Clinton Plays Iran Card, Winks, While Bahrain Arrests and Beats Human Rights Activists
The Bahraini monarchy is continuing its repression and crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. Now we’ve learned that Dr. Ali Al Ekri, seen in this video from a few days ago protesting against the government siege of the Salmaniya hospital and beating of staff, was arrested. Saturday night we heard that Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Human Rights Center had been arrested as well:
My beloved … My dear friend Nabeel Rajab asked me to manage his page in case of his arrest, with my deep pain that he was arrested from his home in such a time, but here I am keeping my word with your help until he return safely
Rajab was released two hours later and posted to his Facebook page (rough translation from Arabic):
Peace all – I am back to the house two hours after my arrest and beating and the destruction of my house – details on tomorrow – and make sure that these practices will only make us more determined to continue until we achieve our uprising demands
Rajab recently described those demands:
At first people were not asking for a change of regime. They were asking for political reform and political participation. They want greater respect for their human rights and the liberation of political prisoners. They demand an end to discrimination and torture. They are asking for the right to elect their government, they want a new prime minister and a new written Constitution. However, as the situation has progressed, the people have become more and more angry over the government’s response to these peaceful protests. They will not accept a government that kills it’s own people and their demands are changing, they are now requesting a regime change.
Patrick Cockburn notes in the Independent that many other activists have gone missing or been arrested:
“There are 80 people still missing that we don’t know what happened to,” said Mohammed al-Maskati, an opposition activist, in a telephone interview. He added that there was no information on the whereabouts of the seven reform leaders who have been detained, but they have been charged with “incitement to kill” and being in communication with a foreign power.
Secretary of State Clinton commented on the situation in Bahrain this morning in Paris and it’s very interesting to see how differently her remarks are targeted to the press – in fact it appears that she had two quite different messages, one for US consumption about “concern” and “dialogue:”
Clinton said she had spoken about Bahrain on Saturday with the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates and prime minister of Qatar, on the sidelines of a meeting in Paris about Libya.
“Our goal is a credible political process that can address the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Bahrain, starting with the crown prince’s dialogue, which all parties should join,” Clinton said. “That process should unfold in a peaceful, positive atmosphere that protects the freedom of peaceful assembly while ensuring that students can go to school, businesses can operate, and people can undertake their normal daily activities.”
…Clinton said Bahrain has a right to invite those forces into its country, but she urged caution.
And a very different one for the Gulf audience. From the Khaleej Times:
PARIS – US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Iran on Saturday of undermining peace and stability in the Gulf by trying to advance its agenda in neighbouring countries.
“The United States has an abiding commitment to Gulf security… and a top priority is working together with our partners on our shared concerns about Iranian behaviour in the region,” she told journalists.
“We share the view that Iran’s activities in the Gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in the neighbouring countries undermines peace and stability,” she said.
While the State Department has issued a pro forma statement of concern about the arrests of civil rights leaders:
“The United States is deeply troubled by arrests of Bahraini opposition leaders and others,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
“We call on the government of Bahrain to ensure the security of person of all arrestees and to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain’s international legal obligations,” he said.
Note that the State Department did not call for the release of these political prisoners or a halt to similar arrests, only saying they should be tried under existing Bahraini laws, laws which have been used so many times in the past to imprison and torture political opponents. The Secretary herself apparently saw no need to mention them at all and instead reinforced the Bahraini’s spurious charges of “foreign communications” with her scare talk about Iran.
Seems like Madame Secretary sent a very clear message – and it was not about democracy or human rights.