STATEMENTS

Solidarity with Bahrainis on 10thanniversary of their Revolution

Bahrainis marked the tenth anniversary of their 14thFebruary Revolution with vigour, dedication and strong pledges to pursue the path of peaceful democratic transformation. For the past ten days protests continued in many areas with the regular chant: “People want regime change”. Pre-emptive mass arrests could not stop people’s dynamism and resilience. Outside the country online activities were held including webinars in Washington, Berlin, London, Rome, Dublin and Paris.  On 11thFebruary the Associated Press published a report on the Revolution’s anniversary, saying:  “A decade after demonstrators massed in Bahrain’s capital to call for the downfall of their government in 2011, authorities continue to suppress all signs of dissent. Activists behind those turbulent days say the memory of the protests that threatened the Sunni monarchy’s grip on power is all but extinguished. But many live with the consequences. Although many activists and protesters have escaped into exile or been imprisoned, the threat of dissent persists in this tiny kingdom with a majority-Shiite population off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia.”

Many arrests were made in the past week to pre-empt the people’s preparations to mark the anniversary. From Karbabad Town, detentions included: Mohammad Abdul Zahra Al Shajjar, his brother, Ali, Ali Saeed Al Daqqaq, Ali Ahmad Ibrahim and Hussain Hani. The father of Ali Mushaima, the first martyr of the Revolution, was arrested and given three month prison sentence for “illegal gathering” in memory of his slain son. On Monday 15thFebruary a judge renewed the detention of two under-aged children, Ali Yusuf Abdullah,15 and Redha Abbas, 12 for 7 days. Redha was forced to celebrate his 12th birthday in a prison cell. The khalifi dictator was forced to order their release when international bodies and Western regime supporters were criticized for remaining silent. Five more juveniles remain at torture chamers in Bahrain. Yesterday regime’s courts remanded Sayed Mohamood Sayed Mahfood from al-Markh town for one week.

On 11th February khaifi court issued jail sentences on several lamenters (orators) in revenge for continuing to serve the native cmmunity. Mahdi Sahwan and Abdul Amir al-Biladi were given three months jail sentences and pay a fine of 1000 Bahrain Dinars ($2500) . Hussain Sahwan, Saleh Sahwan and Ahmad al-Halwachi were given six months jail and forced to pay a fine of BD1000 ($2500).

Rights groups, including IFEX members, recently called on the Biden-Harris administration to ensure democracy and human rights are returned to the center of US foreign policy towards Bahrain, and secure the release of all prisoners of conscience. On 11th February Amnesty International issued a statement saying: Ten years after Bahrain’s popular uprising, systemic injustice has intensified and political repression targeting dissidents, human rights defenders, clerics and independent civil society have effectively shut any space for the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression or peaceful activism”, adding: “the Bahraini government continues to ignore key recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, an independent panel commissioned by the King in response to international concern over the suppression of the 2011 protests.” “Since 2011, the only structural changes Bahrain has seen have been for the worse, as opposition parties have been outlawed, the only independent news outlet has been shut down, and new laws have further closed the space for political participation. The protest leaders of 2011 continue to languish in grim prison conditions, and human rights including the right to freedom of expression are routinely trampled on,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “The Bahraini state has crushed the hopes and expectations raised by the mass protests of 10 years ago, reacting with a brutal crackdown over the subsequent decade that has been facilitated by the shameful silence of Bahrain’s Western allies, especially the UK and the US.”

On 14th February The Independent newspaper published an article titled: “The Arab Spring failed but the rage against misery and injustice continues today”. It said: A decade ago today, as pro-democracy uprisings raged across the Middle East, tens of thousands of protesters in Bahrain began their own rallies. Like many of the region’s revolutions, the protests were met with a bloody crackdown, according to those present (it’s an allegation the Bahrain government denies) – and 10 years later, many of the key voices of Bahrain’s revolt are behind bars, under travel bans or in exile. However, one difference is that over the last decade the UK has poured millions of pounds of taxpayer money into Bahrain in a bid to improve its human rights record. The UK has repeatedly said this £6.5m of technical assistance is having a positive impact on human rights. But leading rights groups, Bahraini activists and British parliamentarians say this policy has spectacularly failed. In the words of a new report by Bahraini rights group Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (Bird), a decade on from the uprising, Bahrain has “regressed in almost every area of human rights”.

In a letter sent on Monday 15th February to the UK’s  foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, 11 British MPs have expressed their serious concern regarding “the failure of UK reform efforts to foster genuine change in the country” urges the government to suspend this assistance until the death sentences of torture victims have been quashed. Bahraini activists agree.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

17th February 2021 (info@vob.org, www.vob.org)

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