Julian Assange speaks about Bahrain F1

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, gave an interview to Russia Today about Bahrain in which he spoke about the Formula One:

RT: You mentioned that it was almost a cartoonish imprisonment, which happened to Nabeel Rajab. Can you give an assessment of the regime in Bahrain altogether?

JA: I was born in 1971. The prime minister of Bahrain [Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah] was put in power in 1971.

RT: So, is there absolutely no democracy in Bahrain?

JA: That’s the answer to your question. There’s 42 years this man has been in power in Bahrain. There’s no significant democracy. The Shia group is very significant, people argue – slight minority or a slight majority of the population, kept out of political life. The relationship between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia – the two countries face each other and they share a border with each other. And the Saudis are economically dominant to Bahrain, and are worried about any sort of resistance gaining power in Bahrain because the political movements in Bahrain have a habit of seeping over into the Saudi Arabia and into the Shia populations in Saudi Arabia. That’s why you saw during the uprising a desperate measure by the Bahraini regime of pulling in Saudi troops, to crack down on their own population.  The Bahraini regime sold its sovereignty in order to crack down on its own domestic population.

RT: You mentioned: “provided if the international pressure keeps up” in relation to Rajab. Do you think there’s been enough international pressure on the Bahraini regime?

JA: There’s obviously hasn’t been enough in the West. I mean look at the example of the US and the UK. There has been some, and it’s interesting to look at what Bahrain has done in response. Well, it’s flown in Kim Kardashian and these other people, who will sell their soul to promote the Bahraini regime. You see Kim Kardashian putting tweet after tweet about how wonderful it is thanks to the sheik and so on. It’s disgusting. These people are disgusting. Everyone should know that their loyalties are for sale, similarly, with the Formula 1, exactly, the same thing.

Bahrain has just bought that in order to cover up its human rights abuses and its bad reputation. There’s another way of dealing with things, which is – you can improve your reputation by actually stopping what you’re doing. Instead, Bahrain if it really wanted to improve its reputation it could release Nabeel Rajab. Until it releases Nabeel Rajab, no serious organization should have any involvement with the Bahraini regime. No organization who’s involved with Bahrain can be seen to be credible when Nabeel Rajab is in prison.

Read full interview.

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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.

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Follow Said Yousif Al-Mahafdah on Twitter at @SAIDYOUSIF