bdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent Bahraini human rights activist jailed by the Bahraini regime, has been on a hunger strike for more than 60 days. Hundreds of people remain behind bars alongside al-Khawaja for participating in mass protests against despotism and discrimination in Bahrain since the outbreak of the Arab Spring. Amnesty International has demanded that al-Khawaja be released “immediately and unconditionally.” Dublin-based Front Line Defenders warned last week that al-Khawaja could die in prison as a result of his hunger strike. His wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, has written on social networking websites about the ordeal, witnessing the slow, quiet death of her husband. Her heartrending letters and the sufferings of her people seem to be falling on deaf ears, however. Key players around the world seem to be united in their support for al-Khawaja’s jailers.
The Iraqi government has recently spent half a billion dollars to host Arab leaders for a sumptuous Arab League summit while millions of Iraqis live under the poverty line. Not a single word was uttered by any of the leaders during the summit about the suffering and injustices the people of Bahrain are subjected to. Worse, the Arab League has designated the Bahraini capital this year as the “Arab Capital of Culture” to burnish the image of the Saudi-backed regime.
The Turkish government, supposedly a paragon of democracy in the Middle East and the Muslim world, has recently awarded the Bahraini Foreign Minister with an honorary citizenship, becoming the first foreigner in modern Turkish history to be awarded with this honor. Observers were aghast when the news came out: the pious supporters of democracy in Syria are honoring the Saudi-backed dictatorship in Bahrain.
After all the well-documented murder, torture, imprisonment of protesters and destruction of houses of worship by the Bahraini regime, the U.S. Department of Defense is considering resuming arms sales to the country. The reason is simple; it considers the Bahraini regime “a major non-NATO ally that has been, and continues to be, an important force for political stability and economic progress in the Middle East,” according from a notification from the Pentagon to legislators. In other words, the Bahraini regime may be despotic, but it upholds what the Department of Defense perceives to be U.S. interests in the region.
A more shameful role has been played by several U.S. weapons manufacturers and public relations and lobbying firms. Combined Systems, a Pennsylvania-based company, sold for the Bahraini regime tear gas that caused the death of 34 civilians, Physicians for Human Rights reported. Salon.com reported early this year that a top executive at Lockheed Martin lobbied for the Bahraini regime, a loyal customer that has done hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the arms supplier, to place a favorable op-ed in the Washington Times. According to Pro Publica and Salon.com, public relations firms such as Qorvis Communications, Impact Communications and TS Navigations have been lobbying on behalf of the Bahraini regime to burnish its already tarnished image.
The people of Bahrain have been abandoned by the leaders of the Arab world, forsaken by the United States and forgotten by the world. We must name and shame those supporting their murderers, torturous and jailers and let the people of Bahrain know that we stand in solidarity with their moral quest for justice.