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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Part II: Speaking With Bahraini Revolutionary Asma Darwish About Her Exile, Human Rights And the Future of Bahrain

Yesterday I published Part I of my two-part follow-up interview with Asma Darwish, who until recently was living in political exile in Switzerland because of threats she received while living and demonstrating for human rights in her native Bahrain.

Are you home to stay?


Has the situation in Bahrain improved since you moved to Switzerland? Gotten better? Worse?

It has not gotten any better, but worsened. Most of the youth who used to go in the streets to protest are now in prison facing false charges. [They] had to sign confessions under torture. There are no positive changes on the political level, nor any improvements on the Human Rights level. Torturers and those responsible for violations in Bahrain are still not held accountable and no charges or punishments have been imposed upon them.

I’ve asked this before…where do you see Bahrain in a year?

This time, I don’t know. To be quite realistic, there are no indications of what is to happen next, or where we are to move on from here. But I am hopeful, with the will of God, and the power of the people, this has all to end, sooner or later.

How is the situation in Egypt with the elections and in Syria with the trouble there viewed in Bahrain?

Surely, the regional situation has a big impact on the events in Bahrain and its people. As the Arab Spring revolution has motivated Bahrainis to come out in the streets like their neighboring Arab countries, it will also push them to continue the fight for gaining justice and freedom. Bahrainis are politically aware, and other people’s struggles are viewed by them as equal to their own. They wish the Egyptians, the Syrians, and all living humans to be granted their rights and for all dictators in all those countries to fall. The cases of Egypt and Syria are tracked by most Bahrainis through twitter. And it is always a good thing to know what is going on in the region, as some examples can be taken to implement or modify to suit the local incidents.

Tell me about the European-Bahraini Organization for Human Rights.

The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights (EBOHR) is an independent international non-governmental organization founded in 2012, in the city of Bern, Switzerland. EBOHR [accepts] contributions and memberships of human rights activists and defenders ranging from Bahrain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, Ireland, Spain, United States of America, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen and Tunisia.

The vision of the organization stems from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, aiming to support, respect and promote the principles of human rights and democracy in Bahrain, within the framework of international conventions and treaties.

EBOHR aims to improve international standards of human rights in Bahrain through active lobbying, including holding the Bahraini government accountable in its commitment to international human rights law along with promoting human rights through media-related awareness campaigns. Moreover, EBOHR monitors human rights conditions in Bahrain, thoroughly documents abuses and establishes related reports and statements.

In addition, [through] coordination with various international human rights organizations, our goal is to create a solid foundation of reference in which the level of human rights violations -- including grave crimes against humanity -- that have occurred in Bahrain are transparent to both the national and international community. EBOHR also works on training human rights defenders in order to build their professional capabilities as well as attempting to raise public awareness about human rights conditions in Bahrain.

The organization seeks to mobilize the conscience of the international community by shedding light on major concerns and issues pertaining to human rights conditions in Bahrain such as torture, forced abduction, sectarian and ethnic discrimination, illegitimate dismissals, mass arrests based on freedom of expression as well as unjust trials.


Ahmed Mansoor Al Naham, a 5 year old boy, was helping his father Mansoor Al Naham run his fish stall in Al Dair village in Bahrain, when they were attacked and shot at by riot police. Mansoor tried saving his child by shielding him with his body. However according to BCHR members who documented the case and met witnesses, Ahmed and his father were shot at purposely twice with a shotgun from a close range.
Courtesy: Bahrain Center for Human Rights

Many of us in the US shrug off the violence in Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries as "sectarian." This is a dangerous trap for a society to fall in to for once a government gets involved in an otherwise sectarian fight, the result is facism. If a government is on one side of a "sectarian" war against citizens of its own own country from another "sectarian" side, all hope for freedom, dignity and basic human rights are thrown out the window. Governments don't necessarily have to be theology-based in order to enjoin a sectarian fight -- something Americans should be aware of. Mankind is the story of government oppression against the weak in the name of theology (or lack thereof). The warnings about where society goes when good people are oppressed are ringing loud and clear throughout the world as you read this.

It worries me that in America, for political purposes and to scare people who barely pay attention, the term "war on women" is thrown around without any concern for the meaning or depth of those words. We argue in this country about who is going to pay for things for us and how much influence the government should have in our lives, meanwhile, the people in Bahrain and in scores of other countries sleep with one eye on the door waiting for the police and state-sponsored militia to break it down in the middle of the night and arrest family members who may have publicly disagreed with the state.

We, the American people, have it far too good if we can spend our lives arguing about the size of our government and whether our government should take care of us or not. Ask someone who has to flee their country because of their political beliefs, or who has a father or other family member who has been taken to prison and isn't allowed any contact with their loved ones, or the father of a five year-old child who has been shot in the face for any reason whatsoever by an agent of the state, what their feelings about government over-reach are.

A government that can determine how much you pay for something and forces you to bend your will to fit the ideals of the bureaucrats running it is powerful enough to make you sleep with one eye open too.

It's time for Americans to get back to the business of ensuring and supporting freedom, and get out of the business of depending on government -- for anything.


Ed Note: The following information is taken from the EBOHR mission statement:

The European-Bahraini Organisation for Human Rights EBOHR aspires to work towards a future where all Bahrainis are afforded their rights in a fair and equal manner. We envision a Bahrain where its people are able to rely on an extensive network of human rights defenders advocating for justice in Bahrain.

Our mission is to support the foundations of what make up human rights by developing an international network of advocates who are willing and able to fully use their skills and experience to help promote human rights for Bahrain.

1. Promote respect for the inherent dignity of all humans along with the recognition of their rights in a consistent and transparent manner, which is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace;
2. Seek to rebuild a society that enjoys fundamental rights in accordance with international law, with the utmost emphasis based on the right to live, the right to education, the right to employment, the right to freedom of expression and the elimination of ethnic, sectarian, religious, racial and sexual discrimination;
3. Work to ensure freedom from torture in all its forms, ensure the right to a fair trial under the framework of international standards of human rights law as well as aid in bringing forth those responsible to be prosecuted as perpetrators of crimes against humanity;
4. Raise national, regional and international awareness of human rights abuses, working to deepen the knowledge of individual, social, economic, cultural, political and civil rights;
5. Strengthen the bonds of solidarity by garnering national and international support for human rights;
6. Update and rebuild a comprehensive database of the violations taking place in Bahrain;
7. Establish and maintain strong relations with the United Nations alongside local, regional and international organizations, activists and individuals;
8. Work on the protection of human rights defenders.

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