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Prince Charles's housing charity gets into bed with torturing Bahraini dictatorship

Prince Charles has joined with Formula One and CNN in supporting the torturing, murderous dictatorial regime in Bahrain. His Prince's Foundation for Building Community and the UK Foreign Office have signed a deal to advise the regime on housing policy, an area of particular contention (Bahrain's persecuted Shia minority majority are systematically discriminated against in the southern territory where Charles's project is sited; they say housing goes instead to imported guard labor from abroad).

News of the deal came as the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee heard warnings from the campaign group Human Rights Watch that the UK government has overplayed the progress of democracy in Bahrain and has underestimated the severity of human rights abuses.

"Credible allegations of torture have been made in the last month," David Mepham, UK director of HRW, told the Guardian. "The UK should be pressing the Bahrainis to investigate those abuses and hold those people to account."

Asked why it had chosen to work with a regime that has a poor human rights record, a spokesman for Prince Charles's charity said: "This project aims to help all the communities that live in Bahrain and is in line with the objectives of the British government. The homes will be for local communities who will be consulted during the design process."

Prince Charles criticised over Bahrain housing deal [Robert Booth/The Guardian]

Glenn Greenwald replies to CNN's attempt to discredit story about compromised Bahrain coverage

Yesterday, I blogged Glenn Greenwald's Guardian story about CNN suppressing its own award-winning documentary on human rights abuses in Bahrain, which Greenwald linked to CNNi's commercial relationship with the ruling Bahraini regime. I was quickly contacted by two different PR flacks from CNN with a list of small, picky points it disputed about Greenwald's article, presented as though this constituted a thorough rebuttal. I immediately noticed that CNN's reps didn't dispute that the company had threatened to cut off Amber Lyon's severance payment if she continued to speak out on the issue, so I asked about it.

CNN's reps both told me they couldn't comment on "individual employees," which is awfully convenient. How nice for them that they can prepare and circulate a dossier that disconfirms minor elements of its critics' stories, but that it has some nebulous confidentiality code that prevents it from confirming the most damning claims made by those critics. Given that Lyon is no longer a CNN employee, and that she has divulged this threat, this feels more like an excuse than a reason. I certainly hope that CNN's own investigative journalists wouldn't accept such a pat evasion from the PR flacks that contact them.

Glenn Greenwald has published a thorough rebuttal to CNN's memo:

CNNi has nothing to say about the extensive financial dealings it has with the regime in Bahrain (what the article called "the tidal wave of CNNi's partnerships and associations with the regime in Bahrain, and the hagiography it has broadcast about it"). It has nothing to say about the repellent propaganda it produces for regimes which pay it. It has nothing to say about the Bahrain-praising sources whose vested interests with the regime are undisclosed by CNN. It provides no explanation whatsoever for its refusal to broadcast the iRevolution documentary. It does not deny that it threatened Lyon's severance payments and benefits if she spoke critically about CNNi's refusal. And it steadfastly ignores the concerns and complaints raised by its own long-time employees about its conduct.

In sum, CNNi's response does not deny, or even acknowledge, the crux of the reporting, and simply ignores the vast bulk of the facts revealed about its coverage of, and relationship with, the regime in Bahrain. Indeed, one searches its response in vain for any explanation to the central question which New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof asked nine months ago:

Reply to response from CNNi

CNN suppresses its own award-winning doc on human rights abuses in Bahrain; has commercial ties to the regime

CNN sent its investigative correspondent Amber Lyon to produce an expensive documentary on the Arab Spring, including human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lyon and her crew were violently detained by Bahraini security forces, but soldiered on and made "iRevolution: Online Warriors of the Arab Spring," which went on to win awards and acclaim after its sole airing on CNN.

But CNN International, "the most-watched English-speaking news outlet in the Middle East," has never aired the doc. While cutting the doc, Lyon was pressured to include statements from the Bahraini government that she knew to be lies. And CNN itself under-reported the ongoing abuses in Bahrain. Now, CNN has threatened Lyon with sanction for her continued work to uncover the reason that her doc was blackballed by the international arm of her former employer. CNN itself has been remarkably friendly to the Bahraini regime, with which it has close financial ties.

Here's more from Glenn Greenwald in The Guardian:

On 16 August, Lyon wrote three tweets about this episode. CNNi's refusal to broadcast "iRevolution", she wrote, "baffled producers". Linking to the YouTube clip of the Bahrain segment, she added that the "censorship was devastating to my crew and activists who risked lives to tell [the] story." She posted a picture of herself with Rajab and wrote:

"A proponent of peace, @nabeelrajab risked his safety to show me how the regime oppresses the [people] of #Bahrain."

The following day, a representative of CNN's business affairs office called Lyon's acting agent, George Arquilla of Octagon Entertainment, and threatened that her severance payments and insurance benefits would be immediately terminated if she ever again spoke publicly about this matter, or spoke negatively about CNN.

Why didn't CNN's international arm air its own documentary on Bahrain's Arab Spring repression? (via Reddit)

Hunger-striking Bahraini dissident Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja near death; Formula One president still plans to run races in Bahrain


Tuesday night's As It Happens program on CBC radio featured a segment on the terrible human rights situation in Bahrain, opening with an archive interview with Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of the dissident Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was snatched, beaten and indefinitely detained by Bahraini police a year ago. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is now on a hunger-strike and may die soon. As It Happens then interviews his daughter again about her father's situation and the human rights situation in Bahrain. Zainab Al-Khawaja explains that her father is risking his life to draw international attention to Bahrain's awful human rights situation, the hundreds of dissidents rotting in jail, some as young as 12 years old, facing torture and inhumane conditions.

As It Happens then interviewed Bernie Ecclestone, president of Formula One, whose big annual race is to be held in Bahrain this year. Ecclestone is the perfect picture of denial and callousness, as he blithely asserts that Bahrain is a perfectly nice place where protest is tolerated. He's smug about his race for expensive cars in a totalitarian police-state, and blames the media for any negative impression the world may have gotten about Bahrain.

Here's a recent CNN article on the Al-Khawajas, here's Murtaza Hussain on Salon on the same subject, and here's Democracy Now!'s archive of pieces on the family. Zainab Al-Khawaja tweets as @angryarabiya.

As It Happens's producers were kind enough to supply an MP3 of the segment for us to host (linked below). As It Happens is my favorite news magazine program. I download the previous night's episode every day and listen to it on my waterproof MP3 player on my daily swim.

As It Happens Bahrain dissident segment (MP3, 11 mins, 11MB)

Protest iPad, Bahrain

An anti-government protester films with her iPad during an al-Wefaq rally in Sanabis, west of Manama, Bahrain, January 12, 2012. Thousands of anti-government protesters participated in the rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding the downfall of the ruling family. (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed)

UPDATED: Danish human rights activist arrested in Bahrain, faces torture: will Danish foreign minister intervene?

Update: Zainab is back home!

Carstenagger sez, "The blogger and human rights activist Zainab Alkhawaja has been detained since Thursday, December 15th, where she was detained after being teargassed while participating in a peaceful demonstration. Her husband and her father are imprisoned, her father sentenced to life in prison and allegedly hideously tortured. Zainab is in *great danger* of being tortured, given the present climate in Bahrain. Zainab is a very courageous activist, which prompted NY Times reporter Nicholas Kristof to tweet: 'I suggest that Bahrain officials avoid torturing and imprisoning @AngryArabiya. Some day she could be their president.' Here is how YOU can help: Zainab is a Danish citizen. Our new Minister of Foreign Affairs is all too fond of photo ops with Hillary Clinton, but he will succumb to pressure and hopefully create a diplomatic incident to protect one of his citizens. Please drop him a line on udenrigsministeren@um.dk and express your concern for Zainab Alkhawaja and ask him to use his influence to demand her release [Ed: see above -- she's back home]."

Dansk aktivist anholdt i Bahrain (Thanks, Carsten!)

(Photo: @mazenmahdi)

Where are the UN resolutions to protect civilians in Bahrain?

Slate's Tom Scocca reminds us that the west's willingness to rescue pro-democracy protesters from brutal, murderous middle-eastern despots is highly selective. If you're rebelling against a dictator who's been a thorn in America's side, you get airstrikes and UN resolutions; if you're rebelling against tyrants who are forthcoming with their oil or ports, you're lucky if the Secretary of State will bestir herself for a round of finger-wagging as your comrades are coldly murdered in the streets.
The helpful thing, if you're overwhelmed by so much news going on at once, is that Bahrain is roughly the same story as Libya--only instead of pro-democracy protesters being murdered by a terrorist-sponsoring monster of a dictator who has been on America's enemies list for ages, the pro-democracy protesters are being murdered by a government that is America's very own dear ally. And where Qaddafi brought in foreign mercenaries for support, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain brought in troops from our even more vital ally, Saudi Arabia...

So basically, take all those proud feelings about the United States standing up for freedom and human rights in Libya and turn them inside out, and vomit into them. That's Bahrain.

Would a No-Fly Zone Over America Save the Democracy Movement in Bahrain? (via Making Light)

Bahrain's royals declare martial law

A day after it deployed foreign troops (including troops from Saudi Arabia), the ruling family in Bahrain has declared martial law, and instructed the soldiers and foreign fighters on the streets to "take all measures" to fight rebellion against its autocratic rule.
A standoff also appears to be worsening between the two key regional protagonists - Saudi Arabia and Iran - both of whom have accused each other of using the Arab world's smallest state as an arena for their broader agendas.

The latest events seem to mark a new phase in the crisis that has paralysed the tiny kingdom since January. Demonstrators have drawn strength from the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt that saw autocratic regimes toppled by popular protests. However, unlike in either place, Bahrain's protests have taken on a strong sectarian dimension.

Bahrain declares martial law as protesters clash with troops

Saudi Arabia sends counterrevolutionary goons to Bahrain

Saudi Arabia will split its security forces, lately much occupied with suppressing protest at home, and will send them to Bahrain to help put down the popular uprising there.
Witnesses said security forces surrounded the protesters' tent compound, shooting tear gas and rubber bullets at the activists in the largest effort to clear the square since a crackdown last month that left four dead after live ammunition was fired.

Activists tried to stand their ground yesterday and chanted "Peaceful, peaceful" as the crowd swelled into thousands, with protesters streaming to the square to reinforce the activists' lines, forcing the police to pull back by the early afternoon.

At Bahrain University, Shia demonstrators and government supporters held competing protests that descended into violence when plainclothes pro-government backers and security forces forced students blocking the campus main gate to seek refuge in classrooms and lecture halls, the Associated Press reported.

Saudi Arabian forces prepare to enter Bahrain after day of clashes

Bahraini army murders peaceful demonstrators

This gut-wrenching video (after the jump) shows peaceful protestors being fired on with automatic weapons by Bahrain's military. The comment thread on the YouTube video attains a new peak in awfulness, even for YouTube videos, with rage-filled illiterates variously blaming Iranian provocateurs, Israel, the USA, Shiites, Sunnis, and whomever else is handy, interspersed with people convinced that gunshots don't really sound like that.

Meanwhile, Al Jazeera's coverage continues to be the best thing going, followed closely by the Guardian.

Bahrain's army deliberately kills peaceful protesters with live rounds ( automatic weapon ) (Thanks, Superface, via Submitterator!)

Read the rest

Glued to events in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain

Events in Libya, Yemen and Bahrain are moving fast, but the Guardian's moment-to-moment coverage has me glued to my screen today:

View Mapping Pro-Democracy Protests in Libya in a larger map

• Libya: Security forces in Benghazi have shot dead at least one person and injured a dozen after opening fire on mourners at a funeral for protesters killed in earlier demonstrations. Special forces stormed a protest camp in the eastern city at 5am.

• Bahrain: Thousands of protesters have retaken Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital after Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa ordered troops off the streets.

• Yemen: One protester was killed and seven were hurt in clashes with security forces in the capital, Sana'a.

• Algeria: Riot police in Algiers have broken up a planned march by thousands of pro-democracy campaigners.

Libya and Bahrain protests - Saturday 19 February

YouTube channel -- Libyan protests (Warning: contains graphic violence and death)

Mapping Pro-Democracy protests