Hundreds of Bahrainis Join Call to End US Support for Bahrain Gov't
NEW YORK - In a response that surprised U.S. organizers of a campaign calling on the United States government to repudiate its partnership with the Al Khalifa regime in Bahrain, hundreds of people from Bahrain joined in signing the Campaign for Peace and Democracy's launching statement "End U.S. Support for Bahrain's Repressive Government."
"The statement was originally circulated for signatures in the United States, but we have been deeply moved by the fact that hundreds of Bahrainis have added their names," said Joanne Landy, CPD Co-Director. "Given the violent government crackdown in Bahrain, the very act of signing is incredibly courageous. Bahraini signers have implored us to pressure the Obama administration to decisively repudiate its support of their brutal and authoritarian government."
On May 16, the New York-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy (CPD) began circulating its statement, which has thus far gathered more than 1200 signatures including those of Ed Asner, Medea Benjamin, Noam Chomsky, Martin Duberman, Daniel Ellsberg, Mike Farrell, Chris Hedges, Adam Hochschild, Jan Kavan, Kathy Kelly, Dave Marsh, Frances Fox Piven, Katha Pollitt, Alix Kates Shulman and Cornel West. The statement is below and on the CPD website. Signatures are still being accepted. The statement will be sent to President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, and key members of Congress, as well as to domestic and international media.
In the United States, Psychologists for Social Responsibility (PsySR) gave organizational endorsement to the statement. Stephen Soldz, PsySR president, stated, "We cannot be silent. Many of our members are health providers. The government of Bahrain has arrested nearly 50 doctors and other health providers, many of whom have been tortured. Their 'crime' is refusing to let injured protesters die and informing the world press about the abuses they witnessed. [See the report by Physicians for Human Rights.]
In the face of mounting complaints against Washington for muting its criticisms of repression in Bahrain, President Obama did say in his May 19 speech on the Middle East, "...we have insisted both publicly and privately that mass arrests and brute force are at odds with the universal rights of Bahrain's citizens. The only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can't have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail." However, in the same speech Obama referred to Bahrain as a "friend" and "partner" of the U.S., thus signaling that the massive human rights violations in that country would not stand in the way of continuing U.S. support for the regime or the continuing presence of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a naval force supporting an interventionist foreign policy.
In words reminiscent of the Administration's disgracefully neutral stand on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt up until the last moment, when the Ben Ali and Mubarak regimes were clearly no longer sustainable, President Obama has called on both the government and the opposition in Bahrain to "engage in dialogue." What is needed now, however, is not episodic toothless reprimands to Bahrain's government or pressure on the opposition to engage in dialogue with the regime, but a clear U.S. break with the Al Khalifa government. This would involve:
- An unambiguous statement from Washington that because of the atrocious government repression, Bahrain is not a "partner" or "friend" of the U.S.
- An immediate end to all U.S. aid to Bahrain
- Vigorous condemnation of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for sending in forces at the request of Bahrain's government to back up the repression
CPD has launched this campaign in order to build pressure on Washington to stop propping up the Al Khalifa government. The brave people of Bahrain deserve no less.
THE TEXT OF THE CPD STATEMENT FOLLOWS:
End U.S. Support for Bahrain's Repressive Government
Statement by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy
May 16, 2011
(Add your name, donate or share at http://www.cpdweb.org/stmts/1019/stmt.shtml )
On Feb. 13, 2011, inspired by the forced resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, peaceful democratic protests erupted in Bahrain. Protests grew and, in response, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa invited other Gulf states to send security forces into the country to assist in violently suppressing the demonstrators. The March 15 invasion by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates brought an intensification of torture, secret trials, demolition of Shia mosques, and repression against human rights activists, journalists, labor, lawyers, medical professionals, students, political figures, and others. On March 18 the regime destroyed the Pearl Monument that had served as the protest center.
Like many other autocracies in the region Bahrain has been a key U.S. partner. It has provided a home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, responsible for naval forces in the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Arabian Sea, and the coast of East Africa as far south as Kenya. This is why Washington's response to the vicious repression in Bahrain has been so muted and pro-forma, in contrast to forceful denunciations of repression in countries outside the U.S. orbit, such as Iran and Libya.
Richard Sollom from Physicians for Human Rights says health care workers in Bahrain have been targeted on a scale he has never encountered. Government forces have invaded hospitals; doctors have been dragged out of the operating room, abducted and detained for giving care to wounded protestors. The government says it will try 47 medical workers it accuses, incredibly, of causing the deaths of protesters by inflicting additional wounds on them.
Hundreds of workers, including union leaders, have been fired for striking for democratic change. Security forces closed down the General Bahraini Federation of Trade Unions headquarters. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights writes, Bahrain is currently considered a dangerous zone for the freedom of press and journalists.On April 3 the government suspended the country's only independent newspaper, Al Wasat. On May 2 it arrested two politicians belonging to the opposition Al Wefaq party.
Bahrain's population is 60 percent or more Shia, with the government dominated by a Sunni minority. There is systematic discrimination against the Shiite majority in political representation, employment, wages, housing, and other benefits. The government has tried to split the opposition along Shia-Sunni lines, but uprising leaders insist their struggle for democratic rights is non-sectarian.
Zainab Alkhawaja wrote to President Obama after her father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, former head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was beaten unconscious in front of his family and arrested by masked men: if anything happens to my father, my husband, my uncle, my brother-in-law, or to me, I hold you just as responsible as the Al Khalifa regime. Your support for this monarchy makes your government a partner in crime. I still have hope that you will realize that freedom and human rights mean as much to a Bahraini person as it does to an American, Syrian or a Libyan and that regional and political considerations should not be prioritized over liberty and human rights."
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights, the International Crisis Group and many others have exhaustively documented the brutal terror of Bahrain's government. No further evidence is needed. As long as the repression continues, the promise to lift the state of emergency is only an empty public relations gesture. The United States should end all aid to Bahrain, condemn the invasion by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and sharply denounce Bahrain's horrific suppression of democratic rights.
As the Arab Spring has swept through North Africa and the Middle East, the role of the United States has been truly shameful. Washington's rhetoric cannot conceal a deep fear of democracy. Its first instinct was to stand behind its old friends. Only when it became obvious that Ben Ali's and Mubarak's days were numbered were they abandoned. As for Saudi Arabia, this ultra-reactionary monarchy, with its appalling treatment of women and religious minorities, is almost never criticized by U.S. officials.
There are those who, while deploring repression in Bahrain, justify continuing U.S. support for that country's brutal tyranny as "realism"; in a dangerous world, they argue, our security depends on having a Middle Eastern state willing to host the Fifth Fleet. This argument is profoundly mistaken. Interventionist naval forces are part of a foreign policy that, by siding with despots and pitting the United States against the Arab people's longing for responsible government and a better way of life, guarantees endless terrorism and bloodshed and an even more dangerous world for everyone. For good reason, democratic movements around the world today do not trust the United States, which they see as motivated by imperial interest. That is why the U.S. desperately needs a new foreign policy, one that welcomes democratic forces -- not hypocritically, in order to manipulate them and blunt their impact, but to stand in solidarity with their struggles to win political power for the people and achieve social and economic justice.
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THE CAMPAIGN FOR PEACE AND DEMOCRACY advocates a new, progressive and non-militaristic U.S. foreign policy -- one that encourages democratization, justice and social change. The Campaign sees movements for peace, social justice and democratic rights, taken together, as the embryo of an alternative to great power politics and to the domination of society by privileged elites. Founded in 1982, the Campaign opposed the Cold War by promoting "detente from below." It engaged Western peace activists in the defense of the rights of democratic dissidents in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and enlisted East-bloc human rights activists against anti-democratic U.S. policies in countries like Nicaragua and Chile.