Protest the crackdown against dissent in Bahrain, and the imprisonment and torture of human rights defenders and web activists—support the Free Ali Abdulemam campaign:
“To say ‘I want complete democracy now’ is not good for anyone. Throwing open the political process too abruptly will only leave Islamists running the show.” – Sheik Mohammed Bin Ateyatalla Al-Khalifa, president of the Royal Court and a powerful member of the kingdom’s royal family.
Bahrain is a dictatorship ruled by an ethnic and religious minority, that has toyed with some liberalization, and now moved back to smashing any opposition.
According to Mohamed ElGohary on Global Voices: Advocacy Ali Abdulemam, a leading Bahraini blogger and Global Voices Advocacy author, was arrested on 05 September 2010 by the Bahraini authorities for allegedly spreading “false news” on the BahrainOnline.org portal, “one of the most popular pro-democracy outlets in Bahrain, amidst the worst sectarian crackdown by the government in years, and accusations of a supposed ‘terror network’ involving several political and human rights activists.”
Bahrain’s ruling regime has accused opposition activists of a “terror campaign” (Al Jazeera: “Bahrain dissidents face charges,” 05 September 2010; BBC: “Bahrain accuses Shia activists of ‘terror campaign’” 04 September 2010). The accusation, given that the majority of the nation is Shia, that the opposition is somehow allied with Iran and doing its bidding, seeking to overthrow the regime by force and engaging in “propaganda.” Human rights activists imprisoned by the regime have allegedly suffered torture. The Bahrain Center for Human Rights is also reporting that the state has cracked down on dozens of websites. In a country where the local media self-censors, and reporters from Al Jazeera are banned, these sites are the only sources of alternative news and information. The BCHR has issued the following demands:
Thus, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights demands the following from the Bahraini government:
- To lift the ban and blockage against all public affairs, cultural, social, legal, political and religious websites.
- The withdrawal of all actions that would restrict freedom of opinion and expression, or prevent the transmission of information.
- To commit to its international obligations and respect all forms of freedom of expression as enshrined in international conventions and treaties.
- To amend the Press Law No. 47 of 2002 and make it in line with international standards of human rights.
See also: http://freeali.blogspot.com/
See Ali Abdulemam’s blog: http://abdulemam.blogspot.com/
If you are a blogger and value freedom of expression and the right to dissent, post your support for Ali Abdulemam on your blog. It could be as simple as just posting the YouTube video above, and a link to http://freeabdulemam.wordpress.com/.
For more background, read “The Internet in Bahrain: breaking the monopoly of information,” by Fahad Desmukh, who is a Karachi-based journalist and former Bahraini blogger.
Ali Abdulemam has been imprisoned for political reasons before, as this report from the Wall Street Journal from 11 May 2005 explains—see “After High Hopes, Democracy Project In Bahrain Falters — Gulf Kingdom Reverses Course As Calls for Change Swell; Lessons for the Middle East — A Web Site Rallies Opposition.” Abdulemam is a member of the al-Wifaq Islamic Society, Bahrain’s largest opposition movement. The U.S., unsurprisingly, has been equivocal about supporting democratization in Bahrain, even while touting it for Iraq:
“For the U.S., Bahrain presents a quandary. Construction crews are building new facilities at the headquarters of the Fifth Fleet near the capital Manama. The Pentagon is pressing for port dredging that would allow U.S. aircraft carriers to dock, not just anchor off the coast.
“But even as the Bush administration cheers the idea of democratization here, some U.S. officials privately share the royal family’s concern that Islamists might hijack the political process. They also worry that Iran might expand its influence over a key strategic stronghold.”
The George W. Bush administration had declared Bahrain “an important example of a nation making the transition to democracy.” In 2002, the U.S. gave it the official status of a “major non-North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally” and started negotiating a bilateral free-trade agreement, according to the Wall Street Journal.