Occupy Wall St. Global Justice Working Group, along with several other organizations, are holding an emergency demonstration outside the Bahraini Embassy as political prisoner Abdelhadi Al-Khawaja enters the 57th day of his hunger strike (http://www.bahrainrights.org/en/node/5049). Arrested in April 2011, al-Khawaja is a pro-democracy activist and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. He is in critical condition and risks organ failure.
“It’s imperative that the US pressure its close ally Bahrain to immediately release Al-Khawaja, stop daily attacks on democracy protesters and respect human rights,” said Radhika Sainath, a co-founder of Witness Bahrain and member of Occupy Wall St. “Time is running out.”
Nabeel Rajab, co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, stated “we are afraid that he might lose his life or lose part of his body at any time. We seek international intervention on Bahrain, politically, economically, to pressure the Bahraini regime to stop its crimes against the people and against all the prisoners, including my colleague and my teacher, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja.”
Organizing groups also include Witness Bahrain, American Council for Freedom in Bahrain, Al-Awda NY, United National Antiwar Coalition, Pakistan Solidarity Network and Campaign for Peace & Democracy.
According to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, security forces have killed over 80 people since pro-democracy protests began in February 2011. The regime detained thousands and led a campaign of retribution against anyone supporting or participating in protest, firing about 2,500 employees and destroying 40 Shi’a mosques and religious sites.
More than one year later, the situation has yet to improve. Bahrain’s government has not carried out critical recommendations by the independent commission that looked into extensive human rights violations during the crackdown. Bahraini forces continue to use excessive force against unarmed protesters and target media people who cover these protests. Journalists and human rights defenders have faced military trials, life imprisonment, torture, harassment and in some cases even death while in the custody of the Bahraini authorities. Hundreds of people remain behind bars for speaking out and demanding equal political participation. No high-ranking officials have been investigated for their roles in rampant torture or unlawful killings.
Inspired by the Arab Spring movements in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahraini democracy activists continue to protest on a daily basis, calling for freedom and democracy.
Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Between 2006 and 2011, annual U.S. assistance to Bahrain ranged from $5 million to $18 million. A proposed $53 million transfer of Humvees and TOW missiles to the regime is currently on “hold.”
(witnessbahrain.org / 05.04.2012)