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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s="We want the freedoms". Sorry for the trouble.

"We want the freedoms"

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

This issue of the petition calling for the right to form political parties in Bahrain has been going on for several weeks now, but I still have not covered it on this blog. I still do not know enough about what both sides have to say to be able to comment on it with any credibility. However, the fact that eleven of the protesters are still languising in prison, for merely trying to submit a petition, is cause to be worried about. It is very unfortunate that the old tactics of intimidation are again being used by the government in this supposed new era of freedom. It really makes me think twice about my own safety with regards to the stuff I post on this blog.

It would be tolerable if the government were to decide against accepting the demands of the petition. Though, detaining activists for peacefully protesting sends the wrong signals, and can only be ultimately detrimental to both sides.

I believe that the leaders of the political societies were due to meet with the King to discuss the points of disagreement. I hope it went well.

Bahraini Blog has a recent post with some useful information and opinions with regards to this issue. Below are excerpts from the Human Rights Watch report released on May 17:
The government of Bahrain should immediately release 20 individuals arrested for collecting signatures on a political petition, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should also end the criminal investigations against them.

The petition for constitutional amendments would give greater legislative authority to the kingdom’s elected assembly. Addressed to King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, the petition reportedly has tens of thousands of signatures.

"This blatant suppression of freedom of speech and association flies in the face of the government’s proclaimed commitment to democratic change," said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division. "The right to petition peacefully is fundamental, and this petition addresses an issue that lies at the heart of democratic reforms."

On April 30, authorities arrested 17 Bahrainis at several public signature-collection stands. Deputy Public Prosecutor Ahmad Shinaishin stated then that they faced "charges of calling for change to the political system, provoking hatred and trying to destabilize public security." Three of the 17 were released on May 2 without charge.

On the morning of May 6, according to the independent Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), security forces raided the homes of five other petition activists, confiscated computers and documents and took the five into custody. Authorities also detained and charged the spokesman for a defense committee for the detainees. He and several others have been freed on bail, but 11 remain jailed, many of them now in their third week of detention.

On May 16, the BCHR received a letter from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs threatening to withdraw the center’s license if it did not end unspecified "political activities." The center has been active in a campaign to secure the release of the arrested petitioners.
Could someone out there please tell us what expatriates in Bahrain can do to help the cause of freedom? My hopes and prayers for the safe release of the detained activists.
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