“Come….. Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’…….” Bob Dylan (Happy Birthday)
On Bob Dylan’s birthday, it is appropriate to put some of the lyrics of his song that is most relevant to the current changing times in our region. Robert Allen Zimmerman, potentially almost a good Muslim name in this ugly age of religious and sectarian strife. He said “Please heed the call” and two Arab despots have already been forced to heed the call of revolution: Mubarak and Bin Ali. Tunisia and Egypt have gone some way in their revolutions, but they still face danger and counterrevolution. Two others, Saleh of Yemen and Qaddafi of Libya seem to be on their way out, but it will take time. Assad of Syria is a mystery: it seems that the opposition is not united in any meaningful way and their public protests are disorganized compared to the others. The Far Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, and Mauretania) apparently will rise on their own schedule.
Which brings us to the toughest nut to crack: the Gulf, my Gulf. There have been protests in Oman, protests in eastern Saudi Arabia, and arrests of academics and journalists in the UAE. The real uprising has been in Bahrain: the people managed to defeat the security forces and foreign mercenaries of the ruling al-Khalifa clan on the street. They were on the verge of forcing their legitimate demands on the despots, before the al-Khalifa got outside help. Saudi tanks rolled into Bahrain (with some help from the UAE) and saved the despots, for now. The al-Saud have been the worst offenders in terms of not heeding the call: they have tried hard to abort and hijack the popular revolutions from Tunisia to the Gulf. The jury is out, but the writing is on the wall: the fear is gone from the Arab street. The fear is gone, and the times they are a-changin’ in the Middle East.
“Yesterday, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission — an entity within Congress chaired by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) charged with investigating human rights abuses — held a hearing titled “Human Rights in Bahrain,” designed to probe abuses against pro-democracy activists in the Arab monarchy. Noticeably absent among the witnesses testifying were any representatives from the U.S. government, which has been closely allied with Bahrain throughout the uprising and resulting humanitarian crisis. On the hearing’s website, you can see that both witnesses called from the State Department, William J. Burns and Jeffrey D. Feltman, declined to appear….. McClatchy reports that “scheduling conflicts” are the reason that the two officials did not appear, although no explanation is given why the State Department did not send replacements. “I was expecting at least one, possibly two witnesses from the State Department to testify,” said a disappointed McGovern. At the hearing, Human Right’s Watch’s Joe Stork stressed the need for a more forceful response from the United States, which has been very mute in reaction to the abuses in the country……..”
Some would say that Hillary Clinton and her boss Barack Obama were afraid to offend the moneybags of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. So, they have sacrificed the people of Bahrain and some in Saudi Arabia, as well as what they ‘used’ to profess to be their own principles.
I knew when Obama bowed so low in front of the absolute tribal polygamous king of Saudi Arabia that it was the beginning of something special. Before Obama the US was in the position of strength vis-a-vis Arab despots. It was always on the side of the despots, but it was the “decider”, as Bush liked to say. Now the Arab despots, the ones with money in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, are in the driver’s seat. Now Riyadh is the decider of US policy about the Gulf (the Persian-American Gulf), just as Tel Aviv is the decider of US policy about the Israeli-Palestinian-Lebanese issue.
The al-Khalifa regime and their Saudi occupation masters have now borrowed from the rape playbook of others in Bosnia and the Congo. They are using rape and the threat of it against the men and women in their custody. Here are afew tweets on the latest:
Our close ally, #Bahrain, has a consistent record of using sexual abuse of male and female detainees as a form of torture.”
My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was told that they were going to find me and rape me. #bahrain #Feb14”
“kristenchick Kristen Chick
Another defendant, Mohamed Hassan Jawad, tried to show marks of torture on legs during hearing today, was silenced, say witnesses “
“kristenchick Kristen Chick
“Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja’s wife crying on the phone as she recounted her husband’s story of attempted rape in #Bahrain govt custody”
“kristenchick Kristen Chick
Khadija Mossawi, wife of Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja, just told me how 4 men attempted to rape her husband in govt custody friday “
3. Court was adjourned until the 22nd of May and alkhawaja is supposed to get a head scan for possible injuries #bahrain”
“maryamalkhawaja Maryam Alkhawaja
2. They were 4 men and it was in a diff room than were they tried to force him to apologize #bahrain…”
“maryamalkhawaja 1. Corrections to former tweets: alkhawaja banged his head against the floor, he was taken out of the court when he tried to s #bahrain…..”
5. When he tried to tell the judge about this in court hearing today, he was silenced. #Bahrain…..”
4. They began to take off his pants; he was handcuffed & couldnt resist. He began banging his head against the wall until he was unconscious..”
3. He said show me what I have done wrong, and I will apologize. At that point the men took of their pants, he said, as if to rape him cont..”
One of the tweeters is the daughter of one of the threatened victims, which makes it quite agonizing for her to recount all this. Which makes me wonder if there is something ‘Freudian’ in this: if anyone ever raped or threatened to rape the shaikh (king) of Bahrain and his uncle Khalifa bin Salman (the prime minister).
“First they came for the Jews and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” Pastor Martin Niemöller
“Up to 50 doctors and nurses who treated anti-government protesters injured during the recent demonstrations in Bahrain were charged yesterday with acts against the state. In an escalation of the government crackdown on the protests, the medical staff were accused of “promoting efforts to bring down the government” and “harming the public by spreading false news” Some were also accused of causing the deaths of two demonstrators by “inflicting additional wounds” on them or of giving them “unneeded treatments.” In all 23 doctors and 24 nurses were charged and will be tried in a military court, the Justice Minister Khaled bin Ali Al Khalifa said. “The medical profession was strongly abused during this period,” he said. Medical organisations expressed outrage at the legal assault on the profession with health staff seized from their homes and hospitals taken over by the military. Under the Geneva convention people wounded in conflict are guaranteed the right to medical care, regardless of which side they are on…….”
“Bahrain’s justice minister has said 47 medical workers will be charged with acting against the state during the recent unrest in the Gulf kingdom. The 23 doctors and 24 nurses had promoted efforts to bring down the Sunni monarchy and spread false news, Khaled Bin Ali Al Khalifa alleged. Activists say medics are being punished for treating pro-democracy protesters hurt in clashes with security forces. On Monday, two ex-MPs from main Shia opposition group Wifaq were arrested. Matar Matar and Jawad Fairuz were taken from their homes in the evening and had not been heard of since, members of Wifaq said……” BBC News
The al-Khalifa al-Saud pogrom is in full swing in Bahrain. But that is okay, they may get all these Bahrainis mentioned above in the title, but they’ll never get what counts the most: oil and weapons deals. Western democracy will be safe on my Gulf, under the protection of the princes of al-Saud and the shaikhs of al-Khalifa.
“Several foreign manpower recruitment offices in the Kingdom have urged the authorities to protect their interests and impose tighter regulations on the recruitment of Indonesian workers. They were responding to the Jakarta government’s decision to introduce rules to protect Indonesian workers in the Kingdom. The recruitment companies demanded the Saudi Embassy in Jakarta to draft a new bilateral agreement with new conditions for hiring domestic staff. The new agreement would consist of certain conditions aimed at safeguarding the rights of Saudi recruitment offices against exploitation, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported. It would include a provision compelling Indonesian manpower recruitment agents to bear the responsibility for offenses committed by maids they have recruited………. There is a growing demand from Saudi families to allow them to recruit housemaids from Nepal and Ethiopia. The recruitment charges from these countries range from SR5,500 to SR6,000, with a monthly salary of SR700. The recruitment procedures from these countries would take less than two months,” he pointed out…….”
This is a humanitarian issue all across the Arab world. In a couple of GCC states, I strongly suspect the number of Asian housemaids exceeds the number of native citizens. I ‘strongly’ suspect that is the case in the UAE and Qatar. Some governments do more: the Saudi government sends officials to ‘target’ source countries in Asia to negotiate down the ‘prices’ of housemaids to make them “affordable” for local citizens. Countries that do not agree on lower “prices” for housemaids are punished by banning human imports from them. Not very Islamic, is it?
But the situation may be worse in places like Jordan and Lebanon, although the numbers are fewer. Every week there are reports of one or two Asian maids either falling off the balcony, dying accidentally, or committing suicide in Lebanon. It is almost like being a political prisoner in occupied Bahrain under Apartheid these days: one can die of strange causes.
Speaking of Bahrain: I wish the working people of that captive country better luck and freedom in the near future. So many workers have been fired from their jobs in both the public and private sectors for expressing their opinions.So many Bahrainis have been imprisoned simply for doing their jobs: doctors, nurses, lawyers, teachers, journalists, etc. Many are being tortured, some sentenced to death by military kangaroo courts.
I also salute the workers of Tunisia and Egypt who joined their brothers and sisters in overthrowing the dictatorships, and for keeping their vigilance during the current treacherous period. I salute the workers of all Arab states whose revolutions are still ongoing: Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, Algeria, Mauretania, Jordan, and Morocco. Keep your vigilance: don’t let your revolution be hijacked by clones of the old regime, by former members of the old regimes, or by the old colonial masters. Nor by the despotic tribal absolute monarchies allied with the Salafi mercenaries.
I also salute the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and the United Arab Emirates who are striving, slowly and cautiously but in some cases very bravely, toward civil societies. It is a difficult task in these two police states. Many are in prison under these two regime for using their God-give right to freely express their opinions. Some have been tortured; the price of freedom.
Happy May Day.
A group of political activists, human rights activists, academics and opinion-makers in the Gulf GCC countries have issued a proclamation asking for: (a) release of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Oman- (b) an end to arrests and torture by Gulf regimes- (c) stopping the use of sectarianism to divide the peoples of the region- initiating political and economic reforms., amomg other needed steps.
I know some of the names on the list of signers, and they are respectable activists and political people and academics (most others I have never heard of). Many of the Saudi prisoners have been held for fifteen years WITHOUT TRIAL.
The contemptible ones: those are the ‘respectable’ ones, which brings me to the subject of the “others”, the not so respectable ones. What is interesting is not who signed this proclamation. It is who did not sign it. There are many known faces and names, academics and journalists and opinion-makers who did not sign it. These are mostly the ‘palace’ academics and journalists and opinion-makers, and there are so many of them on my (Persian-American) Gulf. The vast Saudi media (I can never over-estimate how vast it is; some day I shall list it all) and the nascent official and semi-official UAE media have first claim on many of these. These are the ones who spend a lot of time and “ink” and paper either denying or justifying oppression and midnight raids and mass arrests and torture and sectarianism across my Gulf. Many of them belong on a list of shame.
This proclamation has made the news, but mainly on the Internet or in non-Gulf media. I have not seen any reference to this proclamation in any ’mainstream’ GCC Gulf media, not even in the two GCC countries that are not listed among the oppressive torturer regimes. Not even in my hometown. At least I could not see any when I searched last night. Which makes me think of yet another list.