Bahrain’s War on Freedom
by Stephen Lendman
In February 2011, major protests erupted. Bahrainis challenged despotic rule nonviolently. Daily they protest. Police state harshness confronts them.
At issue is King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s regime. Bahrainis want popularly elected leadership replacing him.
He ranks with the world’s worst despots. He’s a US favorite. He’s welcomed in Washington and other Western capitals. Obama and other world leaders turn a blind eye to his crimes.
Compared to him, Saudi leaders, and other Gulf state tyrants, Assad looks saintly. Peaceful Bahrainis brave tear gas, beatings, rubber bullets, live fire, arrests, torture, kangaroo court justice, imprisonment, disappearances and death.
Life and limb are risked to live free. A huge price is paid for trying. Popular courage and resilience show no signs of waning. Stakes are too high to quit.
State-sponsored terror challenges them. It continues unabated.
On August 3, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights
(BCHR) headlined “Self-determination peaceful protests violently suppressed, numerous arrests, reports of beatings and ill treatment,” saying:
August 2 was like most other days. Bahrainis protested peacefully. They want democratic freedom and social justice. Self-determination demands unite them. Violence confronts all demonstrations.
Police used tear gas, stun grenades, and birdshot. Numerous injuries resulted. People were shot in the head. Hospitals are occupied and militarized. Protesters can’t get proper treatment. Requesting it risks arrest, torture and imprisonment. People have to manage as best they can.
Excessive tear gas amounts are used. More on that below. It continues after protests are dispersed. Houses and neighborhood are targeted. Helicopters fire canisters indiscriminately.
Arrests are made regularly. On August 2, about 35 more were made. People were targeted on streets. Others were seized at home. Warrants didn’t authorize them. Police states don’t use them. They don’t explain why anyone can be brutalized for any reason or none at all.
State terror defines Al-Khalifa rule. Bahrainis want it ended. They have every right. They deserve better. Western leaders irnore their ordeal. They’re too busy killing Syrians, planning war, and more to follow.
Family members of those arrested August 2 said they were taken to “the stable.” It’s “an unofficial torture center.” Those arrested showed signs of abuse. They’ve been moved to Fort Prison.
Security forces attacked family members protesting at police stations for their loved ones release. There were “continuous reports of protesters being arrested, beaten, (then) released.”
AlWefaq political society Women’s Affairs head Ahlam Alkhuzaei was arrested at Bahrain airport. She was heading for a conference in Tunisia. She was held overnight and released.
Photojournalist Mazin Mahdi was assaulted. BCHR “strongly condemn(ed) the government’s fierce crackdown on whoever exercises freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and the attack on journalists and activists for exposing the crimes committed in Bahrain by the authorities.”
Release of those arrested was demanded. Violence against peaceful protesters was denounced.
On August 5, Bahrain’s Higher Appeal Court was scheduled rule on Nabeel Rajab
‘s lawless three-month prison sentence. A decision was postponed until August 12 or later.
Rajab serves as BCHR president and Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) director.
He was imprisoned for championing human rights. Bahrainis have none. Washington shows no concern. Police state violence is ignored.
Previous appeals on Rajab’s behalf failed. He’s currently at Jaw Central Prison. He’s held under appalling conditions. He’s denied medical treatment he needs. On July 16, a hearing occurred relating to another case.
Rajab is wrongfully accused of “involvement in illegal practices and inciting gatherings and calling for unauthorized marches through social networking sites.”
Other pending charges include “participating in illegal gatherings and calling for a march without prior notification.” Both accusations were scheduled to be addressed on September 26.
However, his trial was moved up to July 25. It was then postponed until August 5. Proceedings are rigged against all defendants. Guilt by accusation is policy.
BCHR co-founder Abdulhadi Alkhawaja faced brutal persecution. In prison, he hunger struck for 110 days. He’s willing to die for justice. His daughter Zainab
was arrested and mistreated numerous times. She’s become well-known for her social justice activities.
On August 2, she was targeted again. She was arrested for peacefully protesting. She participated with one leg in a caste. She was injured during a previous protest. Security forces struck her with tear gas canisters at close range.
On August 2, she was verbally assaulted. She demanded to know the officer’s name. She wanted to file a complaint. In response, she was handcuffed, dragged on the ground, down stairs, then placed in a police vehicle. She’s now detained. She’s targeted regularly for courageous activism.
Bahrain is more hellhole than legitimate state. Al-Khalifa rulers rank with the world’s worst. They’re tyrannical with no legitimacy. Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) provided more evidence.
On August 1, they issued a report
documenting Bahrain’s use of potentially lethal tear gas. It’s used indiscriminately against peaceful protesters and others at home.
It causes maiming, blinding, and death. According to PHR Deputy Director Richard Sollom:
“So-called tear gas, often considered a crowd-control method with no lasting harmful effects, can cause permanent injuries, miscarriages, and even fatalities as used by Bahrain’s security forces.”
“Those tactics include firing tear gas canisters directly at civilians or into their cars, houses, or other closed spaces where toxic effects are greatly exacerbated.”
In three Bahrain visits since early 2011, Sollom said he documented “a government fixated on rhetoric rather than results.”
He and Dr. Holly Atkinson, former PHR president, interviewed over 100 Bahrainis. They included victims, eyewitnesses, civil society leaders, and government officials.
Findings were based on physical examinations. For example:
A tear gas canister fired at close range struck a teenage boy in his left eye. It was deliberate. It fractured his eye socket, ruptured his eyeball, and left him blind in one eye.
Another tear gas canister was fired at a 27-year old bystander’s head. He suffered a fractured skull and intracranial bleeding.
After exposure to toxic tear gas, a physiotherapist began wheezing, felt short of breath, and had trouble speaking for two weeks.
Several women suffering miscarriages told doctors they’ve risen considerably in neighborhoods affected by frequent tear gas use.
An asthma sufferer died from acute respiratory failure. He was exposed to tear gas several times.
PHR documented harmful tear gas effects 25 years ago. South Korea used it against civilian protesters. Toxic pulmonary damage and death followed. Many other long-term health consequences also occurred.
Bahrain uses toxic chemicals against nonviolent protesters. Some die. Others suffer health problems. Some become chronic.
Other countries use similar tactics. They include Israel, Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Honduras, the new Libya, and Uganda.
Howard Hu directs the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Health. He’s medically expert on toxic chemicals. He’s a former PHR board member. He said:
PHR’s “timely and incisive investigative report provides evidence that government forces, this time in Bahrain, have once again used the shield of a relatively innocuously named weapon to maim, sicken, and in some cases kill innocent civilians.”
“The misuse of such weapons must be fully investigated and curbed if such oppressive practices and unnecessary suffering and deaths are to be avoided in the future.”
PHR earlier investigated Bahrain’s militarized healthcare system. It protested against repressive tactics. Hospitals are occupied. Medical professionals are terrorized. They’re arrested, tortured and imprisoned for treating anyone injured during street demonstrations.
PHR also wants Bahraini authorities to disclose which toxic agents security forces use.
It hopes to establish a new international group of health professionals, public health experts, lawyers, and law enforcement officials.
It wants guiding principles drafted on use of toxic chemicals. It wants to determine if any considered nonlethal should be reclassified under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Chemicals harmful to health or lethal are weapons. Prohibiting their public use is essential. Bahrain and other repressive governments use them freely. According to Sollom:
“It is increasingly evident that tear gas has effects far more severe than commonly understood.”
“The tears it produces are not limited to those caused by temporary stinging of the eyes, but flow also from people who receive long-lasting injuries and trauma from its indiscriminate use, and from friends and relatives of tear gas victims left blind, wounded, or dead.”
It’s impermissible to use these agents against civilians. They terrorize, harm and kill.
Al-Khalifa authorities use them for maximum advantage. Bahrainis suffer and die. Obama and other Western leaders ignore their crimes. They continue unaccountably.
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