Bahrain Government Crackdown on Opposition

Map of Bahrain

Map of Bahrain (Google)

The men will face trial on October 28 on the charge of “spreading false information and forming an illegal group,” said Prosecutor General Abdul-Rahman al-Sayed on Wednesday.
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.
A little background about Bahrain is in order. The Kingdom of Bahrain is situated on a relatively small island – actually several islands – of 750 sq km situated in the Persian Gulf close to Saudi Arabia and  Qatar. It’s capital is Al-Manamah, which holds an U.S. Naval Base. Bahrain has a population of some estimated 730’000 among which are 235’000 non-nationals (Source: CIA Factbook, Wikipedia has slightly different numbers). Ninety-nine percent of the population is Muslim, of which some estimated 80% are Shi’ites.
Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy ruled by the Al-Khalifa family whose members are Sunni Muslims. In 2001 it was hoped that there would be a “dawn of democracy” in Bahrain, but as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights wrote in 2006, it was a false dawn for Shia Muslims:
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.
High unemployment especially among Shia Muslims is also due to the fact that only 18% of senior public sector and government positions are held by Shia, and that they are in fact barred from the security services, whose ranks are filled with Sunni recruits from Yemen, Jordan, Syria and Pakistan, as the Bahrain Center for Human Rights writes in the article part of which is cited above.
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.
In recent month there has been a crack down on Shia Muslims and the opposition, which prompted Amnesty International to issue this media communication on October 8, 2010 (excerpt, full version here):
Around 250 individuals at risk of torture
Around 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.
These are the 23 mentioned in the PressTV article cited at the beginning of this post. As AI further stated in a media release on October 13, 2010, that the number of people detained since August is now closer to 250 and includes clerics, students, members of human rights organisations and charities, and opposition activists.
The Bahraini royal family is obviously good friends with the US – or at least with certain right-wing elements in the US. As you could recently learn, Bahraini banks are funding the American Chamber of Commerce, which in turn is pumping money into the (upcoming) US elections, as was revealed recently by ThinkProgress.
As a side note, the American Chamber of Commerce has a branch in Bahrain, see here for Board Members (Citigroup, American Express, Microsoft among others).

Press TV: ‘Saudi harbors, trains Iraq terrorists’

Car wreck

Car wreck

As Press TV reports:

Saudi security forces are reportedly involved in training terrorists operating in Iraq, where political leaders are pushing to form a ruling coalition.

Reports from Saudi Arabia say militants are assembled in a base set up outside Abha in the Red Sea province of Asir where they receive training on how to carry out suicide attacks and bombing operations.

The participants, mostly crossing into Iraq via Jordan and Syria, receive theoretical courses which portray Shia Muslims as “infidels” who only deserve to be killed. Under such theoretical approach supporters of the government are also considered as infidels.

The question is how credible are those claims. Let’s have a look at some other sources. The claims that Saudi Arabia supported terrorism are not new. In 2008, the LA Times wrote:

Saudi Arabia remains the world’s leading source of money for Al Qaeda and other extremist networks and has failed to take key steps requested by U.S. officials to stem the flow, the Bush administration’s top financial counter-terrorism official said Tuesday.

Stuart A. Levey, a Treasury undersecretary, told a Senate committee that the Saudi government had not taken important steps to go after those who finance terrorist organizations or to prevent wealthy donors from bankrolling extremism through charitable contributions, sometimes unwittingly.

“Saudi Arabia today remains the location where more money is going to terrorism, to Sunni terror groups and to the Taliban than any other place in the world,” Levey said under questioning.

Even back in 2005 there were concerns about Saudi’s financing of terrorism:

‘Wealthy Saudi financiers and charities have funded terrorist organizations and causes that support terrorism and the ideology that fuels the terrorists’ agenda’, Levey told lawmakers yesterday.

‘Even today, we believe that Saudi donors may still be a significant source of terrorist financing, including for the insurgency in Iraq,’ he added.

Abha, it may be noted, is the capital of Asir Province which borders Yemen. In fact,  Asir Province was once part of Yemen:

By the Treaty of Ta’if (May 1934), Yemen lost ‘Asir to Sa’udi Arabia but won British and Sa’udi recognition of its independence. However, incursions by the imams against the UK protectorate in Aden continued until 1962.

There may be still some tribal ties across the border from that period. And Yemen is, as they tell us, another hotbed and rallying point for Al-Qaeda, but Al-Qaeda was founded and financed by Osama bin Laden who is a Saudi of Yemeni descent. Saudi Arabia has a long history of involvement in Yemen too:

In 1962, a revolution in Yemen ended over 1,000 years of rule by Zaydi Hashemites, who claimed descendance from the Prophet Mohammed.

Zaydism is a branch of Shia Islam, though its practices often appear closer to Sunni Islam than traditional Shia belief.

Saada, in the north, was their main stonghold and since their fall from power the region was largely ignored economically and remains underdeveloped.

During Yemen’s 1994 civil war, the Wahhabis, an Islamic group adhering to a strict version of Sunni Islam found in neighbouring Saudi Arabia, helped the government in its fight against the secessionist south.

Zaydis complain the government has subsequently allowed the Wahabis too strong a voice in Yemen.

It seems that Saudi Arabia is intervening everywhere to establish its version of Islam, Wahhabi Islam – which bin Laden preaches also –  and that one of the obstacles to its domination of Islam are the Shi’as and, of course, Iran.

Shi’ites are regularly targeted in Pakistan and Afghanistan by pro-Taliban militants. Sixteen were killed only recently in Pakistan, women and children among them, eleven were killed and beheaded in Afghanistan a few weeks back. Not to mention the regular attacks on Shia mosques in Pakistan, Iraq and now Iran.

Wahhabi Islam is making progress elsewhere too, namely in the United States, where from the rubble of the 9/11 attacks a 13-story Mosque will rise.

Somehow, it just doesn’t look like Iran is the real problem here. The only question that needs to be answered is, why is it in the interest of the United States and Israel to spread an intolerant fundamentalist Wahhabi/Salafi Islam all over the planed including in their own countries? It looks rather like a self-defeating strategy, in which Western values like democracy, freedom and human rights are sacrificed on the altar of power in the quest of world domination.

Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah died in Lebanon

Sayyed Fadlallah

Sayyed Fadlallah - Image Source:

Several newschannels are communicating the death of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah, an influential Shia cleric often regarded as the spiritual guide of Hezbollah. He died at the age of 74 in Beirut. From Fars News:

Lebanon’s leading Shia Muslim cleric, a key figure in the founding of Hezbollah, has died aged 74, hospital sources have said.

Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah died in a Beirut hospital on Sunday where he was admitted on Friday for internal bleeding.

Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was regarded as Hezbollah’s spiritual guide after it was founded in 1982.

A vocal critic of the United States, Ayatollah Fadlallah used to slam US warmongering policies in the Middle East, particularly its alliance with Israel.

Born in Najaf, Iraq, Fadlallah studied Islamic sciences in Najaf before moving to Lebanon in 1952.

In the following decades, he delivered many lectures, engaged in intense scholarship, wrote dozens of books, founded several Islamic religious schools, and established the Mabarrat Association.

Through that association he established a public library, a women’s cultural center, and a medical clinic.

The Grand Ayatollah was the target of several assassination attempts, including the CIA-sponsored and Saudi-funded March 8, 1985 Beirut car bombing that killed 80 people.

Here is what Al Manar, a Lebanase newspaper, writes:

Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohamad Hussein Fadlallah was not only a Muslim reference and authority but rather one of the most prominent contemporary religious authorities in the Islamic World.

His great experience in teaching jurisprudence as well as his constant monitoring of the latest trends and literature of the major religious schools have enabled him to launch his own school and to be followed by thousands of Muslim believers in Lebanon and the region.

But Sayyed Fadlallah was not only remarkable for his religious position and status. His eminence was in fact a remarkable intellectual who was described as the spiritual leader of the Resistance in Lebanon and the region.

The Arab-Israeli conflict, the Palestinian cause, the US hegemony, patriotism and the State were always raised by Sayyed Fadlallah whether in his Friday sermons, lectures, writings, or speeches.
Sayyed Fadlallah issued different “fatwa”s calling to fight Israel and boycott American goods and ban normalizing of relations, and was a “true supporter” of Islamic unity all over his life.
Read more at Al Manar (English)

Find a biography of Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Muhammed Hussein Fadlallah at the Al Manar website.