Bahrain Crackdown Bolstered by Allies’ Signals
A report by Frederic Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment describes how the use of arrests, media censorship, warnings to Shia clerics, and increasingly aggressive counter-demonstration tactics against opposition groups is leading to an increasingly militarized and rejectionist movement against the Bahraini government. Discussions about transforming the GCC, a move that would lead to closer ties between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and Washington’s decision to restart arms sales to the island nation, have further emboldened Bahrain’s ruling family.
Brian Dooley of Human Rights First writes of the increasing use of the media to target activists in Bahrain such as a group of prominent activists who were defamed in the Gulf Daily News. The group had recently returned from the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Dooley also describes the practice of publishing photos of activists leading up to their arrest. Yousif Almuhafda of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights recently had his photo published in the media along with accusations that he had “told lies to the media.”
Limits to free speech are growing increasingly draconian writes Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, as the number of activists jailed, in some cases for life, for calling for democratic reforms continues to grow. Social media, says Dooley, is being used as a tool for threatening activists and Colangelo-Bryan points out that it is also a new realm in which freedom of speech is actively suppressed.
Elsewhere, Bahrain passed legislation to protect the rights of migrant workers following a visit with India. Manama and New Delhi signed several agreements including deals aimed at boosting trade and curbing tax evasion during the two day visit. The law aimed at protecting migrant workers was based on a Memorandum of Understanding between India and Bahrain that was signed during the countries’ last visit in 2007.