BahrainHuman Rights

‘Bahrainis deprived of basic rights’

As the popular uprising continues in Bahrain, five Bahraini opposition groups have called for “a serious dialog” with the Manama regime to find a solution to exit the political crisis in the country.

The opposition groups, led by al-Wefaq coalition, issued a statement on Sunday saying that they were in favor of “opening a serious dialogue with the regime to exit the current political crisis that is inflicting heavy losses on the country and people”.

The groups said the dialogue should be focused on “implementing drastic and comprehensive political and constitutional reforms.”

Press TV talks with Omar Nashabi, a judicial affairs expert, to ask whether a dialogue can help resolve Bahrain’s crisis or not.

The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Raza Kazim, from the Islamic Human Rights Commission in London and Nabeel Rajab who is the president of Bahrain Center for Human Rights. Below is the approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: The amount of support that the Al Khalifa regime is getting [from the West], as Mr. Kazim [the other guest on this show] mentioned there, King [King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa] recently visiting Britain and the reception that he got there, is this kind of support the regime is getting putting Bahrain in a different zone compared to the other countries in the region that are facing similar protests, so to speak in a ‘red line’, that Bahrain is a red line that you cannot cross and this is a regime that people cannot try to bring down?

Nashabi: Yes, apparently that is the case and I think what Mr. Kazim said is very important and it will help us understand the situation in a clear way. Adding to what Mr. Kazim said, there is also the support from Saudi Arabia that actually moved into a more concrete form as the Saudi Arabians sent their army to Bahrain to actually participate in the violations of human rights against the protesters. There is also support from the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council ([P]GCC), there is also support from the European Union — whether that support is very direct or indirect support for the king –, there is also a kind of Western alliance to support the king and that would encourage him or at least won’t make him hesitate in these violent acts that are ongoing despite the promises that he made after the Bassiouni’s report.

Talking about dialog — before I move into comparing it with the other countries in the region — I have to tell you that I think the dialog, if there is a real dialog, it should be based on concrete principles and there is no agreement on these principles at this point, unfortunately. There should be an agreement on transitional justice; there should be an agreement that things must be more transparent, there should be an agreement that there is a roadmap to freedom and to the freedom of expression of people, freedom of association. These basic freedoms and basic rights are not being respected at all.

To go back to your question where you asked me about other countries in the region that are also experiencing some protests, there clearly is a double standard on the part of the international community towards Bahrain. Despite the bloodshed, despite the violence, despite the murders on the streets in Bahrain, they are shutting down people from expressing themselves; the incredible limitations to the freedom of expression that are ongoing, not only inside Bahrain but also there are pressures outside Bahrain, even in the Arab region and in the Islamic world, there is a huge power supported by the West and by some Arab countries to actually stop people from expressing themselves and from showing these pictures. I am glad that these pictures are now out and I think it would be almost impossible to stop the leakage of the adequate information from inside Bahrain. The double standard is very clear.

Press TV: The role of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Nashabi, does that mean then that as long as Saudi Arabia does have this role and does strengthen its role, we know of course that it has gotten directly militarily involved in this crackdown against the protesters, do you think as long as this support continues that the Al Khalifa family is determined to cling onto power and will be able to cling onto power?

Nashabi: Yes, I would agree with that perspective and I think that, yes, the Saudi Arabian government and the Saudi Arabian kingdom and princes and the authorities there are supporting not just King Hamad, they are also supporting Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen and that is creating the big problem also in Yemen because they are holding onto him; they are feeling a threat that if Ali Abdullah Saleh falls in Yemen and if King Hamad falls in Bahrain, that will actually increase the pressure on Saudi Arabia. In addition, there is another perspective that I wish to clarify, if I may.

It is the perspective that one always says that the problem in Bahrain or in many circles, it said that the problem in Bahrain is the problem between Shia and Sunny and the population of the protesters is Shia, whereas the King is Sunny. It is not really what it is about. It is too simplistic to put it this way. It is about citizens who want to have equal rights instead and this is what freedom is all about and I think that they are being deprived these basic rights and when the movement started in Bahrain, it did not call for the removal of the king; it did not call for the overthrow of the government; it called for equal rights and reform through reform and through gradual transitional system.

But what they got in return was brutality, murder, torture, kidnapping and all sorts of violations of fundamental human rights that are continuing and ongoing today and what is the biggest hypocrisy, I think, was the fact that the Bassiouni report talked about some of the violations [and] I think that maybe Mr. Bassiouni was not able to gather enough information but I think that it only covered part of these violations and soon afterwards, it recommended some changes and the stop of these actual attitudes towards the citizens of Bahrain and the king actually promised that he is going to respect these findings and he is going to work according to the recommendations.

However, as Mr. Rajab [the other guest on the show] just said, until today and during the past three days, we have [had] five martyrs and we have [had] a large number of wounded, we have oppression continuing by the day, by the minute; right now you have hundreds of Bahrainis in prisons being tortured, being abused and that is a big hypocrisy trying to show the world that he is acting in a way that is towards finding a solution, whereas what King Hamad is doing is trying to bypass the demands of the protesters that are fair demands for freedom.

Press TV: What lies ahead now with the opposition saying it is going to enter into dialogue? Is that the best approach it can take? Is this dialogue going to work out? If it is not, what else can the Bahraini protesters do to get what they want?

Nashabi: I do not see any dialogue when it is based on false promises and it is based on continued foreign intervention in internal affairs especially from the Saudis and from the Americans and the British and the European Union, you know, I do not see the purpose of dialogue when you have continuous abuse, it is not stopping. Anywhere to have a dialogue that is really efficient, you need to have the will, the will to find a solution and there seems to only be a will on the part of the opposition that is on the part of those who are suffering and there is no will on the part of the people who are responsible for the suffering. That is a problem.

Therefore, I think that the struggle goes on and as my colleague [Raza Kazim] just said from London that this has been going on for a very long time and it will continue. The Bahraini people will continue to struggle for freedom and it is not a question of Shia or Sunni; it is not a question of a confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Bahrain, this is how they also try to portray it and this is not really a question of Iranian-Saudi clash in Bahrain, it is the question of basic fundamental rights for people living in that small country who have the right to have equal access to the judicial and a proper judicial.

As my colleague just described it, they do not have an independent judicial; they need to have an independent judicial; they need to have equal opportunities to participate in the government, equal representation. People need to live in a country where there is a rule of law that would actually consider people equal before the law.

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