Protesters and the Pearl Monument. Photo: http://bahrain.viewbook.com/.Utrikesperspektiv.se had the chance to speak with Sayed Mohamed, the human rights activist who was forced to flee Bahrain as a result of the violence and persecutions that followed after the revolution in 2011. With thousands of followers on Twitter and active participation in international conferences, Sayed is trying to inform a wider audience about the situation in Bahrain and the human rights violations that have been committed by the government.
What happened in Bahrain in February 2011?
The Bahraini people were inspired because of what was happening in Egypt and Tunisia. They gathered to protest on February 14th but police opened fire and shot one protester. Next day, when the body of the martyr was being taken from the mosque, another person was shot. Despite everything we made it to the ‘Lulu square’ [the popular and iconic assembly place with the Pearl monument in the capital city Manama that since then has been demolished] on the 15th of February. Soon the army was deployed to brutally remove protesters from the square. By February 18th there were 7 deaths. Heads were blown up; they tore the body of one martyr to pieces. It was very emotional and sad for everyone. Salmaniya hospital became the assembly point since many people were coming in with injuries. We reclaimed the square from the police and the army on the February 19th. It was the crown prince who came on TV and ordered the army to leave the square and the people stayed there until March 16th. This became one of the biggest demonstrations the Bahraini government has ever seen. At the time, the demand of the people was to have reform and a real constitutional monarchy instated, not the absolute one like we have now. Some opposition leaders were even calling for the downfall of the monarchy altogether.
Which scenario did you personally prefer?
As a human rights activist the main thing I would say is to stop all the human rights violations and allow people their basic human rights, rights of assembly, the right to express your opinion. All citizens must be equal regardless of their belonging or sect. Based on these you can build up democracy in the country and without these rights you cannot go forward.
For example, the dangerous plan that was initiated by the king in order to change the demography of Bahrain was revealed by one of his former consultants- Salah-al-Bandar. The plan was to employ mercenaries from predominantly Sunni countries like Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Jordan, in the security forces and in the army and give them Bahraini citizenship. Naturalization was one of the issues; another was access to senior positions. The regime wanted to slowly remove those Shias that already had senior positions and prevent others from holding post of power.
Demolition of the Pearl Monument. Photo: http://bahrain.viewbook.com/.
Which factors have prevented the overthrow of the king?
On March 16th Saudi troops crossed the border. There hasn’t been any evidence that they have been taking part in cracking down on the protesters, but their presence in the country signified the Saudis support for the monarchy. Furthermore, the moment they came into Bahrain decision-making powers passed to Saudi Arabia. Nowadays, the regime in Bahrain literally cannot make any decisions without the Saudis. And then there was some talk of getting Jordan and Morocco to join the Gulf Cooperation Council where one is from the Middle East and the other from North Africa. My conclusion is that this union is meant to protect the thrones of the monarchs and not the people of the Gulf States. The other political factor is the American 5th fleet that is stationed in Bahrain. The USA would rather have the current regime they know is on their side. That is why they are selling arms to the regime. The USA keeps on talking about human rights, yet it’s all double standards. We have 2 scenarios that we can compare. We have Syria and Bahrain. The USA supports revolt in Syria because they don’t like the President and they want to get rid of him, the opposite is true for Bahrain.
How can you counter the argument that it is not Iran that is behind the Bahrani revolution?
This question often comes up in conferences. All that I would like to say about this is that people who ask this question expose themselves and suggest that they don’t support the democracy movement but that Iran does. Our demands are to have an elected parliament that enjoys actual power to rule the country, equal rights for people to vote, equal treatment no matter who you are. That is our agenda. Every nation wants to live in dignity – that is our right. And if I have chosen not to be a slave and have dignity does that mean I have another country’s agenda? That only tells me you don’t support my demands, which you enjoy here. But the media, unfortunately, has been presenting the situation in Bahrain as a sectarian problem and the regime as a mediator, trying to preserve control between the Sunnis and the Shias. I don’t like to use the terms Shias and Sunnis, but the first person who was arrested, or rather abducted because in Bahrain they don’t arrest they abduct from the streets or from the house, was a Sunni. He was not a secular Sunni, he was a religious person who spoke out against corruption in the country. And one of the main opposition leaders, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison, was also a Sunni.