Two very disturbing developments in Bahrain over the past couple of days.
You will recall that the country is currently under the occupation of Saudi forces, which were invited by the Bahraini monarch to supress a popular rebellion. You may also recall that Bahrain (and Saudi Arabia) are key regional allies of the United States.
It would seem though, that the United States is either unwilling or unable (I’m guessing the latter) to prevent widespread human rights violations from being perpetrated against the protest movement.
Yesterday, a key internet activist was dissapeared by Bahraini authorities. The blogger Mahmoud al-Youssef was arrested in his home yesterday, reports Global Voices Online. What makes this all the more maddening is that al-Youssef was an anti-sectarian activist. To be sure, he was a leader of the protest movement, but he was equally concerned about the sunni-shi’ite rift that these protests were causing.
Now he is gone. His son tweeted: “Police just came to my house and arrested my father, Mahmood Al-Yousif. @BahrainRights @OnlineBahrain”
Meanwhile, protesters in Bahrain who are unlucky enough to have been shot by security forces and forced to go to the hospital for treatment are then subject to new kinds of brutality. A new report by Human Rights Watch documents several instances in which injured protesters in Bahrain are singled out for harassment and beatings once they make it to the hospital:
On March 27 security forces forcibly removed a young patient from a medical facility he had checked into for serious injuries from a pellet gun. The patient was in great pain and doctors said he needed immediate surgery to remove more than 100 pellets that had penetrated his pelvic area and damaged internal organs.
The 22-year-old patient, who wished to remain anonymous, went to a local medical facility on March 26. The patient told Human Rights Watch that security forces had fired birdshot pellets at him from about one meter away on March 25, after they entered his village in response to anti-government protests. He said he began to experience severe stomach pains and vomiting several hours later. The pain soon became unbearable, so his brothers took him to a nearby medical facility for treatment.
Doctors gave him pain medication, treated some of his surface wounds, and took an x-ray of his pelvic area and buttocks. The x-ray, which Human Rights Watch reviewed, showed more than 100 pellets lodged inside the patient’s body. Doctors told him and his family that they were unable to treat him there because some of the pellets had penetrated deeply and caused internal damage that required surgery.
On the morning of March 27 the patient checked into another medical facility, where doctors told him he required immediate surgery. They said they would need to request blood from Salmaniya Medical Complex, the country’s only blood bank other than the Bahraini Defense Force Hospital. They warned the patient and his family that they could not request the blood without providing his personal information, including his name, national identity number, and the nature of his injuries.
Approximately an hour-and-a-half later, a Human Rights Watch staff member at the scene saw about 10 security force personnel, including two plainclothes agents and at least four riot police carrying weapons, enter the medical facility. One of the police officers told Human Rights Watch that they were from the Isa Town police station and that they had come to take the patient. They entered his room and forced him out of bed and to his feet. They held him up and began escorting him out, but the patient was in noticeable pain and told them that he could not walk. One of the riot police sarcastically responded, “You can run away from the police but you can’t walk now?” One of the hospital staff called for a wheelchair.
First and foremost, this is terrible for the Bahraini’s caught up in this mess. But as an American, I can’t help but be concerned for how the United States is being perceived by a movement seeking greater political freedom under a repressive monarchy. Eventually the monarchy will fall–as they always do. If things keep going the way they are, the group that replaces the king and his court may not be so favorably disposed to the United States, I fear.