Oil for Silence Fuels Bahraini Torture Deaths

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief
Last Modified: 23:49 PM EDT, 23 May 2012

Bahraini Torture Victim, Photo by Nabeel RajabMANAMA, Bahrain — The call for democracy that began during Bahrain’s Arab Spring has fomented into a full-scale revolution in response to the ruling Sunni monarchy’s persistence in maintaining power by refusing to acquiesce to Bahraini citizens’ demands for democratic elections.

External human rights groups have charged the monarchy with gross violations but lack sufficient access to the country to allow them to fully investigate. Internal investigations have confirmed that the Bahraini monarchy is guilty of gross human rights violations and have published their findings on several websites and papers found at the end of this post.

The latest victim of this dictatorial regime could be Yousef Mowali, 23, who was found dead of an apparent drowning earlier this week. However, Al Jazeera reported that autopsy results indicated evidence of torture, and if the allegations are proven true, then Mowali could be latest Bahraini to have died from torture while in the custody of Bahraini military police.

In testimony before the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), representatives of the monarchy continued to assert that all individuals in detention are being treated humanely as their cases progress through the justice system. They have also vociferously denied any culpability in the deaths of Mowali and others.

The ruling Sunni monarchy has politicized the human rights abuses occurring in their nation by claiming that the violence is the result of sectarianism instigated by the Shiite minority and covert Iranian operatives who seek to overthrow the monarchy.

According to the monarchy, the suppression of ‘sporadic’ violence in which some people may have sustained injuries is justified to maintain law and order and to protect the sovereignty of Bahrain.

Many countries in which martial law has been instituted under the guise of suppressing ‘subversive elements,’ find that once law and order is restored the military often refuses to relinquish power even after the crisis has passed.

In Bahrain the military could prove just as dangerous to the monarchy as they are to the protesters. This possibility is bolstered by images of wanton violence, destruction, and undisciplined behavior by a police force seemingly out of control.

The military in Bahrain has been responsible for the disappearance of hundreds of people, they have maimed, killed, and disappeared thousands more, and a growing number of women have been assaulted and raped by policemen.

Though human rights abuses have been substantiated through empirical evidence, it is the videotaped footage of police brutality that refutes the monarchy’s claims of benevolence and a desire for sincere reform.

In late 1990 “some of the most egregious offenders included Ian Henderson, a former colonial officer employed in Bahrain who was accused by multiple witnesses of torturing prisoners. Adel Flaifel, a notorious security officer identified by many detainees as having overseen torture, both of whom were given immunity under Royal Decree 56 of 2002.

The torture described by many human rights reports was widespread and systematic. Up to 1866 who made up 64% of detainees reported being tortured during this time period by members from three government agencies, namely the Ministry of Interior, the National Security Agency, and the Bahrain Defence Force. (Source: Wikipedia)

Victims claimed that representatives from each of these agencies were actively involved in interrogating detainees in relation to the unrest leading up to Bahrain’s Arab Spring uprising.

Though, as one commentator noted, these figures hail from a ‘distant’ past, the fact that allegations of torture and abuse persist nearly twenty years later signifies a pattern of systemic and despotic governance. These abuses which have occurred over a long period of time have only become more visible because of the uprising, and the legislative reforms ratified by the BICI look good on paper but do not seem to have translated into real change.

At the grassroots level people are still suffering abuse at the hands of those who are charged with protecting them, and like the civil rights movements which occurred in other countries like South Africa, United States, and India to name a few, it was because of the sustained will of the people that these governments eventually had to bring their governance inline with the human rights legislation codified in their constitutions.

Most troubling about Bahrain’s ‘Bloody Spring’ is the fact that both the United States and the United Kingdom, two countries that present themselves as the enforcers of global justice and the arbiters of human rights abuses, have remained silent on this grave issue. In fact, both governments have recently announced their support of the Bahraini monarchy during official state visits apparently out of fear that a rift between the two nations could adversely impact national security interests and oil supplies.

For more in-depth coverage of this issue view the news reports below, and since a picture is worth a thousand words, the video footage of the brutal crackdown and its victims presents undeniable proof that the Bahraini monarchy is unwilling to entertain democracy and will not go ‘gently into that good night.’

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About Ayanna Nahmias

Ayanna Nahmias was interviewed on Radio Netherlands Worldwide program titled 'The State We’re In,' about her life in Africa and her determination to transcend her past. She started the Nahmias Cipher Report to provide information to readers about life in emerging economies, and to provide alternative insight into the challenges faced by women and children living in these countries. The blog features stories from around the world to inspire other people to persevere and triumph in the face of great adversity. She blogs about current events in emerging economies, international politics, human rights abuses, women’s rights and child advocacy.

View all posts by Ayanna Nahmias

3 Comments on “Oil for Silence Fuels Bahraini Torture Deaths”

  1. Hussein Abdullah Says:

    Comparing the Bahraini regime to apartheid because they did not let him in the university for wearing black is ridiculous. Sunnis wear black as well. In the same university Mr. Mohammed talks about “University of Bahrain”,,when the King came to power he dropped more than 90% of the fees, to which majority of the Shia Bahrainis benefitted. Sunni Bahrainis of the middle class and upper middle class were not accepted in this university post 2002, since the came aimed at providing a better and much cheaper ‘almost free’ higher education to the lower class of Shia Bahrainis. The same Shias who raise the slogans saying “Down Down Hamad” and “Death to the Al Khalifa”.

    If any sect has been privileged in the society by the ruling family,, it is the Shias and not the Sunnis. In addition to that, i would like to also clarify that not all Sunnis are from the elite, Sunnis also have a limited income in Bahrain and accept the steps taken by their King and do have the sense to say that the country has limited resources and financial corruption exists but the King will work on these issues. Most Shia Bahrainis on the other hand fail to acknowledge the reforms initiated by the King since his accession to the throne. It is simply sad to see such disregard for what King Hamad has done for Bahrain through an un-sectarian approach.


  2. Ahmed - Citizens for Bahrain Says:

    Very strange article here, seamlessly weaving together new allegations with distant history (figures like Henderson & Flaifel who have been out the picture for over a decade) and hashing together material from Iranian propaganda channels (Press TV) and Wikipedia.

    Regarding Yousef Mowali, Al-Jazeera have published a retraction of that story after being challenged by the Bahraini Government.

    The article also talks extensively about martial law, presumably referring to the National Safety measures introduced February-March last year when civil order was on the point of collapse and then repealed less than three months later. All forms of extraordinary measures have now been repealed, with all prosecutions being transferred to the civilian justice sector.

    In the writers attempts to portray Bahrain as the police state from hell, she deliberately omitted any serious reference to the very extensive reforms brought in on the back of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, such as a total overhaul of the security and justice sectors, retraining of all security personnel, a new police code of conduct absolutely prohibiting torture and CCTV in all police centres so that any abuses can be addressed. We have also just seen a raft of constitutional amendments, reforming the parliament, to give elected MPs real teeth in questioning and dismissing Government Ministers.

    It is all too easy to throw together an impressionistic collage of allegations, examples and hearsay to make things in Bahrain look incredibly black – when in actual fact things are far more complex. If you speak to many loyalists, Sunnis, moderates or professionals (all of these constituencies being studiously ignored by the writer) then they’re far more likely to complain that the real problem facing Bahrain are radicalised protesters who throw firebombs at police at the behest of their pro-Iran leaders and call for democracy but really seek supremacy of one sect over the other. Only a small minority are wedded to violent revolution in Bahrain, the rest of us would far rather give our King’s reforms a chance.



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