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Even in today’s world of instant messaging, internet, mobile and satellite communications and worldwide mass media, there are still places that exist, where events take place unbeknownst to the rest of the planet. There exists countries that do not want the world to know what is going on within their borders or there exists countries that try to control the flow of information coming out of areas where their activities are not within the boundaries of what the civilized world would find as acceptable or appropriate.
Serbia and Kosovo are places where such a media blackout exists and those are places I believe need more attention from the international community another is Bahrain.
Officially called the Kingdom of Bahrain, the country is a small island nation situated in the western part of the Persian Gulf and has a population of about 1,234,571 according to a 2010 census. The country ranks 42nd on the Human Development Index, it is also a member of the UN, the WTO, the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.
Bahrain was caught up in what has become known as the Arab Spring on February 14th 2011 when protestors took to the streets demanding more political freedom and an improvement in the human rights situation in the country. Originally there was no threat to the monarchy nor were there calls for a regime change in the country. This all changed however on February 17th when police killed four protestors while attempting to clear the Pearl Roundabout in Manama, the central gathering place for most of the protests taking place in the country.
Since then the response and the crackdowns on peaceful and unarmed demonstrators by police and security forces has been described as brutal. Almost 3,000 people have been arrested and more than 70 have been killed, according to the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Maryam Al-Khawaja, in an interview for the Voice of Russia. There are also wide spread reports of torture, beatings and the denial of medical assistance leading to death.
As with most of the Arab Spring countries there is an internal conflict between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. In Bahrain the majority of the population is comprised of Shiites although the Sunnis control most of the government sectors and politics. There are reports of widespread and institutionalized discrimination in employment, housing and other areas against the Shiites.
According to Ms. Al-Khawaja there exists a media blackout in Bahrain. The most obvious and pervasive form being a system of filtering and blocking internet sites that is implemented and executed by the Bahraini Information Affairs Authority (IAA) and which has a noticeable impact on the overall speed of the internet traffic for the country’s more than 250,000 internet users. According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) there are over 1,000 sites currently blocked in Bahrain including their own.
Bahrain has also seriously cracked down on bloggers and regularly arrests people for posting on Twitter and Facebook. The opposition groups views and opinions have no place in Bahraini media so they resort to the internet. One such person Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (http://www.bahrainrights.org/en ) who I interviewed last September (http://english.ruvr.ru/2011/09/20/56438166.html) has been arrested twice and may have been tortured. During one arrest according to the center, he was beaten and blindfolded and in his own words was threatened with rape and kicked when he refused to say he loved the prime minister.
The situation in the country is getting worse with many experts saying that the situation may soon explode. According Ms. Al-Khawaja part of the daily routine for many Bahraini citizens involves being tear gassed and trying to save their children from suffocating.
Human rights organizations all over the world have called for a halt to dozens of widespread abuses in the Kingdom. Some of the most notable being the following: Human Rights Watch has called on the Bahrain’s High Court of Appeal to reject the use of confessions possibly obtained by torture, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organization Against Torture (OMCT) wrote an open letter to the King of Bahrain to state its concerns about the arbitrary detention of Nabeel Rajad, Amnesty International has issued many statements, in particular with regard to the persecution of medical personnel who were attempting to assist injured protestors, Human Rights first says the persecution of Human Rights Workers is getting worse, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies stated in a report: “The human rights situation in Bahrain in 2011 witnessed unprecedented deterioration at almost all levels, especially in light of the repressive retaliatory action aimed at crushing the popular uprising which demanded far-reaching democratic reforms…”, and the list goes on.
So where are the calls from the U.S. and NATO for a “humanitarian intervention” or for regime change in Bahrain, a U.S. ally that hosts a base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet? Nowhere. However on May 9, 2012 Hillary Clinton met with Bahraini Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa and expressed that “…much work remains to fully address ongoing human rights issues.” Where were statements like this to Gadaffi or to Assad?
So with all of these reports what does the U.S. do? They sell arms to the Bahraini Government. In February of this year 18 representatives and 3 Senators, all of them from the Democratic Party, wrote a letter of protest to Clinton who in turn, did nothing.
There have been widespread reports that the security forces are using military grade tear gas on protestors and gassing homes, killing civilians. But that is just one of the lesser pieces of equipment and weaponry that the U.S. is selling Bahrain. The entire Bahraini military, called the Bahraini Defense Force and numbering about 13,000, is equipped U.S. hardware, everything from F-16s, to Blackhawk helicopters, to Abrams tanks and even an Oliver Hazard Perry class frigate. But the relationship does not end there, Bahrain hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet giving them a base in Juffair and has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. military.
When speaking recently with regards to Syria I think Russia’s plenipotentiary envoy in human rights affairs, Konstantin Dulgov said it best: ““Double standards in human rights is unacceptable and Russia and the majority of the international community reject that”.
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter also recently stated something worth repeating with regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; “the U.S. Government’s policies are now clearly violating at least 10 of the declaration’s 30 articles, including the prohibition against “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
So there you go, another example of a double standard and complete hypocrisy from the only country in the world where its leader signs off on a daily kill list. Who shall we kill today?