Obama administration passes another opportunity to directly condemn human rights violations in Bahrain. US arms support for Saudi Arabia achieves world historic levels.
May 1, 2011 New York.
by Rawlinsview and Press Agencies
Below is the full text of an AFP article reporting on the response of U.S. President Barack Obama to the current situation in Bahrain. It is placed in the context of a series of reports following the development of the largest single sale of armaments in history potentially totaling over 90 billion US in air and naval equipment to the absolute monarchy and world’s largest oil supplier Saudi Arabia.
Repression of Bahraini Shia and democracy advocates.
Supporters of democratic and human rights in Bahrain, and the whole of the majority Shia Arab population there, face an unrelenting, punitive and seemingly sadistic campaign of government repression following mass protests in February and March which called for the formation of a non-sectarian democratic government. The protests were inspired by the historic protests demanding democracy and political rights in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere in the Arab world.
Many hundreds of people have been arrested and detained by the government including young men, women and, according to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, even children as young as 12 years. Many of the detainees are held without representation, communication to the outside world or any formal charges being filed. Over 30 people have been killed including documented cases of people who have died of wounds inflicted while in police custody.
Mosques, and shrines sacred to the Shia population have been destroyed by the government as have many Ma’atam (community houses for social and religious events). Police checkpoints continue to crisscross the capital city of Bahrain, Manama. The local villages in which many of the Shia live are subject to nightly raids by police and armed forces using tear gas, rubber bullets and in some cases live fire. Activists homes have been stormed in the middle of the night with men, and sometimes women taken away in front of their families. The military has taken control of the main public hospital and arrested, harassed and beaten medical personnel who provide assistance to democracy activists and the Shi’ite population. Shia women are subjected to direct physical brutality in many cases. Over 70 have been arrested. At least two women have been killed in the unrest. There are substantiated reports of sexual harassment of women in Bahraini detention.
Schools for children as young as the intermediate level have experienced government, interference and in some cases the direct presence of military and security forces. Press activists, reporters, blogers, people using the internet to report on occurrences to the outside world, and even the editors of the main moderate Shia newspaper have all been subject to arrest, harassment and intimidation. Leading trades unionists have been fired from their jobs as have hundreds of individuals whose loyalty to the crown is in question. The government of Bahrain announced almost with fanfare an academic purge involving over 200 students teachers and university personnel suspected of sympathy with, or participation in, the democracy movement. Bahraini students studying abroad have had their scholarships revoked due to their participation in the many international solidarity actions which have been held in dozens of cities worldwide demanding an end to the human rights abuses in Bahrain. These students have been ordered to return home, an event which would almost surely result in their arrest and abuse at the hands of the authorities in Bahrain. Over 50 people, mostly supporters of the democracy movement or the human rights of the Bahraini Shia, population are missing with whereabouts unknown.
2000 troops and over 100 tanks were brought in to Bahrain on March 14 under the cover of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) in order to prop up the teetering Monarchy of Hamad al-Kalifa. Most of the troops and all of the equipment are from neighboring Saudi Arabia, also an absolute monarchy. Bahrain’s “domestic” security forces are largely made up of individuals hired from outside of the country many from Pakistan and Bangladesh.
As is noted in the article below the United States houses its 5th Naval Fleet in Bahrain and considers the Persian/Arab gulf island nation strategically critical due to its geographic situation between Saudi Arabia and Iran. U.S. Military intelligence was reportedly aware of human rights abuses in Bahrain before the February uprising there.
Many accounts including those documented in this blog indicate that resistance to the monarchial repression in Bahrain is ongoing.
Saudi military ties to the United States
In October 2010 the US congress, under the urging of the Obama administration, approved the sale of 60 Billion dollars of military aircraft and other military equipment to Saudi Arabia with the stated purpose of countering Iranian influence in the region. See Reuters article on this subject The same article indicates intent to provide an additional 30 billion worth of naval equipment to the Saudi Monarchy. Alexander Vershbow, the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs indicated to Reuters that the sale would improve Saudi Arabia’s ability to coordinate with the United States on shared security challenges “so it means we may have to station fewer forces on a continuing basis in the region.” He was quoted as saying.
A September 14, 2010 article in the Associated Press titled US Plans $60B Saudi Arms Sale to Counter Iran stated,
The deal would apparently represent the largest single U.S. arms sale ever approved. It would allow Saudi Arabia, the most militarily advanced of the Arab Gulf states and one of the richest countries in the world, to buy top-line U.S.-made helicopters and fighter jets with ranges that would span the Middle East and beyond.
In an April 13 article written almost exactly one month following the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, U.S. reviewing Mideast arms sales , Reuters reported on the continuing development of the record breaking transfer of military technology to Saudi Arabia, which the news service reports as being the largest single purchaser of US arms. According to the news agency the deal includes “84 Boeing F-15 fighter jets and upgrades to 70 more F-15s that the Saudis already have. The proposed sale also includes three types of helicopters plus 150 Javelin anti-tank guided missiles built by Raytheon Co and Lockheed.”
Obama urges Bahrain king to respect ‘universal rights’
(AFP) – 11 hours ago (May 1, 2011)
WASHINGTON — US President Barack Obama urged Bahrain’s monarch to respect “universal rights of the people” on Saturday, two days after the tiny Gulf state sentenced several protesters to death.
US officials have criticized Bahrain over the speed of a trial in which Shiite pro-democracy protesters were sentenced to death and life in prison for killing two policemen.
In his telephone conversation with King Hamad, Obama said the United States “believes that Bahrain’s stability depends upon respect for the universal rights of the people of Bahrain, and a process of meaningful reform that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis,” the White House said in a statement.
Bahrain, headquarters for the US Fifth Fleet responsible for US naval forces in the region, was hit by protests from mid-February to mid-March amid a broader revolt roiling across the Arab world.
A Bahraini military court on Thursday sentenced four Shiite protesters to death and three to life in prison for the killing of two policemen at a crackdown on a rally.
Bahraini authorities have come under strong criticism from international rights organizations over a heavy-handed crackdown on protesters from the Shiite-majority community in the kingdom that is ruled by a Sunni dynasty.
In her April 12, 2011 speech to the US Islamic World Forum US secretary of state Hillary Clinton stated “As I have said before, the United States has a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future.”
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