On Friday 7th March the Saudi crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) carried out an outrageous act, detaining the most senior figures of the House of Saud. The arrests included his uncle, Ahmad bin Abdul Aziz, his son, Nayef, MBS’s cousin and former crown prince Mohammad bin Nayef and his brother, Nawwaf. Several others were detained, questioned and released. The arrests also include senior figures in the armed forces on suspicion that, together with the four senior figures, they were planning a coup against MBS. The fragmentation of the House of Saud is the most serious and could lead to existential threat to the regime.
MBS has also caused economic crisis to his country. Few weeks ago he ordered the flooding of the oil market to punish countries like Russia and Iran. This has brought the oil prices tumbling down to a12-year low. Oil is now selling at less than $30 per barrel, compared to more than $120 at its peak in 2008. The Saudi economy and that of the other GCC states is expected to suffer at a time when internal opposition to those autocratic regimes is threatening to change the political map of those countries.
On 8th March, Saudi scholar and thinker, Sheikh Hassan Farhan Al Maliki was brought to one of the regime’s kangaroo courts in Riyadh. He was detained for peacefully expressing his religious views. He has been behind bars since September 2018. The trial was adjourned until 5th April. Many other scholars are in jail.
As the corona virus takes hold in the world, there has been an outcry against Bahrain’s khalifi dictators for ignoring the plight of more than 2000 native Bahrainis stranded in Iran after visiting holy shrines. The regime first refused outright the idea of repatriating them. Its powerless national council was ordered to reject calls for their repatriation. As the condemnation and pressure mounted the dictator ordered the Shia Endowment department to bring those pilgrims back to the country. This was viewed with disdain and outrage. Finally, orders were issued to the dictator from his superiors that he ought to arrange the repatriation. Calls were made for him to evacuate four islands that he had misappropriated from public ownership, Umm Al Na’san, Jida (the khalifiya), Umm Al Subban (the mohammadiya) and Huwar islands so that they may be used to quarantine those native Bahrainis, some of whom might have been infected while in Iran.
On 9th March the American Herald Tribune published an article titled: “The New Phase of Sectarian-Biological Reprisal in Bahrain”. It listed some of the hate messages against patients infected with Coronavirus after their return from Iran. These include, among others, calling for executing the patients infected with Coronavirus and cremating their bodies; revoking their nationalities; arresting them on charges of threatening national security and quarantining them in Shiites’ religious centers. Besides, patients with Coronavirus have been dubbed as “garbage, Magi, Iranian spies, Safavids, backward Shiites, grave worshipers, spy and terrorism sheep, biological weapons, people of infidelity, immorality, debauchery and impurity, sectarian traitors, mut’ah marriage, etc.”
On 6 March 2020, 44 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) sent a letter to Bahrain’s dictator and 45 MEPs sent a letter to the European Union Minister of Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell. Both letters requested urgent protection of the lives of two Bahraini torture survivors: Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Moosa. The letters express the MEP’s extreme worry over the unfair trial and process both men endured, as well as the torture they were subjected to at the hands of Bahraini authorities. Although Ramdhan and Moosa’s conviction on charges of killing a security officer came in the face of allegations of torture, Bahrain’s High Criminal Court of Appeals upheld and reconfirmed their death sentences on 8 January 2020. This decision ignored evidence, and refused to take into consideration the torture used to extract “confessions”. In fact, for years, their allegations went un-investigated by Bahrain’s oversight bodies (GANGOs).
On 5th March Amnesty International (AI) called for the release of Bahraini political prisoners. Responding to the release last week of Hajer Mansoor, a prisoner of conscience who had served a three-year prison sentence after a grossly unfair trial in Bahrain, Lynn Maalouf, AI’s Middle East Research Director, said: Hajer Mansoor’s release is long overdue, but she should never have spent a single day in detention in the first place. “Hajer was imprisoned for three years on absurd ‘terrorism’ charges, solely because of her family relationship with Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a human rights activist who now lives in the UK. “As such, her sham trial was nothing more than act of reprisal intended to intimidate and ultimately silence a critic of the Bahraini government who had escaped beyond their reach”. She added: “All other prisoners of conscience who have been detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights, or for their association with those who have been critical of the government, must now be released immediately and unconditionally.”
Bahrain Freedom Movement