To Protesters: Relax, There Are No 'Political Arrests' in Bahrain

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa recently claimed there are no "political arrests" in his country. But refrain from blocking traffic or speaking too loudly, writes Zainab Tarhini, because you might find yourself in jail.

al-monitor Riot policewomen arrest an anti-government protester during a demonstration in capital Manama, September 21, 2012. Photo by REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed.

Topics covered

torture, protest, political participation in the gulf, bahraini uprising

Sep 28, 2012

Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa appeared in the media, did his God given duty, uttered only five words, and left to continue his mission of calling for peace and security.

His main objective was to categorically deny the occurrence of “political arrests,” clarifying that prisoners had been apprehended for committing the clearly defined offense of “conspiring to overthrow the ruling regime and communicating with foreign entities.”

The Bahraini government, according to its foreign minister, is thus not holding any political prisoners in its jails. It contents itself with arresting troublemakers who have loud voices. Whomever yells “down with [King] Hamad” or “step down Khalifa” is considered a foreign agent conspiring with outside parties to overthrow the regime.

So, since the state’s responsibility is to protect the people from any breaches in security, the Bahraini government must act! How wonderful it is to see the degree of care that this government has for its citizens!

Yet, some discrepancies arise between the espoused position and the information at hand. For it is illogical that state media outlets announced, one day prior to the [foreign minister’s] statement, that “29 people had been arrested in the commercial district, while participating in an anti-government demonstration in clear defiance of the imposed ban.”

The definition of the term “political arrest” casts many a question mark on the matter; especially considering that the minister may have lied to himself before lying to the people. The definition of political prisoner being “anyone who is jailed as a result of his opposition to the ruling regime, whether in opinion, belief or political affiliation.”

And so, as the Bahraini revolution closes in on its second year, the government edifies us with a statement that affirms the need for the regime to change.

Minister Khalifa’s mission has failed. He not only confirmed the charge, but also brought into the open complete files that condemn the regime. The Bahraini regime’s conduct goes beyond mere “political arrest.” For it is well known to have perpetrated a high level of oppression — perhaps the highest in the Arab world — all in a country with a total population of less than half a million, at least prior to the Syrian regime’s entry into the fray.

The acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Mariam al-Khawaja, confirmed in her report the presence of 1500 political prisoners in [Bahraini] jails — a number much lower than the one professed by the head of the “al-Wifaq” (reconciliation) bloc, which resigned from its seats in parliament, who put the number at 5000.

The government also had the honor of arresting the youngest political prisoner in the world: 12 year-old Mirza Abdul-Shahid, whom it accused of “participating in a demonstration aimed at disturbing public security.”

Do not demonstrate, O Bahrainis, for doing so angers your government and will land you in prison, perhaps on charges of theft? Refrain from blocking traffic as Zainab al-Kahawaja did near the Financial Harbor, because that crime is punishable by jail time. But obstructing traffic is not a political offense, it has to do with trading in expired goods, as the minister will surely come to enlighten you.

The above article was translated from Assafir al-Arabi, a special supplement of As-Safir newspaper whose content is provided through a joint venture of As-Safir and Al-Monitor.

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