Bahrain has a population of less than 800,000, 70 percent of them practicing Shias; however, this tiny Arab country is renowned for its longstanding tradition of suppressing the Shia majority, exercising inhumane methods of torturing, imprisoning the political activists, putting restrictions on the mass media and exploiting foreign workers for various purposes.
When Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa assumed the throne as the king of Bahrain in 2001, the situation of human rights in this country was quite deplorable and alarming. According to a report by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, several people were incarcerated during anti-government demonstrations or public gatherings and sent to prisons for lengthy periods of time, tortured by loathsome methods such as sleep deprivation or sexual assault. “On 17 December, 2007 on Martyrs’ Day aimed at paying tribute to past victims of torture, members of the Special Security Forces began a wave of arrests targeting more than 60 individuals, among them over 10 activists. Within the month of February 2009, several key human rights defenders in Bahrain were arbitrarily arrested and detained including Abbas Abdul Aziz Al-Umran, Sayed Sharaf Ahmed, Ali Hassan Salman, and Jaafar Kadhim Ebrahim,” the report says.
In a flagrant and indefensible movement, King Hamad issued Bahrain’s Royal Decree 56 in 2002 which entrusted legal and judicial impunity to the government officials, state police forces and all of those who were involved in the cases of human rights abuse in Bahrain. The UN Committee against Torture condemned this decision; however, the Bahraini monarch was quite satisfied with the result of his “royal decision” and even paved the ground for the promotion of a number of those officials and state police forces who had committed human rights abuses during the 1990s.
The UN Committee against Torture explicitly asked the Bahraini government to dissolve the royal Decree 56 and allow the federal courts to investigate the possible crimes against humanity which the Bahraini police officers and other security forces had perpetrated, but the government of King Hamad refused to heed the international calls and impeded the prosecution of wrongdoers who had mercilessly tortured political dissidents and human rights activists in the jails of Manama.
According to the statistics released by the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, there are currently 514 political prisoners in Bahrain, 116 of them are children. Some of the Bahraini political activists who were imprisoned for speaking out against the injustice administered by the government retold heartrending accounts of the torture and persecution they were subject to while in the underground prisons of Bahraini monarchy.
“Since my arrest when I was taken to an underground prison, I have been severely tortured. They used electric shocks, my eyes were blindfolded and my hands tied behind my back. I was not allowed to sleep for the first 5-6 days,” said one of the prisoners upon his release, asking to remain anonymous.
“Due to the severity of the beatings on my head and ears, both my ear drums have torn. Some nights I bled due to the severity of the beatings as well as the electric shocks,” said another prisoner in an article posted on the website of Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
But the persecution of political dissidents and activists in Bahrain has been so all-encompassing and broad that even the international organizations in the countries with which Bahrain has developed close diplomatic ties couldn’t remain silent in the face of the grave violation of human rights in this Persian Gulf country.
Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, the Chairman of the Human Rights Committee of the Haq Movement was arrested on August 13, 2010, only one day after King Hamad demagogically appealed to the critics of the government and opposition leaders in exile to return to their country and enjoy freedom of expression and action.
Dr. Abdul Jalil and his family members were arrested on the morning of August 13 in the Manama Airport, simply one day after the King of Bahrain promised increased freedoms for the government critics and opposition leaders.
Several other political activists were also arrested following the imprisonment of Dr. Abdul Jalil, who was residing in London and had attended a session of the House of Lords on August 5 and briefed the Parliament Members about the situation of human rights in Bahrain.
According to a report by the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar, the spokesman of the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture, Sheikh Saeed Al-Nouri and Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Miqdad, who have campaigned against political repression in the country, were arrested in early morning raids on their homes on August 16.
“According to a report by the UK-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, Abdul Ghani Al-Khanjar, the spokesman of the Committee of Martyrs and Victims of Torture, Sheikh Saeed Al-Nouri and Sheikh Mohammad Habib Al-Miqdad, who have campaigned against political repression in the country, were arrested in early morning raids on their homes on August 16.”
Three weeks after the widespread imprisonments which encompassed the whole Bahrain such a striking thunderstorm, the Human Rights Watch called on the Bahraini government to release the arrested opposition leaders and make sure about their physical and mental health; however, reports leaked out from the prisons in which they were kept incommunicado showed that the government of Bahrain had treated Dr. Abdul Jalil and his fellow activists in the most aggressive and cruel way.
Upon his release from the prison, Dr. Abdul Jalil told the Bahrain’s Attorney General that he was handcuffed and blindfolded the entire time he spent in jail. He said that his captors beat him on his fingers with a hard instrument, slapped him around, and pulled and twisted his nipples and ears with tongs.
Interestingly, Bahrain is a member state to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. According to the Article 9 of this convention, “anyone who is arrested shall be informed, at the time of arrest, of the reasons for his arrest and shall be promptly informed of any charges against him,” and “shall be brought promptly before a judge or other officer authorized by law to exercise judicial power.” However, Bahrain has never clung to this rules and abused the human rights in the most brutal ways.
Bahrain Youth Society For Human Rights is an active organization which reports the cases of human rights violations in this Arab country. According to reports published by this organization, the three opposition groups of Bahrain Freedom Movement, the Haq Movement and the Al-Wafa Islamic Movement are constantly harassed by the government and many of their members are imprisoned without any trial and tortured without any warrant, justification or explication.
The website of Bahrain Youth Society For Human Rights has published tear-jerking pictures and photos of the Bahrainis who were subject to the brutal torturing of the country’s police and security forces. These pictures depict the severe physical damages which are inflicted on the Bahraini youths who were imprisoned during the demonstrations and public gatherings and the political activists who were jailed while they were in their homes.
Overall, Bahrain in which an all-out revolution against the 40-year uncontested monarchy is looming doesn’t have a healthy and pure human rights record. What people in this Arab country want is freedom, improved living conditions and an end to the discriminatory treatment with the Shias. Will the Bahraini dictators finally heed the calls of their people?