saudis and Khalifis had promised Thailand large amounts of financial incentives for the extradition of the Bahraini athlete who had spent two years in prison for standing with his people when they rose against the Khalifi enemy in 2011. Bahraini people have thanked those who have campaigned relentlessly to get Hakeem freed especially Craig Foster and almost all Australian athletic bodies.

Political crisis is looming between Gulf dictators and Australia as its prime minister and foreign minister plan to meet Hakeem and probably grant him citizenship. The crisis will be compounded by new initiatives by Bahraini opposition to isolate Bahrain’s dictators. The International Police apparatus (Interpol) will be urged to take action against them for persistent attempts to exploit it for political aims and feeding it with false information about Bahraini activists. International sports bodies will also be lobbied to sanction the Khalifi regime for its attacks on athletes and attempts to discredit these bodies through various means. Of particular concern is the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) which has failed in its duty to call for immediate and unconditional release of Hakeem. Its president is a member of the Khalifi tribe and is widely accused of placing his loyalty to the tribe above the AFC.

The 2018 Freedom House has given Bahrain the rank of 168 out of 182 in the international freedom index. Bahrain is given 12 percent only for freedoms, no political rights (7/7, where 7 is the least free) and 6/7 in civil liberties (where 7 is the least liberal). This classification has routed the image of the Khalifa rule and its backers as a modern system. In the first week of February there were at least 19 protests against the regime in various towns and villages. There were at least nine illegal raids on people’s homes, six arbitrary detentions and three jail sentences including one citizenship revocation.

On the eve of the 8th anniversary of the 14thFebruary Revolution, the people are more keen than ever to pursue their political demands and ending the black era of Khalifi dictatorship. The regime is extremely worried by the prospect of more protests by people emboldened by their victory over the Khalifis in the case of Hakeem. There is no going back  no going back or retreating given the enormous sacrifices endured by the people. The past few days have seen activities inside and outside Bahrain with strong resolve and determination

Bahrain Freedom Movement

13th February 2019 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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