Arrests and Deportations Follow F1; Al-Khawaja Trial Postponed
#OpBahrain is the hashtag given to hacker group Anonymous’ most recent target: the Bahrain government and its Formula One (F1) race. After taking down the F1 website, Anonymous called for an end to violence from all sides, and a concerted effort toward reform by the government. Eight women, peacefully protesting for the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, were arrested and reportedly beaten by security forces. A team of Channel Four reporters from the U.K., led by Jonathan Miller, were arrested and deported. Dr Ala’a Shehabi was arrested with the media team, and her arm was slammed in a car door by riot police. Today the appeals court once again postponed the hearing for al-Khawaja and 20 other democracy activist leaders until April 30th. Al-Khawaja entered his 75th day of hunger strike and 4th day without essential fluids. His daughter, Zainab al-Khawaja, was arrested again for protesting for her father’s release, and has been referred to the Public Prosecution.
Saudi-owned media Al Arabiya correspondent Sami al-Awar says the Bahrain government is simply a victim of bad publicity. However, others continue to disagree. Simeon Kerr writes in Financial Times that the F1 cannot hide Bahrain’s stalled reforms, and cites the appeal hearing’s postponement as a clear example of the lack of progress in the government. Marc Lynch criticizes Bahrain’s government for its lack of reform, and says, “I hope that the international backlash this week and the mounting signs of the unsustainability of their domestic strategy pushes Bahrain’s leaders to rethink their approach.”
Ed Husain has gotten some severe backlash for his recent tweets and blog post about Bahrain, that have been openly pro-government. Blog site The Arabist pulled tweets from Husain’s account, adding its own commentary in response to the pro-government and anti-opposition blurbs. Hussein Ibish says Husain’s views on Bahrain, and additionally about Syria, are an “embarrassment” to the Council on Foreign Relations.