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Tensions High on Bahrain Anniversary
WASHINGTON - February 14 - Today marks one year since Bahraini protestors took to the streets to demand free and fair elections. The Feb. 14, 2011 protests were met with a brutal crackdown by the Bahraini regime that has since killed, detained, and tortured peaceful protestors. Human Rights First has learned that Bahraini protestors participating in today’s anniversary events have faced tear gas and many have been arrested. In addition, hospitals and clinics are being closely watched by the security forces and injured protestors who seek medical treatment face arrest and worse.
“The same demand for reform is still there,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who has authored four reports on Bahrain and has traveled there three times since the uprisings began. “Democracy protestors are still being attacked and prosecuted for calling for an elected government.”
The pro-democracy protests in Bahrain are among the Arab Spring’s largest uprisings. To retain its power, the government has responded with excessive force and international propaganda. The Bahraini regime has detained more than 3,000 people since the protests began; many have been subjected to torture and abuse without proper legal access or fair trials. Several protests earlier this week were met with tear gas and sound bomb attacks by the police using excessive force. A minority of protestors have thrown petrol bombs and other missiles at the police.
Last year, Congress abandoned a proposed $53 million arms sale to the Bahraini regime due to concerns about the crackdown. Even so, as the Bahraini government’s abuses continue, the Obama Administration is moving ahead with a new military transfer. Human Rights First believes this transfer sends the wrong message, especially in the absence of public statements made by U.S. Government officials and heard by Bahraini human rights defenders. The United States government should condemn the Bahraini government for its continuing crackdown on the non-violent, pro-democracy movement.
“As today’s protests continue, the Bahraini people are still under attack and still waiting for the United States and other nations to take a stand on their behalf,” concluded Dooley. “The time to act is now.”