The Bahrain – Ukraine Duality
by RANNIE AMIRI – counter punch – 08 March, 2014
When President Obama recently spoke on “… the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked …” he was of course referring to Russia’s concerns over unrest in Ukraine and its subsequent troop movements into the Crimean Peninsula. No such “principle” was evoked, however, when Saudi Arabia invaded Bahrain in March 2011 in its violent suppression of popular, pro-reform sentiment expressed by the overwhelming majority in the Gulf island nation.
Unlike Ukraine, the peaceful protests in Manama’s Pearl Roundabout did not depose a constitutionally elected government. Obviously, the centuries-old rule of the al-Khalifa family has never been by mandate at the ballot box. Likewise, adherence to the country’s National Action Charter put forward by King Hamad al-Khalifa has been solely to the extent of perpetuating dynastic rule.
Stephen F. Cohen, professor of Russian Studies and History Emeritus at New York University, describes how European and NATO agitation along Russia’s borders led to today’s conflict in Ukraine:
“… even though we always say that Russia and Putin invaded tiny little Georgia, the fact is that the war was begin [sic], by the American-backed military forces of Georgia– because they attacked Russian enclaves in Georgia.”
He elaborates, “And even if we just go back to this November, just a few months ago, when the protesters came into the streets in Ukraine, Putin said to Europe and Washington, why are you forcing Ukraine to choose between Russia and Europe? We’re prepared with Europe to do a kind of mini-Marshall Plan to bail Ukraine out. Let’s do it together. And that was refused by Washington and Brussels. And that refusal led to the situation today.
“… the fundamental issue here is that, three or four years ago, Putin made absolutely clear he had two red lines. You remember Obama’s red lines in Syria. But Putin was serious. One was in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. NATO and NATO influence couldn’t come there. The other was in Ukraine. We crossed both. You got a war in Georgia in 2008, and you have got today in Ukraine because we, the United States and Europe, crossed Putin’s red line. Now, you can debate whether he has a right to that red line, but let’s at least discuss it.”
In contrast, Bahrainis demands for a constitutional monarchy, elected prime minister, independent judiciary and representative parliament did not come at the hands of outside forces or foreign sponsors and by all accounts, are wholly indigenous. The vast majority of people support such reforms; they are not split as are Ukrainians between two competing spheres of power. The canard of Iranian interference in Bahrain’s affairs is nothing more than the tired refrain of Gulf dictatorships preying upon the sectarian and nationalistic fears of its people. Even former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said at the time, “I expressed the view that we had no evidence that suggested that Iran started any of these popular revolutions or demonstrations across the region.” WikiLeaks cables confirm allegations of Iranian interference to be unsubstantiated.
Three years ago, bolstered by the presence of the Saudi military and “Peninsula Shield” forces which made the quick, 16-mile trek across the King Fahd causeway, Bahrain’s security servies—90 percent of whom are non-Bahraini nationals—viciously cleared Pearl Roundabout. Tanks and bulldozers rolled in, riot police shot at the encamped, helicopters hovered overhead and fired at homes, hospitals were blocked and doctors beaten as they tended to the wounded. The capital’s Salmaniya Hospital was besieged and soon became a center of interrogation, torture and resistance.
As of this writing, no violence has been perpetrated by Russian forces in Crimea and no shots have been fired.
In contrast to Obama’s rebuke of Putin, the crackdown in 2011 only elicited a call for “maximum restraint.”
Much has transpired in Bahrain since the Saudi invasion. One only needs to visit the website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights to see how the show trials, imprisonment of pro-democracy activists, collective punishment and wanton human rights abuses have utterly devastated the society. This overt oppression has been ignored by the United States and its European allies, the same nations that now express outrage at Russia’s incursion into Crimea. …more
Five Bahraini chanters arrested following mass march
22 February, 2014
SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association) – Five Bahrainis have been arrested for leading the gigantic mass prodemocracy march that took place last Saturday afternoon, February 15th. Around 300, 000 Bahrainis participated in the march demanding democratic transition and an end to the current tyrannical rule in Bahrain.
Al Wefaq said the arrests contradicts basic humanitarian principles and reflects the type of doctrine that is controlling the political situation. “Punishing citizens for expressing their opinions is a war on freedom of expression and peaceful political activism”, Al Wefaq added. It also pointed out that these measures reflect the regime’s preference of a security solution over a political one, thereby, further complicating the situation. …more
Bahrain: The silent revolution
14 February, 2014 – Al Jazeera
Muted reaction to Bahrain crackdown on pro-democracy activists is in stark contrast to those regarding Syria and Libya
Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja was due to be out of prison on February 20. She has been serving concurrent sentences since February 2013. However, she was recently sentenced to a further four months on a new charge of “destroying private property”.
As Bahrainis mark the third anniversary of the pro-reform protest movement which came to be known as the 14 February Coalition, human rights violations continue unabated in the country. Some 122 Bahrainis have since died from torture, lung infections caused by tear gas, and from live ammunition used by the Bahraini security forces.
Thus far, 1,300 Bahrainis have been arrested in connection with their role in the protests and those still in detention have been tortured and denied access to medical care. Hospitals have been militarised as doctors and nurses are harassed for treating victims of the protests. Thousands of workers have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs for taking part in the demonstrations.
And while the international community, particularly Western countries, have been quite vocal in condemning atrocities committed against protesters in some countries in the Middle East, when it comes to Bahrain, calls from the West for an end to human rights abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities have been rather muted.
Using the ‘terror’ card
Bahrain is now on the verge of a precipice as citizens’ rights are trampled upon with no recourse to the legal system. The judiciary and police are far from independent and operate with the utmost impunity, leaving citizens who dare condemn atrocities at their mercy. Bahraini authorities ensure that they impose charges against activists and journalists which carry maximum sentences, and which, in the eyes of Bahrain’s allies, portray a country doing its best to ensure that its territorial integrity and internal security are protected from “criminals and trouble makers”.
Inside Story Americas – US double standards in Bahrain
Last year, on September 29, a court in Bahrain sentenced a group of 50 political and civil activists under the country’s terrorism law to jail terms ranging from five to 15 years, for “trying to destabilise the country”, and for alleged links to the “14 February Coalition”. The sentencing of the 50 vividly paints an appalling picture of the state of affairs in Bahrain. …more