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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=International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. Sorry for the trouble.

International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The protest rally, marking the "International Day in Support of Victims of Torture" that I mentioned on Tuesday went ahead today as planned. I was pleased to see that the event was well organized and peaceful. The people gathered represented all sections of Bahraini society (except those who are still trying to defend the accused torturers). One of the interesting things to see was the turnout of women. On one side of the road were all of the women dressed in the traditional black abayas:

And on the other side of the road were a bunch of young girls representing the secular NDA, dressed in their jeans and designer sunglasses:

The only people missing was anyone representing the large expat community as usual (I think I was the only expat there). For some reason the expat societies don't seem to care about local affairs, and neither do the Bahraini civil societies seem to care about involving the expats in local affairs. I'd like to see this change.

But the point of the rally was concise, without letting other issues get involved, as usually happens. The focus of the rally was to demand that the government acknowledge the torture that took place in the past, and to bring those torturers to justice. According to a flyer that was handed out, the demands of the societies who were sponsoring the rally were:
  • Recognition of all those who have unlawfully [been] killed as national martyrs and provide fair compensation to their families.

  • Fair compensation for all victims of torture as well as rehabilitation for those who are still suffering from torture.

  • Bringing all those who have committed acts of murder or torture to justice in accordance with the international standards; and repeal Royal Decree 56-2002, that protects torturers and grants them immunity from prosecution.

One person carried a sign stating:"Public blood is more valuable than public money", which was an obvious reference to the fact that Adel Flaifel has been charged by the Bahraini courts with mishandling public funds, but has not been charged with any of the crimes of torture that the opposition accuses him of. (Flaifel was at one time one of the high ranking personnel in Bahrain's former security apparatus. He fled to Australia at some point during the political reforms in the country).

Thankfully, the protest was not dominated by the Islamists as I feared, or any particular political society. There were a few people in their turbans and robes, but they were not trying to take centre-stage at all. The only thing was that the were playing music that was similar to the music they play during the 'Azza (a Shia' religious ceremony). But then again, over the years in Bahrain the 'Azza demonstrations have taken on a meaning that is certainly more than just religious, no?

All in all, a good protest with a well made point. Many passers by stopped to take notice of what was going on. And it was great to see so many teenagers and youths getting involved also, teaching them that demanding their rights from the government is not only their right, but their responsibility. While the government still has a lot to do to correct its former mistakes, the mere fact that protests of this kind can now take place shows that things have changed, and there's no going back.

You can see more of my photos from the protest in my Yahoo album.

You can read AFP's account of the event here.
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4 Responses to 'International Day in Support of Victims of Torture'

Blogger global soul says:

I also wish that the expat community is more involved with Bahrainis. There is a huge expat community in Bahrain but they rarely interact with Bahrainis and vice versa. Is it because birds of a feather flock together?!

Nice documentary pictures. There are very few sources in the Internet with pictures depicting people, places, and events in Bahrain. Thanks for sharing yours.    

Blogger Chanad says:

I think part of the reason that there is so little interaction has to do with your idea that "birds of a feather flock together". But there is a bit more to I think. One reason is that there are many expats who feel that by involving themselves in local activism they put their personal well-being and careers at risk. If somehow one of them gets caught up in something that ends with them getting arrested, then they will get deported back to their native countries (or at least, that is what they fear).

Another common perception is that the Bahrainis don't want the expats getting involved in local activism. Many expats believe that the Bahrainis feel hostility towards them for having jobs while many of them are unemployed. As you know, expats are the victims of physical attacks by Bahraini youths on a daily basis. During the uprising in 95/96 even my house was attacked with a few molotov cocktails. Now I understand that it was probably just some misguided mischievous youths, but my parents have a very different view. Ever since that event, they always would specifically tell me to stay from "the villages" and especially to be wary of "the shias" as they supposedly don't want us on the island. It's hard to convince my parents to overcome their prejudices after such events.

With regards to my photos, I will hopefully have many more snaps of Bahrain online in a few days. Another source for pictures of Bahrain is the BahrainPhotos Yahoo group.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:

Thanks for the pictures and coverage of the event. It would indeed seem to say alot about some of the changing attitudes in the country that a variety of groups would come together and speak up for what is right. I also am glad the younger generation felt secure enough to voice their concern; that is a good sign.

Peaceful protests do serve a very important purpose especially in a country like Bahrain. It takes courage and conviction, but speaking out for what is right, people enable others as well to take the first step. Silence only condones the abuses, and maybe one day soon the expats will feel safe enough to voice their concerns.

Well written post that makes me smile with hope for Bahrain.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
6/27/2004 07:17:00 pm

Reason # 45,291 why I love the blogs, and read them everyday.
This would never make into the "mainstream" media here in America.

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