Saturday, December 29, 2012

Two Tales of the Tortured Middle East

Two tales of torture and tyranny. Two brutal regimes. One the enemy of the United States and its allies. The other home to the US Fifth Fleet. One demonised by much of the media. The other mostly ignored.

The headline Blogger's death stirs political hornet's nest... could easily have been about either country as both regularly use imprisonment, torture and murder as tools to suppress their own people's desire for democratic change.

That hornet's nest is of course in Iran. The story concerns the State murder of Sattar Beheshti, a labourer from Tehran. He was arrested, tortured and killed by Iran's cyber police. His crime was attacking the government. His weapon, a humble blog.

The outrage within Iran and outside has seen the fight for human rights rekindled. You can read Reuters full report here. We can expect exensive coverage of the human rights situation in Iran during the lead up to the 2013 presidential elections.

Zainab al-Khawaja, currently in prison for protesting against her government, tells a similar story of arbitrary imprisonment and torture in Bahrain, a Brutal Ally.

At present, the Bahraini government believes it has international immunity. It commits widespread human rights violations, and business continues as usual: the government continues to buy arms and negotiate lucrative deals, without having to face any real consequences. This is why the most prominent Bahraini human-rights defenders are languishing in prison. Until the United States starts to put real pressure on its ally, Bahrain’s government has no incentive to change.

No matter the price, Bahrainis will keep demanding the very values — human rights and democracy — that the United States claims to stand for. It is an outrage that America continues to back a regime that tramples them.

From Behind the Bahraini Revolution: An Interview with Maryam Al-Khawaja:
Whenever you want to know the human rights situation of any country, ask where their human rights defenders are. In Bahrain, all of the most prominent human rights defenders sit in prison cells today.
Maryam is the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and the deputy director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Let's hope her self-imposed exile will not be a long one. And that the situation in Bahrain receives at least a fair fraction of that given to Iran.

It is no surprise then that Twitter hashtags #teargas and #Bahrain often appear in the same tweet.

So what can you do? Find your local journalists on twitter who cover world politics and ask about the silence surrounding Bahrain. Sending them the link to Global Voices Online's stories about Bahrain might also help.

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