By Semanur Karaman for The Huffington Post - The Gulf State of Bahrain is known for its extravagance. Gloating over multi-million dollar investments in tourism, sports and banking, the kingdom does not shy away from showing off with the Grand Prix races, or celebrity visitors the likes of Kim Kardashian. This alone, makes the Kingdom look like a miracle of some sort to many who associate the Middle East with subsequent failures, instability and conflict.
Jadaliyya Reports for Bahrain Center For Human Rights - Five years ago this week, hundreds of thousands of people rose up in support of democracy and human rights in Bahrain. After enduring decades of structural inequalities, corruption, and repression, nearly half the country’s population gathered to demand reform. The government responded swiftly, and severely. Riot police flooded the streets, employing excessive and indiscriminate force to disperse the demonstrations and suppress the movement.
For the past four years, Bahrainis have been marking Valentine's Day with massive protests, which are faced with a brutal clampdown by the regime. This year is no different, except that protesters, in keeping with the spirit of Valentine's, took with them stuffed teddy bears to face off with the riot police. On February 14, 2011, Bahrainis joined the bandwagon of protesters across the Arab world and staged anti-regime protests, which ushered a new era of widespread human rights abuses, arbitrary arrests of thousands of Bahrainis and the killing of protesters and bystanders, including women and children. This year protesters marked the anniversary with a three-day strike, in which businesses in villages and protest areas shut down.
Clashes between riot police and demonstrators have erupted in Bahrain for the fifth day in a row as the activists demand the release of Sheikh Ali Salman, the head of the largest Shiite opposition party in the Kingdom. Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd following a rally that started after prayers at Manama's Mumen mosque. "Dozens of people... including women and children, were arrested," Bahrain Observatory for Human Rights said in a statement. Arabic news sources also reported injuries. The protest movement demands the release of the opposition leader of the Al-Wefaq party. Before the Thursday’s rally in the capital, protests centered on the villages surrounding Manama.
Bahraini police arrested al-Khawaga on Aug. 30 at the airport in Manama, the capital of Bahrain, after she tried to enter the country. Police told her that she had been stripped of citizenship, without providing official proof. Al-Khawaja live-tweeted much of the incident to her popular following. Police then detained al-Khawaja and charged her with assaulting a police officer. Al-Khawaga denied the charges. A medical report from the incident obtained by Sa yed Yousif Almuhafda, vice president of al-Khawaja’s Bahrain Center for Human Rights, said al-Khawaja had minor bruises to her hand. Bahraini police have a documented history of beating and torturing activists, and then denying the incidents occurred. Authorities have since extended her detention twice, and at times denied access to her lawyer and family. Last week Al-Khawaja appeared in court with her arm in a sling, Al Jazeera reported.
01 September 2014 - 8th day hunger strike - Updates Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is now in his 8th day of his hunger strike, and his health is in extreme danger. The family visited Adbulhadi Al-Khawaja this morning, and reported that he is very weak. Last night, doctors feared for his life after his blood sugar level would stubbornly not rise above 2.0, despite providing him with glucose in drinking water. They begged him to be transferred to a hospital, but he refused to be taken to any medical clinic. However, Abdulhadi consented to receiving an IV, and after this his blood sugar level rose to 11; it has stabilised this morning at 6. His blood pressure is at 80/55. He is suffering from a urinary track infection because of dehydration, and he has very little energy. The family requested an independent medical report from an Irish expert on these issues, and the full report can be found here. 30 August 2014 - 6th day hunger strike - Updates AlKhawaja has called his wife today. His blood sugar dropped to 2 and his blood pressure reached 90/55. He took water with glucose and his blood sugar increased to 3.1. He was visited by an official from the ombudsman for not more than five minutes. The official asked AlKhawaja about the reason of his hunger strike and if he knows it’s dangerous on his life. Alkhawaja passed a request through his wife to all NGOs to support the case of the prisoners who are currently on hunger strike at the dry dock detention center in Bahrain.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, a Bahraini citizen and the Co-Director of the Gulf Center For Human Rights, was denied entry to her country today [August 30, 2014]. According to the organisation, she was planning to visit her father, prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is in prison and on his sixth day of a hunger strike. Her father was jailed during the harsh government crackdown which followed pro-democracy protests which swept Bahrain, starting on February 14, 2011. He is sentenced to life imprisonment. This is his second hunger strike. His first lasted for 110 days and ended after he was force-fed by authorities. After the authorities detained Maryam Al-Khawaja on unknown charges and confiscated her Danish passport (she holds both Danish and Bahraini citizenships), she announced on Twitter that she would go on hunger strike: I'm being detained in airport. Telling me I don't have Bahraini citizenship. I'm asking for proof. — Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 29, 2014
On Friday, the protesters shouted anti-regime slogans and called for democracy in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom. They also demanded the freedom of protesters detained by the regime. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, censured the regime for raiding its headquarters on Wednesday. Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
"OAKLAND HAS played host each year recently to Urban Shield, a SWAT team exercise in which law enforcement teams from around the world practice, among other things, the use of force against protesters. But this year, community activists are calling on the city to refuse to turn the city's streets into a sprawling stage for urban war games[...]Urban Shield also reaches beyond the U.S., bringing together more than 150 local, state, federal and international agencies, as well as private defense contractors. In attendance will be police from Bahrain, Israel, Guam and Brazil, to name only a few of the participants with lengthy records of misconduct and human rights violations."
"Large crowds of Bahrainis have protested west of the country’s capital, Manama, over the arrest of a prominent opposition figure, just hours after another rally ended with clashes with police. The former deputy speaker of parliament, Khalil Marzooq, was arrested Sept. 17 on charges of "inciting and advocating terrorism." The activist’s detention came after he spoke at a rally, saying, “We support peaceful movements, and we transparently state… that we are not part of the violent groups or their actions"
The special session of the Bahraini National Assembly held on Sunday Jul. 28 was a spectacle of venom, a display of vulgarity, and an unabashed nod to increased dictatorship. The 22 recommendations approved during the session aimed at giving the regime pseudo-legal tools to quash dissent and violate human and civil rights with impunity. All in the name of fighting “terrorism”. The parliamentary special session last Sunday showed a divisive, intolerant, and fractured country that is rapidly descending into chaos. It’s as if civility, rationality, and moderation have become relics from the past. King Hamad and the Crown Prince welcomed the recommendations, and the powerful prime minister urged his ministers to implement them immediately; in fact, he has threatened to fire any minister who slows their implementation. According to media reports, the recommendations were prepared before the meeting and were disseminated to the media a few minutes after the session ended. They were not even debated meaningfully or rationally during the session.
I am astonished by how little the media has covered the ongoing protests in Bahrain, Kuwait, and eastern Saudi Arabia. You would think that the oil-rich Gulf Cooperation Council states would be under a microscope, because what happens there immediately affects oil prices. But large media corporations have opted not to cover events in these countries, so as not to cause market panic. And there is a lot to panic about. People are continuing to die in the protests, and the whole thing seems to have taken a dangerous and extreme turn. Until recently, protesters were relatively peaceful and only resorted to assembling in the streets. But on July 17, a car exploded in a mosque parking lot near the royal residences in Manama, marking an escalation of tensions between protesters and the government. That same day, an office building was set ablaze in another area of the city, and several days before that, a car exploded by the house of one of Bahrain's members of parliament.