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Human Rights First: NEW REPORT: Human Rights Defenders Criticize U.S. Government’s Response to Bahraini Crackdown

May 17, 2011

Washington, D.C. — Following a fact-finding mission to Bahrain earlier this week, Human Rights First is calling on President Obama to stand up for human rights defenders in Bahrain. In his Middle East speech on Thursday, President Obama can send a clear signal that the United States supports human rights and democracy in the Middle East by supporting vulnerable Bahraini activists. In its report released today, Human Rights First publishes first-hand testimonies of the Bahraini government’s crackdown from the perspectives of human rights defenders currently in Bahrain, and provides recommendations for the U.S. and Bahraini governments to end human rights abuses.

While in Bahrain, HRF’s Brian Dooley interviewed several human rights defenders who described widespread torture and illegal detention. Bahraini human rights defenders told Dooley that they are increasingly disappointed in the U.S. government’s tepid response. Dooley said, “They see a double standard in U.S. rhetoric and action in relation to Bahrain compared with Syria, Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Tunisia.” Perceived weakness in support of human rights in a close U.S. ally like Bahrain weakens U.S. support for peaceful democratic change throughout the region.

HRF calls for immediate U.S. government action in support of human rights and human rights defenders in Bahrain. Recommendations include:

- President Obama, in Thursday’s speech on U.S. policy in the Middle East, should make specific reference to human rights violations in Bahrain and make clear the U.S. government’s support for the fundamental human rights of the Bahraini people. He should make specific reference to human rights violations and mention of at least one case by name – for example, that of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. - In the coming days, senior U.S. government officials should: *Publicly call for the release of all prisoners in Bahrain who are being held for exercising their rights to non-violent freedom of expression and assembly; *Condemn unfair trials, torture and death sentences in Bahrain; *Call for an independent inquiry by Bahraini authorities into widespread allegations of human rights violations, and for all those responsible for ordering or committing abuses to be held accountable; *Engage more closely and publicly display support for the human rights defenders and their families in Bahrain.

-In addition, Human Rights First reiterates its call for the U.S. government to support the convening of a special session on Bahrain in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva;

HRF also calls for urgent Bahraini government action to respond to the legitimate needs and interests of all its people. Recommendations include:

-The Bahraini government should immediately end its persecution of human rights defenders and non-violent critics: *Release all those detained for exercising their rights to peaceful expression and assembly; *Put an end to arbitrary detentions and disappearances; *Stop the torture and mistreatment of detainees, and implement safeguards to prevent torture, such as an end to incommunicado detention; *Stop labeling its critics as Iranian agents without providing any evidence that non-violent human rights activists have any other agenda than to promote and protect the universal human rights of all Bahrainis.

Additionally, the Bahraini government should:

End the systematic discrimination against the majority Shiite community; and Protect Shiite places of worship and religious buildings from attack or destruction and respect the religious freedom of all Bahrainis.

The complete report and recommendations can be found here (PDF).

www.humanrightsfirst.org

RSF: News photographers among crackdown’s latest targets

Published on Tuesday 17 May 2011.

Many photographers who have been covering the pro-democracy protests taking place in Bahrain since mid-February have been arrested in the past few days. By carrying out these targeted arrests, the Bahraini authorities are trying to limit media coverage of their crackdown on the protests, especially coverage in the international media.

Reporters Without Borders calls for the immediately release of these photojournalists and all the other people who have been arrested for circulating information about the demonstrations and the ensuing government crackdown.

Mohamed Salman Al-Shaikh, a freelance photographer who heads the Bahrain Society of Photography, was arrest in his home in Sanabis, a village west of Manama, on 11 May. He is a member of several international photography organizations and has won many international prizes.

Three photographers were arrested on 15 May. One was Saeed Abdulla Dhahi, who was arrested at his home in Juffair, southeast of the capital. His photographic equipment was seized during searches of his home and the home of his fiancée. He was the freed the next day.

The other two arrested on 15 May were Ali Abdulkarim Al-Kufi, a member of the Bahrain Society of Photography, and Hassan Al-Nasheet.

The third hearing in the trial of 21 human rights activists and opposition members was meanwhile held yesterday. The defendants present in court, who including the blogger Abduljalil Al-Singace, pleaded not guilty to trying to overthrow the government. Fellow blogger Ali Abdulemam, regarded as one of the country’s Internet pioneers, is also one of the defendants but he is being tried in absentia.

The trial was adjourned until 22 May to give the defence a chance to examine the evidence presented by the prosecution. The defendants are being tried before a special Manama court under martial law. The same court sentenced four demonstrators to death last month.

The head of the pro-democracy and civil liberties movement Al Haq, Singace used his blog to denounce the deplorable state of civil liberties in Bahrain and the discrimination against its Shiite population.

Anmar Kamal Al-Dine, a 24-year-old netizen who blogs on the social network Twitter as @anmarek, was meanwhile arrested on 12 May and was held for 24 hours. He has been posting photos of demonstrations on Twitter, especially the funerals of demonstrators in March and April during which many arrests were made. His Twitter account has been inaccessible since his arrest.

Abbas Al-Murshid, a prominent freelance columnist and writer who also participates in several online forums, was arrested after being summoned for questioning at 6 p.m. yesterday. He managed to contact his family today to let them know that he is being held. He is well known for the views he has expressed on sensitive subjects in recent months. In 2009, he was injured in the right eye by a rubber bullet fired by riot police.

Mattar Ibrahim Mattar, a parliamentary representative of the Al-Wefaq party who often talks to the international media about the current repression in Bahrain, was arrested on 2 May, after giving an interview to Al-Jazeera the previous day in which he stressed the danger of opposition leaders being arrested.

The following are still detained: - Faysal Hayyat, Ali Jawad, Abdullah Alawi and Jasem Al-Sabbagh, who were arrested after being forced to resign from the newspaper Al-Bilad. - Ali Omid, Hani Al-Tayf, Fadel Al-Marzouk, Hossein Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Jaffar Abdalsjad Abdul Hossein Al-Abbas, Hamza Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi and Ahmed Youssef Al-Dairi, who are all online forum administrator or moderators. - Al-Wasat journalist Haydar Mohamed. - Photographer Hossein Abbas Salem.

rsf.org

Top U.S. diplomat presses Bahrain on rights

17 May 2011 14:41 Source: reuters // Reuters

WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) - A senior U.S. diplomat urged Bahrain's rulers on Tuesday to pursue political dialogue with the opposition and stressed "the importance of full respect for universal human rights," the State Department said.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, the No. 2 official at the State Department, held talks in Bahrain along with Jeffrey Feltman, the department's top Middle East official, and a senior official from the U.S. National Security Council.

"Deputy Secretary Steinberg affirmed the long-standing commitment of the U.S. to a strong partnership with both the people and the government of Bahrain and stressed the importance of full respect for universal human rights," the State Department said.

"He urged all parties to pursue a path of reconciliation and comprehensive political dialogue."

The United States and other Western countries have been accused by rights activists of reacting too softly to the crackdown in Bahrain, which hosts an important U.S. naval base and is seen as a crucial U.S. ally facing Iran.

At least 13 protesters and four police officers died during unrest that gripped the island kingdom in February and March until Bahrain declared martial law and invited in troops from Sunni neighbors to quash anti-government demonstrations. [ID:nLDE74G0M1]

The government has since cracked down on Shi'ite villages and opposition activists, arresting hundreds, and fired hundreds of workers from state-owned companies. At least three people have died in custody.

The government says it has targeted only those who committed crimes during the unrest. (Reporting by Andrew Quinn; editing by Bill Trott)

www.trust.org

URGENT Appeal: Prominent Human Rights Activist Threatened with Rape

16 May 2011

After refusing to apologize on camera to the King: Prominent Human Rights Activist Threatened with Rape

Joint Statement of the BCHR and BYSHR

Today at the 3rd hearing of the 21 defendants standing trial for charges including attempting to topple the government, former MENA Coordinator of Frontline Defenders and Former President of the Bahrain Centre of Human Rights, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja was removed from court. This happened immediately after he spoke at the beginning of the trial saying that he was threatened with rape after he refused to apologize to the King on Camera. He also told the judge that he had complained to the court in the previous session that he had been threatened and that the court had not done anything to secure his safety. The court judge refused to listen to these statements and Mr. Alkhawaja was ordered out of the court room even though he said that was all he wanted to say.

After the meeting Mr. Alkhawaja was allowed ten minutes with members of his family and his lawyer in the presence of one of the soldiers in the courtroom. He told them that last Friday he was escorted by 4 individuals in a white Sedan to an unknown location in a room where there was a video camera; a man there told him that he was a representative of the King and he began to question him. After the questioning, he was asked if he would like to apologize to the King, Mr.Alkhawaja responded, that as he had said in the Military prosecution he will only apologize if it turns out that what he has said is based on anything but the truth. Mr. Alkhawaja added (speaking to his family) that he feared that his words would be edited to seem like an apology. He was then asked again if he would like to apologize and he refused. Then he was taken to another room where the 4 men started to use foul language and threatened him with rape and that they would catch his daughter, BCHR activist Maryam Alkhawaja (who had recently participated in a congressional hearing on Bahrain), and rape her too. At this point the men started undressing and showing their private parts after which they started touching Mr. Alkhawaja inappropriately. When they tried to take off his pants, he threw himself down and started hitting his head on the ground continuously until he almost passed out. Seeing this they returned him to his prison cell. The doctor that examined Mr.Alkhawaja is afraid that this incident might cause complications with his head injuries that he sustained when he was arrested and has therefore scheduled an x-ray for today.

Maryam Alkhawaja

It is important to note that this is the third time Mr. Alkhawaja has spoken in court about abuse that he and other prisoners are being subjected to. In the first trial date 8 May 2011 he said to the judge that the court needs to give them guarantees that the continuous torture will end. In the second trial he stated that he was threatened of being killed if he spoke out in court. In all three attempts, the military judge not only silenced Mr. Alkhawaja but also refused to address any of the claims of torture, threats and abuse. This last time the court judge ordered that Mr. Alkhawaja statements be stricken from the court record. Another defendant, Mr. Mohammed Hassan, also spoke out in court today, stating that he has been subjected to torture, and that his body still bore the marks. He raised his pant legs to show evidence of torture.

After all these allegations and threats the BYSHR and BCHR fear for the safety and security of the defendants in general and in particular those that choose to speak out about their conditions and treatment in prison, especially considering the 4 deaths of individuals in custody.

The BYSHR and the BCHR call for:

1. The immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Alkhawaja and the other 20 detainees 2. An immediate investigation into the allegations of torture and mistreatment of the defendants 3. The international community to pressure the Bahraini authorities to provide guarantees for the safety and well being of human rights defenders in general and Mr. Alkhawaja in particular

Bahrain centre for Human Rights (BCHR) www.bahrainrights.org Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) www.byshr.org

Amnesty International Annual Report 2011: The state of the world's human rights - Bahrain Report

Head of state: King Hamad bin ‘Issa Al Khalifa Head of government: Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Death penalty: retentionist Population: 0.8 million Life expectancy: 76 years Under-5 mortality (m/f): 13/13 per 1,000 Adult literacy: 90.8 per cent

Scores of anti-government activists were arrested. Twenty-five leading opposition activists were on trial, two in their absence, accused of plotting to overthrow the government; the 23 were initially denied access to lawyers after their arrest and some said they were tortured. Other unfair trials took place. The authorities restricted freedom of expression, including by shutting down several websites and political newsletters. The government suspended board members of an independent human rights organization. One person was executed.

Background

In April, the King appointed the 23 members of the board of the National Human Rights Institution, established in November 2009. In September, however, the board’s President resigned amid disagreement between its members about how the institution should respond to political arrests.

During 2010, sporadic protests took place in predominantly Shi’a villages against alleged government discrimination in relation to housing and employment opportunities. In some cases, protesters blocked highways with burning tyres and threw home-made petrol bombs at the police and security forces. Hundreds of people were arrested, particularly in August and September, in connection with protests and riots, including many leading opposition figures, most from the Shi’a majority community. Many were allegedly arrested without warrants and held incommunicado for up to two weeks after arrest.

Independent and Shi’a Islamists won the majority of seats in parliamentary elections in October.

Unfair trials, torture and other ill-treatment

Trials of people arrested in connection with the protests started; some were marred by allegations of torture, denial of access to lawyers and other abuses.

The trial began on 28 October before the High Criminal Court in Manama of 25 prominent activists, most associated with al-Haq, an unauthorized opposition group. They were charged under the 2006 anti-terrorism law with “forming and funding an illegal organization with the aim of overthrowing the government and dissolving the constitution” and other offences. Two of them, who live abroad, were tried in their absence. All were accused of fomenting protests and inciting public unrest. The 23 arrested were held incommunicado for two weeks before they were charged. Some told the Public Prosecutor that they had been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by National Security Agency officials and had signed “confessions” under duress; several were referred for medical examination, but a government forensic doctor was reported to have found no physical evidence of torture. During the initial stages of the trial, defence lawyers complained about continuing restrictions on their access to their clients, and most of the accused repudiated their “confessions” and repeated to the court that they had been tortured or ill-treated. No independent investigation was initiated into the torture allegations, and only two defendants were referred to an independent medical doctor for examination. In December, the defence lawyers of the 23 withdrew from the case because the court ignored their requests, and the defendants refused to recognize or co-operate with lawyers subsequently appointed. The trial was continuing at the end of the year. Other trials were held of people accused of murder and burning cars, tyres and other property while participating in anti-government demonstrations and riots in previous years. In some, the defendants alleged they had been tortured or ill-treated to make them “confess”.

In March, the Supreme Appeal Court convicted 19 men accused of killing a police officer during an anti-government demonstration in 2008 in Karzakan and sentenced them to three years in prison. In October 2009 a lower court had acquitted them, finding that there was extensive evidence that the accused had been tortured in pre-trial detention to force them to “confess”. This finding was ignored by the Supreme Appeal Court. No steps were taken to investigate the men’s torture allegations.

Other cases of torture were also reported.

Two men, who were detained for the alleged attempted murder in August of a newspaper editor, were said to have been tortured to obtain detailed confessions used in court. They were released in December after the victim told the court that they were not the people who had attacked him.

Excessive use of force

Several times during the year security forces were reported to have fired shotguns at protesters and others. In October, the Interior Minister told Amnesty International that the security forces had tried to contain protests and violence without using excessive force and that no one had been wounded by their actions.

In March, Ibrahim al-Dumistani and ‘Abdel-‘Aziz Nasheeb, both nurses, were arrested after they assisted Hussain ‘Ali Hassan al-Sahlawi who had been shot, apparently by police trying to disperse a protest in Karzakan in which demonstrators had burned tyres. The injured man said he had not been protesting and was shot by police outside his home. The nurses were charged with assisting a “cover up” and “abusing their medical profession”, and quickly released on bail.

Freedom of expression

Critics of the monarchy and government were warned that they would be prosecuted under the 2002 Press and Publications Law, which prescribes prison terms for those criticizing the King or “inciting hatred of the regime”, although no such prosecutions were reported.

The government clamped down further on dissent after the arrest of the 23 opposition activists. On 28 August, the Public Prosecutor invoked Article 246 of the Penal Code to prohibit the media and others from publishing or broadcasting information about the arrests; breaches would be punishable by up to one year in prison. Although no prosecutions were reported, the government banned and shut down various publications and blogs. Among them was the Bahrain Online forum, which the Director of the National Information Agency said in October had been closed because it was deemed to have incited hatred and violence. He also said that other websites had been blocked because they had published material that breached Bahraini law, and that newsletters of political associations had been banned as the law only allows their circulation to members whereas these had been distributed to the public.

Freedom of association

In September, the government suspended the board of the independent NGO Bahrain Human Rights Society, accusing it of “legal and administrative irregularities” and “co-operating with illegal organizations”. Shortly before, the NGO had published on their website allegations of torture relating to the 23 detained Shi’a activists. The government appointed a temporary administrator, severely compromising the society’s independence. Several human rights activists were prevented from travelling abroad, although the government denied that travel bans had been issued against them.

Nabeel Rajab, Director of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights that was banned in 2004, was prevented at the border from travelling to Saudi Arabia on 27 September, prompting international protests. In October, he was allowed to travel.

Migrants’ rights

Foreign migrants, especially domestic workers, continued to be exploited and abused despite revisions to the kafala (sponsorship system) made in 2009 to enable foreign workers to change jobs without obtaining their employer’s consent. In several reported cases, employers confiscated foreign domestic workers’ passports to prevent them seeking alternative employment. A number of migrant workers were reported to have committed suicide on account of their poor living and working conditions. Bahraini law affords little protection to foreign domestic workers; for example, it contains no provisions establishing a minimum wage or rest time.

Death penalty

At least one person was sentenced to death and one man was executed. As in the previous 10 years, the death penalty was only used against foreign nationals.

In March, Russell Mezan, a Bangladeshi national, was sentenced to death for murdering a Kuwaiti man. The death sentence was upheld on appeal in October and by the Cassation Court later in the year.

In July, Jassim Abdulmanan, a Bangladeshi national, was executed. He had been sentenced in 2007 for murdering another Bangladeshi national in 2005.

In December, Bahrain abstained on a UN General Assembly resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions.

Country Reports

Bahrain: Detained Shi’a Muslims at risk Bahrain: Fair trial and freedom of expression must be guaranteed

Country Visits

An Amnesty International delegation visited Bahrain in October for research purposes and meetings with the government. The delegation observed the first session of the trial of 23 Shi’a activists arrested in August and September.

Archive on Bahrain Amnesty International Annual Reports

2010 2009 2008 2007

amnesty.org

POMED Notes: “Human Rights in Bahrain”

On Friday, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hosted a hearing on the human rights situation in Bahrain. The commission – chaired by James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) – requested the testimony of the following individuals: Joe Stork, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa programs at Human Rights Watch (HRW); Maryam Al-Khawaja, Head of Foreign Relations Office at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR); and Richard Sollom, Deputy Director of Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). The commission had also requested the testimony of Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns and Under Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman who declined the invitation.

To see full notes continue below or click here for pdf.

Representative James McGovern opened by noting that the Commission held a hearing on the issue last year under the leadership of Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD). He stated that the purpose of this hearing is to review the status of human rights in Bahrain with an emphasis on the “grave human rights abuses” that have taken place over the last three months. He stated that over the last decade, Bahrain has shown a willingness to address human rights issues in a constructive manner and noted the close strategic friendship and relationship between the United States and Bahrain. However, alluding to a Wall Street Journal editorial McGovern stated “Bahrain is indeed a friend, but it does not deserve ‘a pass’ on human rights issues.” He called on the Bahraini government to “allow the International Committee for the Red Cross or the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, or an appropriate U.N. human rights rapporteur to travel to Bahrain, visit detainees and provide an objective assessment of their physical security and the judicial process that will determine their future.”

McGovern also expressed his disappointment that the State Department officials were unable to attend the hearing and noted the large number of calls and e-mails from individuals from Bahrain to express their views on the situation in the country. He noted, however, that it has become clear over the last two days that “these calls were orchestrated” as they followed a similar script. He also noted that the Bahraini government had requested to also testify at the commission hearing, but noted that the commission is “a forum where the voices of the voiceless are provided an opportunity to be heard” and not for foreign government officials. However, a statement from the Government of Bahrain has been submitted for the record. He also submitted a May 11th press release from Amnesty International over the trials as well as a May 12th release by Human Rights First and an April 21st < href="http://blog.aflcio.org/2011/04/21/global-union-movement-calls-for-end-to-repression-in-bahrain/">report by the AFL-CIO on the Bahraini government’s failure to comply with agreements under the U.S. Bahrain Free Trade Agreement.

Joe Stork began his testimony by stating that this is a critical time for the U.S. to be having this hearing, especially as the Bahraini government attempts to build a counter-narrative. He noted the danger of this counter-narrative as it equates a largely peaceful pro-democracy movement as an act of terrorism. Stork noted that even though the government is fully in control of the security situation in the country, they have continued to abduct, arrest, torture and beat their citizens for participating in the February protests. Stork noted that he has been monitoring the human rights situation in Bahrain since 1996 when he documented abuses that took place during the Intifada. He discussed the improvement of the human rights situation in the country when King Hamad took power in 1999 and implemented reforms. Stork stated, however, that HRW was dismayed by reports of torture that began to surface in late 2007 and noted that even following the release of a HRW report on human rights in Bahrain in 2010 the government has failed to adequately investigate these claims.

Stork stated that members of HRW staff which were on the ground from February 17th till April 20th noted unlawful killings by security forces using live ammunition and the misuse of riot control weapons which led to the death and injury of many protesters. They also noted a series of arbitrary arrests and detention of over 1000 people. Currently, 630 people remain in detention and are incommunicado; including leaders of legally recognized political societies such as: Ibrahim Sharif, head of the secularist National Democratic Action Society; Matar Ibrahim Matar and Jawad Fairouz, recently elected members of parliament representing the Wefaq society. He stated that the incommunicado detention gives rise to legitimate concerns that the prisoners are being tortured and abused; Stork expressed his appreciation for Rep. McGovern’s calls for groups like the International Committee for the Red to monitor the prison conditions.

Stork discussed the false nature of the Bahraini government’s narrative. He stated that their reports that Shi’a doctors were refusing to treat Sunni patients and was using medical facilities and resources illegally are completely false. Additionally, he noted the expulsion of foreign journalists in the country and stated that despite government claims that international groups were allowed to monitor the trials, there are many reports of people, such as Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, being denied access. He also noted that the Bahraini government is refusing to allow him and other members of the HRW staff from entering the country to monitor and report on the situation.

Stork urged the U.S. government to speak out vigorously and publicly against the abuses lest the U.S. appear complicit in the government’s repression campaign. He also stated that the U.S. should announce a comprehensive ban on security resources until the government halts the arbitrary use of violence and hold accountable the authorities and officials who committed human rights violations. Stork also called on the government to publicly “criticize by name the most flagrant abuses, such as unlawful killings and torture, and the wholesale impunity for serious crimes in violation of international law.” He stated that failure to do so will hurt U.S. credibility abroad and undermine efforts to promote human rights and democracy in the region. Stork also called for a U.N. Human Rights Commission to convene a special session on the issue as well.

Maryam al-Khawaja opened by discussing her trip to Bahrain in February to document human rights violations by Bahraini security forces who were reportedly using unnecessary and excessive force against protesters. She noted that the February 17th “clearing” of the Pearl Roundabout in Manama was not a clearing, but rather an orchestrated attack on civilians as security forces intentionally shot protesters at point-blank range with pellet guns, rubber bullets and tear gas. She also discussed the mass arbitrary arrests and beatings of opposition leaders, human rights activists, and professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and former members of parliament. She discussed the case of her father who was beaten during his arrest and has told family, lawyers, and a judge that he was beaten during detainment and that his life has been threatened. These detainees, many of whom are under 18, have had extremely limited access to their family members. She also noted the arrest, beating and harassment of women during the protests including attacks on school girls. Al-Khawaja discussed the dismissal of over 1300 workers for participation in protests, the expulsion of Shi’a students from universities, and revocation of scholarships for Bahrainis studying abroad. She also noted the demolishing of 52 Shi’a mosques and attacks by the riot police on religious gatherings. Stork also noted that the government had previously taken pains to preserve these mosques making their demolishment all that more significant.

Al-Khawaja also commented on the Bahrain governments attempt to paint the pro-democracy protests as a sectarian conflict to perpetuate fear in the country and abroad. She noted their attempts to make the story about Iran gaining influence in the country rather than the government failing to address the legitimate concerns of the people. In his closing remarks, Richard Sollom also noted that security forces, torturing patients in hospitals, attempted to force protesters to confess to getting support and training in Iran. Responding to a question by Rep. McGovern on the sectarian issue, she also stated that thus far the Bahraini groups have denounced the Iranian governments’ statements and are against any intervention from Iran. However, if their concerns are not addressed and the human rights situation continues, these groups may turn to Iran for support, which will have regional implications. Al-Khawaja also stated that many Bahrainis do not feel safe in their homes due to the security forces’ daily campaign against their people. Thus, she urged the Administration to use the leverage they have with Bahrain to encourage reform and to make topic-specific statements in the condemnation of human rights abuses in Bahrain.

Richard Sollom requested to submit the recent PHR report on the attacks against doctors. He stated that in conflict areas, doctors tend to have the best first-hand knowledge on human rights violations conducted by governments. He noted that they are in many cases able to discern the cause of injury and also tend to know the number of deaths. Being important eye-witnesses to government abuses thus made doctors a target in Bahrain. He noted that the PHR report discusses the group’s findings following in-depth interviews with 47 doctors, patients, and medical personnel, many of whom were at the Salmaniya Hospital. The interviews stories were corroborated by medical examinations, x-rays, and a review of medical files. Sollom also discussed the abduction and arrest of medical personnel and stated that “for each doctor, nurse, or medic that the government disappears, many more civilians’ lives are impacted as patients go untreated.” Sollom also refuted the government’s claims that doctors refused to treat Sunnis, stating that they are ethically and professionally bound to do so.

The report also finds that government authorities used excessive force, including high-velocity weapons and shotguns, while using birdshot, rubber bullets, and tear gas against unarmed civilians – often at a close range. They also have used tear gas in enclosed spaces and tortured detained protesters. He also discussed the security forces use of torture during interrogations at Salmaniya hospital and reports that security forces stole nurses and doctors’ uniforms and ambulances to get closer to protesters, round them up and attack them. He stated that these actions are a breach of international law, particularly those regarding medical neutrality.

Sollom called on the Obama Administration to lead an international effort to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Violations of Medical Neutrality through the United Nations Human Rights Council. He also called on the administration to speak out and condemn these attacks, in no uncertain terms. He also urged embassy officials to visit Salmaniya Hospital and meet with physicians and medical personnel who were witness to these attacks. He also encouraged Congress to support the passage of a resolution on medical neutrality that was recently introduced.

Rep. McGovern expressed once again his disappointment that the administration was unable to send someone to testify before the commission. He then asked the panelists what the role of U.S. entities has been on responding to human rights abuses in Bahrain. Joe Stork responded by stating that the President recently called King Hamad to discuss universal rights of the people and to encourage dialogue and reform. Additionally, he stated that Under Secretary Jeffrey Feltman, in his March trip to Bahrain, attempted to stall GCC troops entering in Bahrain and also attempted to restart a national dialogue. Stork also expressed his belief that the absence of Bahraini army the day after the Pearl Roundabout was cleared was likely due to U.S. pressure. Publically, however, little has been said on the situation in Bahrain. Richard Sollom also stated that up to this point, to his knowledge, no body from the U.S. embassy has visited the hospital or talked to medical personnel about the events which took place.

Rep. McGovern also asked Maryam Al-Khawaja to respond to claims that the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has provoked the government and perpetuated violence in the country. Al-Khawaja stated that the BCHR has been documenting human rights abuses for many years and has been officially recognized by the government since 2002. It is also internationally and nationally recognized for its documentation of human rights abuses and partners with international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. She also stated that the BCHR has routinely condemned violence of any kind from both civilians and the authorities. Stork also stated, in response to questions, that the BCHR although unrecognized in 2004 following statements made by Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja criticizing the Prime Minister was tolerated and allowed to function. The Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society was also stripped of recognition and its board was fired following the publication of reports criticizing the government. Stork stated that there are government institutions that have formed human rights groups and it is possible that they were allowed to access to the trial. Al-Khawaja noted that she has two contacts left in the human rights community in Bahrain that are not being detained, including Nabeel Rajab who has been harassed, threatened and is under an unofficial travel ban.

In response to a question by McGovern on whether PHR has been allowed to operate in Bahrain, Sollom discussed a visit to a hospital where he was met with security forces in black and green uniforms and ski masks. He stated that the security forces detained the group in a small room under armed guard and interrogated them for over an hour. He noted that although the Bahraini government public statements that they are allowing international human rights groups unfettered access to medical facilities and trials, are completely false. Stork noted that this is a recent change as in past years government relations with human rights groups has generally been good.

Rep. McGovern also questioned the panelists on the use of U.S. weapons and equipment. Al-Khawaja noted in the Pearl Roundabout she saw tear gas canisters and rubber bullets that had Made in USA and Made in Pennsylvania insignia on it. Sollom stated that he saw the same markings on gas canisters which had been used in attacks in enclosed spaces, including at a wedding. Stork also stated that these reports could be corroborated by HRW’s own reports as well. He noted that the pellet guns and the security forces using them were imported from Pakistan.

In their closing remarks, Richard Sollom cautioned the U.S. against falling victim to the Bahraini government’s propaganda campaign to paint the situation as a sectarian one. Maryam Al-Khawaja stated that the human rights situation in Bahrain is getting worse and passed along the request of many Bahrainis for the U.S. to pressure Bahrain to end these human rights abuses. Joe Stork called on the administration to have stronger and more consistent rhetoric, noting how failing to do so will implications on our efforts throughout the region. He also called for this hearing to take place in a committee that has subpoena powers so that the U.S. government officials will discuss these issues.

Rep. McGovern noted, again, that the commission is neither pro-government nor anti-government. He stated, however, that the United States has been late in responding to the situations in Middle East and urged the administration to listen to these accounts, address the legitimate concerns and attempt to help remedy the situation. Doing so, will reflect well on the U.S., McGovern said. He also made clear that while the Bahrain and the United States have an important strategic relationship, we should not give them a pass on human rights. He stated that the commission will continue to monitor the situation and that he will impress upon his colleagues the importance of speaking out on these issues.

pomed.org

Robert Fisk: Why no outcry over these torturing tyrants?

Saturday, 14 May 2011 by: Robert Fisk independent.co.uk

Christopher Hill, a former US secretary of state for east Asia who was ambassador to Iraq – and usually a very obedient and un-eloquent American diplomat – wrote the other day that "the notion that a dictator can claim the sovereign right to abuse his people has become unacceptable". Unless, of course – and Mr Hill did not mention this – you happen to live in Bahrain. On this tiny island, a Sunni monarchy, the al-Khalifas, rule a majority Shia population and have responded to democratic protests with death sentences, mass arrests, the imprisonment of doctors for letting patients die after protests and an "invitation" to Saudi forces to enter the country. They have also destroyed dozens of Shia mosques with all the thoroughness of a 9/11 pilot. But then, let's remember that most of the 9/11 killers were indeed Saudis.

And what do we get for it? Silence. Silence in the US media, largely silence in the European press, silence from our own beloved CamerClegg and of course from the White House. And – shame of shame – silence from the Arabs who know where their bread is buttered. That means, of course, also silence from al-Jazeera. I often appear on their otherwise excellent Arabic and English editions, but their failure to mention Bahrain is shameful, a dollop of shit in the dignity that they have brought to reporting in the Middle East. The Emir of Qatar – I know him and like him very much – does not need to belittle his television empire in this way.

CamerClegg is silent, of course, because Bahrain is one of our "friends" in the Gulf, an eager arms buyer, home to thousands of Brit expatriates who – during the mini-revolution by Bahrain's Shia – spent their time writing vicious letters to the local pro-Khalifa press denouncing Western journalists. And as for the demonstrators, I recall a young Shia woman telling me that if only the Crown Prince would come to the Pearl Roundabout and talk with the protesters, they would carry him on their shoulders around the square. I believed her. But he didn't come. Instead, he destroyed their mosques and claimed the protests were an Iranian plot – which was never the case – and destroyed the statue of the pearl at the roundabout, thus deforming the very history of his own country.

Obama, needless to say, has his own reasons for silence. Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet and the Americans don't want to be shoved out of their happy little port (albeit that they could up-sticks and move to the UAE or Qatar anytime they wish) and want to defend Bahrain from mythical Iranian aggression. So you won't find La Clinton, so keen to abuse the Assad family, saying anything bad about the al-Khalifas. Why on earth not? Are we all in debt to the Gulf Arabs? They are honourable people and understand when criticism is said with good faith. But no, we are silent. Even when Bahraini students in Britain are deprived of their grants because they protested outside their London embassy, we are silent. CamerClegg, shame on you.

Bahrain has never had a reputation as a "friend" of the West, albeit that is how it likes to be portrayed. More than 20 years ago, anyone protesting the royal family's dominance risked being tortured in the security police headquarters. The head of it was a former British police Special Branch officer whose senior torturer was a pernicious major in the Jordanian army. When I published their names, I was rewarded with a cartoon in the government newspaper Al-Khaleej which pictured me as a rabid dog. Rabid dogs, of course, have to be exterminated. It was not a joke. It was a threat.

The al-Khalifas have no problems with the opposition newspaper, Al-Wasat, however. They arrested one of its founders, Karim Fakhrawi, on 5 April. He died in police custody a week later. Ten days later, they arrested the paper's columnist, Haidar Mohamed al-Naimi. He has not been seen since. Again, silence from CamerClegg, Obama, La Clinton and the rest. The arrest and charging of Shia Muslim doctors for letting their patients die – the patients having been shot by the "security forces", of course – is even more vile. I was in the hospital when these patients were brought in. The doctors' reaction was horror mixed with fear – they had simply never seen such close-range gunshot wounds before. Now they have been arrested, doctors and patients taken from their hospital beds. If this was happening in Damascus, Homs or Hama or Aleppo, the voices of CamerClegg, and Obama and La Clinton would be ringing in our ears. But no. Silence. Four men have been sentenced to death for killing two Bahraini policemen. It was a closed military court. Their "confessions" were aired on television, Soviet-style. No word from CamerClegg or Obama or La Clinton.

What is this nonsense? Well, I will tell you. It has nothing to do with the Bahrainis or the al-Khalifas. It is all about our fear of Saudi Arabia. Which also means it is about oil. It is about our absolute refusal to remember that 9/11 was committed largely by Saudis. It is about our refusal to remember that Saudi Arabia supported the Taliban, that Bin Laden was a Saudi, that the most cruel version of Islam comes from Saudi Arabia, the land of head-choppers and hand-cutters. It is about a conversation I had with a Bahraini official – a good and decent and honest man – in which I asked him why the Bahraini prime minister could not be elected by a majority Shia population. "The Saudis would never permit it," he said. Yes, our other friends. The Saudis.

independent.co.uk

Bahraini women are paying dearly for expressing their views

Dozens are detained in prison facing torture and humiliation for participating in peaceful protests.

Bahrain regime is killing, detaining, physically and verbally abusing and dismissing women from work and education.

“States should condemn violence against women and should not invoke any custom, tradition or religious consideration to avoid their obligations with respect to its elimination. States should pursue by all appropriate means and without delay a policy of eliminating violence against women and, to this end, should refrain from engaging in violence against women and exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and, in accordance with national legislation, punish acts of violence against women, whether those acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons” -Article 4- Declarations on the Elimination of Violence against Women[1]

Bahrain center for Human Rights strongly condemns the ongoing crackdown against the peaceful protesters in Bahrain, specially the repression and detention of a great number of Bahraini women such as political and social activists, doctors, teachers, housewives as well as school and university students. These women are facing torture as well as physical and verbal abuses that leads to death in some cases; in addition to the dismissal from work and education. This is thought to be a vengeance against Bahraini women for the key role they played since the beginning of the protests; a way to force them giving up that role and retreat any activity they had in the protesting movement since last February. It is also a way to add pressure on the opposition to retreat their legitimate demands.

Since the early days of the Bahraini revolution on February 14th, 2011, Bahraini women participated as an active and influential entity in the protests. They advanced in great numbers on the front lines of the peaceful protests and expressed their opinion by demanding their political and human rights, giving speeches and reciting poetry. Their presence in the Pearl Square -The symbol of Bahrain’s revolution- was significant in taking up management roles, rescuing those injured by the excessive force used by Bahraini security forces; as well as documenting the brutalities committed against protesters and speaking to various media outlets[2] .

It is due to the active roles played by Bahraini women, that the authorities conducted a crackdown attacking and detaining them and anyone who they believe participated in the protests. The crackdown reached its peak with the arrest of unprecedented numbers of women in the history of Bahrain [over 100 woman during less than 2 months]; as well as the direct shooting of a woman by a sniper in Bahrain’s army. Thousands of women find themselves in poor psychological condition due to threats and intimidations faced and fear of injury, detention and losing their jobs and studies.

Physical attacks and life threats during the peaceful protests

Since the beginning of the protests last February, government forces faced peaceful protesters, including women, with excessive violence. As it has been witnessed, the forces shot tear gas and rubber bullets directly towards the women[3] leading to fainting[4] , wounds and injuries[5] .

Even in their homes and living areas, women are not safe from being targeted by the security forces. Friday evening, 25th March 2011, Najeeba Said Ali Al-Tajer, who is in her sixties, was admitted to the Military Hospital, after being shot by riot police causing fracture of the skull and tumescence in the eye. She went through surgery to stop the heavy bleeding. Reports indicate that she was standing in front of her house door, when she was unexpectedly shot by riot police, who were in vast numbers in the residential area of Aali trying to disperse a protest organised by the residents during the afternoon[6] .

In another incident, a lady got fired by a shotgun pellet in her eye and forehead on 15th March 2011 [7] . She said she was in her house on the top floor when the security forces and protesters clashed in the street, and the riot police tried dispersing the protesters and shot her.

Female doctors and nurses who treated the wounded and injured were also subjected to physical attacks. On March 14, 2011, “thugs” backed by civilian militias under the command of Bahraini security forces physically attacked the nurses in the University of Bahrain and abused them verbally. Two female doctors were threatened to death with a knife[8] ; one of them was Dr. Alaa Al-Safaar. On March 15, 2011, Dr. Haneen Al-Bosta was a victim of physical attack while she was treating injured protesters who were attacked by security forces in Sitra. An officer in the security forces slapped her on the face, kicked her and forced her to crawl in the street [9] , as a punishment for doing humanitarian work: treating the injured.

As a climax to these violations, at least one woman was purposefully killed. On March 15, 2011, the day the Pearl Square was forcefully cleared of protesters by the army and security forces, Bahiya Abdul Rasool Al-Aradi's (51 years old) life was taken by the military forces, when a bullet hit the front of her head[10] , making her clinically dead, while she was driving home on Budayaa road[11] .

She was listed missing since the day she got injured and her family were denied access to the Military Hospital to look for her. On March 20th, Bahiya was announced dead. Instead of investigating her death, the government tried forcing her family to sign the death certificate which stated “car accident” as cause of death. Her family refused signing, therefor the cause of death has changed to “serious brain injury”.

Horrific raids and arrest of women

Since the announcement of Martial law -state of emergency- on March 15th, national security forces has launched aggressive raids arresting women who were thought to have participated in the protests or strikes, have expressed their support or have helped protesters by offering them medical treatment. The attacks were specially targeted against teachers, university students, doctors, paramedics and even housewives. Their homes and workplaces were raided during the early hours of dawn. Moreover, some intermediate and secondary girls’ schools were raided leading to arrests a number of pupils under the age of 18. Other women were arrested at check points, where protest pictures or forwarded messages related to the protests were found on their mobile phone.

At the time of writing this report, 100 women have faced arrest in less than 2 months since March 15th and 30 of them are still in custody. This number is more than the double of female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, which is 36 prisoners[12] . It is believed that the total number of arrests is much higher than this number given the pace at which the daily detentions take place under a media blackout and fear or embarrassment of most families to report the arrest of their daughters. It is also believed that a large number of women are being detained on a daily basis to be interrogated for hours or days before being released. The ages of the female detainees who remain in prison are between 16 to 51 years old. List of recorded cases of detention of women

Among the detainees is Dr. Khulood Al-Durazi, one of the most famous doctors in the Gulf, specialising in infertility and IVF, as well as the President of Bahrain Nursing Society, Mrs. Rula Al-Saffar and the Vice President of Bahrain Teachers' Society, Mrs. Jalila Salman.

These arrests often happen after midnight, in the absence of female police. Security forces break the house doors and locks and threaten family members so they hand over their daughter if the troops don't find her. This is what happened to the family of Ayat Qurmuzi (20, student and poet) whose parents were threatened to witness the killing of all their children there and then, did they not disclose the whereabouts of Ayat. To add to the emotional pressure on the family of the detainee, the authorities denied later the arrest of Ayat after taking her from her home, and asked her family to report her missing, which put them in a very difficult psychological state and anxiety.

In some cases, teachers were arrested from their classrooms in front of their pupils while teaching. This has serious psychological impact on the teacher herself as well as the pupils who witnessed the horrific scene of security forces and masked men raiding their classroom arresting their teacher or classmates.

Some of the arrested teachers, interrogated and then released confirmed that they were subjected to severe beatings by male interrogators in the detention centers. Some of them said they were blindfolded from the moment of their arrest and throughout the interrogation and had to face the wall while being beaten. A student who was arrested and released two days later said “she was severely beaten and was made to choose between insulting religious symbols and being raped” [13] . Also, according to information received by the center, most of the detainees were beaten during their interrogation. They were slapped on the face and beaten on the back and neck leaving marks that were visible even after their release.

Moreover, the detainees were forced to chant the royal anthem and expressions of loyalty to the Bahraini government figures such as “The people want Khalifa Bin Salman” as well as expressions insulting the opposition figure Hassan Mushaima. They were also forced to wash and clean the detention center's toilets and wipe the floor, desks and all the furniture. This was intended to humiliate them as well as physically and psychologically punish them.

At time of writing this report, the center observed at least one case of a woman and mother of an infant, who was repeatedly detained in Hamad Town police station for refusing to have sex with security personnel in the detention center.

The center was also informed that the poet Ayat Qurmuzi has been subjected to severe torture in order to force her to confess, in front of cameras, of things she has not committed. This is a habitude Bahraini regime has observed since the events of the nineties and was repeated in 2008 when confessions of tortured detainees were filmed and officially aired on national television.

Dr. Farida Al-Dalal said to Al Jazeera English in an interview [14] after she was detained for a day, whereas the bruises and the marks of beating were clear on her face, that she got arrested from here office in front of her staff and patients by masked men and women who were covering their faces with black glasses. After investigating her in her office and inspecting her computer she was taken to the police station where she was beaten, slapped on the face, hit by a heavy hose on the forearms and legs and kicked in her back. Also, they covered her eyes with other detainees and commanded them to run to slam into the walls. Moreover, they ordered them to dance, and insulted them verbally by calling them “Dirty Shiites”, “Whore” and “Idiots who do not deserve wearing the white coat.” These sanctions were meant to humiliate and psychology abuse the detainees, in addition to physical damage as a result of beating. It is noteworthy that Dr. Farida Al-Dalal is Dr. Ali Al-Ekry’s wife, who is detained and it is believed that her arrest, beaten and insulting is linked to his arrest. Dr. Al-Dalal expressed her concern over herself after speaking to Al Jazeera “"especially in light of the international community's silence about abuses taking place in Bahrain.” The center was informed that she got another call to the police station on Saturday 7 May.

Some of the detainees suffer from illnesses which make their presence in detention centers a threat to their lives. This is the case of Amina Abdul Nabi Mullah, a primary school teacher who was arrested for letting her students draw the Pearl Roundabout in their notebooks without reporting them. She suffers from illnesses which require her to take medication daily and regularly. However, the authorities refused handing her the required medication. Her family were deeply concerned fearing the deterioration of her health; she spent several weeks in prison before being released lately.

Another example is the case of Mrs. Afrah Al-Asfoor, Arabic teacher and member of Teachers' Society who was arrested on March 29th after her house was raided by security forces -there was no female police with them-. Her whereabouts were unknown until mid April when she had her first phone call to her family. She previously had a stroke in the brain and the doctors warned her of any emotional stress as it could affect her health. Her family lived in fear that her status will deteriorate until she was released recently after more than a month in custody.

Many of the detained women are mothers and in some cases their husbands are also in custody or missing, leaving the children without any parent. This is the case of Dr. Zahra Al-Sammak who was arrested alongside her husband Dr. Ghassan Dhaif. As well as Mrs. Dhia Khamees (nurse) whose husband is missing too. There are also nursing mothers among the detainees (Mrs. Khatoon Said Hashem and Mrs. Kamila Juma Yousif) who are denied breastfeeding their babies. There are also pregnant women among the detainees.

Some women have spent more than a month in custody without any charge against them and without being allowed to meet their families or a lawyer. This was the case for the medicine students in the Saudi university of Dammam, Alaa Sayed Shubar, Zainab Al-Makhlooq and Zahra Zabar [15] who were taken to Bahrain on March 21st and were directly handed over to the authorities without allowing their families to see them. They were not released until April 14th. Similarly, Dr. Nada Dhaif spent more than a month in custody (arrested on March 21st) in the threat of being moved to solitary confinement to be tortured, and not knowing anything about her until she was released few days ago.

Some of the women who were released said they were interrogated about going to the Pearl Roundabout, symbol of the Bahraini revolution. They were asked about their participation in the protests and any communication they had with international organisations or foreign media, as well as any relationship they may have with foreign countries. Prior to their release most of the detainees are forced to sign statements accusing them of inciting or participating in an attempt to overthrow the regime. They are also threatened to death in the case of speaking to the media.

The regime doesn't hesitate to arrest some women as hostages to force their wanted relatives to surrender. On April 26th, Sheikh Riadh Al-Sitri's mother was arrested for several hours to force her son to surrender. She is an elderly around the age of 65 and suffering from chronic diseases.

Women's prison

The little information that reaches the detainees' families indicates that there are two centers where the female prisoners are held: the detention center part of the Criminal Investigation Department, which is a notorious prison, and Isa Town's police station.

In May 2009, Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS) visited the female prison in Isa Town and issued a report [16] which noted the smallness of the prison in relation to the number of inmates (57 at the time). The prison is divided into two wards with five cells each; each cell is around twenty metres square. 8 to 10 inmates stay in each cell, which is considered too many compared to the size of the cell. Despite the fact that some cells do not have windows, so neither light nor natural ventilation enter the room.

Given the current number of the detainees which is added to the inmates who were already in prison, it is clear that the total number of inmates is higher than the prison's capacity, putting the inmates' physical and mental health at risk.

The report also observed that there were no chairs in the cells. The inmates had to use their bed to sit on. Also, there were only 6 toilets and 6 showers for all the inmates to share, and one of the toilets was broken, which could be dangerous for the inmates. They can use it as a means of self-harm, especially when suffering from depression due to torture. The public toilets can transmit infections, not to mention that there is no soap for washing hands after the use of the toilets and no toilet paper.

The report also noted the absence of a permanent nurse, as well as the absence of any visiting doctor from rehabilitation centers or from the Ministry of Interior Affairs to check on the inmates.

It is reminded that “Bahrain has not ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, because it requires a permanent presence of a committee unexpectedly visiting the prisons.”

The beating and arrest of school girls

Even young girls under the age of 18 are not spared from physical attacks, intimidation and arrest. Some girls' schools including primary schools are repeatedly raided by the security forces, and some students and teachers are arrested after being insulted and beaten. In the interrogation centers they are cursed and sworn at, beaten and have their scarves (Islamic dress) removed. They are also threatened and have their beliefs insulted and their patriotism questioned. All these abuses take place as their exam period starts.

On April 18, 2011 after some students repeated anti-government slogans, women police and riot police raided Yathreb Primary girls' school in Hamad Town where they launched a mass arrest. Up to 50 girls between the ages of 11 to 14 were arrested. The security forces photographed them and beat them, then took them to Hamad Town police station (roundabout 17). According to the information the center has received, the detainees were insulted and violently beaten on their heads with batons by the women police. They were interrogated and had a record opened for each of them. They were also asked whether they participated in any marches and whether they went to the Pearl roundabout. Their heads were hit to the wall several times and they had to stand on their feet for hours. They were also forced to write the name of “Hassan Mushaima” under their shoes and wash their scarves after writing pro-government slogans on it. In addition to this, the police sprayed a product they did not know on the girls' faces. Before releasing them, they forced them to sign a pledge that they would be back the next day, otherwise they would be brought by force. The families said that their daughters were in a lamentable state of psychological collapse after their release.

That same school was raided again several times in the following days, in addition to Ahd Zaher Girls' Secondary School, Amima Bint Noman Girls' Secondary School and Hajer Girls' Intermediate School. According to AlWefaq soecity, 15 girls schools were raided by security forces. They were frequently raided and had teachers and pupils arrested. It has put the parents and the students in a constant fear of being subject to beatings and arrest at school.

Assaults on women during night raids

Women get assaulted when their homes are raided at night in search for wanted family members. Fatima [17] , Mr. Sallah Al-Khawaja's wife was beaten, threatened, demeaned and intimidated when her house was raided on March 21st for the arrest of her husband. After arresting Sallah, the security forces went to his wife's bedroom, where she was sleeping with her children, and pointed a gun on her 10 year old daughter's head forcing her to leave the bed. The children were put in a corner of the room while Mr. Khawaja's wife was pulled from her hair from room to room. They asked her the whereabouts of her wanted nephew, when she told them she didn't know, they threw her on the floor in a dark room where five men started beating, kicking and slapping her. They insulted her and verbally abused her using obscene words. One of the men put his genitals on her face. She says she was terrified and feared for her children and honour. She still fears they might come back to attack the house even after the arrest of her husband. Days after the event, the beating marks were still visible on her arm and leg.

Marks of beating on the body of Fatima

Also, on the night the home of Mr. Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, the well known human rights activist, was raided, his daughter Zaynab Al-Khawaja was dragged on the stairs from her shirt. A man from the security forces threatened to arrest her too if she continued shouting to stop beating her father. They then locked her, her sister and mother in one of the rooms.

The same incident happened, when arresting the Secreteray General of the Islamic Action Society, Sheikh Mohammed Ali Mahfoodh. His wife was severely beaten when his house -in the village of Bani Jamrah- was raided, and his 16 years old son, Hassan, was taken as a hostage [18] .

In cases where the wanted is not present during the raids, the family members, specially the wife or mother is threatened to death so she discloses the whereabouts of her husband or son.

In another incident, Mr. Nabeel Rajab's mother who is 78 years of age and suffers from problems in her respiratory system, risked suffocation when their home was assaulted. In the early morning on April 18th, 2011 tear gas canisters were shot in the house by unknown assailants. However, the tear gas canisters used in Mr. Rajab's house are only available and allowed to be used by Bahraini security forces.

Attacks and insults at checkpoints

Women are subjected to frequent harassment at checkpoints. They are interrogated about their participation in Pearl Roundabout, and personal matters such as how many siblings they have, their religious affiliation, and their job. Their mobile phones are also inspected, including their private pictures and messages. They are also subjected to insults, profanity and threats.[19]

A teacher reported that she was made to leave her car at a checkpoint in Hamad Town (Roundabout 7) and forced at gunpoint to lie on the floor and remove her scarf. A security man then made her clean the shoes of the police standing there with her scarf. As she was doing so, one of the policemen kicked her from behind and she was left wriggling on the pavement until she was allowed to go back to her car. [20]

Threats and attacks on female activists

What furthermore confirms the aim of suppressing any women's movement in Bahrain is the attack directed against well-known women activists who have influential local and media presence. On March 23rd, the house of Dr. Munira Fakhro, a political activist and member of the National Democratic Action Society (Wa'ad), was assaulted twice by Molotov cocktails[21] . One of the Molotov cocktails hit Mrs. Fakhro's bedroom window and another one hit another window in her house. The Molotov cocktails were originally aimed to hit some timber that was in the house. As a result of the petrol bombs the façade of the house was stained in black. Two days later was the second attack[22] when a side door and windows were smashed and two strange smelling gas bombs were thrown in the house. A month after the events, the authorities still don't seem interested in catching the perpetrators and bringing them to justice.

The well-known writer and journalist Lamees Dhaif, was first targeted by spreading messages with fabricated stories against her honour and reputation. Then on March 14, 2011 masked men attacked her house with Molotov cocktail and ammunition . Some cars that were in the house were destroyed. As a result of these threats, Mrs. Lamees Dhaif had to leave her house for an unknown place.

Arbitrary dismissal from work and education

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in order to ensure to them equal rights with men in the field of education” - Article 10- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women[24] .

“States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on a basis of equality of men and women, the same rights, in particular: (a) The right to work as an inalienable right of all human beings.” - Article 11- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The repression against the protesting women is not limited to physical abuse and detention. Hundreds of working and studying women were interrogated about their political stand and participation in the protests. Hundreds of whom, were dismissed from their jobs due to their political views or their participation in strikes which the General Workers' Union had organised. This comes as a flagrant violation to women's right to express their opinion and right to work without discrimination on the basis of their political or religious views.

Some female employees in Gulf Air were insulted and psychologically collapsed when masked security forces raided the company's offices on March 28th. They interrogated the employees about personal matters and their participation in Pearl Roundabout. They also inspected their personal computers and their private mobile phones. The same thing happened to female employees working in Bapco on April 21st, when they were asked questions about personal and private matters which were beyond what the Commission of Inquiry is allowed to ask. This led to the confusion and inconvenience of many employees and some even collapsed and fainted, necessitating a check up by the refinery's doctor.[25]

The University of Bahrain said in a statement that it has dismissed 200 students, both male and female[26] , and has fired the female Dean of a college and given a final warning to a female academic professor, as well as a written warning to another female professor. Moreover, 8 students have been suspended from education for a whole academic year[27] .

The Ministry of Education has also withdrawn scholarships to students studying abroad, including female students. A university student, Noor, said she doesn't know how to pay her rent and studying costs after the withdrawal of her scholarship. She has thought of returning to Bahrain, but it is dangerous and she can be arrested for having participated in protests against the regime's violence, in front of the Bahraini Embassy in London[28] .

Among those who have been fired are school principals, teachers, doctors and nurses. Not only have they been dismissed but also the Labour Ministry has announced that they will not be entitled for any unemployment benefits. This puts many women in a financial crisis, especially those whose husbands have been arrested making them the only responsible for the family and children.

Severe psychological intimidation against women

In other incidents, the severe psychological intimidation used by the government's forces against a number of women indirectly lead to their death. Fatima Sayed Taqi (27 years old), suffering from sickle cell, died on March 21 after spending 7 days in Salmaniya Hospital in an unacceptable atmosphere that did not meet the needs for her condition. She had contacted her family before her death and told them she was terrified from the security forces and the army who had besieged the hospital and occupied the wards. Also, the security forces were searching for people in the hospital using dogs![29]

As for Aziza Hassan Khamis (25 years old) suffering from diabetes, died on April 16, 2011 after the security forces attacked her house, looking for a wanted man. They beat him in front of her and as a result of the severe psychological intimidation, her sugar level fell sharply leading to her death.

Conclusion

Bahrain center for Human Rights believes that these vicious and unprecedented attacks on women have made Bahrain the leading country in the region in women's arrest and killing for expressing political views. This contrasts sharply with the conventions signed by Bahrain to ensure the protection of women against discrimination and violence. It is also against all international norms and conventions, religions and morals.

The center believes that this attack on women aims to silence the voice of active protesting women, as they played a significant role in showing how peaceful and civilised the protests were; at a time when the regime was trying to distort the image of the upraising making them look violent. The great number of women's arrest, is also aimed at subjecting the opposition and forcing it to make concessions to its legitimate demands.

The center denounces this uncivilised method of dealing with the women of the country, who have proven their competence in the fields of science and literature, reaching the highest academic levels and gained both local and international respect. However, in their own country, they are imprisoned, insulted and ill-treated for expressing their opinion, which is a fundamental human right.

While the center welcomes the recent release of a number of imprisoned women, it still demands the following from the Bahraini government:

1. The immediate release of prisoners of conscience, in particular women prisoners, and the immediate stop of raids at homes, workplaces and schools. 2. The immediate stop of physical and psychological torture of women in interrogation rooms and detention places. 3. The investigation of all incidents of killing and violence that claimed the lives of a number of Bahraini women and the accountability of the perpetrators. 4. Cessation of threats and abuses of Bahraini women, specially female activists. 5. Cessation of the dismissal campaign against Bahraini workers, in particular female workers, and their return to their jobs. 6. Commitment to the international pacts and agreements signed by Bahraini authorities in the protection of women's rights and stop the discrimination and violence against them.

[1]Declaration on Elimination of Violence against Women [2]http://www.ndtv.com/article/world/bahrain-unrest-women-come-out-in-support-of-protests-86594 http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2011/03/03/women-on-the-frontlines-in-bahrain/ http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/apr/22/women-arab-spring http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9EikLNmvN4 [3]Riot police shooting towards the womenhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbtIOjRx8pk and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z0JU1MHLzRI [4]A lady fainting after crackdown on protests, February 14http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYuSnea81gw and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpLFpoznZvo [5]A woman heavily bleeding from injury in peaceful protest February 14http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oaL3wQB6hno [6]A woman heavily bleeding from injury in peaceful protest February 14http://www.alwasatnews.com/3123/news/read/534229/1.html [7]A lady injured by shotgun pellet in her eyehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhYMpk2HLyQ [8]Armed thugs attacking a group of nurses and doctors in Bahrain University (last minute):http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLqcvPwM6dg Dr. Alaa Al-Saffar giving details of the eventshttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltgjTX9uIHg [9]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3113/news/read/532537/1.html [10]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3118/news/read/533325/1.html [11]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXtp4OMx7qY&skipcontrinter=1 [12]http://www.ppsmo.ps/portal/index.php/2010-05-03-17-16-02.html [13]Women facing humiliations, arrest and torture http://www.al-akhbar.com/?q=node/10441 [14]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNko6i8qrLA [15]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3119/news/read/533514/1.html [16]http://www.amanjordan.org/pages/index.php/news/arab_news/4144.html [17]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTTVNFV9qdU [18]http://www.alintiqad.com [19]http://www.twitlonger.com/show/9bn94g [20]http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2011/04/07/bahrain-state-fear-prevails-arbitrary-detentions-pre-dawn-raids?tr=y&auid=8163667 [21]http://www.aldemokrati.org/ar-BH/ViewNews/5/3031/News.aspx Pictures of the damages made to the house http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=2&id=233038 [22]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3122/news/read/534040/1.html [23]Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Statement condemning the attacks on the writer's househttp://www.ifex.org/bahrain/2011/03/21/dhaif_home_attacked/ar/ [24]http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/arab/b022.html [25]http://www.albiladpress.com/demox/news_inner.php?nid=97017&cat=1 [26] http://www.alayam.com/Articles.aspx?aid=76932 [27]http://www.alwatannews.net/news.aspx?id=yVS/MAT+t5g9RqCr+A3pJgezdATLFVk06SUjNZgcQDM [28]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jAK3b69iMJ0 [29]http://www.alwasatnews.com/3119/news/read/533510/1.html

UK Government concerned by reports of human rights abuses in Bahrain

13 May 2011

The UK Government remains deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses in Bahrain, particularly the widespread arrest of political activists and a large number of doctors and nurses.

A Foreign Office spokesperson said:

"It is essential that medical personnel can treat their patients free from political interference. Those accused should have access to legal counsel and be tried before independent and impartial courts.

“We continue to urge the Government of Bahrain to meet all its human rights obligations and uphold political freedoms, equal access to justice and the rule of law. Those who have been detained should now have full access to the due process of law. The Government of Bahrain should also take swift, concrete steps to carry out the investigations into alleged abuses by Bahraini security forces to which it has already committed.

“The announcement by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, that the State of National Safety in Bahrain will be removed on 1 June, is potentially a welcome step towards achieving longer term stability. We look forward to the practical actions that will support this move. The Bahrain Government’s recent announcement on accelerating the investigation into deaths in detention and ensuring accountability for any wrongdoing is also welcome.”

www.fco.gov.uk

Norway concerned over the human rights situation in Bahrain

5 May 2011 “I am deeply concerned about the deterioration in the human rights situation in Bahrain,” commented Minister of Foreign Affairs Jonas Gahr Støre.

The Foreign Minister is particularly concerned about the fact that four protesters were sentenced to death for their alleged involvement in the killing of two policemen during the protests in the country in March. “The fact that the trial took place behind closed doors in a military court gives cause for concern. The accusations against the four protesters are serious, and for that reason it is important that the trials are held in civilian courts, in accordance with the conventions that Bahrain itself has acceded to,” said Mr Støre.

“Norway is opposed to the use of the death penalty in general, and I would like to encourage the Bahraini authorities to introduce a moratorium on executions,” Mr Støre commented.

Foreign Minister Støre is also very concerned about the fact that so many healthcare workers have been arrested in Bahrain, and finds it unacceptable that the Bahraini authorities have threatened in recent weeks to ban opposition parties in the country.

“Dialogue is the only way of solving the political conflict in Bahrain. It is therefore crucial that a national dialogue between the royal family and the protesters on necessary reforms gets under way as soon as possible. The Bahraini authorities must respect freedom of expression and protect human rights defenders in the country,” Mr Støre said.

www.regjeringen.no