Karen Dabrowska

Tripoli Post Article

Originally published: 23rd March 2013

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London Opposition Organises Week of Protest Marking Second Anniversary of Saudi Invasion of Bahrain


The second anniversary of the Saudi occupation of Bahrain on March 14, 2011 was marked by violence inside the country. The main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, said that at least 35 protesters had been hurt, three of them critically. Some of the worst violence occurred in the towns of Sitra and Sanabis on the outskirts of Manama where cars were set ablaze and a major highway was temporarily blocked by protesters.

The 14th February Alliance called for a general strike and shops and schools were closed.

Two years ago Saudi Arabia led a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) force down the causeway that links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. The military intervention was intended to restore order after pro-democracy activists had peacefully taken control of an iconic landmark, Pearl Roundabout, in the capital Manama.

Saudi troops took up positions at key installations while police and the Bahrain Defence Forces cleared the roundabout using force. In the wake of the clearance more than 30 people died, hundreds were injured and thousands arrested. Several thousand more were dismissed from their jobs. The vast majority were Shia Muslims.

“The invasion was a criminal act that resulted in the killing of scores of Bahrainis, the detention and torture of more than four thousand people over the past two years, the destruction of more than forty mosques, the sacking of more than 5000 Bahrainis and the persecution of more than 70 percent of the population,” Dr Saeed Shehabi the Bahrain Freedom Movement’s London representative told The Tripoli Post.

He went on to say: “The occupation has failed to achieve its main aim; the crushing of the revolution. Instead, the political strife has now reached the doorsteps of the Saudi royal family, with cities like Riyadh, Al Qaseem, Buraida, Al Jawf and others witnessing daily protests.”

Shehabi emphasised that Saudi crime was compounded on the second anniversary of the invasion by the attacks on civilian residential areas with chemical gases, shotguns and arrests.

He added that Bahrain’s revolutionaries have dismissed the appointment of the Alkhalifa crown prince as first deputy of his uncle, the prime minister.

He said that Salman bin Hamad Alkhalifa, the dictator’s eldest son, is implicated in crimes of land expropriation, abetting the crimes committed by his father and family, and supporting the security and military forces that were instrumental in the killing and gassing of many Bahrainis.

“His blood-stained hands cannot be cleaned by his appointment and those who had promoted him as a “moderate” have acted with blindness, insensitivity and prejudice. The revolution has not been about changing faces; the political system based on hereditary dictatorship has to give way to the people freedom of choice and determination of destiny,” Shehabi said.

The Bahraini opposition in London organised a week-long programme of activities to mark the occupation including a protest outside the UK Prime Minister’s office calling for an end to Britain’s security assistance to the Bahraini regime.

A rally in Marble Arch was addressed by Bahrainis and their supporters from the Stop The War Coalition and the Campaign Against Nuclear disarmament. A seminar was held in the House of Lords under the chairmanship of Lord Ahmed.

The speakers included Jalal Fairooz, a former member of the Bahraini parliament, Lord Avebury the Vice-Chairman of the Parliamentary Human Rights Group, Professor Rodney Shakespeare, Chairman of ARRAIGN a committee against torture in Bahrain and Hussain Abdullah, Chairman, of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.

Lord Ahmed compared that Saudi invasion of Bahrain with the Indian invasion of Kashmir in 1947 when the maharaja allegedly asked the Indian troops to bring peace and order when the people rose up to demand self determination. “Even today the Indian troops are still there. We hope the Saudi troops will not remain in Bahrain.”

He pointed out that the West speaks about human rights but not about Saudi Arabia and its interference in neighbouring countries. “We know that there are billions of dollars being given to Bahraini rulers and also to Oman because the West wants to see the GCC countries stronger so they can oppress their own people.”

Jalal Fairooz, compared the Saudi invasion of Bahrain to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan which the GCC states opposed. In the mid 70s Syrian troops were invited into Lebanon but the UK and the USA considered them intruders and occupiers and demanded their immediate withdrawal.

Lord Avebury said: “There is no doubt in my mind that if you have free elections the hereditary dictatorships in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia would no longer exist and that the people would have an alternative form of government which would fully represent their views. So that is why I support the revolution in Bahrain and I believe that our (the UK) government and that of other states in Europe and North America has adopted an attitude which is incompatible with the principles to which we subscribe.

“We normally state that we want people to govern themselves and in the case of the Gulf states we have constantly been friendly with the dictators and hostile to the aspirations of the people.”

Professor Rodney Shakespeare drew attention to the fact that Mons Hall at the famous British Military Academy in Sandhurst has been renamed King Hamad Al Khalifa Hall. “The British government has allowed the name of a sleazy coward, the King of Bahrain, to be put on a place of honour in this country.”

Hussain Abdullah, Chairman, said that the claim that Saudi Arabia was invited by the Bahraini government in itself does not mean that it is acting within the framework of international law.

“I challenge the regime in Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or even the UAE to come up with a legal argument under international law that if a government invited troops to oppress their own citizens that is allowed or that is legal. That is a challenge that could be brought by Bahraini activists under international law.”

Another seminar on Bahrain was organised by the Gulf Cultural Club. It was addressed by Professor Madawi Al Rashid, a Saudi academic at King’s College, London, Professor Joshua Catallino, Dean of the Faculty of Law at Middlesex University and Jawad Fairooz, a former Bahraini MP. The Abrar Islamic Foundation held a seminar in Arabic.

In addition to demanding the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops the Bahraini opposition is calling on the Saudis to pay compensation for the human and material losses resulting from the occupation.

But the speakers who analysed the situation in Bahrain were in agreement that given the international silence Saudi Arabia is likely to remain there for the foreseeable future and only if there are some serious changes in Saudi Arabia itself will the troops be withdrawn.

As the opposition’s campaign against holding the Formula One race in Bahrain gathers momentum, Vodafone is to end its long-running sponsorship of the race. It announced that it will ditch its deal with McLaren at the end of the year. The telecoms giant said the move, which will bring to a close an association with Formula One dating back more than a decade, followed a review of its marketing strategy.