Thursday, April 07, 2011

Bahrain News Update: Repression Escalates in US-backed Gulf State

'Saudi regime dishonoring Islam'

Thu Apr 7, 2011 1:21PM

Not only has the Saudi regime disgraced itself by invading Bahrain, but it also has insulted Islamic values by raiding and destroying religious centers in the small Persian Gulf state, an international rights activist says.

“By destroying a mosque -- which the Qur'an has dubbed as the home of Allah -- the Saudis (have) not just dishonored themselves, they have dishonored Islam,” Chairman of the Committee against Torture in Bahrain Rodney Shakespeare told Press TV on Wednesday.

On Tuesday, new footage from Bahrain showed a mosque destroyed in the northern town of Kawarah in attacks by Saudi forces.

The video also displayed burned pages of the holy Qur'an buried under masses of debris.

“The Saudi government has deliberately ordered the burning, [while it] claims to be the guardian of Islam's holy places of Mecca and Medina,” Shakespeare pointed out.

Shakespeare predicted that after the Saudi 'insult,' the world or at least the Islamic world will become aware of other atrocities being committed against the Bahraini people, despite the massive media blackout on the developments in the tiny Persian Gulf country.

Demonstrators in Bahrain have been demanding constitutional reforms as well as an end to the 230-year-old Al-Khalifa monarchy since February 14th.

Bahraini security forces have been brutally suppressing anti-government protesters. So far, at least 26 people have been killed, almost 100 have gone missing and about 1,000 others have been injured.

The violence against protesters escalated when Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates dispatched their armed forces to the island country upon Manama's request for help in cracking down on peaceful protesters.

'US wants Bahrain monarch to stay'

Interview with Jennifer Loewenstein, Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison

Thu Apr 7, 2011 9:1AM

Interview with Jennifer Loewenstein, Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison

Since the beginning of the uprising in Bahrain in mid-February, dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed and many others went missing.

In an interview with Press TV, Jennifer Loewenstein, Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, explains the US reluctance to condemn the atrocities committed in Bahrain and why it accuses Iran of involvement in Bahrain uprising.

Press TV: There are reports that there was deal between the US President Barack Obama's administration and Saudi Arabia that the Saudis invade Bahrain and in return the US takes out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. Also, two diplomatic sources at the UN have confirmed that Washington gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain in exchange for a "yes" vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya --the main rationale that led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973. Can you elaborate on that news?

Loewenstein: Of course I don't have any inside information on that but when I heard the news, my first thought was that the US had just given the green light to the Saudis to go into Bahrain and in fact I believe [the US Defense Secretary] Robert Gates was there the day before the invasion. I cannot speak from knowing internal records but it looks very suspicious to me. Bahrain and Libya both are of interest to the US despite what Obama and his administration are saying. To think that we are just trying to help settle the unrest in the region and we would like to see democracy and freedom in both places is completely naïve. The truth is we want the Bahraini monarchy to stay in power. I do believe the US has thrown a lot of support behind the rebels in Libya but it has to do a lot with the history of Libya and the US and the oil corporations there.

Press TV: The White House has done everything it can to make sure the Bahrain drama is buried by US media: Why doesn't the UN approved R2P --the "Responsibility to Protect", not apply to people in Bahrain?

Loewenstein: We are hearing nothing basically about Bahrain anymore. Everything coming to us in the US is about Libya, about Yemen, about ongoing development in Egypt but as far as Bahrain in concerned, it has been burned. When it was in the news, there was an attempt to make this into a Sunni-Shia split and to blame Iran, saying that it was Iran's fault and it was trying to stir up dissent among Bahrain's Shia population and that was why it was necessary to send in Saudi troops. This is very a dangerous game they are doing, if this is what they are actually doing. I think it is in nobody's interest to have any kind of regional tension between the Saudi Arabia and Iran and it would not surprise me in the least to find out that Saudi Arabia and the US are trying to provoke Iran. They have an excuse to have to go to destroy economic and political infrastructure.

Press TV: The Persian Gulf Arab countries have accused Iran of interference. The accusations came while Saudi, Kuwaiti and UAE troops are in Bahrain to put down the popular uprising. Even the US has said Iran has not interfered, neither in Bahrain not any other uprising that has taken place across the Arab world. But do the accusations erase the fact that unarmed protesters are subject to human rights violations?

Loewenstein: We have to remember that last fall the Saudis received an unprecedented 60 billion dollars in military hardware from the US. It doesn't need that; there is no reason for that. It is probably nothing more than recycled petro-dollars and it sustains military industrial complex between the US and Saudi Arabia that has been present since just after the WWII. I have a very bad feeling about this, I am sure the Bahraini uprising is not over. The people demonstrating in Bahrain are both Shia and Sunni together against the repressive monarchy who would really like to see some kind of reform possible without this turning into full-scale regional and global war.

Press TV: Some analysts content that democracy and human rights stop at the border of the US and other Western countries and do not expend to the countries in the Middle East where all the atrocities are committed under their watch. What is your opinion on that?

Loewenstein: I have to disagree on that point and that is the US and other Western countries care about human rights up until their own borders' end. We have seen enough trouble just in my home state of Wisconsin this past winter with a regime in power in the state that has done more to destroy civil liberty and rights of workers, unions and other hard working people... We have to tend to our problems here at home as well and be a little bit less hypocritical when we are going overseas talking other nations and telling them how to rule their countries.

I agree that this was not a sectarian struggle initially but if the Caliphate monarchy wanted to institute a few reforms it could do so easily, I don't see what the problem is. What I see is very big national security policy issues on the table with the US and with Saudi Arabia and I think it should not be forgotten that the Saudi Shia population is in the east and sits on the oil in Saudi Arabia and has been fiercely discriminated against by Saudi Arabia and this could in fact lead to regional instability between the Saudi Arabia and Iran. So on the one hand, Iran does have an obligation in a way to speak for the Shia people and on the other hand it wouldn't have to if the Shia population in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain were being treated fairly and with the kind of respect and human dignity that we so often say is part of our legacy.

Bahrain hospitals 'militarized, deserted'

Thu Apr 7, 2011 2:54PM

People wait along a hallway at the Salmaniya hospital to hear about the well-being of their family members, who were injured after
police stormed an anti-government protest camp in the capital on February 17, 2011.

An international medical and humanitarian organization says Bahrain has militarized the kingdom's hospitals in an effort to deter the popular revolution against the ruling monarchy.

On Thursday, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) confirmed earlier reports that Manama-paid forces would swoop on the country's medical centers soon after injured patients trust medical authorities with their identification and inform them that their injuries are protest-related.

"Health facilities are used as bait to identify and arrest those who seek treatment," said medical coordinator for the MSF Latifa Ayada, AFP reported.

"Wounds, especially those inflicted by distinctive police and military gunfire are used to identify people for arrest, and the denial of medical care is being used by Bahraini authorities to deter people from protesting," she added.

The organization said the Persian Gulf island's hospitals and clinics has been turned into 'places of fear.'

A report by the body bore testimonies from patients, who had been admitted to the country's largest Salmaniya hospital in the capital. One victim's account showed that he had been battered on the wound from a rubber bullet that struck him at close range.

A visit by MSF on March 21 found the facility nearly empty.

Earlier in the month, a Press TV correspondent reported that the hospital looked more like a military zone and was being patrolled by secret police.

Dozens of people have been killed and thousands of others injured since February 14, when the public started a popular revolution against the royal family that has been ruling the island for more than 200 years.

Led by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain's Arab neighbors deployed their troops to the country in mid-March to reinforce the armed attacks against protesters. The reinforcements have reportedly contributed to an increase in the use of violence against protesters.

Other reports by human rights groups have pointed to doctors and ambulances also facing armed attacks and terror tactics.

Last month, Saudi snipers were sighted gunning down a nurse, targeting the medical staffer as she was trying to reach the Salmaniya hospital.

'US radicalism behind Bahrain tyranny'

Thu Apr 7, 2011 9:30AM

Bahraini regime's vicious suppression of the peaceful popular movement stems directly from the Zionist-controlled foreign policy of the United States, says an analyst.

“The Americans have actually instructed; instigated the repression in Bahrain. They are straight behind it, and they are straight behind it, because their foreign policy is controlled by Zionist Israel,” said Rodney Shakespeare, Chairman of the Committee against Torture in Bahrain, in an interview with Press TV.

“The United States is effectively capable of overthrowing all of those [oppressive] regimes, but it is not going to do so, because at the heart of what is now a fascism it is the United States of America aided by its supine, cowardly allies which include the United Kingdom,” he added.

“These people [West and allies] use every trick they can to suppress what is obviously a straightforward democratic revolution, which is now starting there,” noted the analyst.

Shakespeare went on to say “political awareness” is now needed in regard to the current Bahraini government's crackdown that has met massive condemnations.

“The immediate need is for a political awareness of the bigger issues -- rich-poor division, and a vicious suppression. It is a rising fascism.”

The political analyst also added that the United Nations Security Council could give “jurisdiction” to the International Criminal Court to bring to justice those responsible for the brutality against the “democratic” peaceful protesters.

“We need to say to all of these people that no matter how long it takes, at some point we will get the jurisdiction. We have got the evidence. We have got the witnesses,” he pointed out.

“But when we get the jurisdiction, we will go for them, and the people who are holding up this jurisdiction are the United States of America and those hypocrites in Europe. They are hypocrites and they are cowards. But everybody has got to act politically to get the pressure on these criminals.”

Since the beginning of the uprising in Bahrain in mid-February, dozens of anti-government protesters have been killed and many others gone missing.

Six opposition leaders have also been arrested and the Manama government has so far refused to provide any information on their fate.

Bahrain opposition says the regime has so far arrested over 450 opposition activists, including 14 women.

The brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters has also claimed the lives of at least 26 and left about 1,000 others wounded.

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