New year – a year of peace and democracy in Bahrain?

The end of 2011, but not the end for the Bahraini democracy movement.   I wish everyone in the world a happy new year – and a new year that brings democracy, peace and happiness.

The Bahrain Uprising in Numbers by , December 29, 2011

Number of citizens: 535,000

Percentage of citizens who are Shia Muslim: 70

Percentage of those in government: 13

Number of senior positions they fill in the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Cabinet Affairs, the National Guard, the Supreme Defense Council, and the Royal Court: 0

Percentage in the Ministry of Finance: 10

Percentage in the Ministry of Information: 6

Percentage in the judiciary: 5

Of the 1,000 National Security Apparatus employees, percentage who are non-Bahraini: 64

Percentage who are Shia Bahraini: less than 5

Of the 20,000 paramilitary Special Security Forces, percentage who are non-Bahraini: 90

Percentage who are Shia Bahraini: 0

Number of elected Bahrainis from all sects who sit on the country’s all-powerful Shura Council: 0

Day pro-democracy protests began in Bahrain as part of the Arab Spring: Feb. 14, 2011

People who took to the streets: 300,000

Proportional equivalent if Egyptians had done likewise: 40 million

Evidence that Iran instigated the demonstrations: 0

Day Saudi Arabia invaded to put down the uprising: March 14, 2011

Number of Saudi, UAE, and Qatari troops who arrived in armored vehicles: 1,500

People killed since Feb. 14: 50

Fatalities as a result of tear gas shot into residential homes or birdshot fired at close range: 30

Age of youngest victim: 5 days

Arbitrary arrests: 1,500

Civilians sentenced by military courts: 208

Physicians sentenced for offering medical treatment to demonstrators: 20

Cumulative jail terms levied: 2,500 years

Citizens currently accused of violating freedom of speech or assembly laws: 1,000

Documented cases of torture and ill-treatment since the revolt began: 1,866

Bahraini officials held responsible for killings or the systemic use of torture: 0

Mosques destroyed: 40+

Journalists targeted: 90+

Workers fired for supporting, taking part, or suspicion of having taken part in pro-democracy activities: 2,710

University students expelled for the same reasons: 477

Prisoners of conscience: 500

Bahrain’s rank among countries in political prisoners per capita: 1st

Proposed U.S. arms sales to Bahrain: $53 million

Years the al-Khalifa family has ruled Bahrain: 228

Days left in power: numbered

Thanks to the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and other NGOs for helping compile these figures.

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Cartoons and thugs

So much that I want to share in this blog today –

Firstly, I want to honour all the wonderful women of Bahrain.  It was Women’s Day in Bahrain on Thursday.  I want to pay tribute to the courageous women of Bahrain.  In the past year, many have had to face and overcome obstacles they never imagined they would meet.  They have faced terror, intimidation, torture, bullets and rape.  They have continued to stand up for what they believe, despite the personal costs and many are very changed.  To you all, I applaud you for your strength, your dignity and your commitment.

Another interesting cartoon is ‘Bahrain, lines in ink, lines in the sand’.  by Josh Neufeld.  It follows Mohammed and Sara, two young Bahraini editorial cartoonists who found themselves on opposite sides of Bahrain’s short-lived Pearl Revolution.”

The results of the Boussini inquiry have now been out for a week.  This is what Human Rights First had to say about it. “Today the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, led by Cherif Bassiouni, released its report on the brutalities that occurred during this spring’s pro-democracy protests.  Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, on the ground in Bahrain, has issued the following statement:

The Bassiouni Commission today confirmed what Human Rights First and other leading human rights organizations internationally have been saying for months – that thousands of people were arrested, tortured, and subjected to unfair trials.  Thousands of workers and students were dismissed for association with the democracy protests.  Bassiouni told the world what it already knew from media and human rights reports—that the calls for democracy were brutally crushed, and were not masterminded by Iran.  Despite early claims that Tehran was behind the protests, the King conceded that ‘the government of Bahrain was not in a position to provide evidence of links between Iran and specific events in our country this year.’

The onus is on the Bahrain government to stop and show that it has stopped attacking its population.  Yet today, the opposition MP Matar Matar was due back in court for taking part in peaceful protests and there are reports of a 37-year-old man killed by a police vehicle.  On Monday, November 28, the trial of 20 medics who treated wounded protesters resumes.

When the Bahrain government’s own commission of inquiry confirms severe human rights violations and when some of those violations continue, it’s hard to see how the U.S. government can proceed with the proposed $53 million arms sale.”

So – what has the king done?  He’s said, oh, yes, this is terrible, we must do something about this and ensure that our police are properly trained so this doesn’t happen again.  So off he goes, and hires and ex-US police chief to ‘help with reforms of its law enforcement procedures’.   But not just any police chief.  The man who will take on the job is John Timoney who was chief of the Miami Police during the protests at the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in 2003. “Many criticisms about systemic police abuse throughout the days of the protest have been made. A judge presiding over the cases of the free trade protesters, Judge Richard Margolius, said in court that he saw no less than 20 felonies committed by police officers during the November demonstrations, adding to a chorus of complaints about police conduct. Various footage of the protests that took place and alleged police abuse is the subject of many internet videos.[1]  The Miami Police force was backed at the time by $8.5 million in anti-terrorism funds which were funneled by Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld.[2] The conduct of the Miami officers indirectly resulted in the death of one protester, Jordan Matthew Feder[3]

To find out what Timoney’s reputation is like in the US, this article by David Rovics entitled ‘John Timoney’s bloody journey’ may be helpful, though depressing.  “John Timoney, until recently chief of police of Miami and before that Philadelphia, formerly of New York City, where he also was a high-ranking cop, is heading to Bahrain to train the cops there, according to the Associated Press.  If you happen to know anybody from Bahrain who might be thinking that hiring this New Yorker could be a step in the direction of less massacre-oriented policing policies, this might be a good time to relieve them of any such illusions.”

And if you need any more clarification, listen to the song David Rovics wrote about John Timoney in 2005 called ‘Butcher for hire”.  The chorus is:

John Timoney, butcher for hire
he’s a brutal thug and a dirty liar
a cop among cops and a man among men
and oh my god he’s back again.

The next verse says “He’ll protect our freedom in his own special ways by smashing in your face today.  He’ll spray tear gas in your eyes and look in the camera and tell lies.”

Don’t you think the Khalifas are clever?  They order a commission of inquiry into their abuses and the international community applauds. Then the commission finds that yes, abuses did take place and the king says, oh, dear we must make changes.  And the international community applauds.  Then the king says, we will appoint an American to train our police in how to deal with such situations in future.  And the international community applauds.