Bahrain’s Renewed Crackdown on Opposition since the 2014 Election

In 2011, amid uprising across the region, hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis poured into the streets to demand change after decades of authoritarian rule. The government would later quash these protests violently with the help of security forces from other GCC countries. Under United States and international pressure, Bahrain established the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to investigate allegations of serious crimes committed by the government against its citizens.

The resulting BICI report documented extensive violations and offered 26 recommendations for the government to undertake in order to address ongoing grievances. King Hamad accepted the report, promising to pursue reforms aimed at improving social freedoms and liberalizing the country. While the government did implement some of the BICI’s recommendations, most of the recommendations have still not been meaningfully implemented according to U.S. government and independent assessments.

After a period of quiet repression and less heavy-handed tactics, since late-2014 the Government of Bahrain has engaged in a systematic crackdown on political opponents in an attempt to silence dissent. Manama has arrested, re-arrested, and imprisoned dozens of activists, shuttered opposition groups, institute travel bans on human rights defenders, and stripped hundreds of Bahrainis of their citizenship, including the prominent cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim.

Justin Gengler, a prominent Bahrain analyst, attributes the government’s increased repression to its leverage over its Western allies. Gengler notes that with the rise of the Islamic State, the United States and the West found themselves in “immediate material need of Bahrain and the other Arab Gulf states, rather than the usual reverse relationship.” The Bahraini government is “confident in its ability to handle the inevitable domestic and international fallout of redoubled political repression,” according to Gengler.

POMED has created the timeline below identifying key actions in Bahrain’s escalating campaign against civil society, human rights defenders, and opposition leaders since the country’s 2014 parliamentary elections. We will update the timeline regularly to reflect the latest developments.