Sunday, February 04, 2007

The Clouds of Bahrain

A lot of news organizations have apparently picked up a few facts from Reuters about the events surrounding the arrest and release of the three Bahraini human rights activists, but you can get a lot more information from Mahmood's comments section. Two important points are that protests and riot police were found at numerous locations around Bahrain, whereas Reuters seemed to imply there was just one protest, and that they were released with the intervention of al-Wefaq, which apparently made a deal to try and calm the protests.

Meanwhile, Silly Bahraini Girl raises the question of why they were arrested and then released. I think she's asking about official reasons, but I'm interested in the real ones. Mahmood highlights al-Khawaja's planned appearance at this AEI seminar. I suspect the Bahraini government does have concerns about one of its most vocal critics getting a platform at a conservative think tank with close ties to Bush administration neoconservatives, but that doesn't explain the other two. I suspect this stems in some way from the November elections, and that the government decided to wait until after Ashura to make the arrests because of that holiday's ability to rally people to political causes.

(Crossposted to American Footprints)

UPDATE: Gulf News adds:
"Their lawyers said that the arrest was based on speeches delivered last week and coinciding with the marking of Ashura, the anniversary of the slaying of Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH).

"The police said that the activists availed themselves of the religious occasion to 'spread ideas that provoked resentment and undermined stability and national unity.'

"In separate speeches, Meshema, 58, and Al Khawaja, 46, both Shiites, have allegedly attacked the regime and referred to a report prepared by Salah Al Bander, a Briton of Sudanese origin who worked as a consultant in Bahrain and who last September disseminated a 240-page report accusing a cell within the government of fomenting sectarian strife and conspiring against Shiites in Bahrain."


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