Newsletter #23

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Bahrain Campaign’s statement:

Bahrain regime desperately scramble to try to shut off opposition and Bahraini Shia presence by surprise

Protesters holding photos of Bahrain's leading Shi'ite cleric Isa Qassim shout religious slogans during a sit-in outside his home in the village of Diraz west of Manama, Bahrain July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

Protesters holding photos of Bahrain’s leading Shi’ite cleric Isa Qassim shout religious slogans during a sit-in outside his home in the village of Diraz west of Manama, Bahrain July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

The regime in Bahrain has scrambled all its powers to try to shut off the opposition and Bahraini Shia presence. It first imprisoned the breadth of opposition leaders early on, and intensified the sentence against the secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, Sheikh Ali Salman, to nine years instead of four – culminating with the shutdown of Al-Wefaq party (the largest political party in Bahrain history). Now it has started proceedings to shutdown Waad, a secular and large party.

It has also set its sights on the highest Shia religious leader in the country, Sheikh Isa Qassim. The regime coldly and unlawfully stripped him of his Bahraini citizenship, and has commenced nonsensical court proceedings against him.

However, the Bahraini people have not let up and have come out in large numbers to defend Sheikh Isa Qassim, who for them is their most prominent religious leader. A large and round-the-clock turn out of Bahraini people, wearing death shroud, surrounding the house of the Sheikh’s home, and preparing die to defend him, has halted the regime from issuing a verdict yet. For this, the regime’s forces have seiged the Sheikh’s hometown of Duraz for over 9 months, in a war style shut-off from the rest of Bahrain.

Further calls have come worldwide from the Islamic world severely warning the Bahrain regime that a negative verdict against Sheikh Isa Qassim will have catastrophic consequences.

Bahrain Campaign deduces that the regime intends to take the public by surprise, biding their time to tire out the protesting Bahraini people, and opting for a surprising time to issue a sentence to catch the public off-guard. These machinations by the regime are failed out-of-date ideas, and it will never be able to enforce itself against a people that see it as illegitimate, archaic, and barbaric – terms which it proved over the last 6 years with allowing foreign forces to violently crackdown on peaceful protesters (GCC Saudi troops), torturing and executing brave youth in prisons (Sami Mushaima, Abbas Al-Samea, and Ali Al-Singace), and holding on to power  (longest unelected PM in the world leading a dominating and exclusive nepostic rulership) despite the world moving towards democracy, human rights, and end to tribal despotic rule.

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Other developments:

TOWP: Bahrain files lawsuit to dissolve secular political party

c4058d0f-3217-4e95-bb74-dd44fa8d759cBahrain’s government filed a lawsuit earlier this week to dissolve the National Democratic Action Society (Waad party), a secular political party. The party is the second organization of its kind to be targeted as part of the government’s wave of extreme crackdown on opposition, in the last year. New York Times reports say the government has already cracked down on its largest Shiite opposition group, Al-Wefaq, along with doubling a prison sentence for its secretary-general, Sheikh Ali Salman. According to the Washington Post, Bahrain’s Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry accused the Waad party of  “incitement of acts of terrorism and promoting (the) violent and forceful overthrow of (the) political regime.” What is most striking about this statement and the subsequent lawsuit, is that it was made shortly after Bahrain’s parliament passed a constitutional amendment allowing civilians to be tried by military tribunals. Such developments in Bahrain’s political landscape evoke sentiments of the clampdown that followed the country’s 2011 Arab Spring protests.

The Justice Ministry has yet to provide specific, factual examples for its claims. However, the Waad party is no stranger to being scrutinized by the watchful eye of authorities. Its position as a liberal bloc, which reaches out to both Shiite and Sunni reformers, makes it a contentious threat to government officials. The New York Times has reported that Radhi al-Moosawi, a leader of the Waad group, expressed shock towards the accusations and lawsuit. In a statement to Reuters, he insisted that Waad was committed to peaceful political work and rejected to violence, saying “this is another step to undermine political work by the opposition in Bahrain”. The party vows to fight the ministry in court.

According to the New York Times, the Waad party was established in 2001, following its founder’s return home from over three decades in political exile. Its liberal stance perpetuated several attacks from the government during the 2011 Arab Spring protests. During that time period, the group’s offices had been vandalized and set ablaze multiple times. Additionally, the group’s then-leader Ebrahim Sharif served over four years in prison, after being convicted along with other activists by a military tribunal. Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and an under-construction British naval base, is a predominantly Shiite nation with a Sunni monarchy.

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Washington Post: Trump is letting human rights deteriorate, and Bahrain is Exhibit A

46c36efb-238d-4573-b788-6bed7f6ec5fdIF THERE is an Exhibit A for how the ascent of the Trump administration is leading to the deterioration of human rights in other countries, it is Bahrain — an island kingdom in the Persian Gulf that is the host of the U.S. 5th Fleet. Since 2011, when its majority-Shiite population revolted during the Arab Spring, the Sunni monarchy has engaged in serial campaigns of repression, interspersed with gestures at liberalization aimed at appeasing the United States.

In September, fed up with Bahrain’s backtracking on the imprisonment of dissidents and refusal to engage with peaceful opposition parties, the Obama administration conditioned a $3 billion sale of 19 F-16 warplanes to the country on a private list of human rights concessions. They were steps U.S. officials believed Bahrain could fulfill without risk — such as the release of prominent human rights advocate Nabeel Rajab.

The regime of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa did not comply. Instead it waited for the results of the U.S. presidential election. When Donald Trump won, it appealed for the F-16 sale to go forward without conditions — and meanwhile launched a new crackdown on opponents at home.

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