Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Repression continues in Bahrain

Unconfirmed reports surfaced today that a female poet who recited her anti-government poems in Pearl Square had died after enduring torture. She remains missing.

Twenty-year-old Ayat al-Ghermezi was actively involved in the peaceful protests against Bahrain’s authoritarian government led by King Hamad bin Isa. When the government’s response to the demonstrations turned violent in mid March, security forces searched Ghermezi’s home and threatened her family until they revealed her whereabouts. She was arrested shortly afterwards. Her death was reported today, although it was later claimed that the news is a leak by the Bahrain government to discredit media. Bahrain is currently under a media blackout enforced by the government.

Bahrain’s government continues to abduct both female and male protesters and human rights activists. On Monday, six female teachers and several pupils were arrested at a school in Hamad. Teachers have gone on strike several times since the beginning of demonstrations in Bahrain on February 14, to show solidarity with the aims of the protest movements. The Education Ministry has responded by setting up a committee to take action against administration staff and teachers who are active in the protests and strikes. Security forces have further abducted medical staff from several medical centres. Human Rights Watch has estimated that at least 400 activists have gone missing since the beginning of the government crack-down on March 14.

Bahraini youth began a mass hunger strike on March 18 to show their rejection of the abuses of human rights currently underway in their country. They are following the example of Zainab Alkhawaja, daughter of human rights activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is now on her eighth day of hunger strike.

Bahrain’s government is receiving support from Saudi Arabian, Kuwaiti and United Arab Emirate forces in an attempt to quell pro-democracy uprisings. The response of the international community to the violence in Bahrain has been lukewarm in comparison to previous responses in countries such as Libya and Egypt. Hesitation over the situation in Bahrain is damaging the image of Western governments in some quarters of the Arab world, as the USA is associated by many with Saudi Arabia’s government.

Petitions asking the UN, EU, USA and UK governments to take a firmer stance to dissuade the government in Bahrain from violating human rights are operating online.

Through the peaceful and democratic process of letter-writing, you can bring your concern over the situation in Bahrain, especially in regard to the deaths of human rights activists and the detention of pregnant women and children, to the attention of decision-makers around the world. For more information about the human rights situation in Bahrain, visit Human Rights Watch.

United States of America: To find and contact your representative in the USA click here, or contact the White House here.

United Kingdom: To find and contact your MP in the UK click here, or to write to the Prime Minister click here.

Austria: To contact your representative in the Austrian Parliament click here.

EU: To contact your representative in the European Parliament, click here.

UN: Contact the UN General Assembly here.

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