Sham Bahraini Elections
by Stephen Lendman
On November 22, sham parliamentary elections were held for the first time since 2011. Majority Shias boycotted as expected. Turnout was low.
Main opposition party Al-Wefaq refused to participate. Its Secretary-General, Ali Salman, said “turnout (was) no more than 30%” of around 350,000 eligible voters.
Most participating were military as well as security and public sector personnel.
“The popular will has triumphed for the sake of the homeland. What a failure it is for the government to beg for a vote from a people who are marginalised by them,” said Salman.
London-based Al-Wefaq member Khalil Al-Marzooq said opposition members had nothing to gain. Bahraini elections are farcical. Illegitimate by any standard.
“There’s no justice in Bahrain. (N)o independence of the judiciary, ” said Al-Marzooq
“Unless we agree on the system that represents people and make officials accountable and save people and protect their rights, we can’t participate.”
“We participated in 2006 and 2010 with a high turnout with the aim of changing the political system to protect the people’s rights and interests but we couldn’t achieve anything.”
Bahraini governance reflects state terror writ large. A case study of despotism. In summer 2010, sporadic protests began. By mid-February 2011, major ones erupted. Continuing sporadically.
Challenging repressive rule nonviolently. At issue is King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa’s repressive rule. Ruthless by any standard.
Bahrainis want what everyone deserves. Real democratic change. Majority Shia discrimination ended.
Equitable distribution of state wealth. Political prisoners released. Torture no longer tolerated.
Popularly elected leaders replacing Al-Khalifa rule. Despotic. Ruthless. Intolerable.
Thousands of peaceful Bahraini protesters face brutalizing treatment. Including tear gas. Beatings. Rubber-coated steel bullets.
Live fire. Mass arrests. Torture. Imprisonments. Disappearances. Cold-blooded murder. State-sponsored terror writ large.
Women and children are brutalized like men. So are students, doctors, nurses, other medical personnel, journalists, human rights activists and foreign observers.
Sham elections resolve nothing. Longstanding business as usual persists. Some 419 candidates participated – 266 for 40 Council of Representatives (lower parliamentary house) seats.
Another 153 for municipal councils. The ruling monarchy appoints 40 upper house Consultative Council members.
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) president/provisionally released political prisoner Nabeel Rajab expects election results to deepen crisis conditions.
Government/opposition disputes remain unresolved. State terror targets human rights activists and regime opponents. Democracy is pure fantasy. None whatever exists.
Parliamentary members have no power. “(T)o legislate or monitor,” says Rajab. Expect no change whatever post-election.
Holding them with almost half of opposition leaders in prison have no legitimacy.
“You can’t have an election with no compromise with opposition. You can’t have a one-sided decision,” Rajab explains.
“We need real reform.” Parliament with power to legislate. Representing all Bahrainis. Equitably and justly.
Thousands of political prisoners released. Real dialogue. Reconciliation. “Then we should have an election,” says Rajab.
Bahrain is a dictatorship “where you can’t speak. You can’t talk. You can’t make a statement that criticizes any institution or government official.”
“(T)hings have much deteriorated because of the abandonment of the international community of our struggle for democracy and social justice in this country.”
“(W)e’ve been ignored. Many countries – like the UK, specifically – have ignored our struggle, seeing their interests, seeing their arms trade has more priority than our rights, our struggle for democracy.”
“But we’re more determined. We’re more committed to continue our struggle, and I’m more confident and optimistic that if we do continue, we’re going to have a democratic country one day.”
In September 2010, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights commented on longstanding repressive conditions. Things remain unchanged. BCHR’s criticism remains relevant. Saying in part:
It “condemn(s) the persistence of the constant campaign of suppressing public liberties, at a time where the country is living an undeclared state of emergency with the arrest of hundred of activists, human rights defenders and opposition religious figures, and the continuity of kidnappings of youth while physically abusing and sexually harassing them.”
BCHR “continually receiv(es) information about the increase of torture crimes and sexual harassment against detained Shiite clerics and stripping several detainees who are human right defenders off their clothes.”
Ruling authorities carry “out collective punishment against the detainees and their families by announcing that they have been dismissed from their jobs and deprive them of the medical, educational and housing services provided by the State as part of its responsibility.”
Detainees are brutally tortured. Others disappeared. Some murdered in cold blood.
Opposition figures targeted. So are human rights workers. Journalists daring to report accurately. Students, medical workers and others.
Civil and human rights don’t matter. Nor international laws. Democracy is a convenient illusion. Tyranny institutionalized.
Courts rigged to convict. Guilt by accusation suffices. Horrific prison conditions persist.
Thousands wrongfully incarcerated suffer horrendously. World leaders able to make a difference do nothing.
Freedom is a four-letter word. Fundamental rights don’t exist. It bears repeating. Elections when held are farcical. With no legitimacy whatever.
Manama’s Pearl Roundabout is ground zero for Bahraini peaceful anti-regime protests. In March 2011, al-Khalifa security forces tore down the movement’s defining symbol.
A 300-foot sculpture. A stone pearl atop six sweeping arches. Reported at the time as a “face-lift.” To “boost the flow of traffic.”
Bahrain’s foreign minister, Sheik Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, cut to the chase saying:
“We did it to remove a bad memory. The whole thing caused our society to be polarized.”
“We don’t want a monument to be a bad memory. We are not waging war. We are restoring law and order.”
On election eve, hundreds of angry Bahrainis marched to the site peacefully. Security forces attacked them with tear gas, rubber-coated steel bullets, stun grenades and beatings.
Many injuries and arrests followed. Majority Shias believe their country is under siege.
They’re excluded from high-level government, military and police positions. They want it freed from repressive regime rule.
In over four years of protests, scores died. Including women and children. By live fire, beatings, asphyxiation from tear gas, and torture in police custody or prison.
BCHR along with two dozen other human rights groups issued a joint statement saying in part:
Elections “must not be use to cover human rights violations.”
“Peaceful protesters, human rights defenders and democracy advocates continue to face extrajudicial detentions, imprisonment, ill treatment and torture in detention centres.”
“The 2014 elections will certainly be used as a cover for the ongoing human rights crisis.”
“These elections are sure to be considered neither inclusive, with the opposition societies feeling unable to participate, nor a sign of political reform, in a country that continues to be plagued by flagrant abuses of human rights.”
Security forces continue targeting majority Shias, their religious sites and peaceful protesters.
Including “citizens’ inability to change their government peacefully.”
“(A)rrest and detention of protesters on vague charges, in some cases leading to their torture in detention.”
“(L)ack of due process in trials of political and human rights activists, medical personnel, teachers, and students, with some trials resulting in harsh sentences.”
“Other significant human rights problems included arbitrary deprivation of life.”
“(L)ack of consistent accountability for security officers accused of committing human rights violations.”
“(A)rrest of individuals on charges relating to freedom of expression.”
“(V)iolations of privacy.”
“Restrictions on civil liberties, including freedom of speech, press, assembly, association, and some religious practices.”
Including dozens of Bahrainis. On bogus charges. So-called crimes “threaten(ing) national security.”
Nationality revocations target political opponents. Including former MPs, activists and lawyers. They and family members are affected. Leaving them stateless in Bahrain.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls its justice system unfair. Unaccountable. Its deputy Middle East director Joe Stork saying:
“Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”
The UN Refugee Agency launched a recent campaign called “I belong.” To combat statelessness.
An open letter signed by high commissioners, presidents, Nobel Peace laureates and human rights defenders saying:
“Statelessness is inhuman. We believe it is time to end this injustice.” International law requires it. Including reinstating nationalities for affected individuals.
Sham Bahraini elections changed nothing. Authorities continue terrorizing majority Shias. Regime opponents.
Human rights supporters. Anyone demanding democratic rights. Nothing in prospect looks hopeful. Business as usual persists.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.
It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs.