DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – An internet site that hosted an impartial report on the Arab Spring protests in Bahrain in 2011 and the federal government crackdown that ended them was mysteriously taken offline earlier than being re-established on Thursday, days in exactly earlier than the tenth anniversary of the protests.
Bahrain has more and more sought to erase reminiscences of the mass protests that ten years in the past this week threatened the Sunni monarchy’s grip on energy. Dissent persists on this small, predominantly Shiite island kingdom off the east coast of Saudi Arabia. Police have been in drive on the town’s streets over the previous week, residents say, taking no possibilities in one other protest.
After repeated requests from The Related Press, the web site of the Bahraini Impartial Fee of Inquiry, commissioned by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, was put again on-line on Thursday afternoon. The federal government described it as a “technical drawback”, with out giving particulars. Bahraini officers haven’t responded to repeated requests for touch upon the anniversary.
For weeks beginning on February 14, 2011, 1000’s of streets crowded throughout Bahrain, emboldened and stimulated by the pro-democracy protests that rocked Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Bahrain’s protests had been staged primarily by the nation’s Shiites who sought better political rights within the Persian Gulf state, which is a key Western ally and residential to the U.S. Navy’s fifth Fleet.
“It was overwhelming,” remembers Nazeeha Saeed, a journalist on the time for a French tv station, describing the heady days in Pearl Roundabout, the symbolic heart of the capital, Manama, later razed by the authorities. “I had by no means seen something prefer it. Individuals have forgotten that we’re a kingdom within the Persian Gulf supported by highly effective monarchies.
Then, Saeed mentioned, every little thing went horribly mistaken. Safety forces tried to disperse the sit-in, responding to the protests with torrents of tear fuel, rubber bullets and, in some circumstances, stay hearth. Police shot a protester within the head simply 20 meters (21 meters) in entrance of them. She mentioned she was detained, overwhelmed and electrocuted for telling international journalists what she noticed.
Now in exile in Berlin, Saeed mentioned she couldn’t return dwelling. Bahrain in 2017 fined him $ 2,650 for working with a government-issued press card. The federal government on the identical time refused to accredit two Associated Press journalists and since then has tightly managed visas for reporting on the island.
As violence escalated throughout the weeks of February 2011, protests became a grassroots motion crossing sectarian divisions. Requires constitutional reform became calls for for dismantling the nation’s political construction. The monarchy has turned to close by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for assist, calling on international troops to crush the protests.
After the crackdown, King Hamad ordered an internationally acknowledged fee of jurists and teachers headed by the late regulation professor Cherif Bassiouni to analyze. The ensuing 500-page report, based mostly on greater than 5,100 interviews with protesters and residents, describes prisons affected by torture, dozens of arbitrary arrests and the extraction of pressured confessions in opposition to these caught. to the web. The detainees, he reported, had been overwhelmed and compelled to kiss pictures of the king and the prime minister.
A decade later, activists in Bahrain and in exile declare their nation is way much less free than it was in 2011. Presenting criticism of his rule as an Iranian plot to undermine the nation, the federal government has stepped up. its crackdown on dissent. Bahrain additionally blamed Iran for sparking the 2011 protests, though the report by Bassiouni and different specialists discovered no proof of this.
Tehran, nevertheless, denies interfering in Bahrain the weapons seized on the island were linked to Iran. Even Iran, beneath the previous shah, tried to say Bahrain as a part of its territory.
Since 2011, authorities have focused not solely Shia political teams and non secular leaders, but additionally human rights activists, journalists and on-line opponents. Mass trials have turn out to be commonplace. Political events have been dismantled. Impartial assortment of data on the island has turn out to be more and more tough. Throughout this time, there have been sporadic and low-level assaults on police and different targets by Shiite militant teams.
Even a tweet can land one in jail, though Bahrain’s structure ensures its residents free speech. Nabeel Rajab, some of the outstanding leaders of the 2011 protests, was solely launched final yr in home arrest because of the coronavirus pandemic after serving years of an internationally criticized prison sentence.
Final fall, activists say, the federal government stepped up its crackdown on on-line dissent after the dying of longtime prime minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa. Protesters in 2011 demanded that Prince Khalifa resign and stand trial for corruption and human rights violations.
A Bahraini man, a former journalist who declined to be recognized for concern of reprisal, mentioned he was thrown in jail for 2 weeks after posting a Quranic verse on social media which safety forces mentioned advised that he rejoiced on the dying of the Prime Minister.
“Since 2011, we have solely been going backwards,” the 47-year-old mentioned. “Now the one which means of the phrase ‘opposition’ in Bahrain is to attempt to doc the arrests of your pals.”
Observe Isabel DeBre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre.