In an effort to wake up the world for a reaction, Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest opposition bloc in the country, has recently revealed a new page of Al Khalifa crimes committed against the dissidents.
In a statement, Wefaq held that political prisoners in Bahrain are subjected to torture, sentenced to long-term jails, stripped of their citizenship, and isolated civilly and politically because they call for democracy, justice, freedom, and respect to the human rights. The statement continued that what Bahraini political prisoners are subjected to is crime and a threat to their lives. Leaked voice tapes of tens of political prisoners show they are in atrocious conditions.
Making revelations about the tough and appalling conditions in Al Khalifa prisons, Wefaq said that denying the prisoners water, treatment, heating, medicines, sunlight, and contacts with their families is criminal and systemic abuses of the prisoners as they are imprisoned for reasons related to human rights and demands for political reform and freedom.
Al-Wefaq has called the pressure and suffocation imposed on the people by the Al Khalifa regime as an atrocity. The opposition society also said that West’s turning a blind eye to what is happening in Bahrain and ignoring all violations and crimes against human rights is unacceptable and a complicity in these crimes.
“The indifference of international parties to human rights and freedom issues [in Bahrain] is unacceptable and raises questions,” the statement said.
The statement came as a few days ago, 678 Bahraini political prisoners published a message titled ‘outcry of the oppressed’ and signed a humanitarian petition in the Jou central prison, demanding humane conditions in prison. The Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, a rights advocacy group, recently condemned the attacks on 14 political prisoners in solitary confinement and warned against the continued violation of rights of political prisoners and impunity for the committers of these crimes.
Al-Wefaq statement discloses the tip of the iceberg of the Al Khalifa crimes against the opposition in the past decade. Rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have censured violation of prisoner rights in their annual reports and called for fair trials for the dissidents.
Denying the prisoners their most basic rights like water and hygienic facilities is an unforgivable crime in today’s world, but Al Khalifa is not afraid to commit it. Many of the Bahraini political prisoners are deprived of the right to complete their education and the prisoners of Jou prison complain about improper food served to them. According to human rights organizations, 26 Bahrainis are facing death penalty, at least 8 of whom were convinced and sentenced following unfair trials based on forced confessions through torture and ill-treatment.
During the coronavirus outbreak that the prisoners needed medical care, the ruling regime denied them treatment, causing hundreds of people to be infected with this deadly virus and some of them losing their lives. The outbreak of Covid-19 in prisons was a good opportunity for Al Khalifa to get rid of the opposition prisoners at no cost by depicting them dying a natural death— something helping it dispose of foreign pressures.
The conditions of political prisoners at the Covid-19 peak were so disastrous that rights advocacy organizations demanded their release, but Manama refused to back down from its inhuman positions even in this specific case. Al Khalifa uses the lever of deprivation of treatment and health services as one of the tools of torture in prisons to send message to other dissidents that confronting the government brings bad punishment.
Repressing the dissidents since the 2011 revolution
Since the beginning of the revolution in February 2011, the Al Khalifa regime has tried to silence the opposition with extensive repressions, and during this time, it has dissolved all political parties or banned them. According to reports of rights organizations, about 15,000 people have been arrested for expressing their political opinions and about 4,500 political prisoners are held in dire conditions, and Bahrain holds the world’s top place for human rights abuses.
Bahraini ruler denies independent UN observers, including Special Rapporteur on Torture, access to political prisoners. Al Khalifa even declared as persona non grata and expelled American diplomats who met Bahraini human rights activists. Foreign journalists can rarely travel to Bahrain to investigate the human rights situation as Al Khalifa has set heavy travel restrictions for journalists so that their crimes are not exposed to the world. But the regime’s human rights record is so dark that it cannot be concealed with these restrictions.
The sham trials held in recent years are meant for public deceit since the rulings are already issued by an order of the king. A crystal clear example of these rulings is that of Sheikh Ali Salman, Wefaq’s chief, who was charged with espionage for foreign governments and betrayal of the country and handed a life sentence. Even Westerners did not believe this blackening campaign against the opposition by Bahraini rulers.
Since 2011, the people of Bahrain protested against Al Khalifa’s tyranny, demanding reform and change to the governing structures. But they were faced by arrest, imprisonment, and torture. In a bid to strengthen the pillars of its shaky rule, the government even revoked nationality of hundreds of citizens under the pretext of jeopardizing the national security.
Silence of fake rights advocates
While they have in front of them the long list of Al Khalifa crimes against its political dissidents, the Western leaders turn a blind eye to this vital issue, applying double standards even to this humanitarian case. The European and American officials make such an uproar about detention of violent rioters in Iran as if the rights of all humans are violated, but when it comes to the tyrannical Persian Gulf Arab regimes, they adopt a politicized approach and easily move past their crimes to avoid damage to their relations. Hosting of the US Fifth Fleet on the Bahraini coasts for decades by itself is enough for silencing the White House’s human rights rhetoric. This explains Washington’s failure to criticize Bahraini regime’s iron fist crackdown on opposition in the past decade.Britain, these days dreaming of returning to the Persian Gulf to regain its past position in this region, is closing its eyes to rights abuses in Bahrain driven by political and military give and takes with Bahrain and other Persian Gulf monarchies. The Manama authorization granted to London for a permanent military base in 2018 silenced the British criticism of Bahraini government. Relieved of Western censure, Al Khalifa regime spares no crimes against its dissidents.