Bahrain Crisis between Hunger Strike and Grand Prix Boycott

The crisis in Bahrain continues to boil along, despite the harsh crackdown of the Sunni monarchy on the protest movement (made up largely of the Shiite majority, but also supported by some Sunni parties). The crackdown has left about 83 dead in the past year, and hundreds have been imprisoned. Abd al-Hadi al-Khwajah, a protester and hunger striker that the Bahrain authorities have sentenced to life imprisonment, is in very bad health. Aljazeera English reports:

Al-Khwajah’s plight and that of the other political prisoners are raising questions about the holding of the Grand Prix Formula One race in Bahrain this year (it was cancelled last year). Aljazeera English reports:

The USG Open Source Center translates these two reports from Bahrain opposition web sites. (Al-Wifaq is the major political party of the Shiite majority. It demands a constitutional monarchy and revisions to the constitution. Shiites in Bahrain feel that they are discriminated against in employment, education and basic rights by the Sunni monarchy. Al-Wifaq is led by cleric Ali Salman, a moderate.)

Al-Wifaq.net in Arabic [website of Bahrain’s largest Shiite opposition group] … is observed to carry the “text” of the Friday sermon delivered by Shiite cleric Ayatollah Isa Qasim. In his sermon, Qasim says that “Abd-al-Hadi al-Khawajah was unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment” and according to the reports of Human Rights organizations, “his health condition has become too frail and his life is at risk.” Qasim adds: “This portends a very grave national and human rights crisis the negative results of which are certain.” He explains his opinion by saying: “If Al-Khawajah dies, it would be one of the ‘unforgivable’ crimes of the regime and this would lead to a serious deterioration of the security situation in the country.” The report cites Qasim as saying: “We do not call for any armed intervention by any party, but we need more serious pressure to be put on the Bahraini regime by its ‘strategic allies,’ instead of their supportive words and stances that encourage the regime to commit more acts of violence.”…

“[The] Bahrain Mirror in Arabic [Pro-opposition website] says that the Al-Wifaq National Islamic Society has urgently summoned its cadres to set up an around-the-clock operations room to follow up on the developments in the issue of Abd-al-Hadi al-Khawajah who has reportedly reached a critical stage due to the 56-day hunger strike. The report adds that Al-Wifaq’s Secretary General Ali Salman has changed his tone on this issue by saying that “the regime will be held responsible for the consequences of whatever harm is done to Abd-al-Hadi al-Khawajah.”

The United States has widely been accused of hypocrisy in declining to criticize or sanction the Bahrain authorities for their intolerance of dissent, while jumping up and down about dictatorship in countries the US government dislikes, such as Syria.

For an excellent analysis of political dynamics in Bahrain, see Laurence Louer at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace

5 Responses

  1. Dr. Cole might have mentioned that, according to wiki released diplomatic cables, the U.S.’s hypocrisy consists of cutting a deal with the Saudis to allow them to go into Bahrain and suppress the “Arab Spring” uprising there in exchange for the Saudi’s support for the Arab Spring revolt in Libya.

    In like manner, over a year ago, Wiki leaks cables forced the U.S. Government to admit that it had been funding the opposition in Syria- in other words, the Syrian revolt was not part of the Arab Spring, but a U.S. inspired attempt to overthrow the government of Syria.

    Our actions in the Middle East owe nothing to support for freedom and democracy, but are guided by our own, and Israel’s, perceived interests.

    • i don’t defend US/saudi royals’ double dealings but people suffering under tyrannies in libya and syria shouldn’t be punished for it. libyans and syrians shouldn’t be denied freedom just to give a poke in the eye of imperial powers.

    • the U.S. Government to admit that it had been funding the opposition in Syria- in other words, the Syrian revolt was not part of the Arab Spring, but a U.S. inspired attempt to overthrow the government of Syria.

      That’s quite the leap in logic. I wonder, was the American Revolution “a French inspired attempt” to win the independence of the North American colonies from England?

      The notion that the uprisings in Syria were, uniquely in the entire Middle East and North Africa region, unrelated to any actual movement among the citizens of a dictatorship to liberate themselves, seems rather far-fetched. It is possible for a legitimate, indigenous liberation movement to win the support of other countries.

  2. Down here in Tampa, FL, as the people who used to holler “Better Dead Than Red” are ramping up their Red States Convention down here, and there’s a huge influx of State Security Personnel to be sure that none of the *delegates* has to be troubled in the slightest by expressions of anything other than admiration and praise from “their fellow Americans.” So there’s gonna be a “First Amendment Park,” miles from anywhere, where anyone attempting to “petition for redress of grievances” can do their Commie, hippie thing, and lots of head-busting and eye-spraying and fully-charged Tazing all ready for any “irrational exuberance.”

    And Bradley Manning is still held, somewhere beyond the reach of the dead hand of habeus corpus, in the Land of Rule By Law.

    Want a side of Freedom Fries with your main course of hypocritical jumping-up-and-down cake, Mr. President and all you “democratically elected beloved leaders?”

  3. The United States has widely been accused of hypocrisy […] while jumping up and down about dictatorship in countries the US government dislikes, such as Syria.

    with all due respect, what syria has suffered under the assad regime is magnitudes worse than what bahrainis have yet to go through. and as such, is a more urgent matter.

    how can anybody look at what the regime has done to homs (as just one example) and not demand redress? a town so bombed and demolished and reduced to rubble that HRW reps and foreign journalists (such as paul conroy, who barely escaped alive) describe it as being worse than grozny, chechnya.

    the US posturing on syria has been more talk than action. talk to satisfy public pressure that demands the turmoil to be addressed – but without actually acting to do anything to stem it. any sanctions applied, syria has been able to skirt with the help of russia and china. kofi annan, presumably acting under US direction, backed off on demanding bashar assad step down. this so called ceasefire has provided bashar cover to inflict more casualties.

    i’m not convinced that the US sees the fall of the regime as being in america’s (or isral’s) interest as most people are assuming.

    i don’t need to remind you this regime has been a US partner in the war against terrorism. such previous relationships aren’t tossed aside lightly. in 2010, mrs. clinton approved IT technology be allowed to be shipped to the regime even though syrian expats warned it would be used to oppress dissidents. leon panetta has strongly came out against intervention. and look at this bob baer admission that didn’t get a lot of attention:

    “Let me put this very cynically, it’s probably in America’s interest that the current government subdues a rebellion and a civil war,” Baer said.

    It’s not at all like Libya, where most Libyans are Sunni Muslims and getting rid of Muammar Gaddafi didn’t lead to a Sunni-Shia divide.

    i think it plausible that washington is depraved enough to make cynical deals with this regime that would greenlight assad taking the gloves off in order to quell the unrest. or even enter a deal with iran that allows assad to remain in power in exchange for a deal on the weapons issue.

    who knows what washington’s intentions are? there is so many hidden agendas, it’s hard to tell anything until the smoke has cleared.

    preposterous, you say? but we’ve seen such betrayals from the US before. look at how bush senior called upon the shia in iraq to rise up only to allow saddam a freehand in mowing them down.

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