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Saudi blogger Fouad Al-Farhan arrested

Saudi blogger Fouad Al-FarhanFouad Al-Farhan is one of a very few Saudi bloggers who chooses to blog under their own name, publishes his picture and challenges the establishment with utter bravery has been arrested in Saudi.

This is not Fouad’s first altercation with the authorities there. His blog has been banned in Saudi in February 2007. He resumed writing in July 2007 against almost continuous harassment. It was reported that he has been led from his office in Jeddah without any reason given.

If the reason for his arrest is due to his writing, then this is obviously a gross violation of an individual’s basic human right to freedom of expression. I call on the Saudi authorities to respect their role in the world and immediately release Fouad Al-Farhan and call on them to guarantee his safety throughout his detention.

Hang in there Fouad, you have a lot of friends with you. I applaud your determination to speak your mind for the better of our community.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

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That is the title of the seminar to be conducted in Washington on February 13th concerning the Bahraini political scene. Not a very imaginative title, as it is a very much overused sentence in Bahrain – with justification, I might add. All you have to do is pick up any paper, on any day and read any political topic. Continue reading about that topic for a while and you will see – there in black and white – why Bahrain should most probably trade mark that “brand”.

Nowhere is that brand more in evidence than in the political, freedoms and human rights scenes.

Back to the seminar; it’s organisers the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research describe that event as follows:

In February 2001, Bahrain introduced a series of reforms to open its political system. The following year, the government promulgated a new constitution, established a bicameral legislature, and issued calls for Sunni-Shiite equality. Western governments hailed the country as a beacon for democracy in the Middle East. But six years and two parliamentary elections later, Bahrain’s liberal experiment has failed to meet expectations. Tensions are high. Will sectarian strife spur greater reform or will it cause retrenchment? What does Bahraini political reform mean for the United States?

That’s really good. We need to discuss these issues and continue to talk about them with the declared objective that we should find a way out of the bottleneck. No one can declare for an instant that Bahrain is perfect; no country is, and as we are but an infant as far as democracy is concerned, it is vitally important that we continue to learn from our experiences, and listen especially to people opposing the limited reforms we enjoy so that we can gain from their own ideas.

One might ask, who’s involved in this panel? Again, according to the organisers:

These and other questions will be the subject of an AEI panel discussion with Salah al-Bandar, secretary general of the Gulf Centre for Democratic Development in London; Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, executive director of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights; and Toby Jones, a visiting assistant professor of history at Swarthmore College. Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at AEI, will moderate.

Ah, that might be a problem for the Bahraini government. To say that they detest the whole panel and view them as enemies of the State is an understatement. The government has also not shown any willingness to put the Bandargate fires out, in fact, it has done the exact opposite if the leaked strategic report dubbed “Bandargate version 2” is anything to go by, and much more importantly the deafening silence it is maintaining and the continued employment of all those named and shamed in the original report.

So it is not going to take to this seminar too kindly. And you would think that they would immediately raise objections with the organisers and demand that the panel should have government representatives to portray the government’s points of view.

That, it appears, is far too much hassle. There is a much easier way to put paid to that seminar:

The president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, was arrested by Bahraini authorities this morning at 6am. The reason for the detention is not yet known.

Mr. Alkhawaja was previously arrested in September 2004 after he gave a public lecture in which he criticized the Prime Minister of Bahrain. (See Human Rights Watch: Rights Center Closed as Crackdown Expands and Closure of BCHR).

Mr. Alkhawaja was due to travel to the United States later this month to deliver a lecture about political reform in Bahrain, at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington DC.

It is also being reported that Hassan Mushaima, the general secretary of the Haq Movement political society, has also been arrested.

The arrest comes just a day after two political activists in the country (Dr. Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahlawi and Mr Hussain AbdulAziz Al Hebshi) were sentenced to prison for possessing leaflets. The leaflets, downloaded from an internet website, called on Bahrainis to boycott the November 2006 national elections. (See information regarding the Leaflet Detainees).

Further details will be posted on this post as they become available.
BCHR :: 2nd February, 2007

That’s quite neat isn’t it? Very daring and creative one might say too!

These are my simple predictions:

    1. They’ll not going to be released before Feb 13th.
    2. We’ll have many more demonstrations around the island demanding the release of the “leaflet detainees”, the 2 persons arrested in the last couple of days demanding the release of the leaflet detainees, and now we will have the demonstrators also calling for the release of the Washington Seminar Detainees.
    3. Tempers will continue to boil and flair.
    4. More business opportunities will be lost due to all of these shenanigans.
    5. Moderates will continue to be pushed into corners and forced to take sides.
    6. And the country will continue its downward spiral.

This is yet another fiasco. What the government has achieved with this unwise move is proven the basic premise of the seminar. Bahrain does indeed takes one step forward, and several steps back!

Do they really think that the apprehension of a panelist will magically cancel the seminar? No, what they have also done is given the seminar both legitimacy and popularity! Just think of the headlines it will create now.

Is this really conducive to our situation?

Is there no one in power that will step forward with political courage and will and put a stop to all of this?

WE are getting rather tired of all these situations.

All we want is to live with dignity for goodness’ sake. Is that too much to ask?

Release them. All of them. For the sake of the future of Bahrain.

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