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Bahrainis to Step up Peaceful Protests

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TEHRAN, March 14 (ICANA) – In the course of events that have agitated Bahrain since mid-February, the capital Manama has witnessed fresh clashes between the security forces and anti-government protesters.
Monday, March 14, 2011 10:44:50 PM
Bahrainis to Step up Peaceful Protests

Reports show that the security forces have used teargas to suppress the popular demonstrations demanding a broader distribution of wealth among the population, and above all, a change in the government ruled by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

Protesters have taken to calling the main square in the capital, “Martyrs Roundabout,” in memory of those who died in the violent crackdown by the government earlier in February.

The following is a rush transcript of a Press TV interview with Husain Abdullah, a human rights activist, based in the US state of Alabama, who shares his thoughts on the unfolding events taking place in the oil-rich Persian Gulf state.

 

Q: Please tell us your understanding of the ongoing events in Bahrain.

Abdullah: Thank you for having me. Today was another day when the government brutally attacked the peaceful protesters, who -- as I expected -- are going to escalate their struggle and protest in different areas. They took it to the royal court. They took it to the King's palace and today, there were several protests -- one in the university and one where they blocked the financial harbors in the capital. They were also gathering at Pearl Square.

I expect the government to continue its deceptive program where they are going to paint this as “sectarian” like they have always done, where they show this is an in-fight between the Shia and Sunni of the population, and they are the ones, who are going to come and solve this problem. The Al Khalifa regime has been using the divide-and-conquer strategy since they arrived in Bahrain.

However, this time, they are not going to be successful because the protesters are a mix of Bahraini citizens regardless of their sect. In addition, we have also seen a couple of serious developments today where the current prince announced that he is willing to accept all the preconditions for dialog. However, the response that came from the people was that it is too little too late.

There was also some threat from Saudi Arabia that they are going to help Bahrain by sending their troops to the country, which is basically against any international law or norm. We have never seen a country going to kill citizens of another country to protect its minority government -- to protect a government that does not have slim support, or has little support from its citizens. So I am very concerned whether these threats from Saudi Arabia can be materialized and I am sure different organizations in Bahrain and outside Bahrain contacted the United Nations, contacted the United States government, the United Kingdom government, that such move will not be tolerated by the international community.

Q: A report shows that in 2008, the United States apparently sold equipment to the Bahraini government to control the crowd. There are now those, who wonder why a power like the United States should sell such weapons to the ruling government in the Arab nation. What is your comment?

Abdullah: The different societies in Bahrain were surprised by the trends and tenacity of the youth movement. I would not relate it (the selling of arms) to these events. However, there is a strong arms lobby in the United States that pressures Congress to allow it to sell weapons to these dictators. And I think Congress should be ashamed to help the dictators kill their own people. You know, we will have blood on our hand here if we allow the dictators to use the arms that we get to Bahrain as a form of security help or military help to be used against their own citizens. That should not be tolerated or accepted any longer. That is why we are seeing that the United States State Department has put the annual rent to the base (Fifth Fleet) on hold; they have put all military and security aid to Bahrain on hold. And they are going to investigate whether American tax dollar money, funded by the Congress, was used to kill the protesters.

 

Q: Apparatus such as teargas are used particularly when we talk about uprisings. The question is what are those weapons doing in Bahrain in 2008?

Abdullah: Of course, when the Bahraini government requested such weapons, the United States Congress should have basically asked what exactly the Bahraini government wanted those weapons to be used for. The answer would have been to use them on the people. So in the first place, they should never have been sold to such a dictatorial government. But it is not only the United States that sells weapons to Bahrain. France sold weapons in 2007. The United Kingdom sold weapons in 2010. Millions of dollars went from Bahrain to the United Kingdom's weapons factories. The United States did it in 2008; the United Kingdom did it last year. With all these acts by the United States, or other Western allies, or other Western countries, they should be ashamed of their action. They call for democracy, but when the people in the Middle East ask for democracy, instead of supporting them, the Western powers supply these Middle Eastern countries with weapons to suppress any democratic movement. I think this should change and stop.

Q: The opposition in Bahrain has rejected straight talks with the government. Do you think it is the issue of trust that does not exist between the opposition and the government, or perhaps it is a bit too late?

Abdullah: There is no trust between the ruling family in Bahrain -- who have been cheating the people -- and the people of Bahrain. You cannot kill me and torture me and injure me and throw me in jail and then come and tell me I am going to have a dialog with you. You cannot do that. For example, what has Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman been doing in power for forty years? If the Bahraini government had even a little bit of seriousness and integrity with them, they would have held him responsible. This is the least they can do.

You have blood on the streets. Different medical centers in Bahrain are full of injured people, full of stories of horror, torture, and beating by basically security forces wearing civilian clothing and attacking people with knives. This is an important point that needs to be come across. Those who are attacking people in Bahrain are mercenaries brought from neighboring countries. They are not Bahrainis. So it is too little too late, dead on arrival. I think the demand is clear, and the call for civil disobedience is going to be very large and huge. Bahrain is basically going to be paralyzed from tomorrow. The people are going to escalate their peaceful protests till this regime finally leaves Bahrain. Al Khalifa today is considered an occupying force.

Q: There is the notion of foreign interest in Bahrain. We have the United States Fifth Fleet based there. We have Secretary of Defense Robert Gates traveling to Bahrain. We also have the issue of Saudi Arabia wanting to deploy its heavy weaponry in Bahrain. Why do you think all this is happening?

Abdullah: Bahrain is the key to the Persian Gulf. If Bahrain becomes free, then you are going to look at other countries -- (the) people of Kuwait, (the) people of Saudi Arabia, (the) people of Oman, (the) people of Qatar -- are not going to just sit and watch Bahrain choosing their own government, choosing their own members of parliament in free and fair election. People in those other Arab countries of the region will not accept the reality and do nothing. Freedom's arrival in Bahrain is going to flourish the whole GCC (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council) countries. Thugs calling themselves 'royal' or 'ruling' families have ruled these countries for so many years, and they are not going to have that luxury anymore if Bahrain becomes democratic.

You have the United States Fifth Fleet, which basically plays an important role. You know, it is to my surprise that Robert Gates made some statement that can be considered very positive when it comes from a highly regarded United States official. The United States needs to make its stance very clear; it needs to condemn these attacks on peaceful protesters to make it clear to the people of Bahrain that they are on the right side of the street and it is going to support those who are willing to fight for freedom and democracy peacefully, and that is what the youth movement in Bahrain is all about. It is the peaceful movement toward justice; toward the removal of Al Khalifah from Bahrain.

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