Bahrain regime waging war on own people
By Finian Cunningham
The US-backed Bahraini regime is mounting an undeclared, merciless war on the majority Shia population of the tiny Persian Gulf island.
Yet, this systematic crime against humanity is proceeding with impunity and barely a murmur of international protest. The regime may be the ones holding the gun, but it is the tacit support of Washington and London that allows these despots to pull the trigger on civilians.
And the murderous repression by the unelected Sunni monarchy is going into overdrive. This week, regime forces killed a 17-year-old boy when they shot him at close range in the head. The regime immediately smeared the victim by labeling him “a terrorist” and it was dutifully reported in this slanderous way.
Meanwhile, four youths were sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on the basis of confessions obtained by torture – the latest in hundreds of other such cases. They were accused of being “terrorists” and attempting to kill police officers with petrol bombs.
A senior political opposition figure, Khalil Marzooq, was earlier detained on charges of “inciting terrorism”. He is currently facing prosecution. If convicted, which is almost a certainty because the courts are appointed by the Khalifa monarchy, Marzooq will join dozens of other Bahraini opposition leaders behind bars also accused of “terrorism”.
Journalists, bloggers, photographers, poets, lawyers, teachers, human rights defenders have also been jailed, accused of “terrorism”. President of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, Mohammed al Maskati, was this week hauled in for interrogation, accused of “inciting terrorism”.
Al Maskati was targeted because a few weeks ago he gave testimony to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the regime’s escalating violations. His colleagues, Naji Fateel, Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi Al Khawaja – all internationally respected human rights defenders – are already facing years behind bars on trumped up charges of sedition and terrorism.
In other words, every man, woman and child in Bahrain who opposes the illegitimate rule of the Khalifa dictatorship is deemed to be “a terrorist”.
The regime always had carte blanche to use whatever violence and repression it liked for crushing peaceful protests. But now, under the tutelage of its political patrons in Washington and London, the Khalifa regime has cloaked its despotism with pseudo-legal powers and propaganda that allow for the complete criminalization of any dissent or demand for democracy.
To assist in this barbarism, the Bahraini rulers have enlisted top American and British “public relations” media firms. Bell Pottinger and Hill & Knowlton are among the Western disinformation agents who earn million-dollar contracts to launder the bloodstained image of the regime.
The Bahraini regime’s war on the civilian population is being stepped up with the import of 1.8 million poisonous gas canisters – euphemistically called “tear gas”. With an indigenous population of only 600,000 – 70 per cent of which is Shia – that equates to nearly three toxic weapons for every person. This gas has already been used to deadly effect by indiscriminate, saturation firing into villages across Bahrain. Dozens of people, including elderly and infants, have been killed by asphyxiation over the past two years from regime forces firing these weapons into homes.
Don’t be fooled by some media reports that these toxic weapons are being sourced from firms in South Korea and South Africa. Previously, American and British companies supplied the Bahraini regime directly with government-approved export contracts. Now in a sleight of hand, American and British suppliers are routing their deadly cargoes through overseas intermediaries.
In recent months, a new tactic of repression has also emerged. The regime is locking up hundreds of civilians, including children, on trumped up terror charges. Inside the prisons, maltreatment and violence is being intensified by regime thugs. Inmates are beaten and tortured, some of them dying from the brutality. Thus the regime is able to relocate much of the repression from off the streets and into its dungeons, away from public view.
How can a regime get away with waging war on a peace-abiding population whose only demand is for democratic freedom to elect a government that represents the people?
The regime is able to get away with murder because the American and British governments allow it. Washington and London not only allow such crimes against humanity, they knowingly support it. Bahrain may be only a tiny Persian Gulf island with relatively modest oil and gas reserves, but the fascist status quo in Bahrain is crucial to the maintenance of Western hegemony in the oil-rich region. That hegemony depends on the preservation of the bigger Western-backed fascist regimes of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
Oil, gas, petrodollars and billions-of-dollars worth of American and British weapons deals, as well as a military front poised against Iran, are all key to the Western anti-democratic order in the Persian Gulf.
Ludicrously, the Bahraini and Saudi regimes are able to wage war on their people while their Western masters call for democracy in Syria. This outrageous and absurd duplicity is facilitated because Western media generally remain blind and silent towards the crimes. The Western media, serving their political masters, also tell blatant lies to conceal the crimes.
Two of the Western media’s main news agencies, Associated Press and Reuters, both lied about Ali’s death in the brief reports they gave about this brutal death. Their paltry reports, which were printed by the Washington Post and Chicago Tribune among other major outlets, claimed that Ali was killed by an explosive device that he was handling.
Here’s how the AP story went in the Washington Post:
“The official Bahrain News Agency said Wednesday that officers found a gun and ammunition near al-Sabbagh’s body. Authorities said he was wanted in connection with previous attacks.”
According to the Chicago Tribune and Reuters:
“A teenager was killed late on Tuesday in Bahrain when a bomb he was holding exploded in his hands while he was trying to carry out an attack, police said. State news agency BNA quoted police as saying that the 17-year-old youth had been wanted by security forces for ‘criminal offences’. A firearm and ammunition was also found near the body in the village of Bani Jamra, west of the capital, Manama, BNA said without giving any details.”
Note how the Western media unquestioningly publish the regime’s version of events, without giving any alternative.
Now, here’s the real story, according to reliable eyewitnesses. Ali was shot in the neck by plain-clothed police officers at close range as he was walking to his home. His wounds verify that account. There were no injuries from an explosion and there were no weapons found near his body. He was simply gunned down gratuitously because he was a Shia youth from a Shia village that has protested against the Khalifa regime.
The Bahraini Ministry of Interior tersely labeled Ali a “terrorist” in its statement without any supporting evidence – no doubt under the advice of its assistant Western PR firms.
The cold-blooded murder of Ali al-Sabbagh this week is just one example of the war that the American and British-backed Khalifa regime is waging against the people of Bahrain. The calumny about his death also illustrates the way in which Western PR and news media collude to cover up the crimes of the regime.
We finish with this slight digression. In a speech earlier this year at Fort McNair military college in Washington DC, President Barack Obama said the following about how the American national flag represents “freedom”.
“And long after the current messengers of hate have faded from the world’s memory, alongside the brutal despots, and deranged madmen, and ruthless demagogues who litter history – the flag of the United States will still wave from small-town cemeteries to national monuments, to distant outposts abroad. And that flag will still stand for freedom.”
Well, the stars and stripes fly at the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet base in Bahrain, just a few kilometers from where young Ali al-Sabbagh was gunned down in cold blood by the Bahraini regime this week.
The only freedom that this flag stands for is for the US-backed regime in Bahrain to murder innocent civilians with impunity and to wage a war on its civilian population.
This article was originally published PRESS TV
Finian Cunningham, originally from Belfast, Ireland, was born in 1963. He is a prominent expert in international affairs. The author and media commentator was expelled from Bahrain in June 2011 for his critical journalism in which he highlighted human rights violations by the Western-backed regime. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For many years, he worked as an editor and writer in the mainstream news media, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. He is now based in East Africa where he is writing a book on Bahrain and the Arab Spring.He co-hosts a weekly current affairs programme, Sunday at 3pm GMT on Bandung Radio.