“How can you have a dialogue with someone who is holding a gun to your head?” by Timothy V. Gatto and Finian Cunningham

This third interview with Finian Cunningham, an Irish journalist now living in Manama, Bahrain, is probably the most telling yet. The arrest of 47 medical personnel and the subsequent torture after their arrest for crimes against the government in Bahrain belies this notion expressed to President Barack Obama that “everything is returning to normal” in Bahrain. With the presence of the US 5th Fleet in that country, our government surely knows that the massive reprisals by the monarchy in Bahrain are still continuing, right up to the present day.

Mr. Cunningham has bravely offered us a glimpse into this nation and a personal accounting of what’s tagging place. We read about Syria and Libya, but hardly anything about Bahrain. This is probably due to the vested interest we have because of our fleet. We discuss this in the interview and come to some very sobering conclusions about U.S. foreign policy.

We get a view of America from Cunningham and also in the way that the average Bahraini views our foreign policies in action. I believe many Americans will come away from this interview, deeply ashamed of our government’s failure to stand behind a secular, pro-democracy movement. I came away from this interview very frustrated, feeling that we had lost a perfect chance to solidify our standing in the Arab world by not supporting a popular movement of a people demanding democratic rights.

The human rights violations that are occurring in Bahrain are staggering to say the least. Cunningham recounts the arrest of a twenty year old college student that was arrested for reading a pro-democracy poem that she wrote. She is charged with hate crimes against the government and sedition. In the U-Tube video below we see a column of SUV’s stopping to fire on Shia Muslims’ on their way to Friday evening prayers.

Ms14feb on Jun 5, 2011

The attack on the funeral processions and religious freedom before the occupation forces Arabia and Bahraini forces to commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali al-Hadi (AS) 06/05/2011

Attacks on Religious Freedom in Bahrain

From Finian Cunningham:

It shows cavalcade of ministry of interior jeeps rolling into a Shia village called Ma’ameer, not far from the capital, Manama, on the night of 5 June, 2011.

Police get out of jeeps and start firing randomly and gratuitously at the villagers who were holding customary Shia religious event in their Mosque.

This kind of police raid on Ma’ameer happens almost on a nightly basis, and not just in Ma’ameer but in all Shia villages of Bahrain and districts in Manama.

In the police attack mentioned above there were no reports of injuries, but in one previous raid in Ma’ameer on March 25, a 71-year-old man, Isa Mohammed, died from asphyxiation after police fired teargas into this home.

Note that these villages are not engaging in any criminal activities. They are unarmed civilians who are being wantonly attacked by state security forces simply on the basis that the people are Shia and therefore deemed by the Sunni elite rulers to be supportive of anti-government (pro-democracy) movement, which in itself is not illegal and is supposedly a right that is permitted by Bahrain’s signatory to international laws, that is, the right to have political opinions.

Note also that, according to my contacts, the security personnel are mainly Saudi or from Yemen, Syria, Jordan. These personnel are predominantly Sunni and loyal to the regime. That is why they have been recruited by the regime. The police and army personnel are extremely hostile to Shia people out of deep sectarian phobia. This is especially true of the Saudis who are typically Wahhabis, the kind of extreme Islamism that Saudi rulers and Al Qaeda espouses. Wahhabis see it almost as a religious duty to crush Shias. We saw the same phobia in Iraq where Shia mosques were mostly attacked by bombers. The effective consent that the West has given the Bahraini rulers to crackdown on their people means the West is colluding with some of the most repressive regimes in the Middle East to crush pro-democracy people in Bahrain. Soldiers from Saudi Arabia, a country that does not permit women to drive cars alone, are in Bahraini suppressing people demanding Democratic freedoms – and the Saudis are being given de facto US and British support (on the basis that silence is support).

Finally, the date of the above incident, 5 June, and many other such raids on villages is several days after the State of Emergency Law was supposedly lifted in Bahrain by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (1 June). This supposed lifting of the emergency measures by the state was greeted this week by the White House as a positive sign of Bahrain beginning an alleged process of “inclusive dialogue” with the opposition. But as Bahraini human rights activists pointed out: “How can you have a dialogue with someone who is holding a gun to your head?”

My hope is that the American people learn from the article and the interview. I believe that the situation in Bahrain is totally against what we claim to stand for in this country. It’s about time we actually lived up to the principles we claim to have, or this will be just another example of how American foreign policy creates a divide in what could have been a good relationship with a people striving toward self-determination and the lofty ideals we expressed in our own Declaration of Independence. It will be just another failure of the Obama administration in a long line of failures and broken campaign promises when he touted “Change”. If the administration continues to echo the propaganda of the Bahraini monarchy, we will just be propping up another despotic, heavy-handed autocracy that is run by a minority elite at the expense of the people. This is the kind of foreign policy that makes enemies out of people that could have been allies. It’s no wonder that America’s reputation has become so poor around the world.

Contact Tim at: timgatto@hotmail.com. Read Tim’s Complicity to Contempt and Kimchee Days or Stoned Cold Warriors from Oliver Arts and Open Press.

Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician www.myspace.com/finiancunninghammusic.

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