by Finian Cunningham and Ralph Schoenman for RedactedNews
The Bahraini royal government has issued a virtual hunting license to occupying Saudi and GCC troops, Bahraini soldiers and security police as they invade homes, mosques and villages, assaulting civilians at funerals mourning the dead and in the homes of those gathered to grieve for daily victims.
Doctors and surgeons who survived the round-ups and assaults in the streets have switched off their mobile phones and gone into hiding with families and friends in the villages and interior. Many seized in the hospitals have disappeared, to the despair of those closest to them.
It is difficult for people to move around Manama in safety. At funerals of the growing number of demonstrators and civilian passersby shot down in the streets, those in ensuing mourning are seized and taken into custody in their turn.
A friend of Finian Cunningham, the reporter for the Irish Times resident in Bahrain for four years, took him Sunday last to the village of Belad al qaeem where villagers gathered at the mosque for afternoon prayer.
A squadron of uniformed police descended on the mosque hurling gas grenades and opening fire with shotguns. Hani Abdulaziz, age 37, was hit and seized as he fell. Armed police hauled him into a four-story concrete block structure near a construction site. The first floor was without windows.
At 5:30 p.m. people saw Hani Abdulaziz dragged out of the concrete building by his assailants and left for dead. He had been shot in each arm and behind the kneecap of each leg with four-inch shotgun shells.
He was soaked in blood and barely alive. People placed him in a carpet and carried him to the International Hospital of Bahrain not far from Balad al qaeem. Doctors tried frantically to save him despite massive blood loss. Hani Abdul Aziz’s father arrived at his side. Within moments, military police descended on the hospital and took Hani Abdul Aziz off the operating table.
No one knows what became of him. His father went to police stations and was told routinely that they had no knowledge of his son’s whereabouts.
Witnesses returned to the concrete block structure where Hani Abdul Aziz was taken by his assailants and shot methodically at close range. The floor was covered in blood. Blood was splattered on the walls and on the ceiling four meters (12 feet) high. Tissue was hanging from ceiling and walls, splattered there randomly by the impact of shotgun shells.
Amongst the witnesses was a woman attached to Human Rights Watch who pointed out to Finian Cunningham the bony fragments ejected from the victim’s knees, elbows and body, and scattered there.
Hani Abdulaziz was not active politically. He had gone to a rally and later to the village mosque.
The reign of terror in Bahrain is aimed at the population in its entirety. Those so attacked are Shia and Sunni, secular or religious – all who call for democratic rights and an end to autocratic rule.
Even as a gravely wounded Hani Abdulaziz was pulled by soldiers from an operating table in the International Hospital of Bahrain, a medical technician, one of many rounded up by soldiers and police on the second floor of Salmaniya hospital in Manama, was frogmarched out of the hospital.
The next day his body was found in the remote oil fields of Awali.
It is instructive to note that those who witnessed the armed police firing upon Hani Abdulaziz described his assailants as Pakistani and Syrian mercenaries. There is in Bahrain an army of 100,000 such mercenaries, most from desperately impoverished areas of Baluchistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India and Syria.
The monarchy depends upon them as an army of the desperate given precious visas and payment and indoctrinated against “Shia vermin,” a noxious formula of religious bigotry deployed by the regime to incite blood lust in this army of goons.
During the day, they wear police uniforms but at night they are found everywhere in black baklava masks, carrying spiked clubs, axes and chains with which they assault and terrorize the population, notably the Shia poor.
Part of the rationale for the reliance on foreign mercenaries, invariably Sunni, is to impart a sectarian and racist quality to repression with the incentive of dividing the two-thirds Shia citizenry from their Sunni brothers and sisters in Bahrain.
The mass demonstrations for democratic change have manifested repeatedly Shia and Sunni protesters arm in arm. Sunni opposition political figures and Shia leaders have joined in their demands. Much of the opposition, moreover, is secular in its composition and in its program.
The non-sectarian character of the mass demonstrations has been particularly alarming to the regime. It undermines the basic predicate of the ruling al Khalifa clan that invaded Bahrain two hundred years before and deprived the Shia majority of rights and access to the institutional life of Bahrain.
Karim Radhi, a central leader of the General Federation of Workers’ Trade Unions of Bahrain, and of the General Strike, forwarded me an article in the pro-government newspaper, The Gulf Daily News (March 22) entitled “34 Asians are Injured.”
It describes assaults and injuries suffered by “at least 34 Asian expatriates … as a result of hate attacks.” Twenty of the victims were Bangladeshi and 14 Pakistani. A Bangladeshi and Pakistani died in the attacks. The article quotes diplomats stating that ‘the true number of people assaulted could be much higher…We are urging them to stay away from crowded places for their own safety.’
The article asserts that “The attack on Asian expatriates is believed to have been carried out by anti-government protesters.”
The Indian Ambassador, Mohan Kumar, however, was quick to state publicly that “the embassy was not aware of any hate attacks on Indians.”
As Karim Radhi observed, the victims were poor working people, not one of whom was associated with the well-paid, armed and uniformed mercenary attack squads in the pay of the Royal government.
There has been no public incitement of hatred or resentment against Asians as such on the part of the population or by any political organization associated with the protests. Bahraini protesters have been well able to distinguish armed gangs in the pay of the army and the government who attack civilians, from working class immigrants earning their livelihood.
The article in the government-backed Gulf Daily News is consistent with official propaganda claiming that the demonstrations were acts of hate directed against the Sunni minority, claims without foundation and designed to divide the movement of the vast majority of the population for fundamental democratic change in Bahrain.
The discriminatory structure of Bahraini institutions under the monarchy reflects, moreover, the nature of Wahhabi rule in Saudi Arabia and renders Saudi rule precarious in the face of the fact that directly across the causeway of the island kingdom of Bahrain lies the vast peninsula of Arabia in which both the oil and Shia population of Arabia, comprising one third of the total, are located.
The invasion of Bahrain by over 600 troop carriers, and thousands of Saudi troops (estimates range as high as 10,000) and troops from the Gulf Coordinating Council have been backed by squadrons of Cobra attack helicopters that rain down automatic cannon fire upon unarmed civilians and demonstrators in the capital.
Beyond that, the villages across Bahrain have been raked by powerful cannon fire as Saudi Cobras swoop low, firing at will.
There is no pretence that the population is armed, although in such circumstances it would have every right to act in self-defence.
No less relentless has been the propaganda barrage of the forces of repression in Bahrain and of the U.S. government and its media outlets.
No resolutions are being pressed on the United Nations Security Council to defend the sovereignty and democratic rights of the people of Bahrain.
Saudi rulers are not faced with saturation bombing and full-scale invasion in turn by U.S. forces and those of NATO.
The Fifth Fleet, stationed one kilometre from Salmaniya Hospital, has not turned its weapons on invading troops. On the contrary, the nerve gas and chemical weapons unleashed on the peaceful demonstrators in Manama come in containers with U.S. markings.
The New York Times greeted the Saudi invasion predictably. Ethan Bronner’s account of the invasion and the repression to follow appears under the headline “Crackdown Was Only Option, Bahrain Sunnis Say” (New York Times), 3/21/11).
“To many around the world, the events of the past week – the arrival of 2,000 (sic) troops from Saudi Arabia and other neighbours, the declaration of martial law, the forceful clearing out of Pearl Square, the military takeover of the main hospital and then the spiteful tearing down of the Pearl Monument itself – seem like the brutal work of a desperate autocracy.
“But for Sunnis … it was the only choice of a country facing a rising tide of chaos that imperilled its livelihood and future. ‘How can we have a dialogue when they are threatening us?’ Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed al-Khalifa, the foreign minister and a member of the royal family, asked Friday night at a news conference.”
Eighty per cent of the serving cabinet ministers of Bahrain are selected from the Al Khalifa Royal Family. It is instructive that the New York Times and Ethan Bronner, in its putative concern for democratic governance and stability, elected not to quote Prime Minister Khalifa ibn Sulman al-Khalifa, uncle of the current King, the sole Prime Minister Bahrain has enjoyed since its nominal independence in 1971 and known throughout Bahrain by the sobriquet “Mr. Fifty-Fifty.”
Nor did he refer to Ian Henderson, the British overseer of the one of most notorious centres of torture in the world, nurtured by the Royal Family in Bahrain but overseen by the National Security Apparatus of Great Britain, with its unnumbered collection of mutilated and dismembered bodies, electrically tortured, their children and wives savaged in their presence to coerce incrimination of innocent others.
This is the legacy of Royal Bahrain, for the removal of which the people of Bahrain have pledged their lives at the cost of decades of unspeakable torment evoked memorably by Finian Cunningham days ago in the pages of the Irish Times.
It is a history as evocative for the Irish people, the sisters and brothers of James Connally, as it is for all of us committed to call to account the authors of a universal Abu Ghraib.
The power underwriting these ubiquitous crimes, unfolding before all with eyes to see in Bahrain, is at no great distance: it is a kilometre away in the Fifth Fleet and command headquarters of U.S. imperial control of the region. It was Secretary of Defence Robert Gates and his ruling colleagues who coordinated the Saudi invasion put in place a month prior and unleashed within twenty-four hours of Gates’ departure from Manama.
The revolution unfolding in Bahrain and the region at large will yet call them to account.