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article imageOp-Ed: Stand up for Khawaja and his fellow civil rights activists

By Paul Iddon     Sep 4, 2012 in Politics
The conviction of the pro-democratic Bahraini demonstrators is a reminder of our duty of solidarity for the fight and plight of those advocating freedom, civil and human rights in Bahrain.
The decision to give prison sentences (several of them for life) to the prominent pro-democracy Bahraini activists is scandalous. The crushing of the peaceful, non-violent democratic insurrection in Pearl Roundabout, Manama Bahrain on February of 2011 was thorough, brutal and decisive. Authoritarian in nature it was an episode that was greatly overshadowed by events in Egypt and Libya. The suppression of this democratic insurrection was aided by regional allies of the United States, namely Saudi Arabia, which is arming and giving direct support to the "Free Syrian Army" battling against the repressive Assad regime. Advocating democracy in Syria and an end to the tyrannical rule of the Assad's is a noble cause, but one that is tainted when the United States is in its own sphere of influence largely neglecting the plight of the sober upstanding advocates of civil rights in Bahrain.
Take the brave Abdulhadi al-Khawaja for example, an individual who has worked in earnest to bring to light the negation of human rights on the island kingdom. Who went on a 110 day hunger strike in protest of the injustices being afflicted against him and his fellow citizens. Mr. Khawaja and six others have now been charged with trying to inflame tensions and of having been in contact with Hezbollah and Iran.
Amnesty International has rightfully dubbed these charges as "outrageous". The lack of evidence used by this civil court (which for all intents and purposes is a retread of the court that initially pressed the charges these Bahrainis were convicted on) shows the essential foul nature of the ruling Sunni minority regime on the island kingdom.
The United States isn't willing to exert too much pressure on the ruling regime in Manama given that regimes firm opposition to Iran becoming a regional power. However, by adopting such a policy, and not speaking up for political prisoners and dissidents who are advocating the things that the United States pertains itself to be the chief promulgator and aider in the fostering of, the U.S. is in turn degrading and hampering that favorable -- if not delusional -- image.
As well as that, this kind of policy is showing the brave and earnest Iranian dissidents how such a disgusting realpolitik foreign policy outlook is preventing the vast majority of Bahrain's young Shia Muslims from having any discernible civil rights, democracy and emancipation under the current regime in Manama.
If Khawaja was one of those brave Iranian advocates of secularism and democracy he would be well known in the United States. Instead him and his plight is relatively obscure and unknown in the American mainstream media. His plight and the things he is advocating for his country prove that he is a true patriot. Dissent has been crushed in Bahrain, but people like Khawaja have fought and will continue to fight against brutal repression, non-violently. These people have the potential to prevail against the petty injustices and hollow charges being leveled against them.
Human Rights Watch quite aptly points out the ludicrousness of the offenses Khawaja and his comrades were charged with. The actual "evidence" amounts to little more than peaceful political activity, including but not limited to speeches, meetings and documents that were used to organize peaceful civil rights demonstrations in Manama in concordance with the 'Arab Spring.'
However the Bahraini ruling regime are trying to conjure up a charge that will implicate Khawaja and his brave companions of being fifth columnists conspiring with Iran and Hezbollah with an aim along the ridiculous lines of violently overthrowing the regime there. The charges are wholly nonsensical, they also in a sense serve to implicate all the Shia Bahraini's -- a large proportion of whom took to the streets on those fateful few days in mid-February 2011 to demand equality and a more secular society, one that everyone could feel they have a stake in -- of potentially being fifth columnists with similar designs against their country's monarchy.
The authorities have decided to vilify a large percentage of the population. By purposely associating their plight and desire not to be marginalized because of their religion with both the obscurantist Shia kleptocracy in Tehran and the Islamist Hezbollah group in Lebanon.
Those of us who believe and are active in the propagation of democracy, civil and human rights in the Middle East should support Khawaja and his comrades cause. It is a noble and rightful cause, one that shouldn't be undermined and neglected due to a shabby realpolitik orientated U.S. foreign policy.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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