ADHRB Weekly Newsletter 22

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Bahrain’s Arrested Revolution: The Struggle for Rights and Reform 

Photo Credit: ADHRB

On 16 October, in collaboration with Creative Peace Initiatives, American University Muslim Students Association, and Ethics, Peace and Global Affairs, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain hosted a panel discussion at the American University (AU) School for International Service (SIS) titled Bahrain’s Arrested Revolution: The Struggle for Rights and Reform. Panelists included Professor Juan Mendez, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and professor at AU’s Washington College of Law; Sarah Leah Whitson, Director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Program; Matar Ebrahim Matar, Former Member of the Bahraini Parliament and opposition leader; Dr. Kristin Diwan, AU SIS professor of Comparative and Regional studies with Gulf expertise; and Dr. Shadi Mokhtari, SIS professor of Human Rights, Middle East Studies, and Political Islam, as moderator.The panel discussed several topics, including the relationship between the US government and that of Bahrain, the capacity of international pressure- both civil and state- to influence reform in Bahrain, the social and political background of the reform movement & its motivations, and the future of the Bahraini struggle. Mr. Matar expressed concern that the US policy of indifference to repression in Bahrain effectively provides a “green light to the regime to continue” violating political & human rights, while Dr. Diwan noted the difference in attitudes held by the US government, with the Defense Department and security-oriented agencies placing greater importance on the relationship with the royal family due to Fifth Fleet interests while the State Department and other agencies focused on human rights have been more likely to express concern regarding the Bahrain government’s behavior. Special Rapporteur Mendez stated his disappointment over having a trip to Bahrain to investigate instances of possible abuse & torture cancelled twice by the Government of Bahrain, but confirmed his office is tracking developments. He emphasized the ‘self-conscious’ nature of Bahrain authorities, particularly the Crown Prince as an American University alumnus, and the advantage that lends international organizations seeking to publicly hold the regime accountable. Special Rapporteur Mendez also confirmed that he had received complaints from individuals in Bahrain alleging that they had been subjected to torture by agents of the Government of Bahrain, but that the Government of Bahrain had yet to respond to any of those complaints in a satisfactory manner. Ms. Whitson drew attention to the contrast between the highly “polished” image the Bahrain regime has painted utilizing Western Public Relations firms in tandem with local co-opted print & electronic newspapers and the reports given by the heavily persecuted citizen-journalists & independent publications on the ground.Over ninety audience members attended the panel discussion and asked questions on a variety of issues, including the nature of ‘sectarian’ divisions between Shia and Sunni in Bahrain. Dr. Diwan described the cross-sectional, liberal origins of resistance while recognizing the difficult regional perspective given the polarized media while Mr. Matar gave examples of coordination between diverse groups in peaceful protest, including cooperation between new Sunni youth groups and Al Wefaq, the main Shia opposition party. He blamed the ‘kleptocratic’ regime for using the language of sectarian hatred to create a smokescreen for their exploitative abuse of power. Concerning the future of Bahrain, Ms. Whitson declared that the people wish to return to their normal lives and this creates the impetus for real reform while Dr. Diwan said supporting moderate reform over total withdrawal will be the greatest challenge. Compared to conflicts over democracy and rights in neighboring countries, Mr. Matar described Bahrain’s as the “most achievable struggle”.

Human Rights Defenders in Bahrain
Tuesday, October 22 | 9 am – 4 pm
 2013 FPI Forum: Will America Lead? (RSVP)
Foreign Policy Initiative
Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium
1301 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington DC

Tuesday, October 22 & Wednesday, October 23 | Full Day
22nd Annual Arab-US Policymakers Conference (RSVP)
National Council on US-Arab Relations
Ronal Reagan Building & International Tade Center | Atrium Hall
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW,, Washington DC
(This Event is NOT Free)

Wednesday, October 23 | 6 – 730 pm
Qatar: Small State, Big Politics (RSVP)
Georgetown University
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center | CCAS Boardroom | ICC 241
37th & O Street NW, Washington DC

Thursday, October 24| 630 – 8 pm
Author Series: Dr. Vali Nasr (RSVP)
World Affairs Council, DC
12th Floor
1700 K Street NW, Washington DC

Friday, October 25 | 830 am – 430 pm
Assessing the ‘Clash’ of Secular & Religious Trends in the Middle East and North Africa (RSVP)
Georgetown University
Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center | CCAS Boardroom | ICC 241
37th & O Street NW, Washington DC