I will never forget the love and support I was greeted with the moment I arrived here on Feb. 12 after spending 76 days in detention in Thailand. The combined international engagement on my case is what gave me my freedom back. I am home now with my wife, and for that we deeply thank all who played a role in my safe return.
What kept me going during these dark 76 days? Knowing that the whole world was witnessing the injustice. Millions of people saw me barefoot and shackled at a hearing in Bangkok, not because I had committed any crime — I had not — but because, I believe, Thailand’s ruling family happened to be tightening its relations with the Khalifas, the family that rules Bahrain, where I was born and which I had represented on its national soccer team.… Seguir leyendo »
Bahrain has been a crossroads of commerce and culture since the ancient Greeks. Today, it remains a melting pot, the tolerant home to many religions and ethnicities. Christians, Hindus, Jews and others worship openly alongside their Muslim brothers. All cultures are respected.
Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United Arab Emirates — the first by any pope to the Gulf region — was remarkable. As Vatican flags flew on the peninsula where Islam was born, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church joined a prominent imam to preach love, peace and religious pluralism.
This inspiring message should reverberate around the world and encourage the world to look at the region a little closer than they have.… Seguir leyendo »
On 27 November I landed in Bangkok with my beloved husband, a Bahrain-born professional football player. We were overjoyed to be spending our honeymoon together in the breathtaking country of Thailand. Not only were we celebrating our honeymoon, but it was also my husband’s first time traveling outside of Australia in the five years since he fled there in 2014 from Bahrain and was granted refugee status.
We chose Bangkok for our honeymoon because of all the beauty it had to offer and had planned our visit in detail together. We planned a serene boat ride together to one of the famous floating markets to buy tropical fruits and locally made crafts, and to visit Bangkok’s unique aquarium for its one-of-a-kind ocean experience that we had read about.… Seguir leyendo »
In the 50 days since Hakeem al-Araibi has been held in a Bangkok jail, global events for Olympic sports have continued. The Hockey World Cup and the World Swimming Championships were held and the Handball World Championships, football’s Asian Cup and tennis grand slam the Australian Open have begun. The Winter X Games and Super Bowl will also be under way soon.
Yet one of our fellow Australian athletes, Hakeem al-Araibi, a former international footballer, remains in jail, awaiting the worst fate of any asylum seeker or refugee: extradition back to the country that persecuted him, the country he fled in fear for his life.… Seguir leyendo »
Bahrain’s lower house and municipal council elections on 24 November have been heralded a success by the ruling Al Khalifa family and the government, who had hoped to use a successful election outcome to erase the public and international memory of Bahraini instability after the 2011 Arab Spring protests.
This narrative, however, provides a one-sided account of the election that seeks to paper over a boycott from banned opposition parties Al Wefaq and Al Waad and a long-standing government-led crackdown on popular dissent.
The Arab Spring: a turning point
During the over 200-year rule of the Al Khalifa family, Bahrain has had a unique and vibrant scene of domestic politics and protest, at least as compared to the rest of the Arab Gulf states.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2011 Saudi Arabia and the UAE sent troops to Bahrain after unrest in the country. This marked the beginning of a more assertive foreign policy in the MENA region that later culminated in an ill-fated military intervention in Yemen and a boycott of Qatar. Bahrain is a crucial ally and client state of Saudi Arabia, which fears growing influence of Iran among the Shiite majority population of the country. Bahrain’s economic stability is important for its political stability. It is closely connected to oil prices, Saudi transfers, diversification efforts and economic reform.
Low oil prices since the second half of 2014 and domestic and regional political risks have impacted the credit risk and liquidity situation of Bahrain.… Seguir leyendo »
Yemen has entered its third year of war, and war crimes are being committed at an escalating rate. For Yemen’s children, facing a man-made famine, this conflict between Houthi rebels and a coalition led by Saudi Arabia has begun a new phase of horrors.
Despite that, President Trump is planning to make Saudi Arabia the destination of his first state visit this week. Meanwhile, his administration already decided to lift all human rights restrictions on arms sales to my country, Bahrain, which is a partner in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen. This reckless pursuit of profit without any strings attached — including a lucrative deal for 19 F-16 fighter jets worth $2.8 billion — will aid and abet the destruction of Yemen, intensifying the country’s humanitarian disaster.… Seguir leyendo »
Riffa, Bahrain I write this from a Bahraini jail cell where I have been detained, largely in isolation, since the beginning of summer. This is not new to me: I have been here before, from 2012 to 2014, in 2015, and now again, all because of my work as a human rights defender.
Nor am I alone: There are some 4,000 political prisoners in Bahrain, which has the highest prison population per capita in the Middle East. This is a country that has subjected its people to imprisonment, torture and even death for daring to desire democracy. My close colleague Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was tortured and sentenced to life in prison in 2011 for his human rights work.… Seguir leyendo »
“Sectarianism failed,” Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, told a news conference attended by Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington last week. It had not gained “a foothold in our country,” he went on, “but we will continue to be on our toes facing it.”
Mr. Kerry spoke, too, about military cooperation against Daesh, the group also known as the Islamic State or ISIS, and about working to “reduce the sectarian divisions together in Bahrain, which we saw resulted in a boycott of an election and challenges internally within the country.”
Characterizing the boycott that led opposition groups to call off participation in Bahrain’s November 2014 general election as sectarian is fundamentally wrong.… Seguir leyendo »
As longtime legislators who believe in the promotion of human rights and dignity, we are deeply disappointed by the U.S. State Department’s recent decision to resume arms sales to Bahrain. U.S. arms sales should never aid and abet the repression of peaceful protesters, and we are introducing legislation to roll back this misguided decision.
Bahrain’s ruling regime has cracked down on opposition leaders, human rights activists and even medics since massive popular protests erupted in 2011. Amid international condemnation, the regime established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to look into the crackdown. And when the BICI came back with 26 recommendations, the regime promised to implement them all.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, the State Department announced the resumption of “security assistance” to Bahrain. This ended a four-year ban on the transfer of arms that the United States put into effect in 2011, after the Bahraini government’s harsh crackdown on Arab Spring protests.
In a statement, the State Department argued that Bahrain had made enough progress in human rights reform to be rewarded by ending the embargo, even though the human rights situation in Bahrain was not “adequate.” The State Department dedicated 49 pages of its 2014 report on human rights, released last month, to Bahrain.
It is a damning document: detailing arbitrary detention, torture, prison overcrowding, constraints on free speech and more.… Seguir leyendo »
This month marks the fourth anniversary of the so-called Arab Spring. The chaos in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Libya suggests that for the most part this desire for change has led to more, not less, instability in the Middle East. Luckily for the United States, chaos has not affected the Kingdom of Bahrain, and this reliable military, economic and diplomatic partner of America has weathered the storm.
The fundamental reason why Bahrain has transitioned through the tumult of what some are now calling the “Arab Storm” is the leadership of King Hamad Al-Khalifa. By practicing good governance, this U.S.-educated monarch has prevented his country from becoming another failed state.… Seguir leyendo »
Ever since it gained independence from Britain in 1971, Bahrain has diligently sought to build a modern state. But the fallout from Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979 made this effort much more difficult, fueling theocratic movements like the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain and Hezbollah in the Arabian Peninsula.
The transnational expansion of Iran’s propaganda into the Shiite populations of the neighboring Arab states has helped split the region along sectarian lines, mobilized militant movements and complicated reform in several nations. Nowhere has this been more evident than in Bahrain. Official Iranian claims to the islands have only grown more flagrant since the Iranian revolution.… Seguir leyendo »
This summer, disgruntled Saudis took their grievances online in droves, complaining of ever-growing inequality, rising poverty, corruption and unemployment. Their Twitter campaign became one of the world’s highest trending topics. It caused great alarm within elite circles in Saudi Arabia and sent ripples throughout the region. The rallying cry that “salaries are not enough” helped to prove that the monarchy’s social contract with its people is now publicly coming unstuck, and on a significant scale.
Many experts believe that the Gulf states have survived the Arab Spring because they are different. After all, they’ve weathered numerous past storms — from the Arab nationalist revolutions of the 1950s and ’60s to Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait to an Al Qaeda terror campaign in 2003.… Seguir leyendo »
It is two years on Thursday since thousands of Bahrainis, young and old, male and female, Sunni and Shia, took to the now demolished Pearl Square in the capital, Manama, to demand democracy. They were inspired by the Arab spring, but had decades of their own struggle behind them. This might be the moment to end the stereotype that the Gulf knows only dictatorship.
It’s true that our goal has not yet been achieved. But our uprising is neither a failure, nor was it crushed under the weight of tanks brought over the border from Saudi Arabia. Last week, as part of a series of protests to mark the second anniversary, thousands took to the streets under the banner of «no U-turn».… Seguir leyendo »
Earlier this month, Aqeel Abdul Mohsen, 19, was shot in the face for protesting against Bahrain’s government. He was covered in blood, with the lower side of his face blown open, his jaw shattered, and a broken hand hanging awkwardly from his wrist. It’s one of those images that you wish you had never seen, and can never forget.
After more than 10 hours of surgery, and before Mr. Abdul Mohsen regained consciousness, his hospital room was already under guard by the police. Had he been able to speak, he might even have been interrogated before going into surgery. Others have lain bleeding without medical attention while government security agents asked questions like: “Were you participating in a protest?… Seguir leyendo »
During my 25 years as a lawyer and human rights advocate, I’ve been in many courtrooms in many places. But I’ve never seen anything quite like what I recently witnessed in Bahrain. I sat in on one of the hearings for the 28 medics being prosecuted after treating injured protesters during the democratic uprising last year.
In the chaotic courtroom, the judge dismissed arguments by defense lawyers that their clients had been tortured. That’s when Nabeel Tammam, one of Bahrain’s leading ear, nose and throat specialists, raised his hand and asked for permission to speak. Seemingly mistaking him for one of the defense lawyers, the judge acknowledged Tammam, who spoke the words he had not been allowed to say publicly before any Bahraini judicial authority since his detention in 2011: “My name is Nabeel Tammam.… Seguir leyendo »
When I was invited to visit Bahrain by members of the royal family, I hesitated. They had crushed peaceful protesters last year, and their police had used tear gas against human rights activists. Like everybody else, including some of the Bahraini policemen I later spoke with, I was appalled at the violence and thought the monarchy had blood on its hands. But I felt that declining the offer was irresponsible. I wanted to know the monarchy’s side of the story. So I accepted the invitation — on the condition that I was free to meet Bahrain’s opposition.
Bahrain is a tiny island nation of 600,000 citizens, with a Parliament of only 40 members, and it cannot be understood if looked at in isolation.… Seguir leyendo »
For all the fact that it’s taking place in Abroad, what an uncomfortably British production the Bahrain Grand Prix has turned out to be. The whole thing echoes tales of forgotten outposts of the British empire, where a rogue commandant runs amok, assisted by conspiratorial officials banished there after various disgraces back in Blighty. Were the story in the hands of a novelistic genius like Joseph Conrad, our despotic rogue and his factotum might be some renegade captain from the East India Company and his amoral manager. But modern life has a way of failing to live up to fiction, which is why we’ve got Bernie Ecclestone and John Yates.… Seguir leyendo »
Imagine a world in which U.S. and allied forces had to travel thousands of extra miles to defend vital interests in the Middle East.
Imagine how pleased the Iranians would be if they knew their navy could have uncontested access to anywhere in the Gulf without fear of an immediate response.
If that’s not the kind of world you want to confront, then you should care greatly about continuing the incredibly important U.S. partnership with Bahrain.
As former Middle East force commander and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. William Crowe, has said, Bahrain is “pound for pound, man for man, the best ally the United States has anywhere in the world.”
Bahrain has been there for us during good times and bad since the end of World War II.… Seguir leyendo »