Bahrain awoke to a violent crackdown by police on demonstrators camped out at the country's iconic Lulu (Pearl) roundabout on Wednesday. That afternoon, I boarded a flight from Doha, Qatar to Bahrain, to see for myself what was unfolding in the island nation I once called home.
Hours later, I found myself on a flight back to Doha, without having been allowed to set foot out of Bahrain's airport in Muharraq.
The flight itself was quite uneventful. The plane - an Airbus A321, with a listed 177 passenger capacity - carried less than 30 people. A short line to immigration meant I was at the desk in minutes. Immigration officer asks, "Where are you coming from? Qatar? OK, 5 Bahraini Dinars."
Thumbing through my passport, he suddenly stops and looks me in the eye. "Wait, where are you from? Who do you work for? ... Please have a seat - over there." I can't be sure if it was the Iraq visa, the India visa, or the numerous Qatar & Saudi visas in my American passport he found suspicious. Or perhaps it was my telling him in Arabic that "my origin" is half Indian, half Hispanic.
So my wait began. There were quite a number of other people on the benches too. Anyone who'd arrived with the intention of driving across the King Fahad causeway into Saudi Arabia was being told they'd have to fly. There is a curfew in effect on Bahrain's main highway from 4pm-4am, and last I heard, the bridge to Saudi was closed indefinitely. This of course, due to the month-long protests against the government by opposition groups calling for democratic reforms, a constitutional monarchy and basic human rights.
After about an hour of waiting, and checking in a couple times to see if there was any problems, one of the immigration officers asked, "You used to work for Al Jazeera, right?"
Access to life-saving medicines is not a luxury, but a human right.To me, the above statement is one of those things that sound like a no-brainer. Put another way, if I were to ask you whether you thought a person's income should determine whether they live or die from something like HIV/AIDS, then I think you would see that the answer is nothing but obvious. But here I am, in Canada, writing this post, because there is a very real danger that members of my government think that this isn't such an easy decision after all - that maybe wealth and business interests do matter when dealing with such ethical choices, and that there is a hierarchy where certain lives are worth more than others. Let me backtrack a bit, and provide a little context. I'd rather not write a rant, emotional and heart wrenching as this discussion can be - I'd prefer to rely on reason, and not on rhetoric. I want everybody to understand why this is an important issue, one that deserves coverage, and one that deserves our involvement. More importantly, I want everybody to understand why the right thing to do is obvious. To start, let me mention the letters and numbers that make up the label, "Bill C-393." Keep them in your head - at least for a moment. If you're the sort that prefers hearing at least a quick definition, then this one might work:
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Bill C-393 aims to reform CAMR and make it easier for Canada to export affordable, life-saving, generic medicines to developing countries.If you're thinking that this is a Canadian thing, then think again. Other rich countries are watching how Canada will behave. There's a few in Europe, and apparently even China is curious. In the U.S., the topic appears to be quenched, but the behaviour of the Canadian government could catalyze dialogue. And if you're not from a rich country? Well, you might actually have lives that will be affected by it, millions of lives even.
~Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network
Read the rest
A girl attends Friday prayers in front of an army tank in Tahrir Square. Egyptians held a nationwide "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule one week ago, to protect the revolution and to remind new military rulers of the power of the street. Hundreds of thousands joined the rallies, which are also a memorial to the 365 people who died in the 18-day uprising, with many Egyptians expressing their intention to guard their newly-won prospect of democracy. (REUTERS/Suhaib Salem)
A demonstrator shows his T-shirt that features the star and crescent symbol and reads "Yes We Can" during a protest against the regime of Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi outside the Libyan Embassy in Berlin, February 21, 2011. (REUTERS/Thomas Peter)
More photos follow, from Algeria, Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq, and other nations throughout Africa and the Middle East where the "revolution virus" is spreading.
People gather to mourn and pray for demonstrators who were injured after riot police stormed an anti-government protest camp, outside the Salmaniya hospital where the casualties were sent to, in Manama February 17, 2011.
Family members of the protester who was killed this morning during police clashes mourn at a hospital after receiving news of his death in the Bahraini capital of Manama.
More photos below (REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed).
Warning: graphic content.
Breaking: Amira Al Hussaini at Global Voices: "Bahrain police have just launched an attack on protesters at the Pearl Roundabout." She has a Twitter roundup, and you can also follow NPR's Andy Carvin right now for fast and furious RTs from people who are there, apparently being teargassed and shot with rubber bullets and/or other forms of ammunition. It is 3AM there; the demonstrators were sleeping; news crews are are nowhere to be found.
Link to details at Huffington Post, and CNN has posted this video. Shortly after the incident, Cooper tweeted, "Its getting really bad in front of Egyptian museum"—all of the Twitter feeds I'm following from folks on the ground there point in the same direction. The protests are now being flooded by pro-Mubarak thugs, and various state employees paid to be present, and there are very high counts of injuries today. The situation sounds increasingly dangerous.
As an aside, I have plenty of complaints about CNN, but I have nothing but respect for Anderson Cooper's work. Dude is for real. From the tweets, sounds like he and his crew have been awake for four days solid since landing in Egypt. I think they're doing solid reporting under extremely difficult conditions.
Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour, and a number of reporters with Al Arabiya and Al Jazeera have also been beaten up by thugs who back (or are employed by) Mubarak.
Video Link. 26-year-old Asmaa Mahfouz of Egypt recorded this video on January 18th, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared it on her Facebook. Within days, the video went viral within Egypt and beyond.
"Whoever says women shouldn't go to the protests because they will get beaten, let him have some honor and manhood and come with me on January 25th" she says in the video, "They don't even have to go to Tahrir Square, just go anywhere and say it: that we are free human beings."
And she condemns the couch potatoes and armchair internet activists, in no uncertain terms.
"Sitting home and just following us on news or on Facebook leads to our humiliation -- it leads to my humiliation!," she says in the video.
"If you have honor and dignity as a man, come and protect me, and other girls in the protest. if you stay home, you deserve what's being done to you, and you will be guilty before your nation and your people. Go down to the street, send SMSes, post it on the internet, make people aware."
The video is popularly credited with helping inspire fellow Egyptians by the thousands to participate in protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, calling for an end of the 30-year authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak. The video is also credited with helping to inspire the Egyptian government to block Facebook. Whether it's accurate to credit this one video, and this one young woman, with all of that, I'll leave to activists in Egypt who know the history better than I. But at the very least, her powerful video captures the spirit of an important moment in history.
A report released by Human Rights Watch documents how Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's government effectively condones police abuse by failing to ensure that law enforcement officers who are accused of torture are investigated and criminally prosecuted. HRW describes torture as "an endemic problem in Egypt." According to HRW, ending police abuse—and the cycle of impunity for those crimes—is a driving element behind the massive popular demonstrations in Egypt this past week. Snip from introduction:
'Work on Him Until He Confesses': Impunity for Torture in Egypt," documents how President Hosni Mubarak's government implicitly condones police abuse by failing to ensure that law enforcement officials accused of torture are investigated and criminally prosecuted, leaving victims without a remedy.
"Egyptians deserve a clean break from the incredibly entrenched practice of torture," said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Division at Human Rights Watch. "The Egyptian government's foul record on this issue is a huge part of what is still bringing crowds onto the streets today."
The case of Khaled Said, a 28-year-old man beaten to death by two undercover police officers on an Alexandria street in June, dominated headlines and set off demonstrations across the country. The local prosecutor initially closed an investigation and ordered Said's burial, but escalating public protests prompted the Public Prosecutor to reopen the investigation and refer it to court. "We Are All Khaled Said" is the name of the Facebook group that helped initiate the mass demonstrations on January 25, 2011.
[ Warning: disturbing content. The report contains graphic descriptions of torture. ]
Report (95 pages): "Work on Him Until He Confesses": Impunity for Torture in Egypt.The report is offered in in English and Arabic, English version of PDF here.
A reminder of online resources for Boing Boing readers who are following the significant and fast-moving events in Egypt today. I'm keeping several browser tabs open for these three liveblogs: The Guardian, Al Jazeera English, and New York Times.
Here are three helpful Twitter lists, some of which focus on people reporting on the ground in Egypt, others also include smart analytical voices currently based elsewhere: New York Times, NPR, and Washington Post.
Al Jazeera English is kicking all other US-language TV news networks' asses on coverage of this event. AJE is not available on most US cable networks, but you can ask your provider to carry it here. The network's bureau in Cairo was shut down earlier today, but their coverage of Egypt events continues. You can watch the Al Jazeera live stream online, though I've found that to be very unstable and crashy, especially during peak traffic moments. I'm hearing good things about this Livestation mobile app. AJE's YouTube channel is here, frequently updated.
Additional resources welcome in the comments.