Saturday, November 5, 2011

Response to European Parliament Resolution on Bahrain

This post is in response to the resolution issued by the European Parliament against Bahrain on October 27, 2011. Please click here for the original resolution.

The Bahraini government has tolerated month long protests and marches that have not complied with the laws of the country nor were they aligned with the international human rights standards in which some individuals of the opposition claim membership.  These marches involved hindering traffic denying people the right to access, engaging children in protests during school hours as well as a teachers' boycott which denied children the right to education, attempts to scare away investment by engaging directly with international businesses and foreign entities, campaigning to cause damage to the national economy by scaring away visitors to exhibitions and events and worst of all violence against security forces and civilians all over Bahrain leading to serious injuries and some fatalities.
Read more: Abusing Human Rights in Bahrain by Brave-Bahrain.
As a result of the dissidence the government had to take strict measures to ensure that perpetrators of such actions are brought to justice especially after confidence in the legal system has declined considerably in the eyes of the rest if the citizens of Bahrain.  The government was forced to investigate anyone and everyone who participated in the unrest in order to find the main perpetrators and lay down the hand of the law.  Many of the groups cited in this resolution have long been eliminated from the list of suspects and subsequently released and those who remain are people who have strong evidence against them for major crimes and are awaiting their trials. Many people have been exonerated through fair legal proceedings and others have been released and are awaiting their court dates.  Rest assured that those who have not yet been released are held based on strong evidence and eye witness accounts. 
Calling the demonstrators "peaceful" is a misnomer that Bahrain has tolerated long enough.  Ample footage has shown premeditation and intent in the most disturbing manner in their hate crimes against expatriates and naturalized citizens.  Their crimes continue until this day spilling oil on highways which have caused serious accidents, barricading roads with metal and blocks and even stretching chains across highways close to these oil spills to cause major damage to speeding vehicles.
With regards to the alleged repression by security forces it is imperative that observers understand that no legal marches have faced interference from the authorities so long as they complied with the law and maintained order.   However, on many occasions these protests have violated the penal code pertaining to unauthorized gatherings and gatherings with the intent of violence.
Please refer to the Penal Code on the ministry of justice website. 
Orders to cease these gatherings have ended in protesters hurling rocks, molotovs and/or paint bottles at security vehicles which forced the police to make arrests.  These arrests have in turn faced resistance and ended up in force.
Doctors, teachers and others who got arrested had ample evidence from videos to pictures to eye witnesses and most on charges of inciting hatred to the ruling family, deliberately using media to damage the reputation of the country and encouraging violence as you will read in the penal code.  Here we emphasize unequivocally that THERE ARE NO POLITICAL PRISONERS IN BAHRAIN.
When the government lays down the hand of the law as the ultimate authority to protect the peace and stability of its land and the security of its people in a much more lenient way than Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States where dogs and batons were used and hundreds of arrests were made it is hardly justified to "condemn" such actions when you are guilty of them yourself.
It is of utmost importance to note that the authorities did not resort to such measures before exhausting all other avenues.  The government of Bahrain has proactively and repeatedly requested for dialogue with the opposition parties starting from the Crown Prince's sudden appearance on national television calling for calm and dialogue and ending in the Bahrain National Dialogue which Al Wefaq opposition party has deserted after the second round and discounted as fake.  Prisoners held for political reasons in the past have been released in an effort to meet one of the opposition's main demands and the releases continued even during the crisis when criminals were allowed to await their sentences at home despite the severity of their crimes. People who have been terminated from their jobs are being reinstated as we speak and the doctors are being given civil trials to ensure fair due process and have now had all major charges dropped reducing their offences to misdemeanors even though we have seen them on pictures and videos leading marches calling for the fall of the regime and allowing chaos to befall our largest hospital complex. In a bigger step towards ensuring human rights are preserved and compensation given to those violated, the King has deployed the Bahrain Independent Commission for Investigation to launch a widespread investigation of alleged violations during the unrest and their report is due to be released on 23 November.
In closing we, the people of Bahrain, are of the conviction that this resolution has been biased, built on misinformation and has not considered the achievements that have been made thus far by the government.  It has completely ignored a large portion of Bahrain which has gathered to prove its existence but more importantly its denial of the atrocities that have befallen this island and its insistence on reform as an the political solution to the discourse in Bahrain instead of a complete system change.
Furthermore, we are indeed outraged at the harshness of the statements on Bahrain while you have been extremely lenient on the Syrian regime which has claimed the lives of dozens each day and committed atrocities that have been seen and reported by the world; Syria which has defied every call to stop the violence and has threatened the region with war in case of external interference; Syria which stepped all over every human rights law that has ever existed…
Further to this statement, we the people of Bahrain demand the European Parliament to
  • Revisit information gathering channels as they are obviously flawed and one-sided
  • Study the situation in greater depth and understand its dimensions
  • Acknowledge the positive moves made by the Bahraini government and the measures it has taken to ensure that all that have been wronged are compensated
  • Acknowledge approximately half the population of Bahrain who disapprove this so-called revolution and instead call for reform through civilized dialogue
  • Issue a statement against the violence and vandalism incited by the main opposition bloc in Bahrain (Al Wefaq Society)
  • Issue a correction to the resolution on Human Rights in Bahrain of 27th October 2011 bearing in mind all of the above.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Bahrain By-Elections Extravaganza

Over the course of the week of September 18 Bahrain’s social networks, and especially Twitter, were bustling with activity as the Feb14 Youth announce their plan to return to what was once GCC Roundabout otherwise known as Lulu Roundabout or Martyrs Square.  For the first time since the February/ March crisis, I saw Bahrain’s loyalists unite in an effort to prevent yet another occupation of Bahrain’s financial district and counter all the moves made by Feb14.
#Tawkalkarama – Wednesday, 21 September 2011
Earlier in the week, the Feb14 youth announced what they described to be a peaceful form of protest called Dignity Belt which called for all protesters to drive around the most highly used main roads leading to the financial district of Bahrain until the roads are completely frozen with traffic congestion.  The aim of this move was to prevent people from reaching their workplace, prevent customers from reaching businesses and ultimately cause major financial damage to the economy.  It was their belief that this move will push businesses to exert pressure on the government to step down and at the same time it was their first move towards returning to their Lulu shrine…
However, the night before the event, Bahrain loyalists stepped up and filled Twitter with calls to counter the event and ensure that businesses do open.  Counter measures included leaving home at 6 in the morning to reach offices before 7am which was the proposed kickoff time for Dignity Belt.  The #Tawkalkarama hash tag was filled with our tweets and morale was high and excitement levels peaked on Wednesday morning when people actually did wake up bright and early and tweets about reaching work went viral while traffic reports on Twitter and Bahrain Television showed just a little more than usual traffic save for the bit of congestion around half way through the event on Shaikh Khalifa highway leading into Manama caused by the extra precautionary measures taken by the traffic police to ensure the inner roads of Manama are not infiltrated by saboteurs.
By 10am everybody was already busy at work while tweets from the opposition were spreading pictures of what appeared to be traffic but in reality could be normal congestion during the morning rush hour of a typical Bahraini weekday.  Associated Press released an article stating that Dignity Belt has reduced Bahrain traffic to a “crawl” which might have had some credibility to the average idiot had they not released this article on SEPTEMBER 20TH!!  MSNBC and Al Jazeera then took the same article and posted it on their sites and that was about all the coverage they got in their favor.  CNN on the other hand in an unprecedented move called the event a complete failure.
Little victories were claimed that day by the Feb14 Youth. That bit of congestion on that one highway and the heightened security were claimed to be their triumphs over the regime that day. The fact that they caused panic among their fellow Bahrainis was another. One can see that these triumphs were petty and foolish considering the malicious intent towards the other inhabitants of this island.
Thursday, 22nd September 2011
The victory experienced by Bahrain’s loyalists on Wednesday has created high levels of participation on the social networks and the counter tweets on the opposition hashtags have reached their highest levels. Increased participation on the opposition's hash tags in an effort to be heard have began bearing fruit and that alone has caused many people to stay home and monitor and participate on all channels.
The Stream hosted Al Wefaq former MP Mattar Mattar and opposite him Dr. Saqer Al Khalifa, Media Attache to the Bahraini Embassy in the United States.  Everyone was tweeting their hearts out to the show asking questions and posting comments and supporting their preferred guest.  Another triumph was recorded there when Mattar Mattar found himself no match to Dr. Saqer who communicated with extreme clarity and sense while Mattar mumbled his way through the interview.
#lulureturn – Friday, 23rd September 2011
It was the day everyone was dreading; a day of the first real threat that protesters would go back to the site of GCC roundabout.  The determination on the #lulureturn hash tag was a telling sign that they mean business.  Calls for all to “die for Bahrain” meant they were determined enough to defy the security forces and get killed doing it.
Most of us were worried that in the middle of all the anticipated confusion and the presumed defiance of authorities that police would have to use force to turn back the protesters.  In our worst fears, there would be thousands charging towards the police and that victims may fall and we’d all go back to square one.
Starting from Thursday and throughout Friday morning we have done all we can to counter the opposition tweets on the #lulureturn hash tag and at the same time anticipating the announcement of zero hour when they would all “crawl” towards the site of Al Farooq junction.
At about 4pm, I received a call from my friend telling me that protests have broken out at the City Center Mall where she was just finishing lunch with her family. She described the scene to be around 200 people marching at the ground floor of the mall when others afraid of violence breaking out went upstairs for safety.  She took a few pictures for me to post on Twitter and as she tried to take a video of what was going on downstairs she got nudged by a man who turned out to be part of a group who were motioning to the protesters downstairs and directing their movements.
Later on there were reports of some of the protesters attacking Al Arabiya journalist, Mohammed Al Arab who was there with his crew to film a documentary about the elections in Bahrain when they were surprised by a group of men attacking them and stealing their camera which to this day has not yet been recovered.
My friend reported a mad panic among people on the top floor who were shocked that their day out was interrupted by these protests and terrified that violence might break out. Mothers and children were screaming, some even fainted and some of the children were separated from their families amidst all the commotion.
Eventually the top floor filled up with patriotic Bahrainis and loyal GCC citizens who frequent Bahrain on weekends. They gathered at the rail and in their rage while hearing calls for the fall of HRH the King they found themselves chanting “the People want Khalifa Bin Salman!” at the top of their lungs drowning the noise coming from below.  What a proud moment that must have been for them knowing that there was indeed something that they could do to retaliate without resorting to violent clashes and thus making their stance loud and clear.
Moments later anti riots police arrived and quickly dispersed the crowd arresting a number of men and women. Those that got away had their faces plastered all over national TV and almost immediately afterwards faces were identified and their names were circulating all over Twitter and Blackberry Messenger.
Meanwhile attempts to reach Al Farooq junction were futile and all diversion tactics were completely useless.  Protests were again confined to the villages and security forces did a great job keeping people away from the Seef/ Manama area.  Road blocks became necessary in order to ensure a tight perimeter around the area which cause some traffic jams.
As I commented on Friday’s incident I was shocked to see people actually defending the blatant act of terrorizing families and disturbing their weekend and possibly traumatizing their children.  I got tweets telling me, “good now you know how it feels to be us” and “how could the police arrest women who were protesting peacefully??” and even worse ones like “how could they enjoy themselves knowing there are children with nothing to eat because their father got sacked??” Apparently, we all deserve to be miserable because they are unable to understand the concept of actions and consequences.
Victories claimed that day: excess traffic.
#BHelection – Saturday, September 24, 2011
New threats to “crawl” towards “Lulu” were observed on Twitter. More determination and will seemed to be filling the #lulureturn hash tag but the numbers seemed to be diminishing. On the other hand, the #BHelection hash tag was witnessing a tug of war of tweets some sending their recipients on guilt trips should they go to the polling stations and many others encouraging constituents to vote.
To proactively counter efforts to reach “lulu” roadblocks were set up by the police to prevent the people from the most troublesome areas from attempting to reach Al Farooq junction. Much traffic was caused on this day all for the purpose of keeping people safe and polling stations free of vandals.
A new hash tag used by the opposition called #Safroha (meaning “make it zero” in reference to the elections turnout percentage) inspired by the very hate inspiring speech of Ali Salman on Thursday.  Calls to boycott the elections have started long ago but were intensified this weekend. Constant reminders that the blood of the martyrs is on their shoulders if they voted or that they will be a black mark in the history books if they disobeyed the order.  Al Wefaq went as far as circulating a Fatwa by Iraqi cleric Al Ghoraifi forbidding them from voting.
At the same time, live coverage on TV showed a lot of foot traffic at the polling stations especially at the mall and airport and eye witnesses on Twitter were reporting a strong turnout.  The news came towards the end of the day that the turnout was around 51% as Ali Salman of Al Wefaq claims no more than 15% and the elation of the loyalists could not be contained; they could finally see the fruits of their labor and hope has been restored that Bahrain will come out of this safer and stronger than ever.
Victories claimed that day: more traffic congestion.
The events that unfolded starting from the 21st until the 24th of September were a clear strategy from Al Wefaq to hinder the democratic process in Bahrain and prevent people from voting on Saturday. Masked by the pretense of Feb 14 Youth, these acts of desperation stemming from the fact that the world has started to see through the movement and understand that it is not the majority of Bahrain who are opposed to the government; that this hyped up, over exaggerated, sectarian so-called revolution is nothing more than an attempt to gain power through stepping all over everyone else’s freedoms including that of their own followers.
The events of this weekend have unfortunately increased the divide in Bahrain… As people were just resuming their lives and rebuilding relations with their fellow Bahrainis what was now proved to be a small minority of people have gone and broken all the bridges that have been built over the past period since February 14.  Encroaching upon other people’s freedoms, trying to pull Bahrain back towards an ugly cold civil war and causing distress and anxiety are not characteristics of a peaceful political reform movement.
On the other hand, many have started to find the right path and have broken away from this destructive minority.  People went to vote and most did not succumb to the calls for the return to “Lulu” and the democratic process was determined to continue to thrive and grow in Bahrain with or without Al Wefaq and their puppets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

How 1 Bahrain Became 7

It's been a while since I've written anything, partly because I've been busy at work and unable to find the time or inspiration to write anything meaningful and partly because what I've been hearing, reading and seeing (sometimes even smelling) has just exacerbated the stress and writer's block I've been having lately.

Daily riots and demonstrations have become business as usual in Bahrain and I can't help but think, "when were they ever NOT?" We have always had the occasional burning tire or the frequent demonstration until it was recently called "the land of the million marches". But recently it has reach ridiculous proportions. Those constant promises of returning to the promised land and consequently ruining every possible happy occasion you can think of have raised the hate guage to maximum levels and hostilities have increased exponentially on social media. And the trouble is it is no longer just two groups of people fighting to impose their views on one another but each of these groups now has several groups within themselves...

So many categories of people have arisen with each side representing a new school of thought (sarcastically speaking) with their initial affiliation still intact.

1. The hard-core loyalists: these are the people who would give their left eye for the ruling family and primarily the Prime Minister. To them the government is always right even when it's not. They abhor the opposition of all kinds and with no exceptions.

2. The conditional loyalists: They are hard-core loyalists until the government does any positive move towards bringing tensions down that might have the smell of leaning towards pleasing the opposition however minuscule it may be... And then they turn to sarcasm and condemnation and will criticize the government till their heart's content.

3. The loyalist opposition: they have pledged full allegiance to the Government but if they see an opportunity for improvement they will voice it out even if it goes against what the government's wishes. They are often called the positive opposition because they believe in keeping and reforming the existing system rather than the toppling calls of some other categories. They attempt to make sense of the government's moves possibly for their own peace of mind but mostly to calm down the previous group and to prove good will to the world.

4. The reformists: they try not to cloud their purpose with any sort of loyalty but rather focus on political and social reforms whoever they may serve. They believe that they have the best interests of Bahrain in mind and as a result manage to anger both sides of the spectrum even though they don't intend to. They also refer to themselves as "moderates".

5. The moderate opposition: they are a confused bunch; while they vehemently support the Feb14 movement which calls for the fall of the "regime" they have been seen to oppose some of their practices but some think they only do so to appear moderate. They never praise anything good that comes out of the government and they hardly ever comment on the illegal actions of the destructive opposition and even defend them at times. But they're moderates by self proclamation so let's leave it at that.

6. The negative opposition: this is where most of the opposition societies and human rights activists fall. They are the puppet masters behind the movement and have launched a full-fledged cold war against the government with the sole aim of seeing it removed from power. Their war is made up mostly of negative publicity and economic destruction and they will lie through their teeth to achieve their objective.

7. The destructive opposition: this is the rogue group thought at first to be the small fraction that has hijacked the original protests and caused all the violence at the beginning. But now we see that it is a disease that has spread throughout the opposition villages causing daily destruction and violence against property, civilians and police. They often come out at night masked and hardly clothed. They burn tires and blow up gas cylinders and throw bricks at policemen. They graffiti property and burn schools and run over policemen with their cars. These people have completely lost their sense of purpose and have taken the streets as their home and have become immune to tear gas.

So with this 7-point scale If each person in Bahrain assesses him/herself according to their "school of thought" what will the demographics of this conflict look like? What if instead of Sunni/Shia statistics, we could fall under one of these categories and see who "wins" the numbers game? Obviously the answer is NOBODY.

Loyalists have turned against each other and have lost sight of the big picture. Where the ultimate objective of the loyalists or "pro-govs" as we are often called was to restore confidence and stability to Bahrain and basically bring it back to the peaceful and quiet island it always was, the groupings have obstructed their visions and different groups started having different objectives. The focus has completely been lost and instead of all of us pulling into the same direction, we started pulling in different directions and as a result weakening our position in the eyes of the world.

All the while, and even though the opposition has also broken up into different categories, they are still aligned in their goals. They still know what they want and they are using each others strengths to achieve it. Their messages to the world have been consistent and they have never lost sight of the ends they have been trying to reach however much they may disagree with the means.

Dear categories 1 to 3 and even 4: our cause is a good one. We are the non-violent peaceful parties, we keep our neighborhoods clean and our walls free of graffiti and our tires on our cars instead of burning in the middle of some road. We never hit anyone with Molotov cocktails or bricks and we certainly didn't lay down any metal rods and spikes and spilled oil on roads to cause harm to others. We did not lie or distort facts or kill each other to prove our point. We didn't plot for coup attempts for decades and we did not commit 1000 legal and social violations like stop teaching our kids or leave our patients to go out to protest or turn our schools into political arenas and we certainly didn't set out to cause major material harm to Bahrain's economy.

It's time to realign and refocus and be more consistent. It is time for people all over the world to remember the newly awakened Giant and the force behind the number. The Gathering Of National Unity is more than just Sh. Abdullatif Al Mahmood or a name registered now as a political society. It is what brought us together and put our voices out there in the first place and the spirit is what needs to be kept alive.

And I pray for the day when 1 to 7 become ONE...


Monday, August 22, 2011

Bahrain's Sectarian Divide

Bahrain today is witnessing a spark of a sectarian conflict of a larger scale than anticipated.  What was thought to be a random act of vandalism has been reciprocated and tensions are mounting in fear of a full blown civil war.
Our opposition is known for the destructive effect they have on property so it is not very strange to see their graffiti on the walls of houses and buildings. However, it was a shock for all of us to see that they have such little respect for mosques when the residents of roundabout 19 in Hamad Town woke up to this:

"Down with Hamad" written on the steps of a Sunni Mosque
"Down with Hamad" written on the door of the same mosque

And as we went on and on condemning, denouncing and judging these activities, we woke up the next day to this:
"response to the attack on roundabout 19" writen on a Shi'a mosque
"Down with Khamena'i, Down with Isa Qassim" written on the fence of the same mosque

The fact that such incident occurred in Bahrain was shocking enough but its enormity is magnified by two phenomena: 1) that people decided to take matters into their own hands and have completely lost faith in the authorities; 2) that we have entered a phase of in-kind retaliation.
"An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and he who has begun is to blame" is a Quranic excerpt and a religious edict that has been the subject of utmost attention throughout this conflict when people demanded that the full extent of Shari'a law be observed when dealing with "traitors to the country". And when the death penalty was delayed and prisoners released and policemen detained people have lost faith in the justice system and as a result decided to take matters into their own hands...
Many of us are now fearful of a deeper sectarian rift that could tear this tiny island apart. While it was alleged that the second incident was conducted by a member of the same mosque the fact still remains that there are forces trying to create a conflict that may draw us towards civil war.
One can only pray now that this will be the extent of it... Just an isolated incident never to repeat itself...
When I wrote that last sentence it was still august 20th.
On august 21st, a Shi'a religious procession was due to take place (as usual). It starts from Matam Karimi and passes through Muharraq Souq which is known to be a busy place all year round and more so now since Eid is just around the corner. The Sunni street would not accept for that procession to take place for several reasons the most prominent of which is the fear of it turning into a political rally and causing further clashes with the police.
So they gathered at the Souq initially intending to ensure that the procession does not go off its authorized course but later on when a few individuals started shouting political chants and afterwards a few women exchanged "unpleasantries" with some of the male bystanders, the whole scene became tense and turned into a display of muscle.
Twitter was bustling with pride for the Sunni heroes who have gone to defend Muharraq from turning into a scene of a political rally and from the other side denouncing the effort of the Sunni population in denying the Shi'as from performing their religious rituals. It was a scene that many of us had been trying to avoid ever since Feb14 as sectarian tensions kept mounting.
To me, many forces are to blame for the incident of August 21st; on the one hand, the Sunni population had had to endure silencing their mosques for years while Shi'a rituals have been allowed to chant using loud speakers with no restrictions. There was a video circulating showing a group of people in one of the processions chanting about "driving the riot police mad" and "down Hamad" which is exactly why there was this need to defend their turf.
Please click here to view the video that does not has enraged many many Bahrainis and caused a general fear of what might happen during the coming rituals and processions.
On the other hand, many Sunnis have become vocal about their hatred towards Shi'as and are publicly disrespecting the whole sect. A lot of derogatory words have been thrown around, many that I have never heard of before...
It is a sad scene to witness for someone like me who has lived through Bahrain's best times and now has to live through its worst. We have never been so divided. I didn’t know the difference between Sunna and Shi’a until I went into college and even then it really didn’t matter. I fear for a deeper sectarian division that mirrors Iraq’s and Lebanon’s and many other countries torn by racial and religious conflicts. If only we could learn from other people’s pasts and break away from what seems to be an inevitable trend. But for that to happen there is a dire need for moderate leadership among the ranks; this sensible voice that tells us that what we're doing is foolish and detrimental and guide us towards rebuilding and cleansing instead of destroying and desecrating.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cherif Bassiouni's response to Nabeel Rajab

Dear friends,

I just wanted to share with you a letter that Nabeel Rajab has sent to Cherif Bassiouni accusing him of basically not doin his job with integrity and with it I attach Bassiouni's response which made me want to give him a standing ovation...

I want to draw particular attention to the language of Rajab's letter and if you have ever heard him on TV you will quickly discover that there is no way he could have written this himself. I'll leave the pondering up to you...


Nabeel's letter (which was published on the BCHR website) 

09 Aug 2011
Open Letter:

Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni
Commission Chair, Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry

Dear Sir,

Subject: Your interview with Reuters on 5 August 2011

Your appointment to the independent commission tasked with investigating recent human right abuses in Bahrain was encouraging news for all those involved in the field of human rights. It is, therefore, with deep disappointment and regret that we at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) read your recent comments. The comments suggest that, without completing anywhere near a full investigation, you are willing to espouse the view of the political establishment whilst paying lip-service to the concept of a fair and independent enquiry.

This is all the more surprising as your hasty comments contradict a vast range of published reports by well respected human rights groups who have spent time and resources investigating the situation in Bahrain. Indeed, your comments that “there was never a policy of excessive use of force” in Bahrain contrasts grimly with the news, published just days before, of an armed raid on the offices of Médecins Sans Frontières by the Bahraini authorities. Claims of torture by detainees are so widespread that it is hard to believe that they were carried out by a few bad eggs within the security forces.

Countless reports catalogue a range of human rights abuses which targeted specific segments of society, most notably medical workers. The well respected human rights group, Physicians for Human Rights, published a thorough report which detailed the systematic persecution of medical workers. Such organised, wide scale discrimination strongly indicates the collusion of high ranking government officials and renders your initial judgment that such abuses were “a case of people at the lower level acting, and there not being an effective chain of communication, control" premature and, potentially, extremely damaging to the credibility of the commission.

Even if we were to accept the extremely unlikely situation that the Minister of Interior (as currently suggested by you) was unaware of the actions of lower level government officials, Bahrain is still subject to the obligations outlined in the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which requires it, in Article 16, to prevent acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when such acts are committed by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. Bahrain has clearly failed to maintain its obligations under this Convention.

Your current views seem to be based on a range of false assumptions. Most notably, that “it’s totally untrue that people are afraid of coming forward”. These comments are surprising, as those interviewed by the commission thus far are not representative of the vast range of people affected by the governmental crackdown on protestors. We are aware of a number of individuals who, initially subjected to torture, have since been subjected to further torture as punishment (and as a warning to others) for speaking out about the treatment they received. Whilst we, and a number of other organisations, are strongly encouraging individuals to come forward and speak to the commission about their treatment, the off-hand comments of the commission are insulting to those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, under the policies of the current regime and discourage participation in the commission’s investigation.

These concerns lead us to seriously question the legitimacy of this commission and its ultimate findings. You appear to have accepted without question the assertions of the government as to the number of political prisoners, the treatment they received and the governments “willingness” to rectify the mistakes of “rogue” individuals within the government framework. Because the Ministry of the Interior is ‘extraordinarily willing’ to listen to the commission, it does not follow that there was not a systematic policy of violence. This argument is a non-sequitur and questionable at best.

This defies the very objective of the commission; to reach an independent and impartial conclusion as to the human rights abuses committed in Bahrain and the cause of such abuses. Recent news regarding the release of prisoners, whilst encouraging, should in no way subtract from the commission’s stated goal.

Nabeel Rajab
Bahrain center for Human Rights
09 Aug 2011


Cherif Bassiouni's response:
Reply of the Head of the Bahraini Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to the BCHR Open Letter

August 9, 2011
Mr. Nabeel Rajab
Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Dear Mr. Rajab,

Thank you for your letter of August 9, which states your concerns with the work, but more so the integrity, of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).

1. The BICI does not espouse the government’s views or any other views. The statement I made was that so far we have received the cooperation of the Ministry of Interior, and that is borne out by the facts. I am attaching a self-explanatory statement that will soon be posted on the Commission’s website.

This allegation insults the Commissioners and staff who are working 14 to 16 hours a day to serve the cause of human rights in Bahrain. All of us have well-established records in the field of human rights and this speaks for itself. We are neither bought by nor at the service of anyone. We are at the service of human rights and will continue to act as such.

2. There is no doubt that there have been a large number of reported cases of human rights violations which include: deaths, torture and physical mistreatment, arbitrary arrests and detentions, wrongful dismissal of public and private sector employees, suspension of students and termination of scholarships, destruction of mosques, and destruction of private property. As we now know it, 35 people have been killed, and one is too many. We estimate from the more than 900 emails and 200 complaints, as well as interviews with over 300 victims and witnesses, that the possible number of physical abuse and torture may well reach into the hundreds, but we still do not have a complete picture of these violations. We need the cooperation of everyone in order to ascertain that information.

3. Once we have concluded our investigations, it will be possible to determine whether such a large number of violations are the product of “state or organizational policy” (see the definition of crimes against humanity in the ICC’s Art. 7, para. 2; see also M. Cherif Bassiouni, Crimes Against Humanity: Historical Evolution and Contemporary Application (Cambridge University Press, 2011). This is separate from the individual determination of individual cases of torture under the Convention Against Torture to which Bahrain is a state party. (See Nigel Rodley & Matt Pollard, The Treatment of Prisoners Under International Law (Oxford University Press, 3d ed. 2009), and M. Cherif Bassiouni, The Institutionalization of Torture by the Bush Administration (Intersentia, 2010)).

4. As a lawyer, you know that each of these crimes has separate legal elements that need to be established. Moreover, I am sure you know the legal differences between individual criminal responsibility and the responsibility of superiors, which is more difficult to establish. In particular with respect to the latter, we need to establish whether superiors in the chain of
command failed to take appropriate measures to prevent torture when they knew or should have had reason to know that torture took place. There is also command responsibility, when those in the chain of command failed to investigate and prosecute those who commit such a crime.

5. These considerations of international criminal law are not exclusive, since the Bahrain criminal code contains two provisions criminalizing torture (namely, Arts. 208 and 232). These provisions also apply with respect to torture and other forms of physical mistreatment which may be of a lesser nature, and we are not ignoring this source of national criminal responsibility. The BICI is diligently pursuing all of these leads, and it is premature at this point to reach any valid legal conclusions.

5. With all due respect to all the international human rights organizations you have mentioned, I am sure that as a lawyer you will agree that their reports are considered secondary evidence. We need to either have access to the facts upon which they reached their conclusions, or to be able to determine those facts on our own. Since we are not a human rights organization, as you yourself stated, we need to ascertain the facts not only for their broader significance, but also with a view to determining where the system went wrong, who in the system initiated wrongful policies or carried them out, and how to correct these wrongs.

6. In light of the scope of what has happened, the polarization and radicalization that exists, the climate of suspicion and distrust, and the scale of the violations claimed, I am sure you will agree that it is premature to reach any conclusions. Any focalized or limited statements such as the one I made to Reuters cannot be used as a basis for the type of generalizations to which you and others have arrived.

7. Lastly, I understand that you were interviewed in an online newspaper article today in which you claim that the BICI is not looking into the deaths of persons. This is simply incorrect and you know this, since you yourself have an appointment with the BICI to accompany witnesses with evidence concerning deaths. Furthermore, I found it disheartening that you deemed it necessary to personally attack me in that interview.

The BICI will continue its work as an impartial, fair, and neutral body dedicated to the service of human rights, irrespective of any criticism or any political perspectives that are at play. We are here for the truth and nothing but the truth. We remain open to any constructive criticism and to any constructive ideas that may improve our work, and we welcome everyone’s cooperation in the pursuit of these goals which we are all pursuing.

Trusting that you will publish this reply to give it the same publicity that you have given your open letter, and that you will see fit to continue to cooperate with us and to help us in achieving our mission. We look forward to cooperating with civic leaders like yourself to successfully accomplish our mandate.

M. Cherif Bassiouni
Chair, Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry

Friday, August 5, 2011

Commentary on AJE's Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark

If you still haven’t seen Al Jazeera English’s latest documentary on Bahrain, here is your chance to watch it now:
In this post, I have attempted a detailed analysis of this video which has done Bahrain a great injustice by showing one side of events and neglecting the other side in which I and many people like me belong. The side that is not here to blindly defend the government but has come to dedicate its existence to bettering the tarnished image of Bahrain and bringing some modicum of truth to the world.
As a disclaimer, I do not deny that excessive violence has occurred by the security forces and I wish for all to be held accountable for acting against the laws of the country and the laws of humanity. In the same context, I am a firm believer that actions warrant consequences, and while the  police used excessive force we must not completely discount the possibility, however small, that there was a cause for it. If a policeman in the UK or US shouts at a suspected criminal to “STOP OR I’LL SHOOT”, you better be damned sure that he will shoot if you do not stop. Anyway, I will not dwell on this because I do not condone violence in any shape or form nor do I excuse it.
Following are a few stops that I took throughout the video and my personal commentaries on them backed with information that I have obtained either through videos that have been released or statements that I have obtained from people who have trusted me enough to speak out against the lies and fabrications.
From the video’s opening statement: “Shia muslim majority are being ruled by a family from a sunni  minority” a complete fallacy considering the latest statistics put Sunnis as a slight majority. However, I do not want to make this the focus of this commentary but I would like to settle on the assumption that there is a 50/50 split.
“pearl roundabout” is GCC roundabout. The six pillars holding the pearl symbolize every state in the Gulf Cooperation Council. AJE should be a little more thorough with their research and use its official name rather than the name people have given it.
Blacked out speaker “the whole of Bahrain are there [at the roundabout]”. No, I was not there, neither was my family, my friends, nor the hundreds of thousands in Bahrain who disagree with the revolution.
The army “Locked down the capital”. So how come there are clearly cars on the highway just above?
The part after the video of the funeral procession turned protest is the same one where bags of blood were used to show wounds were worse that they really were. There is no denying the pictorial evidence of the bags of blood used to show more blood than there actually was. There was even a video of a protester who was about to get off the ground but when he saw he was being filmed he lay back down and faked being in pain.
Now they’re saying the hospital gave humanitarian refuge?? What about patients who were unable to get any medical treatment because of that so-called refuge?? I personally have stories of two family members who suffered because of the situation at Salmaniya: one of them was a cancer patient who needed fluids drained from his body every two weeks or he would die. When he went there they made him wait for hours and then told him there was nothing wrong with him and sent him home. Later on his condition got worse and his family took him to a private hospital where he died days later. The other story was of a lady who collapsed at her home in Galali, when the ambulance finally got there the driver took her to the rounadabout and made her wait while he was there and then he finally took her to the hospital.
Police retreating after the “flower” protest: the protesters were shouting “hopefully you leave from here to the airport” indicating their disdain for the nationalities of the policemen and the amount of racism these people carry in their hearts.
“we are asking our minimum basic rights as a humans in this country” since when is it a minimum basic right to topple a whole government? Erratic demands were always the case with these protests. What started as reform escalated to calls for the death of a family.
Unemployment?? I have worked with the unemployed in a national program dedicated to subsidizing the upskilling of Bahrainis and their salaries in the private sector (funnily enough with the man who stands behind Hassan Mushaima later on in the video) and I have seen how jobs are rejected by many people who choose to be less educated in a country that gives equal free education for all. Jobs came from everywhere  from drivers to security guards to clerks and yes even construction workers and yet they believe themselves to be above these jobs with their less than secondary level education. NOW they demand the government give them jobs while calling for democracy? Democracies that guarantee NOTHING to their people and no special privileges?
Poverty: is the queen of England not living in a palace while some people are on the streets? The president of the united states? All the heads of any type of state? We have no homeless people in Bahrain. And if you apply to the right program, a house like the one shown in the video would be on top of the lists of houses to be renovated by the government. Tell me which democracy provides that?
Feb 23rd largest march in the history of Bahrain? What happened to Al Fateh? In fact, what happened to the rest of Bahrain? Why has AJE completely neglected to mention them save for a small part where they are carrying makeshift weapons to defend their neighborhoods?
Peaceful secular democracy movement? What do you call the demand for an Islamic Republic by Hassan Mushaima? What does it mean when my mother, brother and his wife are met with a group of protesters shouting, “get out Sunnis, Bahrain is for the Shia” in Juffair following the second rally at Al Fateh Mosque where more than 400,000 people AJE failed to mention have gathered in support of reform?
Armed groups were NOT to put an end to the protests! They were to stop rogue protesters from attacking their neighborhoods. Where AJE mentions towards the end that Asian expats were target of “punishment” by the protesters, that was the time people were terrified of leaving their houses and neighborhood watches formed to protect neighborhoods. Right next to my house in Hidd is an abandoned house whose construction has stopped. Following reports that there was a prison break at the Dry Dock prison there was strong suspicion that these convicts have occupied it and the throngs of people coming to catch them were overwhelming. What would we have done if these people did not dedicate their days and nights to protect us?
Why hasn’t AJE mentioned anything about the road blocks and the chaos that caused the police to step in to maintain law and order?? The only mention is of the dismantling of a freedom movement but the truth remains that these freedoms have been abused and have started to encroach on other people’s freedoms and the police HAD to step in to control the situation. The second half of Bahrain was suffering at the hands of the rogue few thousands (not all protesters) and the laws were being completely neglected and ignored.
Why has AJE not questioned how these police being treated at salmaniya got injured in the first place?? Who hurt them badly enough that they had to be taken to Salmaniya and not the BDF hospital where they are usually treated?
The Saudis would not allow one [revolution] in their own back yard??? WE ASKED FOR THE PENINSULA SHIELD TO STEP IN!!! Allegations of Saudi occupying Bahrain are completely unfounded. Further allegations that Saudi troops have killed and demolished are not only ridiculous (because we have yet to see a single picture of a Saudi soldier or tank on the streets of Bahrain) they are clear attempts to put Saudi in a sectarian light because of its known stance against the Shia creed. The opposition would like to see Saudi go down and they have mentioned that very blatantly on the social networks we don’t even need to elaborate further. Therefore, it is quite understandable why they would want to show Saudi as the “bad guy” that is spear heading the whole “repression” movement.
I know doctors who were there and all the allegations of hostility towards them are 100% true.
“Salmaniya opened its operating theaters to Al Jazeera” one doctor told me that many of the deaths and exacerbated injuries occurred because of the constant camera crews coming in and out of the operating rooms. These doctors allowed themselves to contaminate an operating room where there were open wounds and as a result people’s conditions have worsened and some have even died as a result.
The clearing of the roundabout on March 16th was to put an end to the chaos these protests have caused in Bahrain and not to crush unfounded democratic dreams. The 3 weeks that preceded were utter chaos and have inconvenienced the whole nation. Illegal marches, road blocks, people facing hostility because they put up the Prime Minister’s posters on their cars, others being beaten up in their neighborhoods, expats terrorized and threatened and many more.  My cousin lives in an apartment in Isa Town, he is the only Sunni in the building. People went banging on his door asking him to “leave this neighborhood you Sunni!”
In the footage of the final clearing of the roundabout AJE mentions that they “ran” out of the protest sites while the footage shows them walking away and maybe doing a little jogging but there is definitely no running. The BTV footage was clear and could not possibly be fabricated everyone was walking away calmly. The fires make it seem like they were caused by the security forces, please show the footage of who set fire to the tents AJE!
Wow! Respect to AJE for finally acknowledging the murder of the policemen. Now it’s your turn opposition, still insist they were dummies planted by the government?
Nobody got killed when Salmaniya was cleared. It was just as organized as the roundabout so allegations of devastation there are completely false. They just took the opportunity of there NOT being any video footage to add in their own versions of the story.
The alleged village attacks are being taken out of context. Once the state of national safety is announced no protests or gatherings are allowed and the military have warned against them. When you break the law you should expect some consequences. Oh but alas, consequences have not once been acknowledged by the opposition and they don’t seem to believe that wrongdoing warrants any kind of consequence.
The protests and chaos happen to be in Shia villages is that a coincendence or do you still insist that the security forces were targeting them just because they are Shia? The security forces know exactly where these originate and it is their job to ensure measures are taken to contain the protests at the source and away from the busy financial district. I wonder how come the protests in the streets stopped when the police controlled the villages..? No one is targeting anyone.
Mass arrests for the thousands who have disobeyed the laws of Bahrain. There have been many who have committed acts outside of the law. Yes people have been arrested for just being at the roundabout but they were released if exonerate from any criminal act. The country has a responsibility to investigate if it has reason to believe an outside conspiracy is in the making and if it means questioning each and every individual who has appeared at the roundabout then so be it. Let’s not kid ourselves, the US does it only it does not get public scrutiny because it controls all the world’s media. I know some detainees friends or acquaintances and none of them have suffered from any abuse inside the prisons.
Abdulrasool Al Hujairy (RIP): his case still remains a mystery. He has submitted photo evidence to the government incriminating many people from the opposition of criminal activity and suddenly he is found dead. However, the opposition is pinning it on the government using his Shia status as leverage.
“we are afraid to go out of our houses, we are afraid to go to our jobs”  is just another excuse to go through with the illegal strikes. I have seen blackberry broadcasts spread by the opposition telling them to say just that in order to get out of being punished for being absent from work. These broadcasts have detailed measures encouraging their readers to lie to their employers about their whereabouts and the reasons for their absence. And they still say they were unjustly terminated? And they cry unemployment? Who wants to employ someone who does not care for internal policies and with such kind of work ethic?
Yes national football stars deserve to be ridiculed because they neglected their responsibility in representing Bahrain and their responsibility to set good examples to future generations. But that is my personal opinion take it or leave it.
Ayat al Qormozi’s poem was not a mere criticism, it was a public slandering of a figure head using shameless vulgarity and this is a crime punishable by law. The video of her confession is not of someone who is under duress. She is calm and she knows what she is saying. She might have said it to get out of incarceration but her malicious intentions have translated into several contradicting interviews where in one she says the treatment she got was fine and in the other she  goes back to her story of torture and sexual violations:
(videos courtesy of ElaAlBahrain)
Somehow after all what happened, we’re supposed to believe everything Salmaniya doctors say about what happened there. Never mind the other doctors who have witnessed completely different events.
SALMANIYA DOCTORS WERE NOT ARRESTED FOR TREATING INJURED PEOPLE!!! Their crime was that they not only engaged but incited the unrest and were parties to the ill treatment of patients who were not part of the protests and who they believed to be pro-govertment as well as expats. They allowed for the hospital to become a protest ground blocking the parking lot and ER entrance. Do doctors not have a responsibility towards all patients regardless of race, creed or political stance? Are they not responsible for maintaining easy access to treatment for all people? What they did was unforgiveable.
Stories of doctors being charged for assault leading to death are confirmed by their colleagues who are now too afraid to speak up because they know they might suffer the fate of Abdulrasool Al Hujairy and others who spoke up against the protests.
It was the surgery itself that killed Abdulredha at Salmaniya because the surgeons failed to secure the operating room from the contaminations of people coming in and out taking photos and videotaping!
Yes the only gathering allowed for the people is a funeral because it is a religious rite and Bahrain respects those.
“shia mobs formed to punish the only people they could (as if that is ok) the impoverished Asian immigrants living among them” thank you AJE finally someone speaks some truth! However, don’t you think a whole story dedicated to this phenomenon is in order?
For decades, the Bahraini government has allowed the Shia community freedom to practice their rituals. The King himself has been more than accommodating and allowed the streets of Manama to be blocked off for Ashoorah and for private homes to be illegally turned into places of worship. Government property has been used to erect structures used for worship that are not necessarily mosques but can also be shrines and gravesites. But when you abuse the extra privileges that have been given to you the consequence is that you lose it. Cause and effect.
Ayat al Qormozi was not released due to international pressure. Her crime was a minor one and she was released awaiting her final sentencing.
Mushaima, Al Khawaja and Al Singaise have clear and strong affiliations with terrorist cells originating in Iran and targeting Bahrain for decades. Mushaima has actually called for the establishment of an Islamic Republic following Iran’s model and is a danger to society had he been allowed to stay in it.
I must say the video was very nicely filmed no wonder it took them so long to release it but I did feel that the over dramatization unnecessary. I must also admit the AJE is the only one who touched upon the violence of the protesters when they killed the policemen and “punished” the asian expats however I didn’t understand why these were mentioned fleetingly and not given more attention. I guess they just wanted it on the record that they gave an objective report.
AJE still did not give a cause/effect report on what happened in Bahrain blaming the government, Saudi, the “sunni so-called monirity” and anyone BUT the protesters for the violence and devastation. However, if AJE acknowledges those incidents of violence, why does it not shed more light on these? Why does it not doubt for a minute that the self proclaimed revolution was NOT a peaceful one and government intervention was an absolute necessity?
And who completely discount the whole theory of Iran’s involvement? It is not very farfetched if one takes a minute to consider the sudden interest of Al Alam TV and Al Manar, Ahlul Bait and many other Iranian news channels. It is not a coincidence that Iran’s leaders make official statements about the protests in Bahrain threatening action and sending flotillas and completely ignoring all the other countries. It is not a figment of anyone’s imagination that Iran has always threatened Bahrain in one way or another for decades claiming it to belong to Iran at some point. Why has the world ignored these signs and instead looked for physical evidence of such theories?
Too many questions left unanswered. If anything this movement in Bahrain has raised more questions than answers. It has shamed the REAL revolutions in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Tunisia by trying to establish itself among them. The truth of the matter is that this movement was what triggered the sectarian divide in which we find ourselves now but hey why not blame THAT on the government along with everything else? It is not the government that releases reports and articles citing imaginary statistics about the division between Sunnis and Shia. I only saw those in news reports and articles by international news agencies and human rights organizations. And the rest speaks for itself…

(Note: please excuse the hurried narrative, if you feel it requires improvement please put your comment down as I intend it to be a working document)


Thursday, June 23, 2011

If We Will, We Will

The philosophy of wills, means and ends

They say that where there's a will there's a way, which implies that the precondition of a "way" is the will itself... Speaking in less cipher; one can say that if you want something to happen badly enough, you should be willing to do what it takes to get it. It is not enough to just will it but this will must be accompanied with the willingness to take action. By no means does this imply that any ends justify the means. On the contrary, the will has to be one such that laws of integrity and humanity apply and where the end is one that suits all and not some.

Ends vs means

To place this subject in the context of the conflict in Bahrain, the opposition's motives had been clean and legitimate at the beginning of their protests asking for political and social reforms (the ends). However, they used illegitimate means to reach these ends (i.e. Unauthorized demonstrations). Soon after the authorities made an attempt to restore order and dismantle these illegal protests the ends of the protesters have begun to change erratically and they started using unruly means to reach their ends. All the while Bahrain has been at a war of wills in which it was proven that those with the biggest will won each battle.
With a revolution three decades in the making it is obvious that the will is more than strong and the creativity in the means used to reach these objectives has been found to grow exponentially throughout its phases.  What started out as defamatory graffiti on the wall evolved into burning tyres to Molotov cocktail attacks on police cars ended in exacerbating wounds for dramatic effect and faking own deaths. The will has become so strong that the means, however horrendous or preposterous they were had become justified to reach the ends.  The result is a fabricated and amplified revolution that has caught the attention of the world simply because of this strong will.

Wills, means and consequences

"accusing #Bahrain's conduct of being unjust shows a belief not in democracy but that actions don't and shouldn't have consequences" - 

This tweet from my dear friend sums up the situation today quite effectively. After the sentencing of 21 instigators of unrest to prison terms ranging from 2 years to life, unrest resumes as vandals block minor roads with dumpsters and spill gasoline on the roads to express their objection to the verdicts.
The will translates into radical means to reach an impossible end has earned these figure heads their deserved penalty in the eye of the law and in the most transparent and legitimate process possible. Yet Ali Salman is still in his state of denial and the concept of justice remains a one way street in the eyes of the opposition. Consequences mean nothing and retaliation is the predominant means but to what ends we have yet to discover.

Fe Fi Fo Fum

On the other hand, the rest of Bahrain had been taken by storm unable to process what happened fast enough to build a will or a means to an undetermined end. Amidst this rude awakening arises a force appropriately dubbed The Sunni Giant by the esteemed Ms. Sawsan Al Shaer when more than half of Bahrain while still in its dazed state got swept away by The Gathering Of National Unity and led into the largest assembly in the history of Bahrain represented by all sects, religions and affiliations all united under one common message of unity, progress and reform.  The will emerged when there was a need for a united front against the atrocities of the roundabout and to counter the sectarian detour the demands had taken. In only days The Gathering Of National Unity has assembled hundreds of thousands of people at Al Fateh mosque which was chosen for its size and symbolic value. Unprecedented in the history of this island, the 52% Sunnis who have never before united so solemnly for a single cause have made their way from all corners of the island to pledge their allegiance to its monarchy and to present their demands in a civilized and orderly manner.  Accompanied by their fellow occupants of bahrain who have been marginalized by the protesters for their nationality and non-Muslim religious affiliations, these people grew in strength and will. The will: to be heard and for their existence to be acknowledged. The means: a large gathering out of the way of major roads, no slanderous slogans, no tyre burning, no graffiti on the wall and no beating and killing of expats.
The will has now evolved into a desire to reach beyond the geographical realms of Bahrain after attempts to connect with the opposition in some kind of reconciliation had failed miserably due to their preoccupation with spreading their libelous messages to the west and tarnishing the good name of this country for their selfish gain. The TGONU spark has ignited a flame that has been simmering during the first days of the revolt looking for that fuel to light it full force. The will has increased exponentially and people were looking for the means through which they can realize their ends and consequently individuals and small groups have emerged, scattered as they were, but united under one goal which is to defend the honor of their home.
As the groups start to familiarize themselves with the monster within and the enemy without we slowly see their messages aligning and the effectiveness of it all was witnessed when a certain human rights activist was denied access to certain forums and was then given the third degree by the US congress. The means have finally seen an end and this encouraged thousands upon thousands to jump on the bandwagon and to join the media crusade to bring truth back home. Very quickly niches have been filled and efforts have found unison and what was a small voice of a few turned into the loud roar and the result has become mergers between groups, reference points for facts and figures and subject matter experts. Now we see better coordination and leadership spring from nothing only to become the front line defense for bahrain. Leaders and intellectuals have come to the surface and set the bar so high that the rest are striving to reach it. The Giant's size and voice, so large, is now giving the opposition something to think about and bringing them out into unchartered territory actually having to defend themselves to someone and justifying their actions after being unquestioned in the past. 

And so we will

And thus there is a great lesson to be learned here. With a strong will one can achieve in 3 months what took 3 decades to fail.  With a strong will the means find their way into our world and all pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Similar wills bring together people with similar means to achieve similar ends. There is strength in numbers but groups are made of individuals with small efforts so let us be this individualistic group of strong wills and let us unite towards achieving the ultimate end: to bring back the Bahrain we know and love and put it back on it's journey of reform and prosperity under the leadership of his majesty the king...


Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Salmaniya Story

We have all heard of the atrocities at Salmaniya and the crimes against humanity caused by the doctors. Worse than those are the lies and fabrications that have become business as usual at the hospital which puts to shame this noble profession and all it stands for.

I met with a young doctor just making her way up the medical ladder and striving to go through her residency program when she met with a strenuous series of events that have forever changed her life. For the purpose of maintaining her anonymity I will call her "Amal"...

Amal gives a detailed account of her first hand experience at Salmaniya Medical Complex starting from february 17 which was the day the security forces made their first attempt to clear the roundabout from its newly formed colony of protesters.

"The following is a description of my experience as a health professional at the Salmaniya Medical Complex during the period of protests and unrest that occurred n the kingdom of Bahrain.
Since the beginning of the protest, an atmosphere of unrest and instability filled the hospital. The attitudes of some of our colleagues changed dramatically. Many of whom we thought were our friends became hostile against us just because we are from a different sect. or as they defined us "agents and spies for the system"
It is a sorrow feeling that I felt when lifelong friends disregard and ignore all the pleasant times we have spent together for political or sectarian conflicts.
As part of the residency program, I am required to complete rotations at the Salmaniya Medical Complex. 
I was rotating in the Accident and Emergency department during February 2011.
On the February 17th, I arrived at the emergency department at 7 am 
The first thing I saw was total chaos. A lot of people were running around, shouting and screaming. I approached the Shift In Charge doctor who instructed me to put on the disaster team apron and I was assigned to the "B" area. He instructed us to attend to cold cases as the injured protestors will be treated in the other areas.
The accident and emergency department was over crowded with hospital staff, nurses and an even larger numbers of cleaners, bystanders and photographer. Antigovernment slogans were shouted, rumors were spread about government officials resigning, ministers abandoning their posts and about mass murders and crimes being committed against "innocent people"by law enforcement personnel.
With every rumor spread, the rage and anger of the protestors increased. The antigovernment chants turned into outrageous threats against Sunnis.
A group lead by a hospital janitor and a male nurse were shouting "no mercy for foreigners or Sunnis"
many people were gathering at the reception and triage desks to register themselves as patients and from what I saw, they were neither injured nor sick. An action that only leads to piling up records and increasing the number of casualties in the registers
As our instructions were given out to us, our designated area was to receive cold cases only, hence it was quieter than the other areas. A staff nurse came into the room and started cursing us and called us traitors because we were not treating injured protestors.  At that time we had a patient who was suffering from a heart attack and we were managing his condition. The patient's condition was completely unrelated to the protests yet Photographers stormed the room and started taking photographs of the patient and talking to news reporters that he was a victim of police brutality.
They had not consented the patient to do such actions, they have not asked permission from the medical staff treating him. This is a sign of violation of patient rights and privacies.
Then a large group of protestors brought in a few of the injured and many nurses were tending to them in a chaotic manner that I have not seen like before.
Medical consultants from different specialities walked into the room and were talking to the press about the nature the injuries, which  were a lot less in extent and nature than the description they gave. The injuries were no different nor more than the cases that we see every day.
Once the protestors started to gather in the parking lot for mass riots, the crowds began moving out of the area i was working in. Then a nurse approached me with a paper and demanded that I sign my name on it. She said it is a petition against his majesty the king. I refused to sign on the grounds that [it was a clear defamation of the king].
The nurse became violent and shouted curses and foul language at me. The same attitude seems to be contagious as many hospital staff have done the same when they saw us.
I ignored the incident and tried to focus on my tasks but the fear that I might be assaulted by these radical protestors was great.
With every minute that passed, I could see the expressions on the people around me change. They were looking at me with anger and they started talking in very disrespectful manners.
Despite the fact that I was taking care of them, they began cursing me and calling me names. I feared that their aggression might escalate so I took permission from the in charge doctor to leave the hospital.
I was terrified to go back to the hospital the following day.
The next day, february 18th, I went to the hospital. My family insisted that I stay home as the conditions were not safe and taking into consideration the events that occurred they day before. But I still went as I had duties towards my patients.
Once I reached the hospital,  saw huge crowds protesting in the parking lots. The corridors were full of angry rioters and many photographers were taking photos of this chaos.
 I went to the emergency department. One of my colleagues who signed the petition that I turned away the day before was in the corridor. I approached her to say hello. She did not greet me back. I was shocked to see such change in her behavior and asked her about the reason behind this change. She boldly said that it is bigger than what she had thought was happening.
I would like to shed some light on the cases that we saw that day. Most of them were anxiety attacks and not serious injuries or life threatening conditions as what they have been claiming.
This summarizes my experience during the unfortunates events that befell our beloved kingdom. I know a lot of my colleagues who have been either harassed, insulted and a few who have been assaulted.
May my words help expose the truth of what really happened."

I didn't want to change any of Amal's words, even where there are typing mistakes because I wanted to maintain the integrity of the story and to keep it as "real" as I possibly can.  It is a shame that Amal has to live in fear of her life day in and day out. It Is a shame that she cannot publish her story herself and go on CNN and BBC and openly and confidently tell her story herself. However, the trust in media has diminished in a rapid manner since February 14 in Bahrain and especially among those who were not protesters calling for the fall of a government.

I asked her permission to tell her story because even though it is not controversial or sensational, it deserved to be told because it is the truth; something that has become a rare commodity in this day and age...


Monday, May 23, 2011

My name is Nouf, and I am not a paid PR agent

On February 14, 2011 I bore witness to my country getting raped and pillaged by those who claim To be its loyal citizens carrying its flag up high with derogatory remarks about its sovereignty. Flags that have been desecrated with inflammatory comments about our rulers and the markings of the literal filth that was Pearl Roundabout.

At first it was thought to be a case of temporary insanity and many of us thought it would be fun to take a closer look just out of curiosity and see what is going on down there. I personally took a few rounds on some occasions and was in shock at the organized state of the place and the speed at which all the tents and structures had been erected; organization which I have later come to discover its spillover effect into their outcries to the foreign media.

On February 17th I was among thousands of Bahrainis shocked after the deaths at the first attempt to clear the roundabout and from the Blackberry broadcasts I was receiving from friends of "other" opinions it felt like the roundabout was attacked in the middle of the night and people were brutally killed by "merciless" members of the security forces. Despite the strength, persistence and what I thought was the credibility of people I thought I knew I still refused to believe blindly and decided to go on a quest for knowledge and decide for myself what was true and what wasn't.

That was the moment when I discovered The world of Twitter and the wonders it has shown me about the events of the world. I created my account on February 17th mainly for the purpose of getting the live tweets that I had heard about from so many people and it quickly grew on me and had become my main source of information. I was there when the #UniteBH hashtag was created and I was so proud of my fellow Bahrainis for taking such an initiative to reunite The people of this island under the same common grounds that have always held them together...

From then on I started noticing tweets from the opposition that have struck every nerve in my being accusing the "regime" of attacks against the Bahraini people and "brutal murders" and "rape" and "torture" and things I never thought for a moment that I'd hear being spewed out to the world about Bahrain! Day by day the tweets grew in number and frequency from hundreds of aliases and some even from the same people but with different accounts and I was speechless by it all with a feeling of helplessness and loss... I was unable to think and react and I remember all i could think of was "this is not happening to this peaceful land"... In my mind I started to mourn my country thinking that it was the end....

I then decided to take things into my own hands and began responding to the likes of Nabeel Rajab and Maryam Al Khawaja who after being bombarded by myself and many like me decided to block any account that opposed their views and threatened to expose their lies. However, I didn't let that stop me or discourage me... My mission became an obsession and all of us who have dedicated our time and effort to defend this country began to find different ways for our voices to reach as many people as possible. My efforts increased as events unfolded and while I tweeted and BBMed and occasionally emailed and "facebooked" I tried to maintain a neutral attitude and report facts and cast doubts on certain tweets that seemed a bit fabricated to me. I challenged people from the opposition and tried to find flaws in their reasoning and attempted to share this with the world all in hope of salvaging some of the damage to bahrain already caused by the opposition's lies and false reporting. Later on I found that I've morphed into someone I did not want to be... Spiteful and sometimes hateful but never racist. It was taking its toll on me and I could not be myself for too long. I started ridiculing at times and challenging them directly at others. I did not like what I had become but it was a necessary evil at times and it was getting increasingly difficult to maintain my positive outlook and openness to other people's views...

A network of "defenders" started to take shape, some of the individuals in it I know personally and others who decided to remain anonymous; some for fear of their lives and that of their families and others who just did not care for any credit... One motive unified us all: damage control and defending the honor of this kingdom... The number of "defenders" increased exponentially after a successful campaign against Maryam Al Khawaja in one of her jet setting excursions to spread lies about Bahrain; there were the occasionals and the usuals and the aggressive and the positive but it was clear to everyone why they were there and that what motivated them to be there was nothing more than their unconditional love for their country and their quest for seeking and disseminating the truth about Bahrain's events...

I kept the same account all along. I put real information, my real display picture and spoke of real events that have been happening in my life. I purposely did that so that anyone who wishes to check into my background would be free to do so and believe that I am who I say I am and that I have not been contracted by the government to do it's PR work on Twitter. I showed the world my true self and yet the world has let me and many others like me down by accusing us of being paid PR agents.

So now I declare it to the world, and on behalf of my fellow defenders: My name is Nouf, and I am NOT a paid PR agent!