Monday, May 16, 2011

US Indifference to Bahrain Abuses

One of my most important tools for trying to stay abreast of current events in, and thinking about, the Middle East is Google's free e-mail alerts.  You choose the keyword; Google alerts you to new stories from media or blogs.  For "Bahrain" yesterday, I received an alert listing several stories.  The juxtaposing of an official State Department pronouncement with other media reports was, frankly, stunning.

The State Department issued essentially an all-clear for US citizens to travel to Bahrain, because - in DoS's estimation - the security situation has calmed down.  Or, if you, that all-important condition of "stability"  has been restored.  Gee, that's swell.  However, that same Google alert let me know that
  • Bahrain security forces have been torturing detainees, including medical personnel - and including use of electrical shock (via LA Times)
  • the Bahrain government has been completely unresponsive to reports and allegations concerning abuse (McClatchy, via Christian Science Monitor):
  • The government, which dominates the airwaves of state television, the state news agency and the print media, offers little response to the international criticism the crackdown has received.

    A scathing report by Physicians for Human Rights, a US group that shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, accused Bahrain in a report April 22 of an "all-out assault on health care and health professionals," abductions of doctors in the middle of the night and "egregious" acts against patients and health professionals that included "torture, beating, verbal abuse, humiliation, and threats of rape and killing."

    Asked on May 1 for a comment, Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak al Khalifa, a diplomat drafted to serve as a government spokesman, told McClatchy that he hadn't seen the report. A copy was emailed. Two days later, the same question was put at a news conference to Dr. Hala al Mehza, the acting health minister, who also said she wasn't aware of the report and asked a reporter to send a copy. Asked by email Sunday what she thought of the report, Mehza didn't respond.

    Mehza also said she was in almost daily touch with the UN's high commissioner for human rights in Geneva and had cordial conversations with officials there. Yet on Sunday, High Commissioner Navi Pillay voiced deep concern about the "dire" human rights situation. She charged that Bahrain's secret trial of protesters, which led to death sentences for four, was "illegal and absolutely unacceptable" and she spoke of reports of "severe torture" of human rights defenders currently in detention.

  • More than 2,000 private sector employees, most of them Shia, have either been sacked or suspended in an expanding Bahraini crackdown on anti-government protests (via al-Jazeera)
  • Reuters’ Bahrain correspondent has been expelled from the country amid an ongoing crackdown on media in the Gulf kingdom (via WaPo)

Meanwhile, meeting in Riyadh - with King Abdullah himself presiding - the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has declared full support for the Bahrain monarchy.  And the monarchy is so sure things are under control that it has decided to lift, ahead of schedule, the emergency rule it has imposed on that island country (I'd hardly call it a "nation.")  The US, of course, is watching the Saudis' back in all of this, as well as that of Bahrain's king - whose country's capital also happens to be the home port of the US Fifth Fleet - on which the US security establishment relies as a major deterrent to the expansion of those nefarious Iranians, who, we're so sure, plan to take over the entire Middle East (and nuke Israel - just ask Bibi!).  And the US is also counting on the Saudis to lead the Arab world against those Persians.

Thankfully, the HuffPo (Huffington Post) publishes a Reuters report (by the reporter that the Bahrain government booted out) how the West has essentially ignored the atrocities on Bahrain, for the standard reasons, most of them cited above: fear of Iranian Shii influence, the US's need to keep its naval base at Manama, access to Saudi oil.

Let's not quibble: detention and torture, destroying Shii mosques, depriving Shii employees of livelihoods by firing them - these are atrocities. And they are motivated not just by considerations of regime self-preservation, but out of the deep-seated religious hatred of Shia that is promoted by the hyper-Sunni version of Islam that is preached by the Wahhabi ulema who are the spiritual/ideological foundation of the Saudi monarchy.  And, let's not quibble: that is a hatred that US oil interests have served to perpetuate.

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