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Home > English > Alternatives International Journal > 2012 > June 2012 > The Struggle in Bahrain Continues

The Struggle in Bahrain Continues

Friday 1 June 2012, by Juan Camilo Velásquez-Buriticá

On May 28, Nabeel Rajab, one of the Bahraini uprising’s most prominent leaders, was released on bail after nearly a month of imprisonment. Rajab, who is also the head of the Bahraini Centre for Human Rights, was arrested on May 5 by Bahraini authorities as he landed in Manama, the country’s capital. Charges against him include taking part in illegal assembly and using social media to insult the government’s security forces.

The activist is still facing a travel ban, and a trial concerning the illegal demonstration charges has been scheduled for mid-June. His arrest, however, has cast a light on the state of the Bahraini uprising, which started on February 14, 2011 but has since received little attention. The movement, led by Shiite leaders like Rajab, demands equality for Shiites, greater political freedom, and, in some instances, even calls for an end to the country’s monarchy.

Western media coverage of the Bahraini rebellions has been sporadic at best, and often factually inaccurate.

In an interview a few days before his arrest, Rajab told Wikileaks’s Julian Assange that he has been constantly harassed by Bahraini authorities.

“I was just detained for almost half a day, and then before that I was beaten up in the street, few months ago I was kidnapped from my home by masked security […] and taken to another place after being blindfolded and handcuffed, and I was tortured,” said Rajab.

Before meeting with Assange, Rajab tweeted about the upcoming interview. Soon after, police officers surrounded his house and told his family that Rajab was due to meet the public prosecutor.

Rajab has come to represent the Bahraini revolution as a whole. The movement—like Rajab—is constantly detained and repressed, but never quite defeated. And in spite of continuous intimidation, Rajab—like the revolution—continues to persevere in its struggle for political freedom.

Although the revolutions of Libya, Tunisia and Egypt have toppled their respective governments, the movement in Bahrain is still fighting an uphill battle. As the total death toll nears a hundred, media coverage has not been as profound as the coverage seen in other Arab nations, and awareness of the issue continues to be scarce.

“[The] revolution is still working and did not yet achieve anything, but the revolution is still in a process, still continuing after a year, many people were killed, in terms of percentage much more than people lost in Tunisia or Egypt,” Rajab said to Assange.

Saudi Arabia has directly intervened by sending troops in March 2011, but Western nations and the international press are complicit as well, argues Rajab.
Rajab cites what he perceives to be a double standard from the United States and many European nations. These states, he says, are influenced heavily by Saudi Arabia due to the weapon and oil trades. Rajab pointed to the importance these countries place on these interests rather the human rights of Bahraini citizens.

“For example the same Unites States, who asked Russians not to sell arms for Syria, they are selling arms to Bahrain,” said Rajab.

Rajab also stated that in spite of Al Jazeera’s insightful coverage in other Arab nations, the Arabic version of the news station has been completely silent when it comes to Bahrain and has, in fact, taken the government’s side in many instances.

“A democracy in Bahrain is going to have an impact on Qatar, it’s gonna have an impact on Saudi Arabia the Al Arabiya TV channel,” said Rajab.

Tight domestic constraints have also made access difficult for journalists and NGOs. In March 2012, Amnesty International cancelled its fact-finding visit to Bahrain as a result of a 5-day time limit imposed by the government.

In spite of this secrecy, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on UN member states to “scrutinise Bahrain’s deplorable human rights record.” As the country approached its universal periodic review on May 21, Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW said in a statement that “the universal periodic review should focus on Bahrain’s routine suppression of basic political rights like freedom of association as well as the grave human rights violations committed in the brutal 2011 crackdown against pro-democracy protesters.”

French ambassador to the UN in Geneva Nicolas Niemtchinov highlighted Rajab’s case during the review of Bahrain’s human rights records.

“France condemns the arbitrary arrests and ongoing charges against defenders of human rights, trade unionists and campaigners for simply expressing their opinions,” said Niemtchinow.

Following his release, Rajab has vowed to continue in his struggle for rights and his defense of the oppressed. The activist is willing to “pay the cost of the revolution”, he says, and sacrifice his well-being in order to ensure the continuance of what has been the most silenced, but not silent, revolution in the Arab world.