24 Oct, 2013

Beware of the Middle East's Fake Feminists

We've all heard the story before: those Arab dictators may be mad with power, but at least they end up treating women better than Islamists do. The Arab world is sorted into states that are good-to-women and bad-to-women, with countries from Morocco to Qatar getting a pass for their supposed progressivism when it comes to feminist issues. In fact, this simplification masks the inequality that persists in these so-called "progressive" states. These authoritarian governments are tricking the world by showing off the few women found within their higher ranks as proof of their liberal stance on women's issues. But these women are the exception, not the rule.

Take, for example, Bahrain's Sameera Rajab, minister of state information and official spokesperson. Even as the Bahraini monarchy suppresses an ongoing uprising, it points to Rajab to insist on its inclusiveness and progressivism. Rajab's position within the Bahraini regime is a standard case of the way states typically embrace feminist causes in the Gulf region. Because of her role in Bahraini government, she defies the dominant perception of Gulf women, which centers on sociopolitical passivity, seclusion, and subjection to patriarchal dominance. At the same time, Rajab's position as the government's spokesperson grants her heavy national and international exposure, benefitting her, as well. And, to make this all worse, local and foreign media have done nothing to challenge this convenient narrative.

The Daily Beast recently offered a perfect example of this principle in action by printing an effusive profile of Rajab by columnist Souad Mekhennet. Mekhennet adopts a liberal discourse on state feminism that furthers problematic perceptions of what a "free" Arab woman embodies while disregarding the realities of privilege and power in a country where a monarch reigns absolutely. Seizing upon stereotypical and inadequate measures of liberty, Mekhennet casts Sameera Rajab as an "unveiled" and "Shiite" woman comfortably sitting in Bahrain's highest echelon. She fixates on Rajab's "strong voice," and points out that she wears her hair "uncovered" and chooses not "to wear makeup or high heels." She latches onto a superficial conception of a "liberated Arab woman" in the same way that similar characteristics are cited to glorify other former and current female state figures in the region, such as Asma al-Assad, Egypt's former first lady Suzanne Mubarak, Tunisia's Leila TrabelsiQueen Rania of Jordan, and Morocco's Lalla Salma, among others. This is exactly the type of rhetoric the Bahraini regime would love the Western world to hear.

But the true status of women in Bahrain contrasts dramatically with the image Mekhennet and the Bahraini government aim to convey. Thousands of Bahraini women continue to be victims of a state with paralyzing income inequality that has made no real moves to improve their daily reality.  Despite the characterization of Bahrain as a wealthy country, privilege and power remain deeply skewed along class lines. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights released a report that exposes the levels of poverty that plague Bahraini society. The report highlights that the income of the 5,200 wealthiest people in Bahrain averages $4.2 million. Meanwhile 200,000 of Bahrainis live in poverty, nearly half of the Bahraini population. Income inequality comes into heavy play in the context of an authoritarian state, such as Bahrain, where access to capital is jealously guarded by those in power.

Women are far from immune to this. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights' report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), "Women [in Bahrain] have been the victims of power struggles, sectarian differences, mismanagement of the government, and unfair distribution of national wealth and resources." Moreover, women in Bahrain have been victims of state repression, resulting in injuries and even deaths, such as the death of Bahiya Abdulrasool al-Aradi, who was shot on March 15, 2011 by members of Bahrain's military as she was driving her car -- a crime for which no one was held accountable. This is in addition to the ongoing detainment of women who oppose the regime's policies, such as Nafeesa al-Asfoor and Zainab al-Khawaja. Al-Khawaja, for example, is serving time for peacefully protesting against the regime on multiple occasions.

 

Read on: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/10/22/beware_of_the_middle_easts_fake_feminists?page=0,0

 

11 Oct, 2013

Bahrain: Death of Yousif AlNashmi: Arbitrarily Arrested, Tortured and Deprived of Adequate Medical Care

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that due to the authorities practice of arbitrary arrest, torture and deprivation of adequate medical treatment, Yousif Ali Al-Nashmi passed away today.

Yousif Ali Al-Nashmi, 31 years old, was arrested on the 17th of August 2013 as he was leaving his sister’s house in Jidhafs while a sit-in was being suppressed in the area. He was then taken to the nearby Jidhafs market area where he was reportedly verbally and physically abused before he was taken to Al-Khamees Police Station. His family asked about him in Al-Khamees Police Station and Exhibition Police Station but both denied his presence. At 11:00pm the same day, his brother received a call from the police station asking for Yousif’s ID card. The following day, he was taken to the Public Prosecution office without a lawyer and one week later, namely on the 26th of August 2013, the family received a call from him informing them of a visit date.

Al-Nashmi told his family during the first visit about what he had endured. The family also noticed that his situation was worsening. He was not interacting normally and was discombobulated. His brother also said that the medicine he was given by the prison administration was causing him partial memory loss and making him say strange things. One of his released prison mates confirmed that and said that Yousif was sleepless, acting strange and complaining from headaches. (For more details read: http://bahrainrights.org/en/node/6398)

His brother received a call on the 19th of September 2013, that Yousif had been admitted to Salmaniya Medical Complex due to increasing headaches and drowsiness. His brother tried to visit him but the hospital denied his presence. The family later confirmed that he had been at the hospital. He was transferred back to the prison later that day.

He was not adequately examined by specialists during his visit to the hospital. There was high suspicion that his condition was not appropriately diagnosed so that he could be discharged back to prison. He collapsed in the prison the day after his discharge and went into a deep coma. He was taken to Salmaniya Medical Complex again where he was fully examined and diagnosed to have a severe edema from an undiagnosed source. Al-Nashmi was also diagnosed of brain cancer according to his family. His lawyer appealed for his release based on his condition. He was released only a few days ago, on the 8th of October 2013.

The body of Mr. Al-Nashmi was found to have torture marks in different areas including the head which raises the suspicion that torture may have had an effect on his condition. This can only be confirmed by a proper and independent forensic examination.

The BCHR is gravely concerned that Al-Nashmi, like Mohammed Mushaima, is the victim torture and denial of adequate medical care causing death. Prisoners in Bahrain are systematically denied adequate medical care, and the BCHR has time and time again raised concern about this issue.

The BCHR demands urgent proper forensic examination and documentation of the body of Mr. Al-Nashmi and also the investigation of the reported misdiagnosis and mistreatment he suffered at the hospital for being a political prisoner. All prisoners must be immediately allowed access to adequate medical care. The continuation of the current violations against all prisoners in Bahrain may lead to future loss of lives.

Sayed Yousif Almuhafda