As the eyes of the world focus on London for the start of the 2012 Olympic Games a human rights organisation is using the city’s public transport system to draw attention to the continued suffering of people in the Middle East. Some 300 buses across the capital will be emblazoned with messages from the Islamic Human Rights Commission calling on people to embrace the spirit of the Olympics and support the struggle for justice in Palestine and the Gulf Kingdom of Bahrain. The messages are aimed at highlighting ongoing human rights abuses in the two countries.
Almost 20 years after the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn the peace process has done little to reverse Israeli expansionism and oppression of the Palestinian people. In fact Palestine retains the dubious distinction of being the country with the highest number of ignored United Nations resolutions against its name. Still stateless, the Palestinians have nevertheless sent a four-person team to compete in the Olympics.
The IHRC is urging people to support them and also their countrymen in the bigger struggle for justice and human rights. The IHRC is also calling for people to remember the citizens of Bahrain who have been subjected to decades of abuses and repression by the ruling family for simply demanding democratic reforms. Even though their struggle began long before the dawn of the Arab Spring, western powers have ignored the island’s majority in favour of an unholy strategic alliance with its ruling monarchy.
While the British government denied a visa to the head of the Syrian Olympic Committee to attend the Games, it has welcomed his Bahraini counterpart, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, despite well documented allegations that during the 2011 uprising he personally directed the arrests, night raids, detention, abuse and torture of 150 Bahraini athletes who had taken part in the protests.
The Chair of the IHRC Massoud Shadjareh hopes the publicity drive will help throw the spotlight on both “forgotten” issues. “One of the major aims of the Olympic Movement is to improve the human race, not only physically, but to give it a greater nobility of spirit, and to strengthen understanding and friendship amongst peoples. We want this aim to be embraced by political leaders, civil society organisations and ordinary people alike.”
Both messages carry original artwork from Brazillian cartoonist, Carlos Latuff.