by Finian Cunningham
November 10, 2011
Finian Cunningham is Global
Middle East and East Africa
U.S. ally Bahrain continued its crackdown
against popular calls for democratic rights with the illegal arrest and
detention this week of prominent journalist and commentator Jaffar Al
To date, nearly 100 journalists, poets, bloggers and media figures have been
targeted for detention by the Persian Gulf oil kingdom since pro-democracy
protests erupted there last February, according to the Bahrain Centre for
Human Rights. The detainees have claimed gross ill-treatment and torture
while in custody - independently verified by several international human
Two respected media figures, Zakariya Al
Aushayri and Karim Fakhrawi, have died during detention, their
bodies showing undeniable signs of brutality.
In the latest arrest, Al Alawy was hauled into prison after security forces
smashed their way into his home without a warrant. Well-known for his radio
and television appearances, he is also a published poet, who has been mildly
critical of the U.S.-backed
Al Khalifa regime.
Ironically, the arrest of Al Alawy followed only hours after U.S. secretary
Hillary Clinton claimed in a major
speech in Washington that the Bahraini government,
“has recognized the need for dialogue,
reconciliation, and concrete reforms. And they have committed to provide
access to human rights groups, to allow peaceful protest”.
The detention and torture of nearly 100 media
figures in Bahrain is hardly a sign of “allowing peaceful protest”.
Clinton’s speech on U.S. policy and the Arab Spring was spellbinding in its
hypocrisy and sophistry. She glorified the U.S.-backed illegal
war to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi
and denounced Syria for its “brutal” crackdown on protests.
Syrian President Bashar Al Asad, warned Clinton,
“must step down; and until he does, America
and the international community will continue to increase pressure on
him and his brutal regime”.
There were no such bristling sanctions for
Washington’s ally in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.
Indeed, the U.S. government recently signed a
military arms deal worth $53 million with the Al Khalifa monarchy. Yet on
many counts, Bahrain’s human rights violations put it way out in front for
urgent international sanctions against its rulers.
In Syria, the death toll from violence is
estimated at 3,500. But perhaps a third of this total are casualties among
the state forces which are combating in some cases an armed insurrection
supplied by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel (with obviously U.S. oversight).
By contrast in Bahrain, protesters are unarmed and have invariably conducted
peaceful demonstrations of civic disobedience. Proportionate to their
populations, Bahrain’s death toll of civilians is easily comparable to that
of Syria’s. Furthermore, the persecution of dissenting public voices is
equivalent to 3,660 journalists being detained; the figure for the detention
of all protesters since February rising to 55,000.
Among those hauled into Bahraini prisons, tortured and sentenced are doctors
and nurses who did nothing more than treat civilians injured by
American-equipped and Saudi-backed state forces. The proportionate figure
for these medics subjected to crimes against humanity amounts to over 3,300.
On so many measures therefore, Bahrain is a clear case of outrageous human
rights violations and atrocities that deserves urgent international
intervention. But Washington is not only tolerating these crimes, it is
actively supporting them while doing its rhetorical best to conceal.
The British and Canadian governments are also complicit in this U.S.
hypocrisy and twisted manipulation of international law.
The former is another major supplier of military
weapons that can have no other purpose than internal repression; meanwhile
Ottawa maintains a stoic silence over the illegal detention, torture and
sentencing of Canadian citizen Naser Al Raas. Al Raas was arrested
while trying to leave Bahrain after visiting his family and fiancée during
He was tortured during illegal detention in the notorious Ministry of
Interior headquarters in the capital, Manama.
Al Raas told Global Research that he believes
the reason why he is now facing a five-year sentence for allegedly
participating in “illegal public protests” was because he happened to be
held in a cell adjacent to the journalist Karim Kakhrawi.
During the 12 days that Fakhrawi was tortured to
death, Al Raas heard the screams from his companion prisoner, whose identity
he later found out. And he can recall the horrible moment when the screams
suddenly stopped. For this reason, Al Raas believes the Bahraini regime
wants to suppress his potential testimony to a damning state killing.
Helping the Bahraini regime do its dirty work are the governments of the
U.S., Britain and Canada, which otherwise take every opportunity to
moralize, sanction and militarily attack any state that they happen to
In her speech at the National 'Democratic' Institute in Washington,
“Americans believe that the desire for
dignity and self-determination is universal - and we do try to act on
that belief around the world. Americans have fought and died for these
ideals. And when freedom gains ground anywhere, Americans are inspired.”
In fending off criticism of “inconsistent” U.S.
policy on the Arab Spring, Clinton let the cat out of the bag when she
referred to “close allies” Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and the need to “a
secure supply of energy”.
She added pointedly:
“There will be times when not all our
interests align… that is just reality.”
Other realities could be mentioned for why the
U.S. and its allies are participating in arresting and torturing citizens
calling for democracy in Bahrain - such as the fear that the long-overdue
franchise for the Shia majority in the Persian Gulf state would boost Iran’s
regional role and give the Islamic Republic a degree of respite from
Washington’s recently cranked-up campaign to lynch the government in Tehran.
But the bottom-line and truly remarkable reality that Clinton did not
mention - which Bahrain clearly demonstrates - is this:
Washington stands implacably against
democratic progress in the Middle East.
Its highly selective invocation of democratic
rights and freedoms is nothing but a cynical, self-serving lie.