Last year in Bahrain, there was an endless crackdown and persecution of human rights activists, as well as those that preceded it since the 2011 popular uprisings, there has been an endless crackdown and persecution of human rights activists. Yet the Trump administration and the British government, arguably two of the most influential actors in Bahrain, remained silent in the face of Al Khalifa’s atrocities against human rights defenders, especially within the Shia majority.

With regard to Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other perpetrators of human rights violations and fundamental freedoms, the US and British governments have authorized arms sales and lucrative transactions that underpin the principles of justice, democracy, peaceful dissent and freedom. They seem to regard Bahrain and its autocratic Sunni neighbors as “cash cows” with an endless source of money. Washington and London are constantly under pressure from hordes of retired lobbyists and diplomatic consultants, senior officers, businessmen, think tanks and academics who do business with autocrats and tribal potentates for to adopt a lenient attitude towards these repressive regimes.

America and Britain have always protected the freedom of speech, assembly and peaceful protest of their own people, but not peaceful protesters in Bahrain and elsewhere. Bahraini human rights activists have suffered severely from government repression, but Washington and London continue to treat the Bahraini regime with velvet gloves.

In a recent conversation with me, a Bahraini national educated in the United States expressed skepticism about the effectiveness of my frequent articles denouncing human rights violations in his country. He said, “You continue to write, but your government has given the go-ahead to the Bahraini regime to continue torturing peaceful dissidents without fear of retaliation or censorship by Washington.

He also argued that since the advent of the Trump administration, the strong men of Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others are now convinced that human rights are no longer an issue. condition for the continuation of US military aid. “Al Khalifa is fundamentally free to do what he wants with his people without any international responsibility, despite your country’s commitment to human rights and the values ​​of good governance,” he added.

In relations with non-European countries, have American decision makers since the beginning of 2017 considered human rights as an irrelevant tool of foreign policy? In the absence of any relief in the growing repression of the regime, the Bahraini national asked me if the new American vision of human rights became as selective in its application as the differentiation of President Trump between European countries like the Norway and non-Europeans, non-Europeans. white “s … hole” country. He assumed that his country was falling into the last category. Almost in sadness, he hinted that my articles and similar value-based writings are futile exercises.

After a public lecture I gave the other day, an American friend came to ask me, “Why should we worry about human rights in other countries, and why not let them do everything?” what do they want with their own people? as we get everything we need to protect our economic and military interest? ”

Since the Carter administration, US diplomats have used the US Department of State’s annual human rights report, which covers other countries’ human rights practices, to encourage these countries to treat their peoples fairly and effectively. fairly. The United States has often suspended or delayed foreign and military aid to a given country due to poor human rights.

This is what President Barack Obama did with Bahrain when he refused the sale of jet fighters while waiting for improvements in the regime’s human rights practices. When President Donald Trump also took office, he reportedly told the Bahraini regime not to worry about the demands of human rights and to continue as if nothing had happened. Bahrainis of course have their jets.

2017 and human rights in Bahrain

Amnesty International’s 2017 report on human rights in Bahrain contains two important conclusions. “The failure of the United Kingdom, the United States and other countries that have a weight on Bahrain to speak out against the disastrous decline in human rights in the country in the past year”, he argued, actually encouraged the government to step up its efforts to silence the few remaining dissenting voices.

Secondly, the report argues that “the majority of peaceful critics, be they human rights defenders or political activists, now believe that the risks of expressing their opinions have become too high in Bahrain”.

In its 2018 Global Human Rights Report, Human Rights Watch last year accused Bahrain of “continuing its downward spiral of human rights.” Sarah Leah Whitson, director of Human Rights Watch in the Middle East, said that “Bahrain’s tolerance vanished, erasing any progress made after pledging to make reforms following the troubles of 2011.”

In January 2017, the Bahraini regime executed three young Shiite men. In May, the regime closed the secular and liberal National Democratic Society (Wa’ad) because it was protesting the January executions. In June, the government closed al-Wasat, the country’s only independent newspaper.

In September 2017, the government imposed a ban on de facto travel to 20 human rights activists, which prevented them from participating in human rights meetings in Europe. On Christmas Day 2017, the regime’s courts, following mock trials, sentenced 14 activists to death. Over the past year, the government has begun targeting families and relatives of activists. The targets of the regime’s repressive measure include “human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political activists, Shiite clerics and peaceful protesters,” according to Amnesty International.

According to the Human Rights Watch report, in 2017, the government stripped 156 Bahrainis of their nationality, rendering them stateless. On Wednesday, 31 January 2018, Amnesty International reported that the Bahraini government had expelled two Bahrainis who had been stripped of their nationality in Iraq two days earlier. Other Bahrainis whose nationality was revoked earlier were also informed that they would be deported this month.

“Using a range of law enforcement tools, including harassment, arbitrary detention and torture, the Bahraini government has managed to crush a once flourishing civil society and reduce it to a few lonely voices that still dare to speak out. “. Luther, Amnesty International’s Director of Research and Advocacy for the Middle East and North Africa. During my travels to Bahrain since the 1970s, I witnessed a vibrant civil society in Bahrain, which has been decimated by the regime over the last decade but especially since the February 2011 uprising.

Feeling strengthened by the Trump administration’s implicit acquiescence in the regime’s crackdown, the Bahraini government launched a widespread assault on the Duraz village, the home of the Shiite Shiite cleric Sheikh Isa Qassem. Protesters were arrested and tortured and, as in the past, some of them were deprived of their Bahraini nationality.

Bahrain security agencies, including the Bahraini National Security Agency (ANS), have submitted Nabeel Rajab, Bahrain’s famous human rights defender – and other defenders, including Ebtisam al-Saegh – to atrocious torture. Al-Saegh also suffered sexual assault. In July 2017, Rajab was sentenced to two years in prison for giving interviews to media criticizing the deteriorating human rights situation in the country. The Bahrain Court of Cassation dismissed his appeal on January 16, 2018. His health deteriorated in prison because the government refused him the medicine he needed. These stories of abuse and the like are detailed in current reports by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Is there a way to move forward?

If the Trump administration no longer views human rights as an important or effective tool of foreign policy and if the national interest and security of the United States can be guaranteed without such a tool, Bahrain and other authoritarian countries will continue probably their shift to repression. . Without accountability and the threat of sanctions, the abuses of the regime of the Shiite majority in the country will deteriorate considerably. Relying on the Saudi use of Sunni sectarianism against Shiite Iran, the Al Khalifa regime is projecting itself as the guardian of Sunni Islam. Repressing the Shia majority has become a means to this end. The regime has conveniently forgotten the recent history of Sunni terrorism, which was mainly funded by supporters in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and other states of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Several Sunni Arabs in Bahrain have fought and died for ISIS in Syria since the 2011 Arab uprisings.

If, on the other hand, US policymakers conclude that freedom, democracy and good governance are in the long run a more effective tool for promoting national interests and protecting Americans, autocratic regimes like Al Khalifa and others, should be put in place. notice that their time is up. If they want to do business with the United States, they have to treat their people in a decent and fair way. The history of the last century has taught that dictatorship and militarism, whether in Germany, Japan, Italy, Russia, Cambodia or elsewhere, are doomed to fail and, in fact, have collapsed. Arab dictatorships in Bahrain and elsewhere are no exception.

The principle of freedom and justice for all has stood the test of time. The Trump administration would do well to convey this message of the Declaration of Independence to Bahrain and other banana dictatorships.


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