Bahrain human rights situation deteriorates as world unconcerned: Activists


Bahrain’s supreme court of appeals has upheld a death sentence against a Shia anti-regime activist as the ruling Al Khalifah regime presses ahead with its heavy clampdown on political dissidents and pro-democracy activists in the kingdom.
On Monday, the Court of Cassation found defendant Hussein Marzouq guilty of involvement in the 2016 bombing in the eastern village of Sitra, located five kilometers south of the capital Manama, which targeted regime forces.
Bahraini authorities said at the time that a woman lost her life and her three children sustained injuries in the incident.
The court also handed down a life sentence to the second defendant and gave lengthy jail terms to six others. All eight had their Bahraini citizenship revoked as well.
Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.
They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established.
Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.
Scores of people have lost their lives and hundreds of others sustained injuries or got arrested as a result of the Al Khalifah regime’s crackdown.
On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.
Bahraini monarch King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 last year.


BAHRAIN: Amnesty International - Rapporto annuale 2017-2018

Bahrain Activist Gets 5-Year Sentence for ‘Insulting’ Tweets


LONDON — A court in Bahrain sentenced a prominent democracy advocate on Wednesday to five years in prison for tweets about abuses in prisons and the Saudi-led war in Yemen, continuing the crackdown that crushed the Arab Spring uprising there seven years ago.
The sentencing of the advocate, Nabeel Rajab, is the latest step in a long crackdown on dissent in Bahrain, a tiny island kingdom that is home to the United States Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Backed by rulers in neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim royal family has used tanks, riot police officers, sweeping arrests and tight censorship to thwart demands for democracy among the Shiite Muslim majority, and the resulting conflict has inflamed sectarian tensions around the region. The repression has presented Washington with one of the most awkward conflicts between its professions of support for human rights and its military commitments in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Rajab, 53, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is a leader of the pro-democracy movement that came to life in 2011, during the Arab Spring uprisings across the region. He was sentenced to three years in jail the next year, on charges of inciting protests against the government, and he has spent much of the intervening time in and out of prison on a series of charges related to his criticism of the monarchy. He is already serving a two-year sentence handed down in July for comments he made in television interviews, and faces more charges related to an Op-Ed published in The New York Times in 2016, “Letter From a Bahraini Jail.”
In it, Mr. Rajab recounted a recent meeting with John Kerry, then the secretary of state “I would like to ask Mr. Kerry now: Is this the kind of ally America wants?” he wrote. “The kind that punishes its people for thinking, that prevents its citizens from exercising their basic rights?”

Mr. Rajab was sentenced on Wednesday for statements he posted on Twitter in 2015. He was charged with “insulting national institutions” for accusing the authorities of torture at Jaw Prison, and sharing a report by Human Rights Watch that detailed conditions at the prison. He was charged with “insulting a neighboring country” for criticizing Saudi Arabia’s war against an Iranian-allied faction in Yemen, and he was accused of spreading false or malicious news during wartime because he faulted Bahrain for its participation in the Saudi-led coalition bombing Yemen.
As those charges were pending, Mr. Rajab reiterated his criticisms last May in another opinion column in The New York Times appealing to President Trump on the eve of his trip to Riyadh, the Saudi capital. “It fills me with shame that my country, Bahrain, is bombing Yemen, with United States support,” Mr. Rajab wrote, adding, “What I have endured is a small fraction of what the people of Yemen have suffered, largely because of the military intervention of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and their allies.”
United Nations agencies say that the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen has contributed to a humanitarian disaster, including thousands of indiscriminate civilian casualties as well as widespread famine and disease.A recent report by a United Nations panel concluded that the two sides had reached a stalemate neither could win, and that a Saudi-led blockade of the country has “had the effect of using the threat of starvation as an instrument of war.”
Supporters of the Saudi-led campaign argue that it is necessary to prevent Iran from establishing a beachhead on the Arabian Peninsula through its allies in Yemen, the Houthis. Supporters of Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarchy similarly argue that the Shiite-dominated opposition is in league with Shiite-led Iran. Tehran has used its state-owned media to encourage unrest in Bahrain, and Shiite militants in Bahrain have carried out violent attacks on security forces.
Mr. Trump has embraced Saudi Arabia as a close ally, vowed to push back against Iranian influence around the region, and tempered even the muted criticism of Bahrain that occurred under the Obama administration.
“Our countries have a wonderful relationship together,” Mr. Trump said during an appearance in Riyadh last spring with the king of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. “There has been a little strain, but there won’t be strain with this administration.”
In September, the Trump administration approved a $3.8 billion deal for Lockheed Martin to sell Bahrain more than a dozen new F-16 fighter jets, as well as upgrades to its existing fleet and other military equipment. Mr. Trump dropped requirements imposed under President Barack Obama for improved human rights before any arms sales. And, after a meeting with the crown prince of Bahrain in late November, Mr. Trump said on Twitter that the kingdom had agreed to spend as much as $9 billion on unspecified “commercial deals,” including the F-16s.
Mr. Rajab’s sentence on Wednesday was “a slap in the face to justice,” Heba Morayef, the Middle East director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “It is absolutely outrageous that he be forced to spend a further five years in jail simply for daring to voice his opinions online.”
Aziza Salman, a representative of the government of Bahrain, said in an email that the charges against Mr. Rajab “relate to specific articles of Bahrain’s penal code and did not, in any way, relate to any political views he may hold.”
“Bahrain’s commitment to protecting the security of the nation and its citizens is absolute; Nabeel Rajab was found guilty of undermining that security,” she added.
Asked on Tuesday about Mr. Rajab’s impending sentencing, a State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, said the administration was “very disappointed” that an earlier conviction had been upheld. “We continue to have conversations with the government of Bahrain about our very serious concerns,” she added.

Bahrain activist jailed for five years over Twitter comments


Bahrain has sentenced a well-known rights activist to five years in prison over his social media posts.
Nabeel Rajab - a key figure in 2011's pro-democracy protests - was convicted over posts on Twitter about the alleged torture of prisoners in the country.
He also criticised Saudi Arabia's actions in war-torn Yemen.
Amnesty International called for his immediate release, labelling the sentence "a slap in the face to justice."
The prominent activist is already serving a separate two-year sentence for spreading "false or malicious" information.
The Bahrain Center for Human Rights - of which Nabeel Rajab is president - said he was convicted on "trumped-up charges" following "a trial that was by itself a mockery of justice".
Its president had denounced "the torture against detainees at Jaw prison" and "the killing of civilians in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition", it said.
As a result, he was tried on charges of disseminating false rumours in time of war, offending a foreign country, and insulting a statutory body.
A Twitter account believed to belong to the activist's son, Adam, also confirmed the news.
"His first reaction after the verdict was laughing and raising the sign of steadfastness," he said.
It is not the first time the activist has been sentenced for a tweet - he was sent to prison for six months in 2015 on similar charges.
He has been in and out of jail since he helped lead a pro-democracy uprising in 2011. His current two-year sentence was handed down in July 2017 for "broadcasting fake news" after a court ruled that he had undermined the "prestige" of the kingdom.
He has suffered from poor health, however, and has been transferred to hospital several times. His recent applications for bail on the basis of his health have been denied.
Amnesty International said the sentence was "absolutely outrageous" .
"This sentence demonstrates the authorities' ruthless determination to crush all forms of dissent and leaves no room for doubt about the extreme lengths to which they are willing to go to in order to silence peaceful critics," regional director Heba Morayef said.
The rights group also pointed to similar pending charges against the activist.
He has been charged in connection with an open letter published in the New York Times, and over an Instagram post featuring an image of Bahrain's king with an excerpt from the Koran, Amnesty said.



Il 14 febbraio 2011, nel giorno di San Valentino, il Bahrain affrontava la grande rivoluzione. Nella notte tra il 16 e 17 febbraio, il governo attaccava Pearl Roundabout, seminando morti e feriti tra i giovanissimi manifestanti. Oggi, nel 2018, settimo anniversario della rivoluzione, scontri continui da giorni, senza sosta. Di fronte, i ragazzi sh’ia e le forze dell’ordine. Con feriti e contusi, non si conoscono ancora i numeri; il bilancio della rivolta è triste per giornalisti e per i tanti attivisti dei diritti umani.
Spogliare i cittadini della loro nazionalità è un sistema al quale il governo ricorre con sempre più facilità; sono ben sette i giornalisti apolidi dal 2011 a oggiin rappresaglia per aver documentato le proteste anti-governative in questi sette anni. L’apolidia è diventata una pena comune, spesso solo per esercitare una pressione sui media, una pena con conseguenze molto serie per i colleghi sh’ia, spesso giovani e professionalmente formati a livello internazionale. Tre stanno scontando pene detentive, gli altri quattro vivono in esilio.
Il fotografo Ahmed Al Mousawi è stato arrestato nel 2014 per aver scattato foto di proteste antigovernative, ed è stato condannato il 23 novembre 2015 a dieci anni di prigione e alla perdita della sua cittadinanza. Il giornalista Mahmoud Al Jaziri e il blogger Ali Al Maaraj sono stati privati della loro nazionalità il 30 ottobre 2017, in un processo politico nel quale loro e altri cinque sono stati condannati per terrorismo. Al Jaziri lavorava ad Al Wasat, quotidiano dell’opposizione chiuso dalle autorità nel 2017, ha avuto 15 anni di carcere. Ali Al Maaraj, aveva già trascorso 27 mesi in prigione per insulti al re e per aver “abusato” delle nuove tecnologie on line, ed è stato condannato all’ergastolo a fine anno.
Tra i tanti fuggitivi dal Bahrain anche quattro giornalisti, quelli che sono riusciti o per mare a mettersi in salvo o a eludere i controlli di frontiera. Ali Abdel Imam, fondatore del sito web di notizie BahrainOnline ,Ali Aldairy, fondatore ed editore del quotidiano del Bahrain Mirror, il presentatore televisivo Al Nabaa Abbas Busafwan e il blogger Hussein Yousef, sono stati tutti privati della loro nazionalità dal Ministero degli Interni il 31 gennaio 2015.
Solo il Ministero degli Interni può ritirare la cittadinanza a un cittadino bahrenita, questo accade quando il governo applica un emendamento in vigore dal 2014 che prevede reati come l’aiuto a uno Stato nemico o il sospetto sulla lealtà nei confronti del governo del Bahrain. Sostiene Reporter senza frontiere: “Coprire le proteste dell’opposizione o riportare ciò che dicono gli oppositori del governo non costituisce né un reato di terrorismo né una minaccia alla sicurezza dello Stato”; peraltro, anche i bambini dei cittadini apolidi sono penalizzati e privati della loro nazionalità. Ali Abdel Imam ha un figlio nato apolide nel Regno Unito. Un totale di 579 cittadini del Bahrain sono stati privati della loro nazionalità dal 2012. Quindici giornalisti sono attualmente imprigionati in Bahrain per aver fatto solo il loro lavoro, incluso Nabeel Rajab, che il 21 febbraio in corte rischia ulteriori 15 anni di prigione.
Il Bahrain è classificato al 164 ° posto su 180 Paesi nel World Freedom Index 2017 di RSF.


On its Seventh Anniversary, Bahrain’s Rights Movement is Under Unprecedented Attack


14 February 2018 – Today, we in the Bahraini human rights community commemorate the seventh anniversary of the 14 February 2011 protest movement calling for democratic reform and respect for human rights in Bahrain, and we condemn its violent suppression by the government. Seven years later, the situation in Bahrain is worse even than in 2011, with the authorities engaging in widespread and systematic human rights violations with continued impunity. We take this opportunity to call on the Government of Bahrain to immediately end these abuses, and urgently institute comprehensive human rights and political reforms with a view toward accountability, transparency, and guaranteeing internationally recognized universal human rights standards.
Seven years ago, more than 200,000 people took to the streets in Bahrain to protest structural inequalities, corruption, oppression, and a lack of government representation. The authoritiesresponded swiftly and severely. Security forces employed excessive and indiscriminate force to disperse the demonstrations, and the government imposed emergency restrictions on basic rights to suppress the movement. Assisted by a joint Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) military force – containing personnel primarily from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, but also including smaller contributions from Qatar and a naval force from Kuwait – Bahraini authorities violently put down the peaceful uprising, leading to thousands of arrests, hundreds of injuries, and dozens of deaths.
Following the crackdown, and under international pressure, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa commissioned the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate the unrest. The BICI found that Bahraini authorities had committed severe abuses – from mass arbitrary detention to torture and extrajudicial killing – and that a “culture of impunity” protected perpetrators in the government. After the BICI issued a series of urgent reform recommendations to address immediate concerns in the security sector and legal system, the king accepted the proposals and pledged that they would be rapidly implemented.
Seven years later, however, the government has not only failed to fully undertake the reform package – it has actively reversed what few recommendations had been temporarily instituted. In 2017, the government restored authority to Bahrain’s secret police force, the National Security Agency (NSA), and ended a de facto moratorium on the death penalty by executing three torture survivors after a trial rife with due process violations. These measures contravene in practice and spirit the only two BICI recommendations the government had fully implemented, namely to revoke arrest powers from the NSA and commute death sentences arising out of the unrest.
In other cases, the authorities have institutionalized or intensified the abusive practices meant to be rectified by the BICI recommendations. Since 2011, the Bahraini government has expanded thecounter-terror law and amended the penal code to further criminalize free expression and critical speech, targeting human rights defenders and political activists with arbitrary prosecution. It has forcibly dissolved all major opposition groups and has indefinitely suspended the only independent newspaper. In May 2017, security forces launched the kingdom’s bloodiest protest raid in decades when they killed five demonstrators at a sit-in around the home of the most prominent religious leader in Bahrain’s marginalized Shia Muslim community, which also faced escalating ethno-religious discrimination. The demonstrators were peacefully protesting the government’s decision to arbitrarily revoke citizenship from the cleric, Sheikh Isa Qassim – just one of the nearly 600 cases of arbitrary denaturalization since 2012.
And, in possibly the most worrying evolution of the repressive measures of 2011, the king amendedthe constitution itself to allow the Bahrain Defence Force military courts to try civilians in April 2017. In contrast with the notorious National Safety Courts that imprisoned leading human rights defenders and opposition figures during the uprising, the king has now enabled the standard military judiciary to hear cases against civilians even without a state of emergency. Since the amendment, the courts have contributed to a dramatic increase in the death row population, and military personnel have begun to face renewed allegations of torturing civilian detainees for the first time since 2011.
Seven years ago, international pressure was critical to the establishment of the BICI and the acceptance of its recommendations. However, in the interim, the international community has lost its focus on the rising crisis in Bahrain, failing to keep to pace with the government’s near-total abandonment of that original reform effort.
Therefore, on the anniversary of the 2011 protest movement, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Institute for Rights & Democracy (BIRD), and the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) call on the international community to re-center its attention on the kingdom’s rapidly deteriorating political situation and to press the Bahraini government to immediately implement emergency reforms ending its extreme repression of basic human rights.


Bahrain withdraws book misnaming Arabian Gulf


Foreign company replaces original name in the map with the word ‘Persian’
Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: A foreign company had to apologise after it misnamed the Arabian Gulf in a textbook commissioned by the Ministry of Education.
Under the deal, the company that went unnamed was to print 17,000 copies of a textbook in English for third graders.

The ministry provided the material for the book, including a map of the region that refers to the Gulf, the waterway separating the Arabian Peninsula from Iran, as the Arabian Gulf.
However, upon reception of the textbooks, the ministry discovered that the map had been replaced by another that referred to the Arabian Gulf as the “Persian” Gulf.
The ministry rejected the textbooks and the company sent a representative to Bahrain to offer an apology for the mistake.
The company fixed the error and re-printed 17,000 copies of the textbook, Fawaz Al Shroogui, the head of public Relations and media at the ministry, said on Monday.
The GCC and Iran have often been at odds over the name of the waterway that separates them.
Tehran has vehemently insisted on using the word “Persian” and has taken action against publications referring to it by its correct name.
The Arabian Gulf, to the east of Arab countries and west of Iran, has an area of 233,100 square kilometres and extends 970 kilometres from the Shatt Al Arab delta to the Strait of Hormuz, which links it with the Sea of Oman.
In 2009, the Saudi-based Islamic Solidarity Games Federation cancelled the Islamic Solidarity Games planned to be held in Tehran after Iran placed the word “Persian” on the logo.
The Islamic Solidarity Games, meant to strengthen unity among the 57 member states, were originally scheduled for October 2009, but were postponed in an attempt to reach a compromise.
In May 2010, Iran shut down Egypt’s stall at Tehran’s international book fair for selling a book using the original Arabian Gulf name.
“Police on patrol disguised as visitors stumbled upon a book entitled ‘Arabian Gulf Encyclopedia’, offered in the Egyptian pavilion at the Tehran International Book Fair,” Tehran Police Chief Hussain Sajedinia said, quoted by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA).
“Consequently, the pavilion was shut down and police forces recovered the distributed copies of the book with the help of the book fair officials and judicial authorities.”
In August 2010, the mayor of Shiraz in southwestern Iran called for action against Bahrain’s national carrier Gulf Air for not using the word “Persian”.
Hussain Qasimi said Iranian passengers who board Gulf Air planes in Shiraz were upset that the airline did not refer to the Arabian Gulf as “Persian”.
According to the New York Times, the US Navy has used Arabian Gulf since the 1991 Gulf War, citing a spokesman for the United States Fifth Fleet whose headquarters are in Bahrain.
“It is commonly understood to be a friendly gesture of solidarity and support for our host nation of Bahrain and our other Gulf Cooperation Council partners in the region to use the term they prefer,” Commander Stephens wrote in an email.


Seven years on, Bahrain's pro-democracy movement faces destruction


It's incumbent on the international community to press for emergency reforms before the next popular uprising in Bahrain is met with unvarnished brutality

Wednesday 14 February 2018

Seven years.
That’s how long it’s been since the Arab Spring protests rolled across the Middle East, sparking hope of democratic reform in the region's most autocratic strongholds.
It's also the length of the prison sentence I'd now get if I wrote this article in my home country of Bahrain, where it's virtually illegal to discuss how the government crushed our own chapter in that regional movement. Seven years on, few things better summarise the kingdom's precipitous descent into near-total repression than that – most Bahrainis can't even talk about it.

Playing conciliatory

In the immediate aftermath of the February 2011 uprising, Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa monarchy played conciliatory. The king established an independent commission to investigate abuses and even accepted its reform recommendations.
Death sentences issued by unfair military tribunals were commuted, demolished mosques of the marginalised Shia Muslim majority were rebuilt, and the National Security Agency (NSA) – Bahrain's secret police force – was formally stripped of its powers to abduct dissidents from their homes.
But they were stalling.
From 2012, the authorities laid the groundwork to completely restrict civil liberties in a web of overlapping prohibitions. Insulting the king; spreading false news; offending national symbols; unauthorised gathering; simply issuing "statements against the approach Bahrain has taken" – all criminalised as the country's draconian legal framework grew to encompass any form of dissent, and demand even harsher penalties.
Bahrain has been rewarded, not chastised, by its international partners. The Trump administration jettisoned Obama-era reform restrictions on multi-billion-dollar arms deals, while the UK has continued funnelling millions of pounds to Bahrain's prisons and police
By 2016 the government unveiled the full force of this repressive machinery. In a matter of months, the authorities arrested Bahrain's leading human rights defenderNabeel Rajab; revoked citizenship from the top Shia religious figure, Sheikh Isa Qassim; escalated anti-Shia discrimination by targeting dozens of clerics and shuttering religious institutions; and forcibly dissolved the largest political group in the kingdom, Al-Wefaq. (When the only other major opposition group – a secular leftist society – voiced alarm over Al-Wefaq's dissolution, the government closed it too.)

Bloodiest year in decades

But it was in 2017 that the government fully abandoned any pretence to reform, reversing every core commitment it had made in 2011. At its end, 2017 was one of Bahrain's bloodiest years in decades.
The king's first decree of the year restored power to the NSA, unleashing one of the country's most notorious security institutionsto immediately resume its old practices. Within weeks, on 26 January, masked officers believed to be NSA agents attacked a peaceful sit-in around Sheikh Isa Qassim's home in Diraz, firing live ammunition into the crowd and killing 18-year-old Mustafa Hamdan.
After the shooting, the NSA arrested a paramedic for treating Hamdan at the scene.
That very same month, the government executed three torture survivors by firing squad, ending a de facto moratorium on capital punishment that predated the 2011 uprising. The trial was so deeply marred by due process violations that a United Nations special rapporteur deemed the resultant executions "extrajudicial" – a judgment cruelly underscored by the authorities when they sent the blood-soaked clothes of the dead to their families.
Then, on 23 May 2017, Bahrain saw its single most violent day since the king took the throne, when the security forces launched a massive operation against the Diraz sit-in. Firing shotguns and teargas canisters, the authorities injured hundreds of demonstrators and killed five, including the late Mustafa Hamdan's older brother.
Protesters reject a royal proposal of reform in February 2015 (AFP)
In the interim months, Bahrain has been rewarded, not chastised, by its international partners. The Trump administration in the United States jettisoned Obama-era reform restrictions on multi-billion-dollar arms deals, while the United Kingdom has continued funnelling millions of pounds to Bahrain’s prisons and police.
With a green light at home and abroad, the NSA proceeded to launch an all-out reprisal campaign against independent civil society activists, abducting and torturing human rights defenders such as Ebtisam al-Saegh. The king went so far as to normalise the emergency security tribunals of 2011 by amending the constitution to allow military trials for civilians, and the Bahrain Defence Force issued its first six death sentences under the new system on Christmas Day.
Military leaders such as Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad – the king's son – have never even faced investigation, despite evidence of his personal involvement in torture leading to the revocation of his royal immunity in the UK
All along, the government has entirely failed to hold the chief perpetrators of these abuses accountable for their crimes. As thousands of average Bahrainis face all manner of absurd judicial harassment – and while prosecutors demonstrate endless creativity in trumping up charges against activists – the government has proven conspicuously unable to try or even investigate senior officials.

Rampant impunity

Only a small number of low-level personnel have been prosecuted since 2011, with most sentences incommensurate with the severity of the transgression. Meanwhile, military leaders such as Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad – the king's son – have never even faced investigation, despite evidence of his personal involvement in torture leading to the revocation of his royal immunity in the UK.
As the government intensifies its hold over dissent, impunity for crimes against journalists has remained particularly rampant. In June 2017, the authorities indefinitely suspended Al-Wasat, Bahrain's only independent newspaper, ultimately forcing it to close. Al-Wasat had been a government target since 2011, when the NSA tortured its co-founder Karim Fakhrawi to death.
Even then, when the authorities investigated the case amid public pressure, those responsible were charged not with torture – which carries life imprisonment – but a lesser offence warranting just three years.
Likewise, next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the shooting death of journalist Ahmed Ismael Hassan. Though the UN called for an investigation, his slaying remains unresolved.
It's this seemingly intractable problem – what the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry famouslycalled a "culture of impunity" – that drives the ceaseless deterioration of Bahrain's human rights situation more than perhaps any other factor.
Yet it's been purposely allowed to fester, even encouraged, since long before the 2011 uprising. It was one of the primary reasons so many thousands of Bahrainis took peacefully to the street seven years ago, in defence of universal rule of law.
It'll undoubtedly be a chief reason they take to the streets next time.
Yet Bahrain's leaders have only redoubled their commitment to a crude rule of law. It's therefore incumbent on the international community to pressure for emergency reforms before that next popular uprising is met with unvarnished brutality.
- Husain Abdulla, originally from Bahrain, is the founder and executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain. He has a master's degree in political science and international relations from the University of South Alabama.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye. 
Photo: Bahraini anti-regime protesters rally towards Pearl Square, the focal point of demonstrations for over two weeks, in Manama on 1 March 2011 (AFP)

Clashes mark anniversary of Bahrain's 2011 uprising



Bahrain's security forces have clashed with protesters marking the seventh anniversary of the February 14 uprising. Police reportedly fired tear gas and live ammunition at the demonstrators on Wednesday, but the number of casualties is unclear, Saeed al-Shehabi, leader of Bahrain Freedom Movement, told Al Jazeera. Shehabi said protests have been reported on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning in at least five neighbourhoods, mostly outside of the capital Manama, including in Diraz, Sitra and Huwaidrat. "Protests will continue throughout the day today," the UK-based activist said. "The situation is as tense as ever, and the crackdown is also severe." Shops in entire neighbourhoods have also reportedly remained closed in anticipation of the protests on Wednesday.
Hussain Radhi of Bahrain Center for Human Right told Al Jazeera that clashes also took place in the districts of Abu Saiba, Aldaih, Mameer, Aleker and Bilad Al Qadeem. There was no information about injuries.  
Images posted on social media showed security forces in full gear standing next to several police cars.
Pictures also showed masked protesters hurling rocks at police as they walked through a street engulfed in tear gas. In a video clip posted on Twitter by the London-based Bahraini television channel LuaLua, security forces were seen firing tear gas, as they engaged in a running battle with protesters. The Iran-backed news agency U-News also posted a video of men, women and children marching in one neighbourhood, and shouting anti-government slogans on Tuesday night.  
Leading up to the anniversary on Wednesday, several dozens of activists have been rounded up and detained, according to Shehabi of Bahrain Freedom Movement. 

Demands for government reform

In January, a Bahraini court also affirmed a two-year jail sentence against protest leader Nabeel Rajab. Shehabi, however, said he was surprised that people have continued to protest. "Day in and day out, there have been protests and demonstrations," he said.  Despite the threat of imprisonment of up to five years for "spreading false news", Shehabi also said that people have been posting images on social media showing the ongoing protests.
For years, tensions have been running high in the kingdom, where a sectarian divide is deepening and there is a growing gap between the Shia and the island's ruling Sunni government. Starting in 2011, Shia-led protests erupted across the country, forcing neighbouring Saudi Arabia to intervene on behalf of Bahraini rulers. 
Authorities have refused to listen to opposition demands for reforms, including the establishment of a "real" constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister independent of the ruling royal family. In response, authorities ordered the imprisonment of thousands of activists and stripped Shia spiritual leader Qassim of his nationality. 
Saudi Arabia has accused its regional rival, Iran, of encouraging its Shia population to rise against Bahrain's Sunni rulers, allegations that Tehran has denied.
Meanwhile, the Gulf Center for Human Rights called on the international community on Wednesday to "apply serious pressure" on Bahrain to release journalists and human rights activists, some of have are facing lifetime jail terms.
Bahrain's Sunni rulers have been in power in the Shia-majority kingdom for 200 years [Al Jazeera]


Bahrain. 14 febbraio, Rivoluzione di San Valentino

ADHRB Stands in Solidarity With the People of Bahrain and Commemorates the 7th Anniversary of the Mass Peaceful Protests of


Wednesday 14 February – On this 7th anniversary of the mass peaceful protests in Bahrain, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB) stands in solidarity with the thousands of Bahrainis who called for more democracy and fundamental freedoms. Join us outside the Embassy of Bahrain in Washington DC as we stand in support with the people of Bahrain in their struggle for human rights and democratic principles and call for the release of all political prisoners and an end to torture and abuse.


US envoy highlights enduring ties with Bahrain


Siberell announces opening of Discover America Week 2018

Published: 13:44 February 11
Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

Manama: US Ambassador to Bahrain Justin Siberell has said that the relationship between Bahrain and the United States “runs strong and deep and manifests itself in categories as diverse as security and education”.
“For over a century, Bahrainis and Americans have enjoyed a strong and enduring friendship that has made both our peoples more prosperous and secure,” Siberell said as he announced the opening of Discover America Week 2018, a weeklong celebration of American commerce and culture, including food, leisure, shopping, sports and tourism.

“This week, we would like to shine the spotlight on the powerful commercial ties between our two nations. The Bahrain-US Free Trade Agreement — one of only two such agreements the United States has with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations — is the most salient symbol of our economic bond,” he said.
On September 14, 2004, Bahrain became the first GCC member and third Arab country to enter into a free trade agreement with the US.
The FTA came into force on August 1, 2006.
Oman is the only other GCC country to sign an FTA with the US. The agreement was signed on January 19, 2006 and went into force on January 1, 2009.
Siberell said that since the entry into force of the Bahrain-US FTA, two-way trade has more than doubled — with both Bahraini and US exporters benefitting greatly.
“Bahrain is exporting a wide range of products to the United States under the FTA, including aluminum, textiles, plastics, fertilisers, furniture, and seafood, to name a few. The FTA has also brought iconic American companies to Bahrain — companies which create good jobs for Bahraini citizens and provide unbeatable products and services for Bahraini consumers,” he said.
The diplomat expressed hope that ‘Discover America’, being held from February 10 to 15, will highlight some “fantastic FTA success stories” and will be a great opportunity for Bahrainis to learn about US products and services.
“We hope to convince you to visit the United States to really come to know our country and its people. Our embassy in Bahrain issues more than 5,000 visas to Bahrainis to tour, study, or conduct business in the United States. We have recently taken steps to make that process even easier, specifically by implementing an interview waiver programme, which allows Bahraini citizens to renew visas within one year of expiration without coming to the embassy,” he said.
Siberell was sworn in as the US Ambassador to Bahrain on November 3.
He served as principal officer in the US Consulate General in Dubai from 2009 to 2012. It was his second mission in the US Consulate General Dubai. From 1995 to 1997, he served as a political/economic Officer.