The Shia activists could face sentences as harsh as life imprisonment if convicted.Bahrain’s Sunni-dominated government has intensified its crackdown on the country’s majority Shia population, arresting dozens of opposition figures on the allegation of planning to topple the Bahraini government.Amnesty International says more than 250 people, believed to be in detention, are at the risk of being tortured.
Bahrain had its “dawn of democracy” in 2001, several years before Washington looked hopefully for a thaw across the Arab world. But for the Shia who make up about two-thirds of the island’s 470,000 native population, it has proved false.Rather than hastening change, the empowerment of Iraq’s Shia majority and muscular assertion of Iran’s influence in the region have made Bahrain’s ruling Sunni minority more cautious.After inheriting power in 1999, King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifa, Bahrain’s Sunni ruler, released political prisoners and welcomed back pro-democracy activists forced into exile when his father crushed a wave of unrest in the 1990s.He then invited Bahrainis to vote on a new social contract. But the resulting constitution, with the absolute powers of the ruling al-Khalifa family unchecked by a new and toothless parliament, fell short of expectations the king himself had raised.As parliamentary elections approach for the second time in four years, hopes for a political system that gives the Shia a fairer share of wealth, land and power have faded and for young Shia, the prospect of earning a decent wage remains bleak.
Of course, not only jobs are carefully distributed, the property is also mostly in the hands of the ruling family. With the help of Google maps Bahrain Land Ownership is very impressively explained in detail.
Around 250 individuals at risk of tortureAround 250 individuals in Bahrain are believed to have been detained as part of a clampdown against Shi’a political opposition and activism ahead of parliamentary elections on 23 October.Since the arrest of 23 Shi’a political and human rights activists in August, the government has arrested what Bahraini activists estimate to be a further 230 individuals, all of them said to be Shi’a, in connection with anti-government demonstrations and riots held in Shi’a towns and villages. Official figures have not been made public. During these events some demonstrators set fire to tyres and threw Molotov cocktails at security forces.During the first few weeks all detainees were held incommunicado; however, some have now been allowed visits by family members. Some in the first group of 23 detainees have seen their lawyers only once, when they were brought to the Public Prosecutor several weeks ago, but were not allowed to talk to them. The rest of the detainees have had no access to lawyers at all. This denial of contact exacerbates the risk of possible torture and other ill-treatment and the families and lawyers of some of the 23 men arrested in August have alleged that the detainees have been tortured. The government has denied this and has prohibited the publication of any information on the cases of the around 250 detainees. The ban is enforceable with a penalty of up to one year’s imprisonment.. Human Rights Watch requested access to some of the detainees, but the authorities have rejected these in the past few days.Since the first arrests took place, the Bahraini authorities have arbitrarily restricted the activities of a number of human rights activists and organizations. In September the Bahraini government suspended the board of the legally registered Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS), accusing it of “legal and administrative irregularities” and co-operating with “illegal organizations”, after it had publicly criticized the government for violating the human rights of the 23 people arrested in August. An official from the Ministry of Social Development has been appointed as a temporary administrator. In recent weeks three human rights activists were temporarily prevented from travelling abroad to attend meetings and workshops on human rights, among other things, but were later told they could travel without restriction.