This week, reflecting the farcical state of “justice” in Bahrain, I sent the petition letter “Prevent Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa From Attending the London Olympics 2012”, to David Cameron, the UK’s Prime Minister. This is what I said:


Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa

TO: David Cameron, Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA

“Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to draw your attention to more than 10,137 people who have signed my online petition calling on the British government to prevent Prince Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain from entering the United Kingdom to attend the London Olympics.

The petition reads:

‘We, the undersigned, urge the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, and Jacques Rogge of the IOC, to ban Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa from the 2012 Olympics in London, on the grounds of substantial and documented allegations of the sectarian persecution of athletes and his personal involvement in their torture – all of which is completely against the Olympic Charter of ‘preserving human dignity’ and allowing everyone ‘to practice sport without discrimination’.

I started this campaign with Community Petitions, an online petition platform hosted by global campaigning community AVAAZ. Since launching this petition, over 10,000 people have joined my call, including thousands of citizens of the United Kingdom and Bahrain.

Sheikh Nasser is the son of Bahrain’s ruling King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, one of the dictators who has tried to crush the Arab Spring with force. Bahraini athletes allege that Sheikh Nasser has used his platform as head of the country’s Olympic Committee to ensure that athletes in particular have been punished if they dissent.

Sheikh Nasser is alleged to be behind the committee that targeted 150 athletes and sports officials for their democratic views and which subsequently wrecked the lives and sporting careers of many of them.

Several of the protesters have also claimed that they were personally tortured by Sheikh Nasser after their arrests for peaceful demonstrations and detailed allegations have been made against him in court. A description of these can be found at the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights website: http://www.bchr.net/en/node/5346

I believe that these testimonies are both reliable and credible and documentation has already been submitted to your officials from the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR).

There should be no place for him in the United Kingdom or at the London Olympics.

Despite the BICI report the Al Khalifa Government is particularly good at making pretence of doing one thing and continuing to the do the opposite. Human rights abuses and imprisonment purely on sectarian grounds, based on trumped up charges, continue on a daily basis.

The continued jailing of human rights activists like Nabeel Rajab and Abdulhadi AlKhawaja on fabricated charges rather proves the point.

Last Saturday 14th July more than 200 people, including myself, demonstrated outside the Bahraini and Saudi embassies to bring attention to the plight of the above and hundreds of other political prisoners in Bahrain. 

The UK Government makes much of human rights abuse and lack of democracy and justice in Syria, China, North Korea, Iran and elsewhere but shamefully fails to say anything even vaguely critical of Bahrain allowing its own self–interest to take precedence.

The petition can be viewed online at:http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/To_Prevent_Sheikh_Nasser_bin_Hamad_alKhalifa_of_Bahrain_from_attending_the_London_Olympics_2012/?wNnUgbbrom_attending_the_London_Olympics_2012/

I am happy to provide you with the names and countries of all 10,137 signers at your request.

Yours sincerely, Peter Clifford”

I also sent similar letters to:

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister’s Office, 70 Whitehall, London SW1A 2AS.

William Hague, Foreign Secretary, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.

Damian Green MP, Minister of State for Immigration, Home Office, Direct Communications Unit, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF

Alistair Burt MP, Minister Responsible for Bahrain, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH.

And finally: Jacques Rogge, President International Olympic Committee, Chateau De Vidy, Case Postale 356; 1007 Lausanne, Switzerland

Feel free to do the same and use all or any part of the letter.

In a letter of reply to my own local MP, who raised the issue previously on my behalf, Alistair Burt said, “Our policy is clear that accreditation shall be refused to any individual who may present a safety or security risk, where their presence at the Games or in the UK would not be conducive to the public good or if there is independent, reliable and credible evidence that they have committed human rights abuses.”

In the case of Sheikh Nasser, the chances are that the British Government will let him into the UK and allow him to take part in the Olympic Games, wriggling out of the issue by saying complaints about him are not “independently verified”.

As long as the UK (and the US) is hypocritical about Bahrain, condemning human rights abuse elsewhere but remaining silent when it is carried out by one of its strategic allies, then nothing will change.

However, the point has been made, Sheikh Nasser’s alleged crimes recorded – and they will be on the Internet forever for succeeding generations to see, recall and remember.




“Do Not Forget Younis Ashoori”

FARCE 1: Younis Ashoori is a 61 year old hospital administrator, whose only “crime” appears to be that he, on orders from a superior, supplied oxygen cylinders to injured protesters in March 2011.

For this, and other trumped up charges he was condemned to 3 years in prison by a military court.

He is unwell, suffers severe pain from kidney stone problems and other complications and has been dragged back to court for a decision on his appeal no less than 10 TIMES!

His next appearance in court in this continuing psychological and emotional torture is  on 25th July.

You can sign a petition calling for Younis’ release, HERE:

FARCE 2 :  Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has been jailed for 3 months for sending out comments on Twitter which the Al Khalifa Government does not like (EDITOR: I don’t suppose they like mine much either!).


Nabeel Rajab – “Sumood” (Steadfast)

He is also due in court to face other charges which are likely to prolong his stay in prison.

His family have been told they cannot visit him until August.

Meanwhile police officers, accused and on trial for murder, are allowed out from court  and free to go home every night.

In one case, an unnamed 22 year old Bahraini policeman is accused of killing Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, 21, with a shotgun (euphemistically called a “pellet gun” in the Gulf Daily News report).

The police officer claims that he shot Ali Mushaima “accidentally” from 10 metres away, despite the fact that another officer says it was only 3 metres and Ali was shot in the back.

But this officer can go home every night to his comfortable bed and his air conditioned home. Younis Ashoori and many other prisoners in Jaw Prison are sweltering in temperatures which can exceed 45 C as part of the air conditioning system there is not functioning and conditions are crowded.




Fledgeling Democracies Take First Tottering Steps







TIMELINE – 8th JULY 2012 14.08 GMT:

Congratulations to Libya on holding yesterday its first fully free parliamentary election since 1952.


Democracy in Libya – “I voted!”

Turnout was thought to be around 60% and notable for the large number of women who were voting for the first time.

At some polling stations women easily out-numbered men.

The election will select a 200 member General National Congress (GNC) from the 2,600 individual candidates and 400 political organisations who stood in the poll.

The most significant party to emerge so far is the Justice and Construction Party, consisting mainly of members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The GNC when elected will pick a prime minister and cabinet. The GNC was also meant to choose 60 members to make up a committee to write a new Libyan constitution which will be voted on in a referendum next year, but the National Transitional Council (NTC), which will stand down as soon as a new government has been formed, has said the the constitutional committee will now be the subject of a separate national vote.

However, as elsewhere in the “Arab Spring” revolutions, the transition to the democratic process continues to be very rocky.


Federalists Burning Election Materials – cnn.com

In Libya, especially in the east around Benghazi, some polling stations were burnt to the ground or election material and voting papers destroyed and a helicopter carrying elections workers was shot at with heavy calibre bullets on Friday killing one of the occupants and forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing.

Armed groups opposed to the election and wanting autonomy for oil-rich eastern Libya, also surrounded and closed the oil refineries at Ras Lanouf, Brega and Ajdabiya. In a separate incident another person was killed near a polling station in Ajdabiya.

In the current election of the 200 available seats, in a system devised by the NTC, the west of Libya will have 100, 40 will come from the south and 60 from the east. Many from the east think that the parliament will therefore be too “Tripoli orientated”, a sentiment which many in Benghazi province shared under Gaddafi as well. The BBC has a video report of the election, HERE:

Hopes for an effective and solid democracy in Libya also remain on shaky ground with the recent detention for 26 days of International Criminal Court (ICC) defence lawyers for Saif Gaddafi and their leading counsel, Melinda Taylor’s assertion since her release that it will be impossible for Saif to get a fair trial in Libya. You can see a video of her statement, HERE:


Democracy in Libya – “I voted too!”

Further worries for Libya’s progress are the huge tribal divisions and rivalries that still exist throughout the country, in some cases relating to disputes over killings or land that go back generations.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 people were killed following a clash between the Zintani and Mishasha tribes around the desert town of Misdah, both sides using weapons obtained from the former Gaddafi military. (Further background, HERE:)


In Tunisia, the first of the “successful” Arab Spring revolutions, the entire membership of a commission set up to reform the country’s media, resigned this week, citing interference and censorship from the newly elected government.


Tunisia – The Future Is In Our Hands

Kamel Labidi, the head of the The National Authority for the Reform of Information and Communication, said that the commission did “not see the point of continuing to work”.

The democratically elected majority Islamist government recently dismissed the senior executives of state-owned radio and TV channels and in another case fined the owner of a privately-run TV station for showing an animated film that the Government deemed blasphemous.

In reaction to these moves, Reporters Without Borders, the international media watchdog, said, “In the absence of clear legislation respecting international standards, senior public broadcasting personnel are being appointed in a way reminiscent of the old regime’s methods.”

The Tunisian Government has also failed to implement decrees protecting the rights of journalists and regulating new audio-visual media.


In Egypt, newly elected President Mohammed Mursi, from the Muslim Brotherhood (a banned organisation for years under Mubarak), promised massive crowds in Tahrir Square, the centre of the revolution, that he would represent all Egyptians of all faiths, but whether the Army Council that effectively still controls the country will actually allow him any real power remains to be seen. The BBC has a video report of the event, HERE:


Egypt Celebrates As New President Elected

The Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf) that has been running Egypt since the fall of Mubarak, delayed the announcement of the winning candidate in the election and gave itself sweeping new powers just a few days before the presidential vote.

Scarf not only dissolved the newly elected parliamentary assembly but gave itself new authority to enact legislation, control the state budget and appoint a panel that will draft the new constitution.

The army, which controls vast sections of the Egyptian economy, including manufacturing of consumer goods, food, mineral water, construction, mining, land reclamation and even tourism (while its accounts are held secretly), is clearly not going to let go of its controlling reins without another fight.


In Yemen, where another Arab Spring revolution of sorts, saw the departure of longtime dictator Ali Abdullah Saleh in February after ruling for 33 years and the unopposed election of his deputy President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, chaos still reigns, especially in the south where Al Qaeda insurgents have tried to take control.

Government forces have made gains during recent months, recapturing the insurgent held towns of Shuqra, Zinjibar and Jaar, but things came to a halt in the middle of June when a suicide bomber killed General Salem Ali Qatan who was both leading the battle in the south and moves to reform the army.

Another suicide bomber killed 100 soldiers in May while they were rehearsing for a parade for “National Unity Day” in the capital Sannaa.


The Faces of Yemen’s Poor – bbc.co.uk

Apart from that Yemen has massive problems with unemployment, malnutrition, poverty, lack of water and electricity and starvation on a huge scale.

And additionally many of Saleh’s family members have yet to relinquish power over key positions in the air force, Republican Guard, Presidential Guard and security services. (Further background on Yemen, HERE:)

A new democracy?  That remains to be seen.

But at least all the above have made some sort of move forward.


In Syria the “jury is still out” on the likely result in the bloody battle between President Assad and the pro-democracy Opposition, that has so far claimed more than 16,500 lives, but recent signs seem to indicate that the rebel fighters are making progress.

In Bahrain however, where the pro-democracy movement has been demonstrating almost daily against the Government for 17 months now, things at times seem to be going backwards.

A sly, Al Khalifa family-controlled and King Hamad led autocracy, constantly bleats about how “liberal and open” it is and trumpets its “march towards democracy”.


Bahrain – Victim of Police Beating

Yet behind closed doors, for example, people who criticise the Government get arrested without warrant and despite the installation of recording equipment in police interview rooms, detainees are routinely beaten in unfinished building lots before being taken to police stations.

Fahed Al-Sumait wrote on EA Worldview recently:

“For now, it is clear that the current political system is neither monarchical nor democratic enough to exploit the benefits of either. The lesson appears to be that a country cannot balance power effectively between an appointed cabinet and an elected parliament.

In an absolute monarchy, the king calls the shots and appoints who he wants to help him govern. By contrast, in a fully democratic system, competing ideologies vie for political dominance through various electoral systems, and the government branches function as a system of checks and balances. But …. where the systems are mixed, the executive and legislative branches are inherently locked in a power struggle.

This almost guarantees perpetual confrontation rather than some degree of symbiosis. The hybrid approach does not appear to be a formula for effective governance, but may instead be a structural defect that will continue to foster the kind of political chaos for which ……. is increasingly known.

It could be argued that the real question going forward is not how ……. will navigate through the current storm, but rather when (or if) it will be able to effectively repair its sinking ship.”

Filling in the gaps in the passage above you would see that Fahed was actually writing about Kuwait, where the elected parliament is in conflict with the upper chamber appointed by the Emir and has been suspended, but he could have just as well been writing about Bahrain.

Much the same system exists in Bahrain and throughout the Gulf area where family monarchies and sheikhdoms control their oil and gas producing fiefdoms. (Further background on Bahrain, HERE:

In my view, the “Arab Spring” revolutions will eventually reach these countries too –  modern media, communications and “an idea whose time has come” will ensure that – but when and how nobody knows.

To those fighters for democracy, human rights and freedom across the Gulf – “Sumood” (Remain Steadfast) – your time will come, history is on your side.


Bahrain – Conflict Continues on a Daily Basis

EGYPT: The “Revolution” that Never Was?


BURMA: In my very first post on 1st January 2011 I wrote about women’s rights and how by depriving women of the opportunity to play their full role in society, we waste 50% of the earth’s human resources.

Two of the women in oppressive situations that I highlighted then were Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese pro-democracy leader who was held under house arrest, on and off, for almost 24 years until her release on 13th November 2010, and Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, despite the fact that her husband was already dead at the time of the supposed “offence”.


Aung San Suu Kyi

It is with some pleasure then to note that Aung San Suu Kyi is now free to travel, that she and her followers have won some seats in the Burmese parliament, that Burmese leaders after years of isolation are now communicating with the world (though probably through self interest), and that Aung San Suu Kyi has today arrived for a visit to the UK.

This is her first visit to Europe since 1988, although she was married to an Englishman, Michael Aris, a Tibetan scholar, who died of cancer in 1999. Fearful that the Burmese authorities would not allow her to return if she went to her husband’s bedside, she made the painful decision to stick by her people and remain in Burma.

Aung San Suu Kyi also has 2 sons based and born in the UK and during her UK visit she will make a visit to Oxford where they all lived for a number of years. Today, Tuesday, is her 67th birthday.


Michael Aris & Aung San Suu Kyi + baby

She is expected to receive an honorary degree from the university while in Oxford, meet Prince Charles and his wife Camilla on Thursday and address both houses of the British Parliament, as well as meeting David Cameron the Prime Minister. She spoke in Ireland at the weekend, HERE:

Last Saturday Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the Nobel Committee in Norway and received the Nobel Peace Prize which they awarded her 20 years ago. She said she heard about it on the radio at the time, while under house arrest, and it helped reconnect her with the wider world.  You can read more about her life, HERE:

So sometimes the world does get a little better it seems, despite all the pain, persecution, killing and torture.


Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani – guardian.co.uk

IRAN: Of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the Iranian lady sentenced to death by stoning, there is no word as far as I can trace.

In January 2012 the Iranian parliament changed the law on “adultery” to death by hanging, but that is effectively no improvement on a punishment that seems to be reserved for women and remains cruel, inhuman and unjust.

Sakineh Ashtiani, may still be alive in prison, but it would not surprise me to learn that she has been quietly and secretly executed.

EGYPT: The 2011 “revolution” in Egypt that brought down it’s long time president and dictator, Hosni Mubarak, looks as though it may have stalled.

Despite reaching the point of parliamentary elections, a “Supreme Constitutional Court” (odd when the country still does not have a constitution) declared last week that the legislative polls last year were unconstitutional because party members were allowed to contest seats in the lower house reserved for independents.


Tahrir Square in The Heady Days of Revolution

 This has led the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (Scarf), which had controlled the country since Mubarak fell, still in complete power. 

So everyone is wondering if anything has changed.

The question gains more stringency when you discover that of the 2 remaining candidates in last week’s presidential election run-off, one is a former army officer and prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, and the other is the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group of whom the army are terrified.

Following the ruling by the constitutional court on the parliamentary elections, Scarf, dissolved parliament and prevented MPs from entering, and yesterday gave itself sweeping powers over legislation, the national budget and over who writes a new constitution, effectively removing power from any new president.

The Brotherhood’s presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi is believed to be slightly ahead in the polling but the results will not be declared until Thursday.


Ahmed Shafiq & Mohammed Mursi – Presidentail candidates – AP

 The former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who was 3rd in the first round of voting, said the declaration was a “seizure of the future of Egypt”.

So far the street revolutionaries, many of whom supported Sabahi, have been restrained.

However, if Thursday’s result is suspected of being gerrymandered in favour of the ruling army council, who seem to have guaranteed themselves jobs for life and have huge and lucrative business interests all over Egypt, then the revolution in Egypt may just have to take place all over again.

Whether the people have enough energy or stomach for that remains to be seen.

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