By Les Neuhaus - Mintpress news
December was not the best month for Bahrain. The tiny island nation was the center of 745 protests, 183 arrests and 207 home raids during the month, according to a report released last week by the country’s Liberties and Human Rights Department in al-Wefaq Society, a human rights body monitoring unrest in the country that is also affiliated with the political opposition.
Sayed Hadi al-Musawi, who heads the group, also said there had been 17 cases of torture. He said 400 of the protests had been “repressed by Bahrain security forces, causing injuries to protesters and suffocation among inhabitants inside homes as a collective punishment.”
According to the neutral Bahrain Center for Human Rights, though restrictive laws are already on the books in Bahrain and used by the authorities to criminalize freedom of expression, much harsher punishments were proposed and approved by the government. They allow police to crackdown on what is arbitrarily interpreted as “insulting the King.” The new law allows for long prison sentences that could reach up to seven years and significant financial fines.
‘We are the Giant’
Maryam Al-Khawaja, currently in exile from Bahrain in the U.S., is the acting president for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Her father, Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja has been in a Bahraini jail since 2011. Her uncle and sister are also being held in prison at this time.
A documentary is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah this week called, “We are the Giant,” directed by Greg Barker, who is a former war-correspondent-turned-filmmaker who has worked in more than 50 countries across six continents. His previous films include “Ghosts of Rwanda;” “Sergio,” which won the documentary editing award at Sundance in 2009; “Koran by Heart;” and “MANHUNT,” which premiered at Sundance last year and went on to win a Primetime Emmy Award.
“We are the Giant” follows several people in Bahrain, Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring. The two individuals Barker chose for Bahrain are Maryam and her sister Zainab. She said she is not affiliated with any of the opposition or political groups.
“I think that if the regime is serious at all about a dialogue then they need to take trust-building steps, like releasing all political prisoners and ending the daily crackdown, and include the opposition leaders who are imprisoned,” Al-Khawaja, 26, told MintPress on Friday from Park City, Utah, during her U.S. visit. “To have a successful dialogue the regime needs to create an environment in which a dialogue can actually succeed, which is not the case at the moment.”
She maintains the human rights situation is deteriorating
“We continue to document systematic torture, enforced disappearances, house raids by masked men in civilian clothes, [the] systematic use of sectarianism as a tool, attacks on all forms of protests — the list is very long,” she said.
Foreign governments are ignoring events in Bahrain, she claims, because it “is an inconvenient revolution, due to geopolitical and economic interest the West has with the Gulf Cooperation Council monarchies.
“Governments that claim to hold human rights and democracy as cornerstones of their foreign policy turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the human rights situation (in Bahrain) because of economic and short-sighted security interests.”