Posts Tagged ‘Bahrain’

Two Arab fighters for human rights

May 9, 2012

Julian Assange interviewed two important Arab fighters for human rights, whom I’d never heard of, on his latest The World Tomorrow program, which was broadcast yesterday.  One was Alaa Abd El-Fattah of Egypt, who is living abroad, and the other is Bahrain’s Nabeel Rajab, who was arrested May 5 shortly after his interview with Assange was recorded.  El-Fattah also faces charges of damaging military property, stealing weapons and committing murder–acts of violence he said he would have had to be comic book superhero to pull off.

Both have been subject to midnight kidnapings, beatings, imprisonment and harassment of their families, including their small children.  Both are critical of U.S. policy.  Rajab said the U.S. government is trying to thwart revolution in Bahrain, El-Fattah said the U.S. government is trying to channel and restrict the course of revolution in Eygpt.   Rajab said the struggle in Bahrain has been subject to a news blackout by the main Arabic-language news networks, Al Jazeera and al-Arabiya.

El-Fatah is a long-time blogger, programmer and political activist.  His parents were human rights advocates under Anwar Sadat.  He spent 45 days in jail in 2006 under the Mubarak regime, and was released after a worldwide protest.  In 2011, from abroad, he helped protestors route messages around President Mubarak’s Internet blockade.  He noted, however, that although members of the educated Egyptian middle class, who use the electronic social media, played an important role in the overthrow of Mubarak, but it is a mistake to focus exclusively on them.  “You are ignoring the workers,” he said.  “You are ignoring the street battles.  You are ignoring how much we had to use violence.”

He said he is not sure what form democracy will take in Egypt, but “it is certainly not a boring Western representative democracy, where your nation could go to war, like the UK, without the consent of the populace, where electing the President who promised hope is almost the same thing as electing the President who didn’t promise hope, as happened in the US. … The dream is a democracy that doesn’t give rise to Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London and the Greek riots…”

Rajab was a member of a pro-regime family but became a human rights advocate after graduating from college in 1988.  Together with Abdullah al-Khawaja, he established the Bahrain Center for Human Rights in 2002.  After al-Khawaja was arrested, he led protests calling for his release.   He said the protests in Bahrain are subject to a news blackout from al Jazeera, which is based in the neighboring Persian Gulf Sheikdom of Qatar which, like Bahrain, has a Sunni ruling family.   He said the Bahrain government falsely claims that the Bahrain struggle is instigated by the Shiite government of Iran.  Assange said that U.S. diplomats in Bahrain, in cables obtained by WikiLeaks, acknowledged there is no evidence of this.

The United States and other Western governments are aligned with the Saudi Arabian ruling family, Rajab said; that is why the U.S. government is trying to persuade the Russian government to stop arms shipments to Syria, while U.S. arms shipments to Bahrain continue.

He said he wishes he could keep his family out of the struggle, but this is not possible.   He was beaten in his home in the presence of his 14-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter.  But violence in Bahrain is so random, he said, that there would not be any safety in being sildent.

Click on Assange Episode 4 for highlights of the program

Click on Common Dreams for capsule biographies of Alaa Abd El-Fattah and Nabeel Rajab

Click on The World Tomorrow for the TV program’s home page and earlier episodes.