By Catherine Shakdam – As much as the media eyes have been focus on Iraq and Syria where ISIL fighters – Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – have secured devastating advances against both Iraq and Syria armed forces, Bahrain has been left to suffer, its people’s plight for justice ignored by the international community.
For well over three years now the people of Bahrain have fought tooth and nail to see their calls for democratic reforms implemented, determined to no longer tolerate the unjust, unfair and bias rule of King Hamad ibn Issa Al Khalifa; yet their peaceful revolutionary movement has failed to garner meaningful support.
While the United States of America and the European Union have time and time again since 2011, pledged their support to the people of Yemen, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria as they rose together, calling on their respective government to operate deep institutional changes in order to reflect their desire to see flourish democracy, Bahrain has been cast aside, as if a pariah of the 2011 revolutionary movement.
While Yemeni revolutionaries were hailed for their restraint in staging their anti-government protests, and officials slammed for using violence against unarmed civilians, Bahrainis have been branded as terrorists for attempting to bring down the autocratic house of Al Khalifa through peaceful protesting. Even more troubling, while western powers were keen to brand Syrian President Bashar Al Assad a vicious tyrant for allegedly using heavy handed techniques against dissidents, Al Khalifa royals, whose crimes against the people of Bahrain have been abundantly documented and verified by countless independent human rights organizations have continued to be counted as friends and allies.
The deep disconnect which now exists in relation to the international community and Bahrain revolutionary movement is driving a dangerous narrative, where vindication and resentment have taken the driver’s seat.
Feeling abandoned and betrayed by the west, Bahrainis have withdrawn behind sectarian lines, closing in on themselves as they fight for their plight to be recognized as valid and fair.
But if Bahrain regime continues to sow destruction and bloodshed across the kingdom, keen to crush Bahrain Shias from under its feet in a bid to reinvent its kingdom ethnic make-up, what can be said of the media? What responsibility should the media carry before Bahrain ethnic cleansing?
While few have seldom dared utter such words, realities on the ground can only lead to such conclusion. Bahrain is living through the darkest days of its history; an entire people are being persecuted on account of their faith and desire to see rise a civil state where autocracy once resided.
In a conversation on Bahrain this June, Ali Al Haddad, Head of International & Public Relations for the European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) commented that for the sake of political convenience and economic interests western powers had chosen to renege on their democratic values and refuse Bahrainis’ revolution. In the same manner foreign media played a key role in supporting the 2011 pro-democracy revolutionary moments in the MENA region – Middle East and Northern Africa – and the ultimate toppling of several regimes, media silence in Bahrain has enabled a brutal system to endure. By saying nothing of the crimes of Al Khalifa against its people, the media have proven as guilty as those who carry the guns.
There is a point where silence becomes a crime against humanity.
From the onset of Bahrain revolution, Bahrain regime has systematically targeted opposition leaders, both political and religious, as to instil fear and throw factions such as Al Wefaq -Bahrain most prominent party of the opposition – out of balance. Blinded by fear and hatred, Al Khalifa has stooped to all imaginable lows, relentlessly torturing and abusing its way through whomever and whatever opposes his savagery.
While hopes remain alive in the strength of Bahraini activists and politicians, darkness remains ever so bleak and suffocating.
For the most part, suffocation has come by way of media complacency and political hypocrisy. While Bahrain bleeds and suffers a thousand deaths with every loss and every tear which is shed in the name of freedom, western powers have buried their heads further down into the sand.
Earlier this year, a recent report from the UK Foreign Office report, read that Bahrain’s reform programme suggested the country’s “overall trajectory on human rights will be positive,” in reference to King Hamadestablishment of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI).
And yet, harrowing cases of torture and abuses continue to occur under the merciless sun of Al Khalifa.
In May 2014, a damning report on Bahrain’s justice system was released by Human Rights Watch, detailing its selective application, broken promises and a further descent into savage violence by the security state in the three years since the country’s own pro-democracy movement.
Despite continuing efforts at peaceful reform Al Khalifa’s disdain for international law and human rights has rendered every negotiation useless. Rather than reform Bahrain, Al Khalifa has instead clawed its way into the judicial system, de facto putting Bahrain judiciary system under his tyrannical thumb, thus denying any measure of hope for a sensible and comprehensive political dialogue.
Before such rampant, unabated torture what chances do Bahrain freedom fighters stand, especially amid such media silence?
As HRW’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork pointed out in a comment made in May, “Bahrain’s problem is not a dysfunctional justice system, but rather a highly functional injustice system.”
If one needs further proof of Bahrain ignominy, one only needs to look at Ali Saqer’s case. Ali was arrested by the regime security forces back in 2011. A few days later officials confirmed that he had died while in custody. His body was found covered in”blunt force contusions”. Before unprecedented national outrage, the two security officers responsible for Ali’s death are convicted to ten years in prison. But an appeals court later on cut their sentence to just two years, because the defendants’ actions sought to “preserve the life of detainees, among them the victim”.
As commented by David Mepham, in an article for the Huffington Post, “In other words, as they helped beat Ali Saqer to death, the officers in question were actually only trying to keep him alive.”
This is the kind of system Bahrainis are up against, this is the type of system the media has failed to actively condemn and denounce, to the point where its silence has become criminal.