The following letter was sent on Sept. 10 to Secretary of State Clinton, urging application of the Leahy Law to immediately suspend further U.S. military assistance and arms transfers to units of the security forces of Bahrain which have engaged in human rights violations against non-violent, pro-democracy protesters, as required by U.S. law. The letter was signed by: Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, International Federation for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights First, Freedom House, Physicians for Human Rights, Project on Middle East Democracy, Just Foreign Policy, Open Society Foundations, Human Rights Watch, and the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society.
More than 1500 prisoners are currently observing an open-ended hunger strike in defense of basic human rights: the right not to be detained without charge, the right not to be subjected to sustained solitary confinement, the right to be visited by one's family. Two of the prisoners have been on hunger strike for more than 70 days and have been widely reported to be "near death."
Is it possible that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton could say a few words about this situation?
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon finally said something under pressure. So did the European Union. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Human Rights Watch have spoken up. There was a report in the New York Times; before that, there was a report in the Washington Post.
But so far, Secretary of State Clinton hasn't said boo. Is it impossible that she could say something?
What might happen if a bunch of Americans tried to put pressure on Hillary to speak up?
Bahrain International Airport - When I came to Bahrain, it certainly wasn't with the intention of spending my whole time in the country in the airport. I wanted to see what was going on in the country, not to see what was going on in the airport.
But the Bahrain authorities would not let me enter the country. At this writing, it's 5 PM local time. My flight got in at 2:15 AM. I have been informed that the Director of Immigration has decided that I shall not have a visa to enter Bahrain - although in the past it was the practice of the Bahrain authorities to give visas to Americans in the airport pretty much automatically - so the authorities are saying that the only way I am leaving the airport is on a plane out of the country. At this writing, it looks like I could be in the airport for another 36 hours.
Other observers managed to get in, and you can see their reports at Witness Bahrain. [You can't see that website if you live in Bahrain though - it's blocked here by the Bahrain authorities.] But if you're in the U.S., you can read reports on Witness Bahrain on the protests marking the first anniversary of the uprising for democracy, and the Bahrain government's response to those protests. I won't be able to contribute to those reports, since, sitting in the airport, I won't be able to observe the protests and the government response.
However, I did learn something useful, sitting in the airport, waiting with a bunch of other foreigners for permission to enter the country.
I learned that the government of Bahrain is starting to pay a real price for its efforts to shield its actions towards peaceful protesters from international scrutiny.
Since there is not much time before the letter closes for signatures, calling your representatives would help. Just follow these simple instructions:
- Call the Congressional Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- Ask for your representative's office.
- When your representative's office picks up, tell them that you urge your representative to sign the Wyden-McGovern letter to oppose any new arms sales to Bahrain. The deadline for signatures is Wednesday close of business.
- If you are speaking to your Representative in the House, tell them to contact Mike McVicker in Rep. McGovern's office to sign.
- If you are speaking to one of your Senator's offices, tell them to contact Isaiah Akin in Sen. Wyden's office to sign.
- When you're done, make sure you report your call below!
Just Foreign Policy joined with the Project on Middle East Democracy, Human Rights Watch, the AFL-CIO and other groups and individuals in sending a letter to Secretary of State Clinton, urging her to press the government of Bahrain for concrete measures to improve the human rights situation, including the release of medical professionals and other political prisoners, the reinstatement of workers who were dismissed, and access for international journalists.
The letter is here.
Folks who claim that it doesn't matter who we elect to represent us in the House of Representatives or how we press them once they get there should be compelled to confront a new piece of evidence: a report from Bahrain of a recent meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation and representatives of Wefaq, the largest political party in Bahrain. The report illustrates a key political fact about the world in which we live: some of the most progressive Congressional districts in the country, districts that won't elect a Republican unless the Democratic incumbent is caught red-handed in a major crime the week before the election, are represented by people who, when the curtains of big media are drawn, oppose the basic human rights that most Americans take for granted.
People in these Congressional districts could, if they wished, be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights. The key obstacle to this development isn't ideology or corporate power per se. It's the lack of effective channels for communicating to voters what their Representatives in the House are doing on foreign policy issues. This lack is of course a symptom of corporate domination of the media. But the media isn't totally under the control of corporations, and thanks to the internet, we can now communicate with each other for free. So this problem could be solved through effective organization, and every progressive district in the country could be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights.
This is a report from Bahrain of a meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation and democracy activists in Bahrain.
*Wefaq meeting with the congressional delegation*
On 17/10/11, 5 Wefaqi members, A.Jalil Khalil, Jassim Hussain, Jameel AlJamri, Matar Matar and Amal Habib met with the congressional delegation visiting Bahrain. The delegation included U.S. Congressman Eni Faleomavaega(D-AS), Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ). We explained thoroughly the situation in Bahrain and introduced Manama document.
The response of the delegation did not meet our expectation as it did not show enough understanding for the legitimate demands for reform . They started their speech by saying that Bahrain is an important strategic ally to US which is running short of friends in the region, and that the fifth fleet presence in Bahrain is vital to US which might not have any other alternative in the region. Then they were very critical of Wefaq boycotting the elections and being out of the system now, and without asking or listening to the reasons why Wefaq decided to boycott they asked Wefaq to find a way to cooperate with the new MPs who are, as they said, mixed Shia and Sunni and are neutral, to find ways to change within the system.
Instead of talking about reconciliation and dialogue between the opposition and the government which was mentioned by President Obama in his last speech, they showed full support to Bahrain government steps. They stressed on side issues and found it excuses for not supporting democracy in Bahrain.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then "#occupy" protesters around the world this weekend just gave the Arab Spring an Academy Award. Of course the chain of inspiration of freedom and justice seekers is unending in history, but there's no question that the Arab Spring opened a new chapter which is inspiring people to protest for justice worldwide.
No doubt at this historical moment many people in the U.S. will be preoccupied, as they should be, more with how #occupywallstreet is going than with how the Arab Spring is going. But we still have reason to pay some attention to the Arab Spring.
Drawing inspiration from outside our immediate environment sometimes allows us to leapfrog over the crusty preconceptions of our historical surroundings. One thing #occupywallstreet, like the Wisconsin uprising, has had in common with Cairo has been an explicit appeal for solidarity to the "security forces." In Cairo, they chanted: "The army and the people are one hand!" In Madison, the conduct of the mobilization for public employee rights defeated efforts of the Walker administration to split the police politically from other public employees. Today #occupy protesters are telling police, "You are the 99%!" You could look at the police as armed employees of the state who have to follow orders to "maintain public order," or you could look at them as public employees who are largely unionized members of the working class and who often have a lot of discretion in how they interpret their mandate to "maintain public order." Not arresting protesters is a perfectly legitimate tool for keeping the peace, and most police officers and officials know that well. As mom told us when we were little, honey usually beats vinegar.
Pressure is building on the Obama administration to delay a proposed arms sale to Bahrain, which brutally suppressed its pro-democracy movement and continues to squash dissent, the Washington Post reports.
The Pentagon wants to sell $53 million worth of armored Humvees and anti-tank missiles to Bahrain, a plan slammed by human rights groups, who want the U.S. to end its silence on the crackdown in Bahrain.
This week, five Senators - Sens. Casey, Durbin, Cardin, Menendez, and Wyden - weighed in against the arms sale in a letter to Secretary of State Clinton: