On February 14, 2011 thousands of Bahraini took to the streets, on what was called the day of rage, to protest for human and democratic rights. As much as 55 peaceful marches took place in 25 locations throughout Bahrain. The Bahraini security forces responded violently to protesters by firing tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and birdshot. Despite the government’s attempts to crush the protest movement, the Bahraini people have continued their struggle against the U.S. puppet Al Khalifa dynasty.
No surprise that the U.S. and their imperialist allies have turned a blind eye on the ongoing crackdown of the Bahraini government on its own people. We still remember their hypocritical stances in defense of the so called democracy and human rights in Libya and Syria.
According to a publication titled “U.S. Bilateral Relations Fact Sheets” by the State Department “Bahrain plays a key role in regional security architecture and is a vital U.S. partner in defense initiatives. Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and participates in U.S.-led military coalitions… U.S. assistance enables Bahrain to continue to obtain the equipment and training it needs to provide for its own defense and to operate alongside U.S. air and naval forces.”
It becomes clear that the United States and its allies like Saudi Arabia, are providing military and political support to the repressive Bahraini regime. On March 14, 2011, Saudi Arabia sent 1200 troops, along with 800 troops from United Arab Emirates, to crush the protest movement.
Video footage surfaced showing Saudi light armored vehicle being used against Bahraini protesters. Those light-armored vehicles looked quite similar to those sold by Canada to Saudi Arabia throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The Globe and Mail reported, “Asked if it believes the Saudis used made-in-Canada LAVs when they went into Bahrain, the Canadian government doesn’t deny this happened.”
Not only the Canadian government is trying to downplay its support and involvement in the quelling of pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain in 2011 but now it is desperately trying to justify its $15-billion deal to sell more military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. On a French language TV show Justin Trudeau described the vehicles as merely “jeeps”. The reality is that this “jeeps” are light-armored vehicles, or LAVs, and will be equipped with machine guns and other weaponry. Basically these light-armored vehicles are a newer and more sophisticated version than the ones Saudi Arabia previously used against the people of Bahrain.
Oppression continues so does resistance
The Bahraini government continues to escalate its crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy activist. According to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights BCHR, at least 261 Bahrainis were stripped of their citizenship since 2012. This include Sheikh Isa Qassim, a prominent Muslim cleric and spiritual leader for the Bahraini Shiites who constitute 75% of the population of the Kingdom.
Nabeel Rajab, the President of BCHR and prominent human rights activist, was arrested and detained on 13 June 2016 on charges of “spreading false rumours in times of war” and “insulting public authorities” after tweets he published in 2015. Nabeel has been in solitary confinement since his arrest and is detained in extremely poor and unsanitary conditions. His health deteriorated and on June 28 he was transferred to the Bahrain Defense Hospital’s Coronary Care Unit after he suffered irregular heartbeats. A day later he was transported back to detention center event though his family reported that his health was not stable.
Another prominent opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman had his prison sentence extended to 9 years on charges of inciting violence. Sheikh Salman was also the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, the largest political society and opposition party, which the Bahraini government closed on June14, 2016.
The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, David Kaye, condemned the sentencing of Sheikh Ali al-Salman “The sentencing of Sheik Ali al-Salman seems to confirm a worrying trend of political repression further shrinking the space for any form of dissent in Bahrain today.”
According to Amnesty International’s annual report on Bahrain “The authorities severely curtailed the rights to freedom of expression and association, and arrested and prosecuted political and religious activists who criticized the government through social media or at public gatherings. Others were prosecuted and convicted for criticizing the late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and the Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen”
The brave people of Bahrain continue their struggle for freedom, democracy and respect of human rights while the U.S. government and its allies continue its hypocritical support of the al-Khalifa regime. In its 2016 fiscal year the United States allocated $3.5 million in Economic Support Funds (ESF) to Bahrain for “programs and activities to promote reconciliation, democratic reform, and adherence to international human rights and labor rights standards in Bahrain.”
The hypocritical position of the U.S. government towards the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain is a clear prove that the U.S. has never had any genuine interest in promoting human rights or democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. The U.S. has no right to impose and defend their puppet repressive regimes against the will of the Bahraini people. We must demand the right of all oppressed nations to self-determination.
As Bahraini human rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja said “We Bahrainis have chosen the path of resistance to dictators and suffered willingly because we want real change.”
Follow Azza on Twitter: @Azza_R14
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