Wednesday Dec 14, 201104:51 PM GMT
Nefarious Saudi Slaughter on Bahrain
Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:55PM
Interview with Maryam al-Khawaja, of Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
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Protesters and human rights groups are calling for major changes in Bahrain, where everything is being devoured by al-Khalifa loyalists and fanatical Wahhabis.


Press TV interviewed Maryam al-Khawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights about the vicious and macabre Saudi aggression against unarmed Bahrainis as protests and international human right groups finally start to take notice.

Press TV: The Bahraini government forces backed by the Saudi Arabian troops are destroying mosques and places of worship. These sacrilegious acts will likely exacerbate hatred across the Muslim world. What can you tell us about the reasons behind these tactics?

Khawaja: I don't know what the reasons are exactly, but what I can say is that you're right and they are destroying these mosques and this will definitely cause a greater problem in Bahrain than there already is. These mosques they are demolishing have very important religious backgrounds. Some are very old and some even date back to before the al-Khalifas took over Bahrain. They are not only targeting a group of people anymore but an entire part of the country.

Press TV: According to reports, they have arrested dozens of people. Several opposition leaders have died under torture, and the security forces go to hospitals to arrest doctors and confiscate patients' medical files. How long will this atmosphere of fear continue to get a blind eye from the West?

Khawaja: I don't know. We have been hoping it would get more attention. There have been protests everywhere. Just yesterday I was at a protest in New York City and today I was at a protest in Washington D.C. So there are protests everywhere, and people are becoming more and more aware.

Unfortunately, it's the governments that have remained silent about what's happening. So what we are trying to do is to get the people to put pressure on their own governments to make a stronger stand against what's happening in Bahrain. Physicians for Human Rights in the US actually put out a report about the atrocities committed against the medical staff in the hospitals in Bahrain.

Press TV: Mrs. al-Khawaja, you yourself and your family have been affected by the crackdown by the Bahraini regime. A leading human rights activist who is also your father Abdul Hadi al-Khawaja was also imprisoned by the Bahraini regime. What news do you have of him at this point?

Khawaja: Unfortunately, we don't have any news. He just called my mother a few days ago. He told her that he was going to be put on military trial the next day at eight a.m. He also sounded very weak, and his voice was quite different. Then the next day at 8:00 a.m. my sister and aunt went to attend the trial, and the international human rights activists were there, and two lawyers who came to defend him in his case were all turned away when they tried to help defend him in his trial.

So we don't know if he is being put on trial without notifying anyone and without letting him have access to lawyers, or whether they just postponed it. They have yet to even put official charges up against him.

Press TV: You mentioned that your father is standing trial in a military court. This of course is a case of a lot of other activists also standing trial. My question is do any of these people standing trial receive legal representation?

Khawaja: I mean so far there are more than 800 people who have been arrested, and many of them have gone missing. That is the case with my father as well. We don't know where he is. We don't know where he's being kept. As far as I know, most detainees have not had access to lawyers or their families. So the situation is really bad.

A few who were actually meeting with lawyers were really being interrogated in the presence of lawyers. They were not allowed to talk with them. So as far as I know, nobody has actually been able to meet with a lawyer. It is written in the Bahraini constitution that everyone has a right to have a lawyer and a private meeting with a lawyer. However, that has not happened yet.

Press TV: Instead of reaching out to the opposition leadership, and also to the middle class, which has been affected by the clampdown by the regime. They are jailing and harassing them. How can any good come out of this?

Khawaja: It can't I mean they keep talking about dialogue. The Finance Minister from Bahrain was here in the US doing a talk about the situation in Bahrain and he was saying that the door to dialogue was so open in Bahrain, but unfortunately they have arrested every person who they would need to do dialogue with. So there is nobody to do dialogue with. If there is no one to go to the table for dialogues, then how can they keep talking about dialogue? It just doesn't make sense.

Press TV: If the King doesn't change course, many analysts are saying this is guaranteeing a future of instability for Bahrain.

Khawaja: Yes, definitely I mean in all my advocacy work I keep telling people that this is a very urgent matter. Every day that passes by makes the situation a lot worse. We are going to reach a time when there will be a point of no return. Then it will not be possible to reconcile the situation.

Press TV: You mention a point of no return. At first the King and the regime in their own words claimed that the goal of this clampdown and disproportionate use of force was to freeze matters, and once that is done they said the time for compromising concessions will have arrived. However, every action the regime of Bahrain has taken in the last month contradicts it.

Khawaja: Definitely, I mean they have said that, and said it is a time for preserving peace and security. Unfortunately their peace and security has been more of a campaign of terror against the citizens of Bahrain. We are not seeing peace and security. They keep talking about how the situation has returned back to normal in Bahrain.

However, what we are seeing is a campaign of daily terror against a lot of people. We see night raids on a daily basis where people are terrorized by security forces and arrested. So I really don't see how this is preserving peace or security. They are the ones actually creating the instability and the insecurity in the country right now.

Press TV: Human rights groups are concerned about the Bahrain crackdown. Please tell us just how bad is the violation of human rights that's taking place on the streets of Bahrain at this point.

Khawaja: The violation of human rights that are taking place right now are massive: Everything from beatings to the allegations of torture, to people dying in detention centers, and their bodies being found with torture marks on them and several complaints of sexual harassment. Just a few days ago they rounded up a group of girls and teachers from the high school and beat them, interrogated them, and abused them both vocally and physically.

So what we are seeing is a massive amount of human rights abuses in Bahrain right now. The thing is that the Western government takes a stand of silence against what's happening. That sends a message to the other oppressors or violators of human rights in the region.

Thus they can also go as far as the Bahrain government has gone with oppressing people and violating human rights, and feel the rest of the world will not stand against this. I think it's very important not only for Bahrain as a country but for the whole region that the international community takes a strong stand. It is not only a message to one government but several governments who are violating human rights today.

Press TV: Let's turn our attention to the role Saudi Arabia is playing. First of all how worried are the Saudis that a revolution by the Bahrainis could spread across to its own Eastern province which is also home to its Shia minority population?

Khawaja: It has already spread to a certain extent. We have seen arrests being made in Saudi Arabia. In the Easter province we see protests and demonstrations almost daily in support of the Bahraini people. That is the problem with the mentalities of these kinds of rulers.

They think they can suppress the protests and suppress people by using as much violence as possible, which has created an opposite effect where more people are coming out and demanding. People are being more persistent in demanding their rights rather than otherwise.

Press TV: Do you think what Saudi Arabia has done will backfire for the House of Saud with the population in Saudi Arabia witnessing how the Saudi government is oppressing the Bahrainis? Do you think it will make them bitterer towards their own government?

Khawaja: I think the time has come for all countries around the world to realize that countries have had enough of human rights abuses, and enough of denial of freedoms. Sooner or later even if the security situation in Bahrain last for several years there is going to come a point where all leaders, and all governments will come to the realization that even if they make extreme changes to providing human rights and freedoms to people or otherwise they will be removed. I think the sooner they come to realize this, the better because it means saving lives and less harm against the people.

NM/PKH
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