Saturday, July 31

Bahrain’s forgetfulness ten years after its Spring


The kingdom, which crushed the protests with the military aid of its neighboring monarchies, tries to eliminate any reference to the uprising while persecuting the opposition.

Protest in Bahrain's Pearl Square in 2011.
Protest in Bahrain’s Pearl Square in 2011.C. FIROUZREUTERS
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The flame that arose in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen ended up igniting in Bahrain on February 14, 2011. For weeks the protests continued in defiance the iron fist of the Al Khalifa, the royal Sun family that for more than three centuries has ruled the tiny 765-square-kilometer island and a population of mostly Chi. A decade later, relentless repression has erased any aspiration for change.

“The more than 100,000 Bahraini who took to the streets during the Arab Spring are completely exhausted by a decade of brutal repression,” he acknowledges to Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, an entity that from exile tries to denounce human rights violations. “However, if anyone believes that the government no longer fears the democratic ideals that inspired the protesters, look at the prisons where the leaders of the uprising languish.”

The kingdom – which houses the US Fifth Fleet, the headquarters from which maritime traffic is monitored through the strategic Strait of Hormuz – has survived the street pulse thanks to the combination of Western complicity – mainly, from Washington and London of which was protectorate for decades – and the military intervention of the neighboring countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, who applied themselves thoroughly in the repression, alarmed by the contagion in their own and marginalized minorities Chies.

During the decade, a dense silence has reached that awakening that had as its epicenter the Pearl Square from Manama’s financial district, where protesters camped for weeks. In March 2011, an army of bulldozers destroyed the monument that presides over the crossroads. “The fate of the square symbolizes the government’s attempt to suppress and erase even the memory of the protests. What was once a place of peaceful gathering, hope and progress is now just concrete and asphalt,” he says. Lynn Maalouf, Regional Deputy Director of Amnesty International.

This week, as the security forces tightened their control in the streets to avoid any attempt to recall, the 500-page report drawn up in late 2011 by an international committee of jurists trying to shed light on the repression disappeared from the website. of the government commission. The government blamed it on “a technical error.” The investigation document the death of at least 19 people between February and April at the hands of the security forces; the arrest of thousands of protesters and the systematic torture in prison.

Far from assuming its conclusions, the monarchy of Hamad bin Isa bin Salman al Jalifa redoubled the chase. The presidency of Donald Trump since 2017 raised the strategy, with the prohibition of independent media, the outlawing of opposition parties -the two main formations have disappeared-, the arbitrary arrests of representatives of civil society -from lawyers. even journalists – and the massive revocation of nationality. Up to 990 Bahraini have lost it since 2011.

“My nationality was withdrawn and I am still a stateless person with refugee status in Germany,” he says. Yusuf al Huri, a Bahraini human rights activist based in Berlin. “I have protection. I have faced members of the Bahraini royal family who have visited Germany,” he slides. Dissidents have tried to keep their claims and complaints alive while the Bahraini court has opted for sport to try to whitewash the traces of repression. The royal family owns the Bahrain McLaren cycling club and last year they acquired the Crdoba Club de Ftbol.

Accountability is completely absent from the ephemeris. Macro-trials and the end of the moratorium on capital punishment have marked the decade while state surveillance on social media has sent hundreds to jail for posting a simple tweet. Last year the authorities released Nabeel Rajab, a human rights defender who became the face of the protests. Since then, he has not spoken in public. Eleven of the members of the group baptized as “Bahrein 13” remain behind bars.

“The Bahraini state has crushed the hopes and expectations aroused by the massive protests of ten years ago, responding with brutal repression over the next decade, enabled by the shameful silence of Bahrain’s western allies, especially the UK and the US,” he laments. Maalouf. The millionaire sales of Western weapons have not stopped while medical malpractice and mistreatment raged through the prisons of the kingdom and the courts handed down heavy sentences against alleged perpetrators of plots hatched by Iran. “The only structural changes have been for the worse, with the outlawing of parties, the closure of media and new laws that have further closed the space to political participation.”

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