Last week, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate met with the crown prince of Bahrain and “reaffirmed” the United States’ “strong commitment” to the regime of unelected autocrats. The Peace Laureate — who in his acceptance of the Prize wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi — also “expressed strong support” for the regime’s “ongoing efforts to initiate national dialogue … [and] forge a just future for all Bahrainis.”
President Obama had dropped in a meeting the prince was having with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who likewise extolled the autocrats for their “national dialogue” and “important work.”
There is indeed “important work” going on in Bahrain these days, and the autocratic regime’s “ongoing efforts to initiate dialogue” — the campaign lauded by the Laureate — are quite vigorous. Here, for example, The Independent details a case study of just how the crown prince and his family’s regime is pursuing “national dialogue” in the manner so warmly approved by the presidential peacenik:
Bahraini security forces beat the detained poet Ayat al-Gormezi across the face with electric cable and forced her to clean with her bare hands lavatories just used by police, members of her family said yesterday in a graphic account of the torture and humiliation suffered by those rounded up in the Gulf nation’s crackdown on dissent.
The 20-year-old trainee teacher, who spent nine days in a tiny cell with the air conditioning turned to freezing, is due back in court this weekend on charges of inciting hatred, insulting the king and illegal assembly, and her family fear she may suffer further mistreatment in custody amid threats of another round of interrogation.
Masked police arrested Ayat at her home on 30 March for reciting a poem criticising the monarchy during a pro-democracy rally in the capital Manama in February. … The details of her interrogation and imprisonment are similar to the experiences of other women detained by Bahraini security forces since they launched a full scale repression on 15 March against all those demanding democratic reform in the island kingdom.
Ayat gave herself up to police after they threatened to kill her brothers. She was taken away in a car with two security officials – a man and a woman – both of whom were masked and dressed in civilian clothes. They immediately started to beat her and threaten her, saying she would be raped and sexually assaulted with degrading photographs of her put on the internet.
… While Ayat was meeting her family during the arraignment, a policeman overheard her giving details of her mistreatment. He said that if she continued to do so, she would be returned to the interrogation centre and tortured again.
This is what the regime of the honored and lauded crown prince is doing to those who dare to state publicly their desire to have a democratic government. This is the “national dialogue” which last week was given a highly public imprimatur of approval from the administration of the Nobel Peace Laureate.
One wonders sometimes how his head can bear up under those laurels, caked and heavy as they are with dried blood, clots of viscera and vast heavings of hypocrisy.
Of course, the treatment being meted out to 20-year-old unarmed poets by the Obama-lauded, Clinton-approved Bahraini regime is just the tip of the iceberg. The repression is deep, brutal, violent — and backed up by military forces from that other highly approved autocracy in the region: Saudi Arabia. (Where Hillary Clinton would be put in jail if she dared to drive a car.)
As usual, you can find more on Bahrain — including direct reports from the ground and copious links to media sources (such as that radical journal, The Economist) — at the site of As’ad AbuKhalil, the “Angry Arab.” He keeps a sharp and scornful eye on the crimes and follies committed on all the sinister operators — imperial meddlers, local thugs, unctuous collaborationists, repressive sectarians — in the region. For example, here’s a recent post:
Bahraini comrades sent me this: “As you may know the oppressors in Bahrain are targeting professional women arresting from their places of work or study. Many have disappeared into military style prisons and have not had access to lawyers or their families. The few who have been released report sexual attacks, verbal and physical insults and threats and other forms of torture. I attach for your attention a spreadsheet with the names of only 55 of these detainess. You will note that one of those arrested is a pregnant woman who happens to be the wife of an activist. Many others are young women in their early 20’s. One of these young ladies is a poet and a student teacher who was arrested after 4 of her brothers were threatened at gunpoint to turn their sister in. No other Arabic regime has used torture and arrest against women to crush protests in this systematic and brutal manner. Yet media outlets in the west and Aljazeera Arabic are largely silent on these abuses in stark and shameful contrast to the coverage given to other protests.”
Jane sent me this (I cite with her permission): “I guess you saw the news that four men have been sentenced to death today by a military court that convicted them of killing two policemen during the uprising. Today Bahrain TV aired a “documentary” that gives full details, including televised “confessions” from several of the men. …”
As some people have asked, why would defendants who were pleading “not guilty” make confessions on camera? The names of those confessing aren’t given, but Chanad, an eagle-eyed blogger/tweep, pointed out that the first man “confessing” (six minutes into the programme) appears to be Ali Isa Saqer. Mr Saqer was one of the people detained in connection with the killings, but he was not sentenced yesterday. That’s because he already died in custody in early April. Human Rights Watch, which saw his body, said it bore signs of “horrific abuse”. He was buried on April 10th.
Frank Gardner of the BBC wrote about him recently ….:
“Accused of trying to run over a policeman during a protest, Ali Isa al-Saqer had handed himself over to police after his family say they were threatened. Six days later he died in their custody, the authorities say he fought his jailers. His family, seeing his battered body for the first time since his arrest, collapsed in howls of grief; his wounds were quite simply horrific.
Beaten black and blue, his lacerated back resembled a bloody zebra; he appeared to have been whipped with heavy cables, his ankles and wrists manacled. I brought up his case with the health minister, Dr Fatima al-Beloushi, who is also minister for human rights. At first she said that the opposition had altered the images to invent the lacerations. But when I replied that we had been to the funeral and seen them ourselves she immediately promised a full investigation.”
Beaten black and blue. Whipped with heavy cables. Battered to death. By agents of powers approved and backed and armed and trained by Washington — powers, which, like their Potomac mentors, simply lie about their crimes — or blame the victims themselves.
Again, I say what I have said here over and over (and will keep on saying): This is what you are supporting, enabling and continuing when you support the Obama Administration. Whether that support is wholehearted — if you, like Kevin Drum, proudly shut down you own brain and defer supinely to Obama’s superior wisdom — or whether it is reluctant, defensive, “to keep the other guys out” because you desperately hope the Democrats might possibly be marginally better, the results are still the same: murder, brutality, violence, corruption, chaos and suffering.
If that’s what you want to support — if you feel for whatever reason that this is the best, most honorable, moral, productive course to take — then that’s your right, of course. But be aware of what that choice really means — in actual lives of real human beings, right now, at this minute, and far into the future. Don’t pretend that you don’t know; don’t pretend that you aren’t saying, “I will pull the trigger and kill this little child to make the world a better place.”