Bahrain seminar 3/5/11

Open Discussions in association with
Gulf Cultural Club
invites you to a seminar entitled

Inconsistent Western Policy towards Arab Uprisings: The case of Bahrain

Dr Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen* and Dr Fouad Al Ibrahim**

There will also be short clips on recent events

Tuesday 3rd May 2011
6.30pm Venue : Abrar House , 45 Crawford Place, W1H 4LP
Nearest Station: Edgware Road

* Dr Kristian Ulrichsen is a Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Deputy Director of the Kuwait Programme on Development, Governance and Globalisation in the Gulf States. He holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and is the author of The Logistics and Politics of the British Campaigns in the Middle East, 1914-22, Insecure Gulf: The End of Certainty and the Transition to the Post-Oil Era, and The Transformation of the Gulf: Politics, Economics and the Global Order (forthcoming, summer 2011).

** Dr Fouad Al Ibrahim is the Director of The Gulf Issues Centre for Strategic Studies, London.

Admission is free. However for catering purposes please register by sending an email to or a text to 07795 660 438

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Transcript of UK press conference: the Saudi intervention in Bahrain

Bahrain: The Saudi intervention
and the suppression of the revolution

Press conference held under the auspices of
Parliamentary HR Group 21st March, 2011

Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Rights Group: This press conference has been called to discuss the circumstances in Bahrain and in particular the incursion of Saudi forces and perhaps some other Gulf states as well and the implications of this on the future political directions that Bahrain will be taking.
We have to see this in the context of the fact that all over the Arab world people are rising against dictators. In Egypt and Tunisia they
succeeded and have started the transition towards democratic rule. In Libya they were also on the way until Qadhafi unleashed his forces against peaceful demonstrators and I hope that there the UN resolution will lead inexorably to regime change. In Yemen Saleh’s support base in crumbling after huge demonstrations and the deliberate killing of some fifty people at an anti-government rally on Friday. Ministers, ambassadors, senior party officials and the head of the state news agency are rats leaving the sinking ship and its looks inevitable that Saleh’s 22 year presidency will come to an end. But just as the United Nations decided to give the opposition some military help in Libya to save them from a probable blood bath in Bahrain the troops of neighbouring Saudi Arabia have entered the country to save the hereditary dictatorship from the wrath of the people. The Al Khalifah’s tried to appease the people by releasing their leaders who had been wrongfully
arrested. Now 11 of these leaders are back in custody, including several friends who have addressed several meetings in this very room such as Hassan Mushaima of the Haq Movement, Abdul Jalil Singace board member of the Movement of Liberties and Democracy, Dr Ali Al Akri a former MP.
We are hear that more than 100 people are missing after the demonstrations over the weekend. A similar number were hospitalised in the
Salmaniyah hospital. They have now been moved to an unknown destination and the security forces are said to have impounded the medical records. The Bahrain Human Rights Society report that several hundred have been very seriously injured but the Red Crescent team that arrived from Kuwait was sent packing.
Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights told Reuters that around 25 plain clothes security thugs raided his home at 01.30 yesterday while 20 more waited in uniform outside.
Men armed with knives and clubs stormed the printing press of Al Wasat Bahrain’s only independent daily on March 15th. They smashed equipment preventing the newspaper from publishing.
The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales has expressed deep concern regarding the imposition of martial law and the use of foreign
troops in Bahrain. In particular the committee abhors the use of violence which reportedly left a number of people dead and hundreds injured plus the arrest of opposition leaders.
We have continuely warned at these meetings that it is impossible to contain the legitimate aspirations of the people indefinitely and the moment of change has now arrived. Although the Al Khalifas may be propped up temporarily by their fellow dictators from across the causeway the tsunami of people power is sweeping through the region and nothing can stop it.
Logically the difference between Libya and Bahrain is one of scale and we should be helping to promote regime change in both of these two countries. At one point it looked as though dialogue would be possible but I think it has gone beyond that point now. There was a very interesting in theGuardian this morning by Madeline Bunting whose writing I normally admire
greatly. She says that the Saudi intervention in Bahrain will fuel sectarianism and not stifle it.
I very much deplore the invitation to the Saudis to come across the
cause way and I believe that will have very serious implications for Bahrain and for the region and for the relationships between the countries in the region. I will call on our first speaker Yousif Al Khoei who heads the Al Khoei Foundation and is a keen observer of events in the Gulf.

Yousif Al Khoei: Thank you very much Lord Avebury. At the Al Khoei Foundation
we have been trying for a long time with the communities we are in touch with in Bahrain to really try to find accommodation and try to improve the situation of the masses in Bahrain through peaceful and democratic means. The situation in Bahrain has many implications for the Gulf region and for the region in general. Unfortunately as Lord Avebury said despite all
the efforts to accommodate and work within the system as people who want to deal with the government all the efforts seem to have not produced much result. I visited Bahrain myself last year and met both the foreign minister and the interior minister and it seemed like there were sections of the ruling party who were not even trying to recognise or address the very genuine, simplistic needs of the population. You could see very clearly that certain sections of the community are barred from certain positions, from certain jobs. We met lots of group. The wealthy well-to-do people seemed to be from one section and the people who were always complaining, women’s groups, their voice was really not taken seriously.

Unfortunately what we have seen now is the use of foreign troops who oppress their own minority. They have been called in to address what is
essentially a domestic issue. Instead of addressing the domestic issues we are complicating the situation by window dressing it as a sectarian issue. One thing which astonished me in Bahrain was the good relations on the ground between Shia and Sunni and this is something which is quite interesting because that is the way the country has to co-exist. No one can cancel the other.

But unfortunately the issue of giving people employment, some rights to education – basic needs of the community – have been over ridden by
sectarian problems. The Saudis themselves have their own problems and are trying
to divert the problems in their own countries. Natural justice and thinking will tell you cannot suppress genuine demands through coercion, through force or through killing. The sheer nature of some of the pictures we see today in a very small country has a profound influence on the way people think. We have seen a rise of people who are not willing to compromise with the government anymore. And this does not look good for Bahrain if the situation continues the way it is.
What is actually very strange is that over the last few days I have been attending conferences in universities and the average British person is baffled by the fact that we have one standard for Egypt and Libya [and another for Bahrain]. I am telling you this is the average person. I have seen both Sunni and Shia from the Arab world who say the same thing. We cannot understand how we can go against the trend of history and nature by trying to support essentially monarchies who everybody knows are quite out of touch with their populace. Unless the West puts the rights of the people over the right of the petrol dollar we will see the rise of a lot of tension and extremism. I will stop here and I am ready to take any questions.

Lord Avebury:You are absolutely right. The tragedy of what we see is that no one
can understand how we can be helping democrats on one country and helping to put democracy down in another. We were the suppliers of a lot of the weapons that are being used against the people of Bahrain. By our silence we encouraged the ruling family and their allies from across the causeway to intensify the repression against the population which we have already seen in the past. Hassan Mushaima was not arrested for the first time. He has been in custody on four separate occasions during the past few months. And the same goes for the other leaders who have now been taken back into custody after a very short interval of freedom. When they were in custody all of them severely tortured and the outside world has nothing to say about that.

Yousif Al Khoei:Unfortunately it seems to be a question of degree. First of all
the way the West treated the popular revolt is quite distinct and different from the way it treated them in the Arab world. They still try to support dictators to the last minute and towards the end they just thought this is just desperate people. In the case of Libya they have even gone further.
But when it comes to the Gulf the over riding rule is not human rights, it is petrol. I think it is just a question of time. Just wait another few years like we waited for the Arab world. In the process you contribute to the rise of Al Qaeda, to extremism, to the young Muslims who say we don’t believe the double standards in Western democracy. They don’t buy the talk of
human rights. They think it is all like Micheveli ruling again. I think the same will happen in the Gulf. You are just delaying the process and contributing to the further rise of extremism and quite fatally sectarianism in the region. All of this does not contribute in any form or shape to world peace.

[Clip from BBC – “We have spent a long time talking about Libya but what is happening in Bahrain is more violent and of much more strategic interest to the
USA because of oil, because the fifth fleet is stationed there. What happens in
Bahrain is really critical to the USA but it is in Washington’s interest and the in the interest of the White House that we don’t report this story very much. They would like that that one to go away because there is no upside for them in supporting the rebellion by the Shia. They just don’t want to much attention focused on what is happening there because they don’t want to be forced into a position of helping the Shia rebels there.]

Saeed ShehabiBahrain Freedom Movement: Good morning and welcome to this
session. It is with great sorrow that I speak today as I see that my people are brutally murdered. This victim [shows photo] was discovered yesterday. As you see he died not just from machine gun [wounds] but from being brutally tortured by these thugs who we have been talking about for years now. They are back in action. They terrorise people, kidnap them, use swords and axes to kill them. We have many victims. I don’t know why our friends didn’t bring many more images of people yielding swords and axes as if we are back in history using these brutal methods to silence people.
You will not see such things anywhere except one day it happened in
Egypt when a few hundred of Mubarak’s people attacked Tahrir Square and killed a few demonstrators with camels and horses.

In Bahrain they are there. They have been there for the past three or four weeks and they have been on daily missions to do these thing. He [the
man in the photo] was not killed by a bullet. His skull was smashed. Last night his body was discovered. His skill was smashed. You can see how he was beaten all over his body.
So today we are not facing the ordinary classical warfare between an opposition and a dictatorship. We are seeing the legalised and legitimised use
of state terrorism. State terrorism is one of the most brutal methods. Hundreds were attacked and brutally injured and denied treatment in hospital. Today the main hospital in Bahrain is under the management of the military. Bahrain is under martial law, supported by an invasion that has not been called for by the people. This invasion came from Saudi Arabia and is supported by the Emirates. We are talking mainly about a Saudi political decision to invade another country and occupy it. Some American officials, Hilary Clinton among them, are saying that this is a legitimate action.

We know that the GCC has its charter stating that a country may invite the troops of another country in the case of external aggression not internal repression. What we saw in the last few days is that the Saudis have
crossed the causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia to repress the people, to maime the people, to kill the people, not to face or target an outside aggression.
In fact these forces were there in 1990 in the Hafir Battin military base 100kms from Kuwait when Saddam Hussein undertook his invasion and attacked Kuwait. Not a single shot was fired from that military base which was housing a
large chunk of military hardware which was purchased by the Saudis at that time.

We should remember that in 1985 the Saudis signed the deal with Britain to purchase the tornadoes. Initially it was for £25bn but by the end of the
contract it reached £85bn out of which £2.5bn was paid as a commission to one of the princes. Tony Blair refused to order an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office because he said the Saudis would stop co-operating in the war against terror. So until now we have not seen any investigation into that deal but it
was fresh when Saddam’s forces went to Kuwait and they didn’t fire a single shot
which according to their own standards was external aggression. But these forces were not used against external aggression. The internal repression has been adopted and has been implemented by the ruling family and the Saudis of course.
Now where do we go from here? A country under occupation by foreign forces. They may call it by any other name but the net result is that we are under occupation. There was no need to support the government because Bahrain has about 30,000 troops and police and they could have dealt with the situation
without any problem especially in facing unarmed civilians. Until now no one has managed to bring any evidence that the protests have not been orderly and peaceful and the aggression came from one side.
And it is not only now [ that violence is being used]. From the very first day on 14th February when the people decided to march and call for freedom brutal force was used and the first martyr fell. The next morning on the 15th during the funeral of this martyr another victim fell and the people marched on Pearl Square and they stopped there and camped there.
Two days later they were attacked in the middle of the night and
five people were killed. At the end of the week by Saturday another martyr fell. And they were all peaceful demonstrations. We saw this on tv. It is not something that we are saying but it is a fact documented by the tv stations.

What the American lady on the clip we played was saying was just stating a fact. There are many articles and one of them has been distributed to you to show how peaceful the people are and how brutal the regime is and how the West is adopting once again double standards in dealing with the situation in Bahrain.
I cannot understand how the revolutions are different. What is the difference
between the revolution in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen or in Libya? I cannot understand
any differences. In Libya in fact (I don’t subscribe to this view) the people in
Libya were forced to carry arms. It started peacefully but because of the use of force by the regime the people were forced to use force. It is a military conflict. In Bahrain it is a unarmed civilians standing up to troops. Now where do we go from here? I can’t see where we are going except that the people are determined to pursue their goals. I was speaking to one of the leaders who has not been caught yet and is hiding somewhere. Many of the political leadership are in hiding. They may be arrested but they are not going to give up their goals. They will not accept the foreign occupation. They are determined to bring about a regime change. As Lord Avebury said, we have been calling for dialogue for years. We have been calling for dialogue for many years. Not once did we have a dialogue. Since we started our opposition to this brutal regime in the late 1970’s not on one single occasion did this royal family accept to sit and discuss our demands and give way a little bit. What we saw in the past couple of weeks is completely contrary to what all the other leaders in the region have done. Apart from Libya all the others have not done what these people have done. Not even in Yemen. Yemen is very brutal. Ali Abdullah Saleh has used brutal force to kill his own people. Forty one people were killed on Friday alone. But he did not use thugs to go and attack peaceful people. He did not attack villages. Until now the people of those villages [in Bahrain] remain awake because they fear an attack by those militias who were recruited by the ruling family to kill the people.
In other countries death squads have not been in action terrorising people. No hospital has been taken over by the military and prevented from being used by the injured people.
Furthermore in the past three days attacks have been made on those hospitals not only to prevent people from being treated but also to snatch the medical records. Amnesty International three or four days ago came forward and said we have evidence that war crimes may have been committed and I think that really sent shock waves through the hearts of the Al Khalifa.
So what they attempted to do was to snatch all the medical records because these are undisputed facts about what sorts of methods were used to kill the people. So they didn’t want these records to end up in the Hague or in the International Court of Justice.
Doctors have been arrested. A nurse Bahia Al Aradi. was killed yesterday. Dr Ali Al Akri has been snatched and his whereabouts is unknown. He has been
kidnapped and no one knows where he is. Dr Nassambe another patriotic doctor who established his own tent to treat the injured when they were denied access to the hospital has also been snatched. He was arrested two days ago and nothing has been heard from him.
Medical staff have been arrested. One of them has been killed. We are witnessing a unique situation which has left as dumbfounded especially we see a lack of
action from Britain and America, especially in the light of the use of arms made by the USA and UK to repress the people.
We know apache helicopters were in action. We have videos showing they were shooting demonstrators. We have seen British made arms especially the gas canisters and the guns used to fire them being used at close range on the demonstrators. Several deaths occurred due to the point blank range use of these weapons.
It is not only that they are not helping the Bahraini people but they are allowing the Al Khalifa to use these weapons for internal repression, to use their tanks, armoured vehicles, and armed personnel carriers to administer and to control the roads and to encircle the places were the people are congregating.
We would like to see this double standard policy brought to an end. Without this happening we will continue to have distinction. It is a legal and legitimate revolution in Libya and in Egypt but not in Bahrain. The people are the same people, their aspirations are the same, their demands are the same. There have been no religious or sectarian demands in any of these countries. No one has called for any other demands apart from creating political systems based on one man one vote whether in Tunisia or in Libya or in Yemen. No difference whatsoever, except that the majority of the people of Bahrain are Shia. Nothing more than that.
In fact many of the patriotic Sunnis are in the same line as the Shias. One of the senior figures is Ibrahim Sherif who was also arrested three or four days ago along with Hassan Mushaima, Abdul Wahab Hussein and Dr Singace and others.

I want to remind Lord Avebury that it was Ibrahim Sherif who three years ago in
this room gave us this analysis of how much the Al Khalifa have expropriated the land of Bahrain. That is the man who was arrested. He is a Sunni liberal, nothing to do with Shias or religious demands.
The repression is standard to everybody and it is aimed at everyone. Where do we go? I can only see the doomsday scenario taking place in Bahrain and there is not going to be any easy solution. The Saudis will not salvage the Al Khalifa,
the people of Bahrain will not allow themselves to be occupied by the Saudis for long and the Americans and the British must be well advised to change their policies and to treat the Bahraini revolution in the same way as they have treated other revolutions.

Otherwise they would be considered as hostile to the people and that is not good for the people of both countries. The Bahraini people have never had a problem with any other peoples be they in the west or in the east.
My last words are that you people here have a duty to support the victims and to stand with the victims not with the aggressors – to refute and refuse this hereditary dictatorship through which the son becomes a president or a king simply because he was the son of another hereditary dictator.
I think in this day and age there is no room for such dictatorships and the only
place is for the people to be able to determine their own destiny. Thank you and God bless you all.

Lord Avebury:You can’t report what is happening in Bahrain because the regime has denied journalists access to interviews, prevented them from entering hospitals, completely blocked all avenues of communication between the people
and the outside journalists and many outside journalists have been refused entry to Bahrain to stop reports from reaching the outside world.
So it isn’t that journalists have to exert themselves to tell the truth – they would tell the truth if they were able to see what is actually happening on the ground.

Jeremy Cobyrn MP:Eric, thank you very much and thank you for giving me a few minutes to say something. I was just writing an article for the Guardian about
the situation in Libya and I agree with the situation in Libya and I agree with what you have said about doubler standards.
So I started doing some research into the number of times that you Eric and many colleagues in this room have made demands that the role of Ian Henderson into what went on in Bahrain be investigated. The former head of security now living in quiet retirement in this country but still finding time to go back to Bahrain to give further advise on security matters. I want to pay
tribute to Eric and everyone in this room for consistently standing up for human rights.
The first time I met people campaigning for human rights in Bahrain was at the UN Human Rights Conference in Denmark in 1986 – a long time ago. The situation hasn’t changed much since then. I was at a demonstration on Saturday and I have been on previous demonstrations outside the embassy and I think the Western media in general do not understand what is happening in Bahrain. It is very easy to put it in a the box ‘religious conflict’. Quote Sunni Shia and say that is the reason for the conflict. The biggest cheer I got
from the crowd was when I said this is not about versions of Islam or any other
faith. This was a conflict about peace, it was about the right of young educated
people to get a job and it was about the right to challenge your own government and have an accountable government, not one that arrests willy nilly, imprisons without trial and detains interminably and also tortures people. It is also about the presence of the US Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, it is also about the massive deals that British companies have made for arms into Bahrain which are used to oppress the people of Bahrain. The double standards are absolutely breath taking.
The decision of the Gulf Co-operation Council is interesting – from co-operation to allow the fig leaf of the decision of the GCC to send in an enormous force of Saudi armaments to control the rebellion on Bahrain speaks volumes.
Are the West going to say anything to Saudi Arabia? Are they going to say anything to Bahrain? Are they going to impose sanctions that mean anything? I really doubt it. And that is why I want to show support to the people of Bahrain for what they are trying to achieve. It is simply not right that people should live under a hereditary monarchy which is also a dictatorship and a client state of the West which receives massive amounts of arms and exports oil to Western markets. This time the peoples all across the region are standing up for something very different.

I applaud what his happening. I applaud the achievements that have already been made. I do call on the Western media to have a sense of balance and proportion about what is happening. Look at what is happening in Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia as well as Egypt, Tunisia and Libya because the process in all the countries is the broadly the same: a thirst for peace, a thirst for freedom, a thirst for democracy. They are not looking for Western
intervention, they are not looking for Western colonialism. They are looking for self respect and real and genuine independence and that’s why I so strongly support the Bahraini opposition and applaud you for all that you have achieved
so far in mobilising so many people against such terrible odds. Tearing down the
statue on the Pearl Roundabout won’t make any difference. It just shows how weak the emperor. Possibly the emperor does not have any clothes. Thank you.


Shabir:Thank you very much Lord Avebury and Saeed. I have just returned from Bahrain. I was there last week just before the Saudi armaments arrived. And really I do want to endorse what Dr Saeed and Jeremy Cobyrn said. The way it is being portrayed as a Shia –Sunni conflict is utter nonsense without any shadow of a doubt.
If one had the opportunity and the pleasure and the privilege like myself to have spent three nights in the square there you saw young old, Shia, Sunni, well educated, not so well educated – the whole spectrum of Bahrain was there.
What is missing is the fact that the media – CNN, the BBC – are not reporting it as aggressively as they are reporting the situation developing in the Middle East. So there is something array, something missing. So I think occasions like this will bring it up on the agenda where we can really let the world know what a horrible situation is developing in Bahrain.

Moyeen Yassin Global Vision:I endorse all that the speakers have said. It is a horrifying situation. Presumably the organisers invited the FCO and the Western media. I would like to know if any have actually attended given the intensity of the liberation struggle. That is the first point. A clarification on that.
Why is that still the case in an international capital for the Western media and all media in fact.
Secondly I would like to ask about the fragmentation of the Middle East even further and the Zionist input into this. I know it is about human rights, constitutional change and so on. However underpinning the crisis in the whole region is the issue of boundaries. Shouldn’t boundaries be changed? How can Yemen for instance down the road from Qatar survive? How can these nations survive with their unsustainable economies. These boundaries have got to go. I would like a response on that.

Lord Avebury:With regard to the question on the FCO we always invite them to our meetings and I am sure we would of done so on this occasion. As for the boundaries that is not one of the demands we hear coming from the squares. It may be something that will have to be considered but only
when we have democratic governments there which represent the will of the people and can take soundings among the people to find out what they want.

Shabir:I have another comment if I may, just to have a second bite at the
cherry. With the royal wedding taking place there was a wonderful article in the Guardian a couple of days ago whereby all of us there and anyone outside who
gets the message has to write to the royal household saying please do not invite them to the wedding. That perhaps could be another effort, not only to
marginalise but to really expose them for what they are – murderers in their own country.

Lord Avebury: In fact there was already a refusal from the king. He said he wasn’t coming.

Saeed Shehabi: There is an interesting video. We want you to see it Jeremy. It is the minster of foreign affairs of Bahrain.

Video: Western journalist: I outside my hotel and was fired on by the riot police along with a colleague who happens to be Bahraini.

FM: It is a very delicate situation.
Journalist: Sir, I was in a car. I didn’t do anything. They didn’t ask me to stop.
FM: They just fired on you?
Journalist: Yes. They were riot police. They had guns and tear gas. FM: It is an incident that should be investigated. You telling me that there is an order for them to fire at any car. This is not true.

Journalist: They searched the car, they slashed the tyres of the car, they smashed the windows.
FM: This is an incident that should be investigated.
Journalist: How long will this continue for. You are waging war……………. FM: Any suggestion that we are waging war on anyone, especially our people is wrong.
Journalist: are you going to resume dialogue [with the opposition?
FM: There will be a dialogue. We had a similar situation in the 90’s and we came out of it. And we are going to come out of it again.
Journalist: People are not allowed to go to the hospital. They are beaten. FM: Have you seen the deaths and the bruises?

Question:How do we investigate these allegations?

Lord Avebury:Ideally this is a role for the United Nations. The United Nations
has a well developed mechanism for examining arbitrary arrest for example. There is a working group on arbitrary arrest which is part of the Human Rights Commission. There is a rapporteur on torture, there is a rapporteur on extra-judicial executions. These authorities should now be writing to the Bahrain government saying that they now want an invitation to visit the country
so that they can investigate all these things and I hope that the community will get together and ask these different authorities if they will seek an
invitation. If they do that and the government of Bahrain does not exceed to the request then we know where we stand – that it is impossible to have an authoritative investigation to see what is going on. But that would speak for
itself. On the other hand if they do allow them in then we could have a thorough examination of the violations of human rights that are taking place and the world community will have to evaluate what they do in the light of those reports.

Yousif Al Khoei: I think at the end of the day we need the political will by Western powers to see the logic of the fact that we cannot allow this kind of
behaviour to go on. It will continue to cause problems and if the political will is not there all the attempts by the UN may produce a couple of reports but it will not produce a tangible outcome for the people or for the political situation. The situation is likely to escalate.
When you have a problem on the ground and the problem is real it is not made up, it is not political orchestration. You are talking about people looking for jobs, looking for recognition, looking for a decent education. You are not looking at people who are after revolution. And instead of inviting foreign forces to clobber them the way we have seen or accuse them of being Iranian agents it is a much more logical way and cheaper way to address those needs and deal with your people are your people.

I got to know the foreign minister personally and I actually confronted him with some of these questions. PR is not going to solve the problem. The West is closing its eyes is not going to solve the problem. There is quite a lot of disconnection despite what we say about the Western
press. The Western press is reporting some of the news but it is the politicians who are not willing to accept the realities on the ground.
In England the government encourages us to have good relationships, good community relations to do this and do that to create cohesion. Why is it
then when it comes to an oil rich country all these values go out of the screen? This is what the young people want to know. This is what makes young people
angry. This is what brings somebody like me who is never into politics here. We need to promote a language of common sense and reason. And this is clearly not being done in the case of Bahrain. And I only think of policy makers sitting behind closed doors and drawing Machiavellian policies which is not going to work. This is against time and history.

Comment:This is just utter contempt being shown by a feudal monarch, utter contempt and it is as if he doesn’t care at all about what people think. There is no consultation, no accountability or transparency.

Lord Avebury:That is absolutely true. We will hear now from someone who can exemplify that statement. That is Jaffar Al Hasabi who is going to talk about his imprisonment in Bahrain.

Saeed Shehabi:Jaffar Al Hasabi was arrested on 16th August 2010 together with many others and he was released about two or three weeks ago after the revolution started. He will tell us about his experience which is similar to that of many others.

Jaffar Al Hasabi: I just want to mention a few things. I think you can see some footage from Bahrain. I have seen this in my last six months. I was arrested in Bahrain and it is exactly similar to what they are using now. We have been living under the same fear and we were frightened we would become martyrs when they used a different method – just beating and electric torture.

Saeed Shehabi:Explain what happened to you the first night when they arrested you not just in general terms.

Jaffar Al Hasabi:They arrested me at the airport in front of my mum and my daughters. They took me to a place I did not know. I was blindfolded for 40
days. I could not see who was with me at that time. They left us in a cell 2 by 2 underground blindfolded. I have seen the cell when they let us go for a few minutes to pray and eat. They left me standing for more than 23 days in that cell.

Saeed Shehabi:What do you mean standing up?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:They left me standing in that cell. It was not continuous but for more than a week. They only let us sleep for two or three hours and then they made us stand in the same position. At night they took us to interrogation and also blindfolded us. We did not know where they took us. They started interrogating us. Beating and hanging us. They did fallakh to us. They put us in the chicken position with our head down and our feet up. I have some photos which are six months old. They beat us quite severely on our feet and all over our bodies.

Saeed Shehabi: What do you mean electric shock?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:I have seen some of it. It is like a machine. It has a very high voltage and when you just listen to it it is very scary. When they put it to any part of your body you just want to fly from the pain.

Question:Do you mean a taiser? It is something held by the police or the military and it gives a very very severe shock.

Jaffar Al Hasabi: I did not see it….

Comment:These machines are exported from this country to other countries.

Jaffar Al Hasabi:The sound of it is very scary. The sound of it it has if you have attached a plus and minus voltage together and you can see how the sound loud. They attach it our body. It as attached to my ear, my little finger and on the feet. This is in addition to the beating all over my body, my neck, my back, my chest. This is what you see in the pictures.
Saeed Shehabi:What did they beat you with?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:Normally they use a hose to beat the feet but they slap with their hands. We were blindfolded so we did not know who was beating us and torturing us.

Saeed Shehabi:You didn’t see their faces?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:We didn’t see their faces.

Question: On what grounds did they arrest you? Were they saying we are arresting you because you did such and such?

Jaffar Al Hasabi: They arrested by because of my political activities here in
Britain. We were protesting and demanding the same things the people in Bahrain are demanding.

Question: Exercising you legal rights?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:Myself I was not involved in act of terror. They accused us of terrorist activities. I am a peaceful man. I have been here since 1995. They want to make something from nothing. They grab people and they accuse them of being terrorists. They want to make up something.

Saeed Shehabi:Did the British embassy visit you there?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:I had three visits from the British Council in Bahrain. On the first visit I could not tell him that I had been tortured, beaten but on the second and third visit I told him we are dying every day so please do something.

Saeed Shehabi:Did you show him your body?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:Yes I did show him my body so he knew that we had been
tortured. I told him we are dying every day. They don’t let us go to the toilet,
just for two minutes. Everybody has piles at that time. Can you imagine just two minutes to do everything. I am scared and frightened now about our people in jail. They are using everything as you see.

Question:What was the reaction when you had these visits? You said you had visits from the British Embassy. What was your reaction and their reaction to what you said to them?

Jaffar Al Hasabi: My reaction was that they might help me to get out from this prison but it seems that they haven’t done much and they couldn’t to anything for me.

Saeed Shehabi: But they said you did not tell them. There is a letter from the minister to Lord Avebury Alistair Burt saying we visited him three times but he did not complain of any ill treatment.

Jaffar Al Hasabi: I didn’t say anything because the torturers were with us. And also they frightened us and said you will be beaten.

Question: Can I ask you a supplementary question. You said you had these visits from the British Counsel. When you saw them did you think they were taking your representations to them seriously? Did they make notes on everything you said. Normally when you have an interview with a lawyer the lawyer or legal representative makes detailed notes based on what you are saying so that these can go forward as a process.

Jaffar Al Hasabi:Unfortunately they didn’t make a single note. Just talking to me. I thought he was a counsel. He came to see me.

Question: But there was no follow up – nothing in writing?

Jaffar Al Hasabi:Nothing in writing. And he was telling me that after the legal trial when it is finished you may be going out soon. There may be an amnesty.

Question: There was little or no support then from the British.

Jaffar Al Hasabi:I didn’t think there was enough support from the British government for my case.

Lord Avebury:I think it also should be mentioned that one of the people who was detained, was Abdul Jalil Al Singace. He is a renowned human rights activist
but suffered from polio when he was a child. He has to have crutches and a wheel
chair to get about. The first thing that happened when he was arrested was that they confiscated his crutches and his wheel chair and he was forced to crawl from his cell to go to the lu. I really don’t understand how people can do such a thing to a fellow human being who is disabled.

Saeed Shehabi:They do more and you have seen the pictures of what they are doing. This may not be very strange. The strange thing is the silence by both the British and the American government because these are the people who could make a difference but they are adopting a policy of total silence. And not only silence cut support sometimes. You could infer that while they are saying the government of Bahrain must be aware of its commitment to international conventions.

Question:What is interesting is that they are not defining their position.
Because if you do define your position the other side knows precisely what they have to do next. By not defining your position the matter is left in a very unfinished way.

Lord Avebury: Alistair Birt was incorrectly informed by officials and so we should try to get an acknowledgement from him that what he said about Mr Al Hasabi was not correct and it was not in accordance with the advise that was given by the Foreign Office officials.

Comment:You have to pursue it because it is your case. They cannot say it is a second hand or third hand case.

Abbas Oman:On 14th February the revolution started and two people were killed at that time. The ruler of Bahrain made a statement on apologising for the people who had been killed and he formed a committee to investigate and discover the truth about why these two people were killed. That was just before the army attacked the roundabout. Do you have any idea about that committee?

Lord Avebury: Thank you for the suggestion that we should investigate what the
committee has done and try and ascertain if it hasn’t already reported what the intentions are.

Question:I have a question on the blogger Ali Yaman who we have not heard from for a few days. Does anyone know if he is okay.

Saeed Shehabi:He was targeted three ago. His flat was ransacked. He was arrested with Jaffar and he remained in jail for six months and was severely tortured. When he was released he was again targeted three days ago. They went to his house and they ransacked it again and we don’t know if he is arrested or not. During the past week everybody changes where they sleep because there are
attacks everywhere. He is wanted. They went to Jaffar Al Hasabi’s house three or four times……….

Jaffar Al Hasabi:They went to our house and it seems they do not have a record that I left the country.

Saeed Shehabi:They went to arrest him when he had left the country.

Lord Avebury:One thing we ought to do is to make sure that Human Rights Watch has all this material because they are a reputed human rights organisation that has been sympathetic in the past to the victims or repression in Bahrain and
will no doubt continue to prepare reports on the information as it comes out. So if we can help them on that I believe that would be a useful task.

Question: Just one point. I know new people have been arrested but the 25 who have been released have they all been rearrested? I know Hasan Mushiama was re-arrested.

Saeed Shehabi:They have been targeted. On the first night they got about seven or eight but that night they either slept on the roundabout or somewhere else. But they went subsequently to their houses but so far we do not know who has been arrested as people do not really use their telephones so much. And they don’t sleep in their houses anymore. So we don’t know. We know seven or eight
were arrested. And the doctors and some nurses and also the head of the teachers
trade union was arrested two days ago. He refused to call for the teachers to go back to work. The country is now on strike.

Lord Avebury:One thing we have not mentioned Saeed is that some doctors from the Salmaniyah Hospital have gone missing. No know knows what has happened to them. We ought to enlist the help of people like the British Medical Association to get statements from their colleagues.

Saeed Shehabi: The Kuwaiti Red Crescent sent a medical team. Until now many people are being treated in their homes or in mosques or makeshift clinics. So this medical team was dispatched officially from Kuwait. They remained on the
border for one or two days and they tried to re-enter today but they were turned away.

Question:So they are not allowing anyone else to come in and see what is happening?

Saeed Shehabi:No.

Lord Avebury:Except the Saudis.
Saeed Shehabi:They have expelled the CNN reporter, the Wall Street Journal reporter, the BBC, Press TV and Huriyah because they want to do everything in secret.

Lord Avebury:Al Jaziriah?

Saeed Shehabi: Al Jazirah don’t have one. English Al Jaziriah had a reporter there. You can see the short statement of that American on the short film.

Abbas Omran: They have attacked on two fronts. Journalists are not allowed to
enter Bahrain. They closed the border and they are expelling them. They arrested the doctors. What do you think is going on?

Saeed Shehabi:Firstly the journalists would expose what is going on. The American and the British media have been excellent, most of them. Very good.
The Times, The Independent, The Guardian – very factual, very good. And also the Wall Street Journal, theWashington Post. So they don’t want people to speak out. They don’t want the truth to go out. This is one thing. As for the medical personnel, they are witnesses to war crimes. They have records. You cannot have somebody under arrest and then shoot him. This is a war crime. This has happened. They have records. But they are also victims themselves. They may try to wipe out some circumstantial evidence but the evidence itself remains.

Lord Avebury:We can ask the American Embassy. They have the fifth fleet there.

Saeed Shehabi:Let us play again what the BBC correspondent said for the sake of those who came late:

[Clip from BBC – “We have spent a long time talking about Libya but what is happening in Bahrain is more violent and of much more strategic interest to the
USA because of oil, because the fifth fleet is stationed there. What happens in
Bahrain is really critical to the USA but it is in Washington’s interest and in the interest of the White House that we don’t report this story very much. They would like that that one to go away because there is no upside for them in supporting the rebellion by the Shia. They just don’t want to much attention focused on what is happening there because they don’t want to be forced into a position of helping the Shia rebels there.]

Lord Avebury:That you very much for attending. Particular thanks to our speakers Yousif Al Khoei and Jaffar. And that you all for the support you are giving to the beleaguered people of Bahrain. I am sure this is not the last time we will be meeting to discuss these issues.

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Transcript of UK press conference – Saudi intervention in Bahrain

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Jaafar released and back in the UK, Praise God!

Bismillah. I just spoke to Jaafar by phone. He was released along with the other 22 activists on 23rd Feb & returned to London on 13th March. He sounded in good spirits, obviously very glad to be back with his wife & 5 children.

He says that he has bruises all over his body from the torture & since his return has been very busy with media interviews about events in Bahrain.

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Demo this Friday against Arab dictators & British support for them

Bismillah. Fyi Friday’s demonstration

United We Stand, Solidarity with the Arab People

Break all links with dictators – End occupation and the War on Terror

Assemble: 3.30pm Friday February 25th 2011, Bahraini Embassy, 30 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8QB, marching to Downing Street via Libyan Embassy.

Supported by: Libya Watch for Human Rights; British Libyan Solidarity Campaign; Yemeni Human Rights Watch; Egypt Liberation Initiative; Bahrain Freedom Movement; British Muslim Initiative; Stop the War Coalition; Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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Demo this Friday against Arab dictators & British support for them

Bismillah. Fyi Friday’s demonstration

United We Stand, Solidarity with the Arab People

Break all links with dictators – End occupation and the War on Terror

Assemble: 3.30pm Friday February 25th 2011, Bahraini Embassy, 30 Belgrave Square, SW1X 8QB, marching to Downing Street via Libyan Embassy.

Supported by: Libya Watch for Human Rights; British Libyan Solidarity Campaign; Yemeni Human Rights Watch; Egypt Liberation Initiative; Bahrain Freedom Movement; British Muslim Initiative; Stop the War Coalition; Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

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Press conference on events in Bahrain – Tues 22 Feb

Lord Avebury, the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary HR Group cordially invites you to a Press Conference:

Bahrain’s revolution for change

The events of the past week in the Gulf state of Bahrain has taken many by surprise but for its people, it was inevitable. It was clear that the regime could not grasp the lessons of both the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions but resorted to violence. What are the underpinning causes and where is it heading? Politicians and human rights experts will give their opinions.

11.30 am Tuesday 22nd February 2011
Committee Room 2A
The House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

For further information please contact: Lord Avebury: 020 7274 4617, Email: ericavebury “at” gmail “dot” com

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Bahrain protest in London – Sat 19 Feb 2011

Bismillah. Notice received today:

Protest outside the Bahraini Embassy


Saturday 19th February 2011

30 Belgrave Square
London SW1X 8QB

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Lawyers withdraw

Arab News – 10 December, 2010

Lawyers for 25 jailed Bahraini activists accused of terrorism have withdrawn from the case in protest at ‘difficulties’ faced during the trial, one of the lawyers said Thursday.

“The defense presented a motion during the court hearing today clarifying the difficulties the lawyers have faced in carrying out their mission in addition to abuses that need to be investigated and the poor conditions under which the accused are detained,” Mohammed Al-Tajer said.

“We made clear to the court that we are not able to continue our mission under these conditions, and we withdrew,” he said.

The court decided to appoint new attorneys to represent the activists and adjourned the trial until Dec. 23, said Al-Tajer.

The 25 activists, including two who are being tried in absentia, are accused of forming an illegal organization, engaging in and financing terrorism, and spreading false and misleading information, according to the indictment.

Some of the charges carry a sentence of life in prison, one of the lawyers has said.

At the opening hearing on Oct. 28, the 23 defendants appeared in court and pleaded not guilty, while alleging they had been tortured.

The court declined at that hearing to probe the allegations, but a government statement the same day said a “senior forensic science consultant” had examined 13 defendants and concluded they had not been tortured.

Al-Tajer said lawyers had renewed calls for an investigation at the second hearing on Nov. 11.

He also said at the time that “certain decisions of the court, including the transfer of the defendants from a state security prison to an ordinary one, have not been implemented.”

Another defense attorney, Jalila Al-Sayed, said the 25-member legal team walked out after failing to get a court-ordered probe into alleged jailhouse beatings and other abuses against the suspects, who include human rights activists and bloggers.

“We withdrew because the court disregards our requests to investigate the torture claims,” said Al-Sayed. “We now consider this trial to be unfair and against international standards and we won’t be part of it.”

In the 1990s, Bahrain was plagued by a wave of opposition unrest that has abated since 2001 reforms restored the Gulf state’s elected Parliament, which was dissolved in 1975, and turned the emirate into a constitutional monarchy.

Parliament’s powers were diluted, however, with the formation of an appointed upper house.

The walkout was the latest tactic to draw attention to prisoner abuse claims and force a deeper look into a major crackdown on dissidents in the kingdom that hosts the US Navy’s 5th Fleet.

The arrests of the activists were part of a sweeping offensive launched last summer against threats to the state. The detentions touched off riots and rallies that have severely strained relations between rival communities in the country.

Washington and allies worry that the widening rifts could roll back a decade of political reforms and open footholds for outside powers.

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Hearings – 9th December 2010

From the BFM:

The dramatic move by the lawyers to withdraw from today’s court proceedings has shocked the judicial system run by the Al Khalifa ruling family in Bahrain. The lawyers who attended the forth court hearing of the 25 innocent Bahrainis decided to withdraw after the Al-Khalifa appointed judge had refused to ignore the confessions drawn from the Bahrainis under torture.

He also failed to order an independent investigation into torture claims even after the victims exposed their wounds in the court in earlier sessions. The lawyers decided that it would be futile to defend allegations prepared by the torturers to incriminate innocent people, especially when it became clear that the verdict had been decided by “people in higher authority” before the case was heard.

The whole judicial system is now under scrutiny after it failed to uphold the values and justice and respect of human rights. The “judge” adjourned the case until 23rd December.

Meanwhile, several international bodies have issued statements and reports about the situation in Bahrain. Reporters Without Borders sent a letter to the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton expressing concern about torture claims. Frontline sent a similar letter to Mrs Clinton about targeting the activists. The Committee for Protection of Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter to Bahrain’s prime minister expressing outrage at the torture of bloggers; Ali Abdul Imam and Dr Abdul Jalil Al Singace. Human Rights Watch issued a statement condemning the harassment of human rights activist; Nabeel Rajab. FIDH and OMCT issued a similar statement about Mr Rajab.

Emotions are high among the Bahraini citizens as they commemorate the season of Ashura and the martyrdom of Imam Hussain. The suppression of the natives by the ruling family over the past four months has failed to subdue the people who are preparing to re-live the bloody conflict in Karbala when Imam Hussain (AS) stood up against the tyrannical rule of Yazid ibn Mo’awiyah in the year 61 AD together with 72 of his close relatives and supporters.

Bahrainis have always drawn lessons form that event and insisted on maintaining their traditional ways in those commemorations. The political atmosphere is imposing itself in this event in several ways. First is the insistence by the people to re-incarnate the spirit of Karbala with its political connotations in the country which is being subverted by the ruling Al Khalifa family.

Second is the continuous intimidation by the foreign-staffed security forces which are roaming the streets, tearing the black shrouds placed by the people along the roads and alleyways in most parts of Bahrain.

Third are the ongoing trials of 25 innocent Bahrainis amid serious accusations of human rights violations including torture. The next few days are likely to see more conflict between the Bahrainis and the foreign mercenaries working for the ruling family especially in light of the continued attacks on public liberties and the use of torture against detainees.

There were skirmishes between the youth intent on raising banners related to the Ashura events and the enemies of the people whose main aim is to gag people and deprive them of the right to practice their own religious rituals. As mourners hanged banners depicting the events of Karbala, riot and security personnel attacked the youth and abducted some of them. The town of Sitra was raided by scores of the foreign-staffed police to remove the black shrouds near, while the people managing the place were threatened with serious consequences. Four young men were arrested from the area.

In the past few days there were several developments. On 6th December, the youth went out in force near the Jidhafs graveyard, opposite the petrol station. Smoke was seen bellowing overhead as tyres were set alight by protesters. This is in addition to writing slogans on the walls calling for the release of political prisoners and the drafting a new democratic constitution.

Meanwhile a court run by the Al Khalifa has sentenced two boys to prison terms of one and three years in jail for their alleged role in throwing petrol bottles on the British Embassy in Manama. The boys denied any role in the incident and experts have still to form an opinion on a case carrying the hallmarks of the security services. The town of Musalla was also raided, black shrouds were removed and more youth detained.

The family of a retarded young man has protested the arrest of their son on the basis of unproven allegations that he had taken part in anti-regime activities. Despite providing all the proofs in their possession of the incapacity of their son, he was kept for more than two weeks behind bars. He has suffered internal bleeding due to lack of care and the bad intentions by the ruling family. Calls have repeatedly been made to international bodies to take steps to safeguard Bahrainis who are being banished or forced to live in dire environment.

Bahrain Freedom Movement

9th December 2010

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