Despite the apparent media and political excitement to achieve real reconciliation among the governments of the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) there is still a long way to go before the GCC regains its health, irreparably damaged by the Saudi, Emirati and khalifi hawkish policies. The 41st summit that was held in Riyadh yesterday was a ceremonial event overshadowed by the symbolic gesture of signing a vague agreement between the state of Qatar and four other countries: Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Bahrain. Qatar has apparently succeeded in bringing the alliance of the four countries to their knees and managed to come out of the crisis unscathed. The alliance had presented 13 points for Qatar to implement if it wanted the isolation they had imposed in 2018 to be lifted. But at end Qatar forced them to swallow their pride and crawl towards Doha without significant compromises from its government. Qatar will still have Al Jazeera TV, enjoy its cordial relations with both Turkey and Iran, keep the Turkish bases on its soil and follow an independent policy. The alliance has suffered major defeats at almost all fronts; in its war on Yemen, its blockade of Qatar, the relations with their citizens and its policy on the Muslim Brotherhood. The khalifis were the biggest losers in the game. The Qataris will not forgive them for repeatedly calling for Qatar’s expulsion from the GCC and waging massive media campaign against them.
Since the khalifi crown prince became prime minister two months ago, repression against native Bahrainis has intensified. Of particular concern is the adoption of forced disappearance to punish anyone who dares speak out. Sheikh Zuhair Ashoor who has been behind bars since 18thJuly 2013 and is serving a life sentence has not been seen or heard of since last July. A young citizen, Mutahhar Sahwan has totally disappeared since his detention more than week ago. His father, the popular lamenter, Mahdi Sahwan, is extremely worried about his son.
Bahraini jailed scholar, Mirza al-Mahroos has begun a hunger strike to protest lack of access to medical treatment. Al-Mahroos is one of the ‘Bahrain 13’ (a group of opposition figures jailed nearly 10 years ago for their role in the 2011 uprising) and is serving a 15-year sentence. Another political prisoner, woman activist Zakia al-Barbouri has also been on partial hunger strike for more than a week to protest ill-treatment and lack of medical care.
A native Bahraini lawyer has been taken into custody to serve one-year prison sentence ordered by the khalifis. The trumped up charges against her are seen as part of score-settling against those who had identified with the defunct prime minister, Khalifa bin Salman. Judiciary has become a tool in the hands of those in power extensively used against their foes.
Since the beginning of the New Year native Bahrainis have staged protests in continuation of their Revolution that started ten years ago. In Sitra protesters insisted that they were continuing the people’s revolution in the New year. On New Year’s day protests erupted in several places to mark the ninth anniversary of the martyrdom of Sayed Hashim Sayed Saeed, 14 who was killed by regime’s forces. He was shot dead on 31st December 2011. People visited graveyards to honour their beloved martyrs who were brutally killed by the khalifi dictators
At the end of a precarious year, Front Line Defenders urged people to “send a message of solidarity & demand for freedom for our friend and colleague Abdulhadi Al-Khalawaja in Bahrain’s prison. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is a former Middle East and North Africa Protection Co-ordinator for Front Line Defenders and former President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). He is the founder of Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR). Al Khawaja was reported to have said: If I die, I ask the people to continue on path of peaceful resistance. I don’t want anybody to be hurt in my name.
On 4th January the Saudi Specialized Criminal Court issued a verdict of four years jail sentence and four years travel ban against Dr. Yousef Al-Ahmad who has been in detention since September 2017. The trumped-up charges against him include attending the Book Fair and visiting some prisoners. Dr Al-Ahmad was previously arrested in 2011 after criticizing the detention of suspects without charge or trial. He was sentenced to five years in jail for “incitement against the ruler” and “sowing sedition.” He was later granted a royal pardon by the then-King, Abbdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in November 2012. Another preacher, Hamoud al-Omari has also been given four-year prison sentence.
Dr Abdulla Al Odah, son of detained cleric, Salman said that his father is facing a silent death in his cell. His health, he said, has been deteriorating for months due to lack of medical care and persistent ill-treatment and harassment. In a column in New York Times on 30th December he said: “During the first five months of his detention, in Dhahban prison in Jeddah, guards shackled his feet with chains and blindfolded him while moving him between interrogation rooms and his cell,” Odah said. “On one occasion, the guards threw a plastic bag of food at him without removing his handcuffs. He was coerced to open the bag and remove the food with his mouth, causing considerable damage to his teeth.”
Bahrain Freedom Movement