February 15, 2012

Witness Bahrain Activists facing deportation

No clearer example of where the US plutocracy really stands on the matter of liberty in the Arab world exists than Bahrain, where a non-violent popular insurrection against an autocratic and US firendly regime has been and continues to be violently supressed with the help of Saudi troops and tacit US support. No clearer example of the deep connection between the violence against the people of the Middle East and the repression of the poor and particularly of people of color in the US exists than the figure of Police chief John Timothy, who militarized policing in Florida and is now "advising" Bahrain "Interior" Ministry (a ehpemism for what is in fact the ministry of internal repression) on supressing the popular uprising.

Unlike in cases like Syria and Iran, where the duty of Western citizens is obfuscated by the repressive nature of the regime that is also opposed by the US, for purely imperialist reasons, no such complications exist in Bahrain. The US support for the repressive regime must be denounced, exposed and attacked, and people in the West have a particular role to play stopping their governments' war against the people in the Middle East.

So here is a press release from a new website, "Witness Bahrain," who rises up to the task. You will not fail to notice the role played by veteran Palestinian and Palestine solidarity activists.

[Manama, Bahrain] Six US Citizens were arrested by Bahraini security forces in Manama on Tuesday during a peaceful protest on the way to the Pearl Roundabout. Protesters had marched into the city center to reestablish a presence of nonviolent, peaceful protest on the one year anniversary of the Arab Spring uprising in Bahrain.

The international observers were in Bahrain as part of Witness Bahrain, an effort aimed at providing civilian presence to report and monitor the situation on the ground (witnessbahrain.org). Leading up to February 14, the one year anniversary of pro-democracy protests, Bahraini authorities had prevented journalists, human rights observers and other internationals from entering the country, leading many to fear a brutal crackdown.

Just yesterday, Secretary of State spokesperson Victoria Nuland stated that the US wanted to see the “security forces exercise restraint and operate within the rule of law and international judicial standards.” But she failed to condemn the violent arrests of US international observers, the detainment of numerous Bahraini pro-democracy activists (including President of the Bahraini Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab) and the ongoing use of overwhelming amounts of tear gas.

The six US citizens were part of a peaceful protest marching towards the Pearl Roundabout – site of last year’s peaceful round-the-clock protest in Bahrain, modeled after Egypt’s Tahrir Square – when they were attacked. Bahraini authorities appear to have targeted the Witness Bahrain observers, as one volunteer was told that she was detained for reporting on the February 11th Manama protest.

The six observers remain in Bahraini custory in the Naem Police Station in Manama. This group of internationals is the second to be deported by the Bahraini government. Attorneys Huwaida Arraf and Radhika Sainath were deported on Saturday, February 11th. The two were handcuffed for the duration of their flight from Bahrain to London.

Several international observers remain on the ground.

Biographies of the six arrested international observers:

Kate Rafael works at a San Francisco law firm and is a radio journalist, blogger and political activist from Oakland, California.

Flo Razowsky is photographer and community organizer based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a Jewish anti-Zionist activist with Witness Bahrain and several Palestine solidarity organizations.

Linda Sartor teaches graduate school, and is a community activists based out of Northern California. She has been a human rights activist in Palestine, Sri Lanka, Iran, Afghanistan and Bahrain.

Paki Wieland is a retired social worker/family therapist educator in the Department of Applied Psychology, Antioch University, Keene, New Hampshire. Since the 1960s, she’s also been a dedicated anti-war and civil rights activist.

Mike Lopercio is a restaurant owner from Arizona and has visited Iraq with a Military Families delegation.

Brian Terrell lives and works at Strangers and Guests Farm in Maloy, Iowa. He is a long time peace activist and a co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.

This new deportation follows the violent deportation of Radhika Sainath and Huwaida Araf. It seems from what Sainath reports below that the Bahraini police was alerted about the activists, most likely by US intelligence.


Witness Bahrain holds regular updates and is well worth following. There is also a petiton for which they gather signatures. Don't however send this link to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who thinks the road to liberty passes through solidarty with the thugs of the Bahraini regime.

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