Further reports of police violence from Sanabis yesterday

Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been to Sanabis, scene of violent scenes yesterday, to speak with the affected residents. This account is taken from his recent tweets:

Riot police raided a house yesterday in Sanabis, kidnapped a citizen and assaulted women. Women stated to me that riot police beat them with weapons, pepper-sprayed them and cursed them.

I met the kidnapped citizen who stated to me that he was severely beaten in the police jeep in Sanabis. He stated that he was beaten nearly 30 minutes, cursed and threatened by riot police inside the jeep.

Pictures of injuries:

Sanabis_Young_Man_attacked_20-4-2013I met another young man kidnapped yesterday, beaten severely with batons and weapons by riot police. He stated that he was sexually harrassed, burned with lighters and cigarettes and he was threatened to work as an informer.

Said Yousif also shared this video of an arrest of a young man in Sanabis yesterday. At around 0:30 in the video, one of the arresting officers can be seen to jab the young man sharply in the stomach with his baton:

Injuries by police in Sa’ar and Abu Saiba

Said Yousif Almuhafda, Head of Monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, tweeted two images tonight of injuries sustained from police firing shotguns and tear gas respectively. Specific details of the respective incidents are currently unknown. I have combined the images into one graphic below:

Injuries_Sa'ar_&_Abu_Saiber_19-4-2013

Individuals who suffer such injuries rarely receive medical treatment in national hospitals, which are said to have become “militarized”, for fear of arrest. Last week, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights issued an important new report covering this subject: Limited Medical Access and Breach of Medical Neutrality in Bahrain (see pp25-30 especially). As a consequence of the fear instilled by the current state apparatus, underground clinics have been set up to treat people injured by police. As the report notes:

those injured by excessive force from security forces do not go to hospitals out of fear. As a result, secret clinics have been set up in different residential areas with portable first aid clinics. Those who volunteer to work are a few doctors, a few qualified nurses and volunteers who received training on first aid. At times, even fractures and open wounds have been treated at these clinics. The advantage is that these clinics provide basic medical care for civilians who fear going to the hospital. These medics and volunteers treat civilians at their own risk as they become targets of the authorities, and have very limited resources. (p28)

4 children arrested in Bani Jamrah reportedly beaten; another beaten in Karzakan

Maryam AlKhawaja, Acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights at BCHR, reports that four children were arrested today in Bani Jamrah. They were released around 9pm local time “after reportedly getting beaten”.

One of the children arrested was Mahdi Salah AlKhawaja, aged 13. Mahdi is the nephew of Maryam’s father, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, an internationally renowned human rights defender and current prisoner of conscience. Mahdi’s father, Salah AlKhawaja, is also a prisoner of conscience. Both men were arrested, tortured and sentenced in 2011 at the height of the government crackdown against the pro-democracy movement. Mahdi was present when his father was arrested. Khadija Almousawi, who is Abdulhadi’s wife, tweeted the trauma that he went through at the time, aged just 11:

We have just heard about the arrest of Mahdi Sala Alkhawaja, 13 years. My husband’s nephew. A very quiet kid. His father is in jail.

When Bader Ghaith came to arrest Mahdi’s father 2 years ago, he pointed his gun on Mahdi’s head and asked him: “Where is your father?” When they found the father in the next room they took him to the roof. The mercenary police asked Bader Ghaith: “should I bring him or throw him down?” Ghaith said: “Throw him.”

Mahdi was only 11 then. His father was thrown from the roof while Mahdi and his younger sisters were watching. Mahdi’s mother shouted at Ghaith. They went to her started beating and kicking her. And she was sexually harassed. All that and the four kids were watching and crying.

Now Mahdi’s mother has to suffer her little boys arrest when her husband is in jail. How will she spend the night only God knows?

In a separate incident, Said Yousif Almuhafda, head of monitoring and documentation at BCHR, reports that a “boy was beaten by riot police in Karzakan this afternoon”. He shared this picture:

Beating_Karzakan_18-4-2013

Human Rights First calls on F1 to speak out against raids and arrests

US-based NGO Human Rights First has issued a further statement concerning the Bahrain F1 today, calling on “organisers, participants and sponsors to speak out urgently and publicly against arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations taking place”. The statement reads in part:

“F1’s continued silence in the face of increased government repression ahead of this weekend’s race could easily be seen as the organization’s complicity with the crackdown,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. “Local human rights activists can’t understand why the F1 teams and sponsors are not speaking out against the raids, arrests, and detentions that seem to be linked to the race. Their silence is horribly damaging to the reputation of the sport and those associated with it.”

Dooley notes that the F1 organization decided to hold the race in Bahrain this year over the objections of leading human rights figures in the country. In the days leading up to its kickoff, arbitrary arrests in neighborhoods near the track have increased and many human rights defenders have faced added government scrutiny. Local human rights activists estimate that over 60 people have been arrested in the week leading up to the race, many from villages near the track. Several protests have taken place against the F1 and more are expected in the coming days.

The BBC reported that today:

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said 13 people had been arrested and that clashes were continuing in villages close to the Sakhir track, the site of the F1 race.

Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah: “We ask that you look beyond the track”

Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah is the head of monitoring at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). The President of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, is currently serving a two year sentence for organising and participating in protests. In 2011, BCHR’s founder, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja was arrested, severely tortured and sentenced to life imprisonment. Both sentences have been internationally condemned. Said Yousif has himself been persecuted by the Bahrain government. He has been arrested several times when observing protests and last year was beaten at a police checkpoint in front of his two young daughters.

In an article for the Huffington Post, Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah asks the world to “look beyond the track” and instead, “look into the streets of Bahrain, where those who want democracy are in a race against time for their lives and freedom”. His article reads in part:

For the second consecutive year, Bahrain will host a Formula One (F1) race despite severe human rights violations documented by local and international human rights organizations, including the United Nations.

For the second consecutive year, the race will proceed with great fanfare as the plight of dozens of athletes who weredetained and tortured for exercising their freedom of expression goes unnoticed. Many of these athletes weretargeted, arrested and defamed because of their participation in the “Athletes March,” a peaceful march by athletes who supported the 14th February Revolution at the Pearl Roundabout. Some remain in jail.

For the second consecutive year, the suffering of the staff of the Bahrain International Circuit – the company that hosts the F1 race – is being ignored. Back in 2011, the staff’s offices were raided by security forces, and some were subjected to torture inside the F1 premises. Some were even fired from their jobs.

(…)

We, as human rights activists in Bahrain, ask journalists who are coming to cover the F1 to see the other side of things here, the side hidden by the authorities. We ask them tocome and see the daily protests in over 40 areas of Bahrain where people demand their freedom and their right of self-determination. We ask them to observe how peaceful protestors are often met with collective punishment using tear gas and shotgun pellets.

We ask them to watch as the seriously injured are scared to go to government hospitals because they have been militarized. Even private hospitals have been instructed by the Ministry of Health in Bahrain not to treat injured protestors and to report them immediately to the police upon arrival to the hospital. The BCHR recently issued a detailed report on the militarization of hospitals and the lack of medical neutrality. Despite the ongoing abuses in Bahrain, weapons sellers are ready to supply the Bahrain authorities with the weapons used in its crackdown.

If they look, journalists will have no problem witnessing the deterioration of freedom of expression in Bahrain, including the arrest of those who publish their views on Twitter. I was among those arrested just minutes after tweeting a photo of an injured Bahraini who was shot by shotgun bullet. I was imprisoned for my post.

Read full article

Follow Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah on Twitter at @SAIDYOUSIF

NGOs write to F1, teams, sponsors and broadcasters

Four NGOs sent a series of letters to Formula One, the teams, sponsors and broadcasters asking them to reconsider their participation in the Bahrain Grand Prix. All the letters can be read at this link.

The letter to sponsors reads in full:

Dear Sponsor and/or Partner of a Formula One team,

We are writing to ask you to withdraw your team sponsorship for the 2013 Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix.
Your corporate social responsibility should surely insist against supporting a race in a country whose
government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture. Bahrain’s jails contain hundreds of political prisoners, police use excess force with impunity, and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship.

Given the global controversy and public outcry, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was an embarrassment to all
those who promoted it. The race was used by the Bahrain government to broadcast a false picture of normality to the outside world, whilst also preventing entry to journalists who wanted to see the reality on the ground.

The 2012 race was held under conditions which effectively amounted to martial law. In the weeks preceding it, many activists and protest leaders were arrested, some of whom subsequently spent months in jail. Foreign journalists were attacked, arrested, and even deported. During the weekend of the race, a young man, Salah Abbas Habib, was shot dead by security forces. His body, bearing marks of torture, was dumped on a rooftop.

The situation in Bahrain has not improved since last year. If anything, it is getting worse. The Bahrain
government has made many pledges of reform, but it is doing nothing to implement them. In November 2012, a report by the Project on Middle East Democracy found that only three of the twenty-six recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry have been fully implemented. In the same month, Amnesty International released a report describing the human rights situation in Bahrain as, “Reform shelved, repression unleashed”. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch visited Bahrain and found there to be “no progress on reform”. In the same month, police killed two protesters.

The race is scheduled to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) on 21 April 2013. In 2011, at the height of the government crackdown, many permanent members of BIC staff were dismissed from their jobs, arrested and tortured. To date, there has been no justice for these Formula One workers. By continuing to race on this track, Formula One is facilitating the culture of impunity through which the authorities have operated.

Many people in Bahrain no longer see Formula One as a sport, but as an organisation which supports a
repressive regime. If this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix takes place, the event will certainly be hijacked by the
government for political purposes. There are also serious concerns that the government will unleash further
repression to try and silence critics of the race. Already, there are documented reports that a crackdown has
begun in villages near the track. We urge you to take a stand and cancel your sponsorship arrangements for this race.

Sincerely,

Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR)
Bahrain Press Association (BPA)
Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR)
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT)

 

Update: April 16th 2013 – The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has also expressed their support for the letters as a fifth signatory.

BCHR expresses “grave concern” over police crackdown

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) reports “escalated security measures, increased house raids and arbitrary arrests of citizens living in villages located near the Bahrain International Circuit”. According to the BCHR:

During the first week of April 2013, 10 youth including minors aging (16 to 25 years) were arrested during house raids, among them, Mohammad Abu-Zuhaira.

Family of one of the prisoners stated that at dawn a police officer along with masked men raided their house and asked to see the ID of one of the family members and asked for him. While the family went to call the person wanted, the masked men followed the family inside the house to the room he was in. They then arrested him without showing an arrest warrant. The family did not know of their son’s whereabouts for 3 days. When the family went to the Hamad Town Police Station asking for him, they denied knowing his whereabouts.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights believes that the escalated house raids and arbitrary arrests of youth in villages near the Bahrain International Circuit is aimed to spread fear and force silence among citizens to minimize protests and any media coverage of the continuous violations by the Bahrain authorities during the F1 Race.