Category Archives for Self Determination

Threats, Delusions and Sectarian Persecution in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia






TIMELINE – 1st June 2012 11.15 GMT:

Following the release on bail on Monday of Nabeel Rajab, another 3 activists Zainab AlKhawaja, Masooma Sayyid Sharaf and Hassan Oun were released from detention on Tuesday of this week.

Zainab Alkhawaja Shortly After Her Release

Like Nabeel Rajab, Zainab and Masooma were released on bail and will have to return to court in June to answer further charges.

But as Amnesty International said on Tuesday in a statement, commenting on the ongoing trials of prisoners of conscience and the many political prisoners still held in detention on questionable charges, “behind Bahrain’s thin veneer of reform, little has changed in practice and the human rights crisis is far from over”.

This was highlighted last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, when following a “Universal Periodic Revue” (UPR), which all UN member states are subject to, Bahrain was severely criticised for its human rights record and landed with 176 recommendations which it says it is going to “consider”.

As well a some internationally known human rights organisations, some civic society members of the Opposition from Bahrain gave evidence at the hearing including Drs.Ala’a Shehabi and Nada Dhaif, Maryam AlKhawaja and Jalila al Salman.

Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) was unable to attend as he was still being held in prison accused of “insulting a state institution” on his Twitter account.

At the end of the hearings last Friday and the issuing of the report on Bahrain, the President of the Human Rights Council Laura Dupuy Lasserre, issued an unprecedented statement saying she had been advised that some of those giving evidence against the Bahrain Government had been named and vilified in Bahrain’s media and threatened with interrogation and reprisals since appearing.

Laura Lasserre, President UN HR Council

The President of the Council went on to name all the civil society members from Bahrain who attended and called for their protection.

Despite vehement statements of denial from Bahraini officials at the UN and back home that they would “ever do such a thing”, reports from Manama confirmed that vilification of the activists who spoke in Geneva continued on Bahrain’s state TV on Tuesday evening and that since the beginning of the session on Monday 21st May, a number of columns have appeared in Bahrain media labeling the activists as “traitors” and making other derogatory statements against them.

Dr. Salah Ali, Minister of State at Bahrain’s “Human Rights” Ministry and leader of their UN delegation, called the allegations “unfounded” and said he would like to know who made such a complaint to the Human Rights Council?

The representatives from Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Kuwait and Yemen, all of whom had supported Bahrain’s shining human rights record”, condemned the President for her statement.

However, Laura Dupuy Lasserre stood by her comments and in her final remarks said that it was her duty to protect those who face attacks.


Jalila Al Salman, Deputy Vice President of the Bahrain Teachers Union and who is currently still on trial for “attempting to overthrow the Government of Bahrain” along with Mahdi Abu Deeb, said “I was very uncomfortable about the daily reports in the loyal press.

It gives a bad feeling but I was very happy to hear our names in the UN room. It gave me the feeling that I am under the UN protection”.

Jalila and Mahdi’s case came before the courts again on Tuesday, but in the traditional warped style of Bahrain’s judicial system, the process was postponed again until 25th June. While Jalila remains free on bail, Mahdi, President of the Bahrain Teachers Union, continues to be held in prison where he has already spent more than 12 months.

Jalila Al Salman & Mahdi Abu Deeb

The judicial system used in this way is just another form of “slow psychological torture” to cause maximum distress, alternating with hope, and then more distress and maximum inconvenience to the prisoners and their families and supporters.

A video called “The Bleeding Pearl” documents both the recent and older history of the physical torture inflicted on Bahraini citizens. The victims speak eloquently of their dreadful experiences. 

More than one accuses Lieutenant Noora Al Khalifa, a member of the “royal family”, of directing and taking part in torture sessions. You can watch the video, HERE:

As yet, not one single person, senior or junior, has been held accountable for these gross acts of barbarity and in some cases, murder, and successfully prosecuted, though a number of trials of junior members of the security forces are in progress.

Protesters Show Pictures of Victims of Torture

Apart from everything else, sectarian abuse and targeting continues, despite the “protests of innocence” of the Government and frequent statements about what “huge strides towards democracy and freedom of expression” it is making, usually aimed at fooling the international community..

Good examples are statements in Istanbul made yesterday by Bahrain’s Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa at the “International Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations” held in Turkey and chaired by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In his speech to the forum Sheikh Ali said that Bahrain “is a country of law, institutions and people’s participation in building communities… the kingdom continues to implement its commitment to the freedom of thought and expression, justice and cultural and religious diversity through cultural dialogue between civilisations”.

Which is a complete load of twaddle  when you know that Nabeel Rajab was imprisoned for sending out Tweets mentioning the Ministry of the Interior.

To emphasise the absurdity of the point, his supporters rallied behind him at a demonstration in Manama yesterday at which they displayed in large format dozens of Nabeel’s Tweets transmitted before his recent arrest.


On top of the Government’s delusional deception is their sheer sectarian vindictiveness.

Just one example of this are their attacks on students. Zainab Maklooq (24), Alaa Sayed (24) and Zahraa Zabar (23) were all medical students studying and living until last year at the Al-Damam University (King Faisal University) in Saudi Arabia.

Entrance to King Faisal University, Damman

On March 21st 2011, shortly after the outbreak of democracy demonstrations in Bahrain, the 3 students were requested by the Director of Al Dammam University housing, apparently on orders from the Saudi “Higher National Security Council”, to collect their personal belongings because they were to be immediately deported.

After being driven to the King Fahd causeway they were handed over to 50 masked security personnel from Bahrain, driven away in a mini-bus and verbally abused on the journey.

After 23 days in prison for made-up charges of “criticizing government symbols”, “inciting hatred towards the regime”, “organizing protests at the university” and “contacting foreign TV channels and disseminating misleading information” and 3 court appearances they were acquitted for lack of evidence.

Despite this the 3 students are banned from returning to Saudi Arabia to complete their studies. Zainab and Alaa were in their sixth year of study and just a few months away from graduating and Zahraa was in her fifth year.

Applications to other universities have been meet with the information that they will have to repeat at least 3 years of study.

Mahmood Habib is another Bahraini medical student who had a scholarship to the University of King Faisal in Saudi Arabia where he was in his last year of study and was about to take his final exam.

Shortly before this was about to happen he was told that complaints had been made against him by colleagues concerning supposed comments on the situation in Bahrain. He was suspended and has since been expelled. No crime, no trial, years of study wasted.

EDITOR: As long as vicious sectarian persecution, based on flimsy and in some cases no evidence at all, continues in Bahrain, the kingdom will be the laughing stock of the world as civilised people see straight through its ridiculous and hypocritical posturing and its acts of sheer vindictiveness.

Protesters March in Solidarity With Rajab’s Right to Tweet – Courtesy of @anmarek


BAHRAIN – News: Nasser, “Prince of Torture”, to Attend London Olympics as VIP



TIMELINE – 13th MAY 2012 11.37 GMT:

This week the Olympic torch was lit once again using the sun’s rays in a ceremony at the site of the very first games at Olympia in Greece to begin its journey to the Olympic stadium in London. The flaming torch will be carried to Athens by foot before being flown to London.

And on July 27th the torch will finally reach its destination at Stratford in East London where it will be used to ignite the Olympic flame to open the 2012 Olympic Games in the UK.

(EDITOR: I once carried a portable typwriter from Olympia to Athens in a 500 mile journey by foot across Greece. Not quite the same as a flaming torch I know – but a damn sight heavier and another [true] story for another day!)

Present at that ceromony will be the officials of the International Olympic Committee and all the presidents of the national olympic committees from countries around the world.

All of these officials will be given free access to every Olympic event, accomodation at a discounted rate at a luxury hotel in London and a chauffeur driven BMW to take them to and from the Olympic venue and around London.

One official to enjoy all of these priviliges will be Bahrain’s “sports ambassador”, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, aged 24, son of King Hamad of Bahrain and President of the Bahrain Olympic Committee.

Sheikh Nasser is very familiar with the UK having trained at Sandhurst, Britain’s world renowned military academy, and is now, despite any real military experience, the commander of Bahrain’s Royal Guard.

Last year during the disturbances in Bahrain, Sheikh Nasser rang up a live broadcast on state TV and commenting on demonstrators said, “Anyone who called for the fall of the regime, may a wall fall on his head. Whether he is an athlete, socialite or politician — whatever he is — he will be held accountable . . . Bahrain is an island and there is nowhere to escape”.

You can see the video of the TV programme, with English sub-titles, HERE:

Just to show that this was no wild, hot -headed statement by an out-of-control young and inexperienced member of Bahrain’s “royal” family, the Government subsequently put Sheikh Nasser in charge of a committee that identified and targeted 150 Shi’ite sportsmen and officials, including international footballers and other well known sports stars.

The committee even went after disabled athletes, who were accused of opposing the regime.

Two of the victims of this sectarian persecution (EDITOR: Because that is what it is) were A’ala and Mohammed Hubail, brothers who were both in the Bahrain national football team, one a goalkeeper and the other a leading scorer. Both the players were arrested last year, subjected to torture and removed from the team.

Mohammed, who was capped 52 times for Bahrain, was sentenced to 2 years in prison by a military court last year but was subsequently released after several months in jail.

At the time the United Nations Human Rights Commisssion said that the trials of the Hubail brothers ‘appear to bear the marks of political persecution’ and FIFA, the world football authority, sent officials to investigate.

The Hubail brothers were only 2 of 30 footballers arrested plus 26 basketball players, 27 Handball players, 22 Volleyball players, 2 bodybuilders, 1 special needs athlete, 12 sports administrators and referrees and 5 sports journalists all taken into custody and many imprisoned and abused for lengthy periods.

Picture: Many think Alaa Hubail was persecuted for helping the injured in Sitra:

At the very least, most have had their lives completely disrupted and their sports careers wrecked.

And their crime? Taking part in demonstrations calling for democracy – a human right in any civilised country.

When Mohammed Hubail received his 2 year sentence, Sheikh Nasser wrote on Twitter, “If it was up to me, I’d give them all life.”

To escape further embarassment, Sheikh Nasser has recently removed all his past Tweets from his Twitter Timeline.

Many others detained last year also report being tortured by Sheikh Nasser and other members of the “royal family”.

Specifically, Abdulla Isa Al-Mahroos, reported to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) that Sheikh Nasser Bin hamad Alkhalifa, beat him while he was in detention and then forced him to open his mouth and spat in it.

Mohammed Habib Al-Muqdad, a Islamic cleric who is also a Swedish citizen, described how when blindfolded and being tortured, suddenly everyone went silent and the words “your majesty” were heard.

A voice said, “Do you know who I am?”. When Al-Muqdad said “No”, his blindfold was removed and the man infront of him said “I’m Prince Nasser Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa. When you protested outside our castle in Safriya, only a wall separated us”.

Mohammed was asked what chants he had said at the protest that day. When Mohammed said “Down Down Hamad” Nasser slapped him and he fell to the ground. Sheikh Nasser then, it is reported, with the help of the other torturers, beat Mohammed severely.

Most of the torture sessions were said to have taken place in the underground cells of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) at Al Qala  in Manama.

Four other members of the “royal family”, including Sheikh Nasser’s brother Khalid and a female member, Shaikha Noura Al Khalifa, a MOI officer, are also accused of personal involvement in the torturing of detainees. For further information go to the BCHR site, HERE:

Andy Slaughter MP, chairman of the UK parliamentary group for democracy in Bahrain, has said, “Welcoming prominent members of the Khalifah regime accused of repression is a real blot on the Olympics”.

The UK’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, says the government won’t hesitate to use its powers to extend London 2012 travel bans to individuals and officials with connections to “undesirable regimes” and Sheikh Nasser “would be closely assessed before being granted entry to Britain to attend the Games this summer”.

EDITOR: However, don’t hold your breath, the UK’s history of supporting bloody suppression in Bahrain is long and complicated and I will cover this further in another blog post.

Some say that sport, and the Olympics in particular, should not be mixed up with politics. I say that is an excuse to allow brutal and repressive regimes to get away with murder, often literally, and to show a face to the world that says they are “acceptable” when they are clearly not.

The world has changed. Governments that make compromises for self-serving reasons with oppressive, undemocratic governments, as the UK and the US do in Bahrain, will be increasingly challenged by an articulate, technology savvy, electorate worldwide.

Countries like China and Russia (and Bahrain) will be more likely to move towards reform in my view if they are told they will be excluded from international football, sports, Olympics, other competitions and international realtionships in general. Only being able to play sports with North Korea, another pariah state, and their friends must be boring to say the least.

Insolation and sanctions eventually bring a result, of which Burma is the latest country to decide to open its borders and government to reform as a result of co-ordinated international action.

Not only is Sheikh Nasser likely to be let quietly into the country to view the Olympics but his Father, King Hamad, is due to take part in Queen Elizabeth ll’s 60th Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle on May 18th.

Unlike Bahrain, Queen Elizabeth has no political power whatsoever and acts as a useful constitutional monarch and non-politicised head of state.

Hopefully, Britain’s and Europe’s substantial human rights lobby will make their views loudly known when these two senior representatives of Bahrain’s torturing, repressive regime unfortunately show their faces in the UK.


While large demonstrations took place in Bahrain in support of Nabeel Rajab, the President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, on Friday and Saturday this week, the Al Khalifa regime took futher steps to consolidate his imprisonment.

Yesterday he was remained in custody for a further 7 days and to the list of “charges” has been added an accusation that he “delivered a speech during a public gathering urging those present to stage a march, confront authorities and use violence against security forces.

He also allegedly incited them to escalate the situation to ensure that confrontations result in deaths”.

(EDITOR: Which is news to everyone else, including those organisations that have awarded him and the BCHR numerous prizes for their human rights work.)

According to the report, “an illegal rally was organised in Manama following his speech, on the same day, which resulted in disrupting public order, blocking roads and attacks against security personnel”.

Nabeel is due in court again next Wednesday to answer charges “of insulting an official body” – “the MOI” apparently. Clearly, another series of sham trials and twisted, dishonest judicial proceedings is about to begin.

EDITOR: However how the Al Khalifa Governent hope to solve problems by doing this I do not know. Only at least another 397,000 members of the Shia community to arrest and prosecute on “prison island” left!

BAHRAIN’s Medieval Rulers Lurch Further to the Right:






TIMELINE – 7th MAY 2012 12.35 GMT:

In what appears to be another lurch further towards the right, Bahrain’s oligarchy (rule by the few) has charged Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), with “inciting illegal rallies and marches online by using social networking websites” and posting “defamatory and humiliating depictions of the public security forces”.

Nabeel Rajab - BCHR

In other words, it is no longer safe to express your personal views on anything in Bahrain on Twitter unless you are a supporter of the government and opposed to the Opposition.

As Marc Owen Jones has pointed out in his recent blog post  the BICI report mentioned the Twitter account @7areghum which last year during the disturbances openly targeted Opposition supporters, naming them personally and even revealing their whereabouts, but of course nothing was done. Anything that damages the Opposition is fine by the Bahrain Government apparently.

But Nabeel Rajab is guilty, before trial, according to the Public Prosecutor of “cyber-incitement [which] proved detrimental as [it] fuelled rioting, road blocking, arsons, acts of sabotage targeting public and private properties, in addition to the use of Molotov cocktail incendiary bombs.

The inquiry has also revealed compelling evidence on the defendant’s role in instigating, online, acts targeting policemen whilst on duty, leaving some of them injured”.

Rajab, Current Holder of Ion Ratiu Democracy Award

EDITOR: To the best of my knowledge, Nabeel Rajab, has never advocated violence as a solution to Bahrain’s problems but has only encouraged peaceful demonstration.

That others may have taken advantage of that is another matter.

Nor would Rajab and the BCHR have received numerous international awards if they were suspected of promoting violence or sectarian warfare.

I don’t see the Bahrain Government getting too many international awards for its “benign and enligtened” attitudes.

According to the Bahrain News Agency (BNA)  Nabeel Rajab “admitted posting the defamatory and humiliating material on his account” yet at the same time “refusing, however, to answer detailed questions”.

Nabeel has refused to answer further questions apparently as “he does not recognise the court” and has been remanded in custody until the next court appearance on May 22nd.

You can support Nabeel Rajab by signing this petition at Change.Org, HERE: and getting all your friends to sign to.


Combine the above with a statement from the Prime Minister, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, at his weekly Cabinet meeting that “the persistence of some speechmakers in exploiting religious platforms for political purposes and their adopting of techniques aimed at provocation of violence and sectarianism and their calls for breach of law, abuse of constitutional institutions …. etc”. –

A Cabinet of Hardliners Led By "Prince Grim" - BNA

EDITOR: (Yes, their pronouncements get tedious, I know)  – It is beginning to look like that all Opposition leaders are now clearly under attack.

Undoubtedly, leading cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim is in their sights.

Once again, Bahrain’s hardliners are on the ascendant.

Having isolated Adbulhadi AlKhawaja and 14 other Opposition leaders with imprisonment and prolonged and repeated trials, having ousted the well educated and articulate medics from their jobs and tied them up with weekly court appearances, having jailed internationally known high profile leaders like Zainab AlKhawaja and Nabeel Rajab and strictly controlled who is and isn’t allowed into the country, no doubt the Al Khalifas and their supporters are hoping that a “leaderless” Opposition will crumble.

EDITOR: I predict they are in for a big disappointment.

Over and over, Bahrain’s Opposition has made the point that this is not a sectarian struggle but a genuine one for human rights and democracy in Bahrain. With the F1 debacle, even the most sceptical Western observer must now be aware of what is really going on (well, perhaps not the delusional Bernie, but he’s a lost cause!).

Unless they release the imprisoned Opposition leaders and have a proper negotiation with them leading to democratic government, there is not a “cat in hell’s”  chance of peace in Bahrain.


Frankly, the Saudis, the Al Khalifas and all the autocratic monarchies in the Gulf think that they can continue to control, manipulate and consolidate their power for their own sectarian and self-serving familial ends. But suppression and more suppression induces resistance and ultimately more resistance, that is natural law.


Bahrain Protests to Continue - Sumood

In the 21st century resistance is aided by 21st century technology and immediacy.

However long it takes, the Al Khalifas’ dictatorship is doomed to failure and for every Opposition leader they remove another half a dozen, media and technology savvy younger leaders will step into their shoes.

Take heart suppressed people of Bahrain and all those others across the Gulf, I and other human rights activists and organisations will continue to support you, however long it takes.”Sumood” (Endurance).

Democracy in Bahrain "Hung Out to Dry" - Courtesy @CarlosLatuff

BAHRAIN – News: Constitutional Amendments: Al Khalifa Family 5 – Democracy 0






TIMELINE – 13.35. GMT:

In another frenzy of self-congratulation the prominent members of Bahrain’s ruling Al-Khalifa family yesterday “hailed” and “lauded” the approval of “constitutional amendments” following a long-winded speech by king Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa at a ceremony in Manama, the capital, on Thursday.

In the speech, which was big on meaningless rhetoric and short on meaningful content, the king burbled on about ” a qualitative leap” and the “National Action Charter, which garnered overwhelming popular support, and almost unanimous consensus”.          Picture: King Still Hiding From Democracy.

(Just one small problem in that almost 70% of the population does not support it! But we will overlook that, obviously maths is not the king’s strong point)

“As history has proven, citizenship, unity, and participation are the pillars of the reform and development march”, the king rambles on, “Thus, the doors for dialogue are wide open, and national consensus our ultimate aim”.

“These constitutional amendments, through the participation of the legislative power in consolidating its role to oversee the government’s performance, and …..” EDITOR: Actually I can’t repeat any more of this.  If you are into sado-masochistic torture you can read the full text, HERE:

In essence the “constitutional amendments” rule that the king now has to consult the heads of the elected parliament and the appointed Shura Council before dissolving the legislature. 

Additionally, the elected House of Representatives alone now has the right to vote to withhold its cooperation from the prime minister and refer its decision to the king – who then has the final choice on whether to dismiss the premier or keep him in post.

In other words, there is no significant change in the ultimate power of the king, who can still choose to ignore what everyone else says.


Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al-Khalifa, clearly having drunk vast quantities of the Government’s strangely contaminated water supply, gushed that “Bahrain witnesses a ‘golden phase’ of its history in the prosperous era of HM King Hamad”. and went on to describe the crisis over the last 12 months “as a catalyst to achieve greater success”.

While the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa (EDITOR: “Mr Smirky” to his “friends”) described the “new-look constitution” as representing a “quantum leap which will anchor reforms and bolster Bahrain’s fledgling democracy”.

The Opposition parties were less impressed. “The king remains the one to appoint and dismiss the government,” said Abdul Jalil Khalil, a member of the main Opposition group Al-Wefaq.

The opposition wants he continued “a single-chamber parliament that is elected, just as the constitution of 1973 stipulated. These amendments do not abolish the consultative (Shura) council,” he added.

All the members of the Shura Council, or upper house, are appointed or approved by the King, consolidating his power in a chamber that has to sanction the decisions of the lower elected parliament.

The consultative council was introduced in 2002, as part of a new constitution which turned Bahrain from an emirate into a kingdom. It was dismissed by the Opposition as a manoeuvre by the king to control parliament.

Thousands of Opposition supporters took to the streets of Bahrain on Friday to demonstrate their lack of support for the amendments.

“I am Bahraini and dictatorship does not represent me,” said one banner summing up the continued lack of confidence in a system that claims to be “democratic” but remains firmly autocratic and suppressive.  There is a video of Friday’s protest march, Here:


Anticipating the largely superficial reforms, Maryam AlKhawaja, Foreign Affairs spokeswoman for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said in an interview with Al Jazeera that as a human rights activist, stopping the nightly tear-gassing of families and their children in their homes is much more important than minor changes to the constitution.

Asked about the “retrial” of her Father, Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, now on the 87th day of his “Freedom or Death” hunger strike, and 19 other pro-democracy activists, Maryam said it was an “appeal” rather than a “retrial”, which made a huge difference, and given the lack of the judicial independence, with a result determined by members of the royal family, the outcome was unlikely to be fair.  You can see full video interview, HERE:

Another Young Boy Riddled With Shotgun Pellets This Week

The irrelevance of the “constitutional amendments” is also illustrated by the police’s continued use of shotguns, injuring protesters seriously on a daily basis.  Most do not got to hospital for fear of arrest.

And meanwhile, as if to demonstrate the “fairness” of Bahrain’s judicial system, the Juvenile Court remanded two 13 year olds to stay in custody for a further 7 days after they were arrested last week accused of taking part in “an illegal assembly and riots”.

Marks of Police Beating On 13 Year Old Yasin Sherber - BCHR

The 2 young boys,Yasin Abduljalil Sheber and Abdulkarim Hasan, appeared before judges for the second time yesterday since their arrest the previous Friday.

Defence lawyers said Sheber had been beaten after his arrest in Hamad Town following a protest and Hasan, who was arrested in the village of Shahrakkan, had been “beaten with batons” and constantly referred to in questioning as a “son of Iran”.

Hasan was also accused of “carrying a petrol bomb” and Sheber of “assaulting a policeman and tearing his shirt”, leading to the cartoon below depicting a burly policeman bawling his eyes out and the judge offering him tissues, after he was “roughed up” by a 13 year old!


Policeman Complains After "Assault" by 13 Year Old - Courtesy Ali Bazzaz

BAHRAIN – News: King Hamad Cracks Jokes About “Press Freedom” in Bahrain




TIMELINE – 3rd MAY 2012 11.49 GMT:

EDITOR: For a moment I thought it was April 1st, April Fool’s Day, when I read the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) report of King Hamad’s speech on the eve of today’s International Press Freedom Day. But no, it is May 3rd.

Frankly, I don’t know how the leader of one of most repressive regimes in the world, especially in terms of freedom of expression, has the neck to publicly make the speech he has just given about Press Freedom in Bahrain.

Gulf "Royalty" Having a Laugh About Press Freedom

On the 2012 Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index Bahrain ranks at 173 just ahead of such fine bed-fellows as China, Iran, Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bottom placed Eritrea at 179!

Reporters Without Borders even lists King Hamad as a one of its more than 40 “Predators of Freedom of Information”.

Yet, says King Hamad, “We are delighted on the occasion of the international day for freedom of the press to convey our utmost compliment and appreciation to the press and media family in the Kingdom of Bahrain for their sincere efforts in developing the spirit of citizenship, conslidating (sic) the values of freedom, democracy and human rights and supporting reform plans and comprehensive susainable (sic) development”.

(BNA’s translators should be banished to the Arabian desert with a set of English Language books until they properly master the art if they are going to publish this stuff for international consumption – but that’s another story! I digress)

“We emphasize,” the King burbles on, “Our pride in pioneers of Bahraini journalism who took on their shoulders the task of construction of modern Bahraini media on foundations of diversity, mulitiplicity (sic) and credibility, and we appreciate objective free writers and honest genuine patriotic voices and creative media cadres who placed the Kingdom of Bahrain’s interest, progress and prosperity above any material, ideological or sectarian consideations (sic)”.

(I think the English dictionary they are using is the one they found when the Al Khalifa’s arrived in 1783! Sorry, the translation is so constipated it is not true!)

Press Freedom in Bahrain in Action 2011

And then comes the King’s best joke… “There should be no tampering with the right of Bahraini citizens in expressing their opinions, nor any celings (sic) put on their freedoms or creativity apart from professional consciousness, national and ethical responsbilitiies (sic) and observance of the people’s unity and national interest in compliance with the Constitution and the Law”.

In other words we will protect your right to say what ever you want as long as you agree with us!  That’s a pretty rotten basis for a “democracy”.

It gets worse …… “We are fully and constantly supportive of the rights of journalists, writers and media personnel and organizations as they carry out their noble mission without any threat or molestation. We do not and will not tolerate throughout our reign any insulting, arresting or jailing of a journalist as a result of exercising her/his legal and constitutional right of free expression”.

Well, your majesty, try telling that:

  • To the bloggers and journalists still held in your prisons…
  • To the families of the opposition newspaper publisher who mysteriously died in police custody and the family of the young citizen journalist recently killed while peaceful filming a protest…..
  • To the young poetess who was imprisoned for reading out a poem perceived as critical of yourself, the King ….
  • To the mother who was imprisoned for playing music the police did not like on her car CD player….
  • To all the journalists who lost their jobs as a result of your policies…
  • To the brave local photographers who get threatened by the police almost every time they take a picture ….
  • To the TV station employees whose satellite broadcasts to Bahrain were jammed by your Government…

    Say Whatever You Want As Long As You Keep It To Yourself

    To all the people who would like to start a newspaper or radio or TV station that might be critical of the Government but will never get a licence …

  • To all the international journalists that have been refused entry into Bahrain when it suits you or deported because you were terrified that they might discover what is really going on ….
  • To all the citizens of Bahrain who would like a free, unencumbered platform in Bahrain to read, write or publish what the think about anything they choose ….
  • To all those who would like to access the more than 1,000 legitimate websites that you prevent your citizens viewing on the Internet ….
  • And, most of all, to all those who have been beaten, tortured and incarcerated for saying things that the paranoid Al Khalifa family does not want to hear.

Lastly, the King has the temerity to complain about “Bahrain’s unfair treatment in the media”.

“It is quite clear that the Kingdom of Bahrain has been targeted by purposefull (sic), willful campaigns through some foreign media which sought to distort true facts, instigate violence, sabotage, hatred and hostility among citizens in our united nation and this contravenes against all religious teachings, moral ethics and interntional (sic) treaties and conventions as these campaigns which propgated (sic) false opinions and relied on one-sided and biased sources devoid of any accuracy and credibility and which marginalized the rest of Bahraini public opinion”.

So the many PR companies that you employ at a cost of millions of dollars around the world are not charged with distorting “true facts” then? They independently only tell the truth, reflect the reality in Bahrain?

If you did not have so much to hide, the international press would give you an easier time.

Your majesty, I offer you a challenge. If your “freedom of expression” policy is now so enlightened, publish this article on the BNA website or in the Gulf Daily News, uncensored and unabridged.

Until then, I for one will continue publishing comment on your distorted, badly written drivel to ensure that the world knows what is really happening in Bahrain and to prevent the truth being swept under the carpet.

If you can stand reading the full text of the King’s meaningless, badly translated burble, you can read it HERE:

BAHRAIN – News: Twisted Legal System Continues Courtroom Farce





TIMELINE – 1st MAY 2012 12.25 GMT:

Following international pressure, particularly over the case of Abdulhadi AlKhawaja, Bahrain’s Al Khalifa family run Government yesterday announced via the Court of Cassation that all 21 defendants convicted last year in a military court of “plotting against the monarchy”, would be sent for retrial in a civilian court.

Eight of the defendants, including AlKhawaja, had previously been sentenced to life imprisonment and 7 of the defendants were given long sentences in absentia. The 14 who have been held in prison since their arrest in the Spring of 2011 will not be released pending  retrial.

Support for AlKhawaja Unrelenting

A entirely new trial with prosecution and defence witnesses will take place, meaning effectively that the Bahrain Government has found just another way of keeping them in prison while at the same time pretending to the world that it is “listening” and “reforming its legal system”.

However, the Al Khalifa Government has “pulled the wool” over the eyes of the international community too many times to be taken seriously and therefore any of its “good” actions in regards to the Opposition will be regarded skeptically.

Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi, a spokesman for the Opposition Wefaq Party, said, “This ruling is just a step in the right direction, but the street will not calm down until all the prisoners are freed. This is just a part of it”.

Khadija & Zainab AlKhawaja

Khadija al-Mousawi, AlKhawaja’s wife, said, “If they are serious they should set them free and then retry them.

My husband is going through the whole thing again, remembering the horrible episode of torture, attempt to rape and sexual abuse.

I think it is ridiculous, what sort of legal process is this? They are playing for time, and should have transferred his case to a civilian court at the first hearing not the third.”

The BBC has a video report, including an interview with Khadija, HERE:


AlKhawaja himself is now in the 83rd day of his “Freedom or Death” hunger strike. When his family were finally allowed to visit for an hour on Sunday, after being denied access for a week, AlKhawaja told them that he had been tied to the bed, sedated and force-fed through a nasoenteric tube.

Despite denials on their Government news agency website from the Bahraini Defence Force military hospital where he is being held, that this was the case, it is almost certainly the reason he is still alive. Almost all previous hunger strikers have not survived more than 73 days. He has vowed to continue his strike.

The family were also allowed to visit Zainab AlKhawaja, Abdulhadi’s daughter, who has now been held in custody for more than a week for staging a sit-down protest on the highway in support of her father.

Zainab told her family that she had been kicked and beaten on arrest.


That abuse, torture, arbitrary arrests and distortion continue in Bahrain, despite its “commitment” to implementing the recommendations of the BICI report issued last November, was highlighted again on Sunday when Human Rights Watch (HRW) published another report titled “Bahrain: Police Brutality Despite Reform Pledges”.

In a visit from 15th – 19th March 2012, HRW interviewed 14 youngsters, including 7 children, who had been arrested and then taken to informal police facilities and isolated public places and beaten before being released or taken to police stations.

Interviews and formal proceedings at police stations are now supposed to be recorded on video.

One 20 year old described his treatment after being arrested on February 11th and taken to the former youth hostel in Sanabis, a place activists have identified as one used for abuse and torture.

“I had lost my shoes and could feel grass beneath my feet. With my hands cuffed behind my back, they made me kneel and bend over and they started kicking me and beating me with sticks. Someone said: “Finished.”

Another voice said: “Too early, continue.” They then removed all my clothes, apart from the tee shirt that they had turned on my head, and laughed at me. They then put my pants back on and asked me to pray.

As I leaned forward, I and the other prisoner were kicked from behind and we fell forward into a swimming pool, still with hands cuffed. The pool was shallow, so I was able to stand but the water was cold – it was a particularly chilly evening.

When I fell into the pool, my tee shirt hood came down and I could see policemen standing around the pool”.

HRW has confirmed with satellite imagery that the former Sanabis Youth Hostel grounds contains a swimming pool.

HRW raised “the issue of police brutality and torture during arrest and at informal facilities with Bahrain’s chief of public security, Major General Tariq al-Hasan, and his two senior international advisers, John Yates and John Timoney, on April 17.

Timoney and Yates said they had visited some of the facilities identified by Human Rights Watch but found no evidence at the time of their visits of detainees being taken there and mistreated.

Major General al-Hasan told Human Rights Watch that the police authorities were considering issuing instructions to order immediate transfer of detained protesters to police stations”.

As yet no senior police or security officer has been held accountable for abuse, torture or deaths in custody in Bahrain and not one single police officer has as yet tbeen convicted of such a crime. You can read the whole HRW report, HERE:


Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, who describes himself on his Twitter profile as a “Bon Vivant” (EDITOR: But judging by his photographs has been clearly “Bon Vivanting” rather too much lately – see @khalidalkhalifa and below – and perhaps got the word “BAFTA” confused with the English word “BURP”), last weekend incited his 80,000 socila media followers to vote against the Al Jazeera award winning TV documentary “Shouting in the Dark”.

The Al Jazeera film, much of which was shot undercover, documents the Bahrain uprising of 2011 and the aftermath. It has already won numerous awards and is currently one of 4 nominees for the 2012 BAFTA (British Academy for Film and Television Arts) prize for Current Affairs.

Sheikh Khalid told his followers to vote for a Channel 4 film about Sri Lanka, one which probably few of them have watched, and, ironically, whose film makers Bahrain’s Government deported from their country recently (see below).

So far, his “call to action” has not helped much. As of this morning, Tuesday, “Shouting in the Dark” was ahead by around 7,000 votes, polling 52.25% of the vote. The other 2 programmes by Panorama have jointly polled less than 1% of the vote.

You can also watch Al Jazeera’s excellent documentary, HERE:

The UK’s Channel 4, whose journalists were chased by police and deported from Bahrain for filming “illegally”, have had some of the footage that they lost at the time smuggled back to them. You can see their video report, filmed during the F1 Grand Prix week, HERE:

Ironically, the votes of Sheikh Khalid and his supporters are irrelevant anyway. The BAFTA Awards are decided by an independent jury and will be announced on the 27th May. The Radio Times poll was merely to gauge the views of its readers and it makes no difference to the end result. You can read the full BBC article, HERE:

EDITOR: As a satirical blogger I am so grateful to the Bahrain government for the endless ways it makes a fool of itself. Thank you.

BAHRAIN – News: Human Rights Activist “In High Spirits” Apparently – Can You Believe a Word They Say?



TIMELINE – 27th APRIL 2012 08.57 GMT:

According to a report in today’s Gulf Daily News, the main English language pro-government newspaper in Bahrain, they had been told by “sources” that Abdulhadi AlKhawaja was still at the Bahrain Defence Force hospital and was in “high spirits”

AlKhawaja in "High Spirits" After 79 days on Hunger Strike?

The report also claims that “he has never stopped receiving intravenous fluids, although nurses did say he tried to stop taking water two days ago” and that for the last 2 days he has been drinking the nutritional drink Ensure.

According to Google, “Ensure is a food supplement often recommended by nutritionists or dieticians to ‘ensure’ that patients are getting enough calories and vitamins when swallowing difficulties or arm weakness make eating whole foods difficult or no longer pleasurable”.

It is often used with sufferers of motor neurone disease who are no longer able to feed themselves normally.

The press source also went on to say that AlKhawaja “has lost at least 11kg to 12kg, but he is not skeletal. His muscle mass is still there, but his fat mass has definitely gone. His skin is very tight so it is difficult when searching for a vein for a needle, but for the last two days he has been taking the nutritional drink Ensure.

Reports that he has gone missing are not true – and I saw him coming out of the bathroom where he was in high spirits.”
You can read the full report HERE:

This report that AlKhawaja is “in good health” was compounded yesterday by a video interview by BBC’s Hardtalk programme with Bahrain’s Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Khalid Bin Ali Al-Khalifa. He says that AlKhawaja is receiving “optimum health care”.

EDITOR: Whatever that is? If you can bear to watch this grinning, smirking  idiot, the video report is HERE:

AlKhawaja Remains Defiant - Courtesy of @CarlosLatuff


So after 79 days on a hunger strike then, AlKhawaja is “fine” the Bahraini Government would like us to believe.

That he is apparently still alive is a relief but why they refuse to allow anyone to see or talk with him is highly suspicious.  

The claim is that the “doctors” have said that visits and phone calls must stop.

Why? Just another collective punishment on his family and followers it seems to me – and once again a demonstration of the Al-Khalifa’s complete lack of humanity.

AlKhawaja’s appeal against his conviction comes to court again on Monday 30th April.  But don’t get your hopes up. On their past track record the Bahrain justice system will make it as difficult and awkward as possible, probably postponing the decision yet again.


Meanwhile the ridiculous monarchy in Bahrain play out their games with the King sending a “cable” to the Prime Minister, thanking him for his “cable” thanking him for the “success” of  (the half full stands at) the F1 Grand Prix weekend.

(EDITOR: Someone should tell them about those new invention, emails and the telephone!).

There is also much made on the official Bahrain News Agency website of visits by the Prime Minister, and a string of other officials, to the bedsides of injured police officers and also to a mother and son injured in a gas cylinder explosion that severely damaged their home and showered them with glass.

Speaking to the police officers, Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the antique Prime Minister, said, “To say “thank you” is not enough. We need to show love and respect to the security officers and translate that into deeds”.

“The Prime Minister lauded popular stances in support of the security officers which, he said, emanate from the Bahraini inherent humane characteristics”, says the report.

“He stressed rejection of all forms of intimidation and terrorization of citizens, asserting that Bahrain will always remain and oasis of security and stability under the wise leadership of His Majesty the King”.

(EDITOR: If you can face reading the full report without reaching for the sick bag, it is HERE:

Strange that we never noticed members of the Government visiting the families of those whose loved ones have died from police brutality or mysteriously in the Al-Khalifa prisons. I must have just missed the reports that day!

Democracy and Human Rights l Update

Peter Clifford

31/3/11 Peter Clifford –

Democracy and Human Rights l Update

Over the last 3 months I have highlighted Democracy and Human Rights issues in the Ivory Coast, Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China and elsewhere, so I thought it was time for an update. (See my previous post Democracy on the March) At the time of writing the Libya story struggles on as battles continue between the forces loyal to Gaddafi and the armed revolutionaries ranged against him. Clearly much of the world wants Gaddafi to go and many stories of human rights abuse by his troops have emerged and will continue to come out in the future.

One disturbing story this week was told by a young woman lawyer,  Iman al-Obeidi, who got through into the hotel where all the foreign journalists in Tripoli are based. She told the journalists that she had been gang – raped by 15 of Gaddafi’s troops but was quickly bundled away by officials and hotel staff before getting to tell her story in full.

Iman al-Obeid –

At first called a “prostitute” by Libyan officials it later emerged that the Libyan Government had offered her family a house and money to keep her quiet.  She has not been seen since.

UPDATE 18th May 2011: Iman al-Obeidi apparently crossed into Tunisia earlier this month in the company of some defecting Libyan army officers and has since flown to Qatar and is safe.

To give you an idea of Gaddafi’s profound understanding of the human condition, here are a couple of extracts from his famed Green Book, the philosophical basis of the “revolution” that brought him to power:

“Freedom of expression is the right of every natural person, even if a person chooses to behave irrationally, to express his or her insanity”

“Women, like men, are human beings. This is an incontestable truth… Women are different from men in form because they are females, just as all females in the kingdom of plants and animals differ from the male of their species… According to gynaecologists women, unlike men, menstruate each month… Since men cannot be impregnated they do not experience the ailments that women do”

Yes….er…..well .!!. I think the sooner Gaddafi gives up the day job the better for all concerned in Libya, especially women!

Gaddafi Tank destroyed

Meanwhile, do we know exactly who the opposition forces are and what are their future intentions?   “A Vision of a Democratic Libya”, just published by the Libyan Interim Transitional Council in Benghazi looks promising.

Moussa Koussa’s (Gaddafi’s Foreign Minister) “defection” to London is also interesting – just whose side is he on?

IVORY COAST: 11/04/11   Breaking News Update: Following overnight attacks on the heavy weapons around his compound, Laurent Gbagbo this afternoon surrendered to Ouattara’s forces and has been taken to the Golf Hotel, Ouattara’s  UN defended HQ, under arrest.

If you read my previous post Prevent War With Chocolate, you will know that the conflict in the Ivory Coast has been caused by the former president Laurent Gbagbo refusing to stand down after losing the election to his democratically elected opponent Alassane Ouattara.

AVAAZ, the pressure group, organised a campaign to get the world’s major chocolate manufacturers to, temporarily at least, boycott purchases of cocoa from the Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, so that Gbagbo could not fund his army.

Clearly this has not worked as hostilities have now broken out between the two parties and their supporting groups and armed professionals are involved.

Ouattara’s New Forces have swept down from the North and taken over several towns, while Gbagbo, supported by the army has imported mercenaries from Liberia and shelled Ouattara supporters in Abidjan, the capital.  Atrocities are being reported on both sides.

UN Struggle in the Ivory Coast

The people of the Ivory Coast have been here before, having suffered years of civil war prior to a ceasefire in 2007. UNHCR estimates that a million people have already fled their homes this time and a UN peacekeeping force of 9,000 stands by helplessly, under equipped and with no proper mandate to intervene.

Neighbouring countries such as Mali, Liberia and Ghana are being swamped with refugees and at least 800 people have already been killed since December. In the latest developments Ouattara’s New Forces have taken Yamoussoukro, a regional centre, and the key cocoa exporting port of San Pedro.  Gbagbo is left only with parts of Abidjan.

The United Nations has just past a UN resolution imposing sanctions on Gbagbo and his family until his sources of revenue dry up and he is forced to stand down.

Unfortunately this conflict does not have the high profile of Gaddafi and Libya, despite the fact that just as many civilians will suffer in the long run and another, once very prosperous country, will be wrecked.

TUNISIA: Mohamed BouaziziRemember that name. Mohamed was a  Tunisian street seller of fruit and vegetables who, sick to the teeth of corruption, harassment and humiliation by local officials and the police, set himself on fire on December 17th 2010 and sparked the demonstrations that led to the overthrow of the Tunisian President, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who had ruled the country for 23 years.

The Revolutions Started in Tunisia

From that one act everything in Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen and right across the Middle East has followed and still continues.

While the interim President Fouad Mebazaa has announced the date of an election in July for representatives who will rewrite the constitution, unrest still continues and arrest warrants have been issued for the former president and his family who are believed to have fled to Saudi Arabia.

BAHRAIN: Democracy and Human Rights have been a hotly debated issue in this tiny Gulf State (100 times smaller than the Irish Republic!) since the events in Tunisia and Egypt.  Every revolution has its own particular flavour and ingredients and Bahrain is no exception.

Here there is an enormous division between the minority, ruling Sunni elite and the majority Shia population who feel dispossessed and under represented.  Median age in Bahrain is 30, while youth unemployment is almost 20%. At the same time literacy rates run at 91% – all part of the potent mix for revolution in the modern age.

Protesters in Bahrain

The root of the problems here is that almost 70% of the population is Shia Muslim, while the nearly 30% Sunni Muslim self appointed ruling class have 90% of the power and most of the wealth and virtually all of the most valuable land.

Gerrymandered electoral districts have always ensured that the Shia electorate ended up with a minority of seats in the legislative body. Women do have the vote but very few get elected.

The ruling Al – Khalifa family has been in power since 1820 and its members still hold most of the most important government positions.  Indeed,  Sheik Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifah, the uncle of the Crown Prince, has been Prime Minister of Bahrain for 40 years! (Thank God that could never happen in the UK!).

The ruling family also contains such leading lights as Sheikh Abdulrahman Mubarak Hamad Al Khalifa who, according to the London Telegraph has been taken to court in both London and Bahrain for the repayment of gambling debts owed to the betting firm Spreadex for the princely sum of £270,000.  No doubt he worked really hard to be able to gamble away such wealth.

Protesters Hold Pearl Roundabout

On February 14th 2011 the pot finally boiled over when protesters marched through the capital Manama and a month of unrest followed with more than 20 killed and 100’s wounded, many of whom declined to seek treatment as many doctors and staff at the world renowned Salmaniya Hospital, according to media reports, were threatened, arrested or prevented from treating protesters.

The protests are also embarassing for the US Navy as the island is also the home of its Fifth Fleet.

The Bahrain government’s answer to all this was to import 1,000 soldiers from its neighbour Saudi Arabia, suppress all further demonstration and to demolish the monument at the Pearl Roundabout which had been the focus of rebellion.

I doubt if any of that will solve the underlying problem, which is a pity as Bahrain has a reputation as one of the more “open minded” Gulf States.

YEMEN: What started as a protest by students has now escalated into a full scale insurrection. It has also, significantly, the support of a large number of women, in what has been until now a very conservative society.

On March 13th snipers killed 52 people and their families have since been offered money by the government to keep quiet.

Protester in Yemen

The protesters are demanding that President Saleh, who has been in power for more than 30 years, stands down, along with 25 members of his family – the usual cosy family arrangement exploiting the people they control. Another more sinister factor is that Al -Quaeda certainly have a presence in the country as well.

After six weeks of protest, many people want the President put on trial, especially after the fatal sniper incident.  At the moment there is stalemate – but there is certainly more to come.

EGYPT: Egypt, though coming after the revolution in Tunisia, has undoubtedly set the standard for protesters to maintain their peaceful stance and use the sheer force of numbers to promote change.

Nevertheless and estimated 685 people were killed in the revolution here and an uneasy truce remains between the protesters and what remains of the security services and police.

Police officers are slowly returning to the streets but many are unwelcome and a number of former ministers and security officials are to stand trial for killing protesters during the unrest.

The Domino Effect

It remains to be seen whether the controlling Army Council will carry through its promises or whether it is just going through the motions in order to protect its own interests.  They can expect an angry backlash if they don’t give the people what they want.

Parliamentary elections will take place in September and the presidential election within two months after. The Muslim Brotherhood, whose  more extreme elements many fear, has said it will not field a presidential candidate.

In my previous post, I commented on democracy and human rights in relation to Egyptian Women.  I see this as the “heart” of the Arab revolution.

Unless the rights of women change, then in reality nothing changes, the Muslim world will still be locked in the past and wasting 50% of their human resource.


Peter Clifford:


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Revolution In The West?


Peter Clifford

16/3/11 Peter Clifford –


Disaster in Japan:
Firstly, my thoughts go out to my friends and contacts in Japan, in fact all in Japan for the unbelievable series of disastrous events currently unfolding.  First an earthquake, then a mega tsunami and now a potential nuclear melt down in at least one power station.

Tsunami Wrecks Japan - BBC

The tsunami pictures and tsunami videos emerging from Japan are horrendous, riveting and heartbreaking. It certainly puts our own personal problems into perspective.

Having visited Japan on many occasions over a number of years and even experienced a minor earthquake (it is very odd to wake up in the middle of the night in your hotel room to find everything, including the room itself swaying), I know that somehow the resilient Japanese people will rise to the occasion and their sense of order, organisation, family ties and discipline (often an obstacle to personal growth in other contexts) will get them through.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant - BBC

In an odd way it may just be the cohesive glue that binds the Japanese together once again (as it did after World War ll ) to kick start their economy which has been in the doldrums for two decades now.  As always, chaos tears up the rule books and allows new ideas, challenges and growth to be re-born.  The current disaster in Japan will be no exception.

Revolution in the West?

In my previous post Does The Western World Have a Conscience? I touched on the possibility that Western countries themselves may not be immune to increasing discontent and protest by their citizens.

In the UK recent events suggest to me that this is even more likely than I originally thought.  Firstly, it is clear that we in the UK (and much the same applies it seems to me in the US and most of Europe) have just been subjected to the biggest government confidence trick in the last 300 years since the South Sea Bubble of 1720.

South Sea Bubble Chart 1720 -

Our banks, on the verge of complete collapse because they took unacceptably stupid investment risks with their depositors money, were bailed out and rescued by the tax payers.  As a result our economy is under severe strain and the UK Government (in common with many other Western Governments) has no money, existing largely on huge loans raised through Government bonds.

But even the loans are not enough.  The Government has been forced to cut back spending in other areas.  So for the taxpayer, as thanks for bailing out the banks they have been “rewarded” with increased unemployment, fewer jobs, reduced benefits, cuts in services, house repossessions, increased food and petrol costs, tax increases and a lower standard of living.  In other words a completely bum deal!

At the same time, the banks, several of whom are now partly owned by the taxpayer, have bounced back into renewed profitability and rewarded their directors and senior staff with billions of pounds in bonuses.

Not just a reasonable thank you and a pat on the bank, but obscene amounts of money and packages for some individuals totalling many millions of pounds – the same individuals in many cases whose previous actions and decisions dragged Britain and many other countries into their worst ever recession.

Additionally, there has always been a class divide in the UK between those born into and educated in privileged circumstances and the rest.  Now there is an even bigger divide between the bulk of the population and not just the privileged but controlling minority, but the moneyed classes too.

Latest statistics indicate that the very rich, despite the recession, are getting richer.  Money not only buys comfort and insulates against price and tax increases but it also provides power.

Traditionally in the UK, the poor and powerless have been the working class.  Now the well educated in the middle class income range are feeling poor and powerless too – and that, for the authorities, is where the danger lies.

An angry middle class knows how to organise and agitate and are extremely knowledgeable in using the Internet, social media and modern communication systems (as has been successfully demonstrated recently in the Arab world – see Arab World in Revolt).

The working class will be only too happy to join them.  Once they start agitating together they won’t give up until they get a result and the government is forced into a climb down and concessions.  The soundness of Western democracy may well  be truly tested.

Student Protests London 2011 -

We have already seen some serious reaction to future increases in student tuition fees. The recent student demonstrations were large, consistent and often violent and destructive.  I believe we have seen nothing yet.

Recent expenditure cuts announced by the UK Government will result in job losses to police officers and many police support workers, health and hospital workers ( “NHS efficiency measures” are just cuts by another name), firemen and many public sector workers employed by County, District and City Councils throughout the country.

To add insult to injury the Government has just announced an end to final salary and inflation – proof pensions for public sector workers as well (though this is long overdue in my view) and it looks as though some people will have to work harder and longer in order to get a smaller pension than they would have got previously. All fuel for the fire.

Many small businesses and self – employed people like myself are also feeling the pinch.  Services that we supplied and were formerly valued necessities for keeping life on track are suddenly, in a severe recession, luxuries that people can no longer afford.

And just to annoy the majority further, many of those who are making these decisions at both a national and regional level keep telling us that we must “all share the pain”.

I doubt the 18 millionaires in Mr. Cameron’s UK coalition cabinet with a reported personal net asset worth of £50 million are feeling much economic “pain”.

I doubt whether the toffs currently running the Labour Party and the vast majority (though not all) making the same decisions at a regional level, whatever their political persuasion, are feeling the “pain” either.

I also doubt that almost any of them are checking their wallets and bank balances every time they go to buy food and petrol as many of the rest of us do now.

Simon of Sudbury:

Many years ago, when I was a young choir boy singing in the local church, one of our occasional “treats” was when the vicar unlocked the the little door in the vestry wall so that we could gaze upon the mummified head of Simon Theobald, known as Simon of Sudbury.

Simon of Sudbury -

The head is still there and this week it is to be RSI scanned at a local hospital so that a team at Dundee University can have a go at reconstructing what he actually looked like.  While the head still rests in the church, Simon’s body is entombed in Canterbury Cathedral.

The reason why this is relevant and significant here is that Simon Theobold was not only a former Archbishop of Canterbury and Chaplain to Pope Innocent Vl but rose to be Lord Chancellor of England in 1379 and became responsible, among other things, for making financial decisions for the English economy (George Osborne is the current UK Chancellor responsible for dealing with much the same problems).

In the 1340’s the Black Death, one of the worst pandemics the world has ever seen, swept across Europe and depleted the UK population by an estimated one third, causing a massive shortage of labour. As a result the remaining working population had to work harder for no increased recompense.

Simon of Sudbury, as Lord Chancellor, made the mistake of increasing the Poll Tax (to help a struggling economy and to finance the government’s military adventures overseas), probably on the orders of an unaware ruling elite, for the third time in four years.

This was too much for a struggling working population and the Peasants Revolt of 1381 resulted in a march on London from several directions.

Richard ll speaks to the Peasants Revolt

The outcome was an attack by the peasants on the Tower of London and the execution of Simon Theobald, the Lord Chancellor, on Tower Bridge where his head was displayed on a spike and from where it was later recovered.

There must be a warning there somewhere!  You can only push the population so far before they will react to perceived injustice – often violently.

I think the UK, and possibly other Western democracies, are in for a long, hot summer of discontent.  Time will tell if I am right or not……

Until the next time,

Peter Clifford:


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Does The Western World Have a Conscience? l Egyptian Women

Peter Clifford

28/1/11 Peter Clifford –

Does The Western World Have A Conscience?

As protest and revolution rumbles on across North Africa and through the Middle East and beyond, I can’t help wondering what is the role of Western countries in all of this?

Pausing just long enough to test which way the wind was blowing, western society has been quick to take up the side of the protestors and to support them verbally and morally at least.

And the western digital world (hail Facebook, Twitter and Youtube) has clearly been instrumental in aiding the protesters to spread their message rapidly and effectively and to give them a platform to air there grievances. It has also made fascinating and often gripping news for all of us westerners  sitting safely at home.

In western civilisation we like to promote democracy, freedom of self expression, the rule of law, protection of the disadvantaged etc. and quite rightly so.  However, at the same time western governments have a habit of cosying up to any government or dictatorial and repressive regime whom they want something from.

If your country has vast resources of oil or minerals which the West needs in order to fuel its economies, or there is the potential for rich trade opportunities, then it is very likely, no matter how repressive your regime, that you will get a call from western leaders and their ministers inviting you to do business.

It is extremely easy for governments in the western world to condemn repressive regimes that they do not, at present, want anything from e.g the military government in Burma, the communist regime in Cuba or nuclear threatening Iran.

It is also extremely easy it seems to embrace two way trade with China while at the same time completely ignoring its suppressive behaviour towards the people and culture of Tibet.

East - West Togetherness

Not only do western governments turn a blind eye to the behaviour of the oppressive regimes they choose to do business with but the cherished keystone values of western culture i.e. freedom, justice and equality go completely out of the window at the first sniff of a trade deal.

Not only do western nations love buying oil and other resources from repressive regimes that practice detention without trial, torture and political imprisonment but they love selling them the arms and weapons to carry out this oppression effectively!

Libyan Dancing Partners

One of their best customers, since his rehabilitation in 2004, has been Colonel Gaddafi who is now undoubtedly using those same weapons against his own people. And the The Irish Government, in their recent acute financial crisis even sent their financial representatives to Libya to try and secure multi – billion dollar loans from Gaddafi’s International Investment Fund!

Meanwhile in Saudi Arabia for example, women are still not allowed to drive a car or go out alone and at the first hint of protest opposition leaders are hauled in for questioning, yet the West craves their oil and sells them (in particular the US, the UK and other western European governments) vast amounts of weaponry. No doubt it offsets the oil trade deficit.

UK PM in Tahrir Sq. Cairo

David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, was very quick this week to visit Egypt and a number of other undemocratic regimes in the Middle East with pro-democracy protestors making themselves heard currently on a daily basis.

It was rather bizarre therefore to see him striding across Tahrir Square in Cairo with a gaggle of British businessmen in tow, eight of whom represented British arms and weapons systems manufacturers.  No doubt US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, President Obama and other western leaders are all ready making their travel plans.

But are their also deeper lessons in all this for the West? These arab world revolutions have been led by their disaffected youth, the so called Facebook generation. In some western countries our youth are also equally angry.

Student Protests London 2011

Witness the anger of students in the UK recently at the Coalition Government’s decision to increase university fees – fierce and destructive demonstrations in the streets of London and elsewhere over a number of days.

Currently the UK unemployment rate for 16 – 24 year olds is 20% and rising under the present harsh economic climate. I hope the UK’s senior politicians, many of whom are millionaires and telling us “we must all share the (economic) pain” are seriously taking note of the consequences of complacency.

Democracy Is ……..

……. the right to make fun of your ruling elite without fear of reprisal or a knock on the door from the Security Services.

So on a lighter {!} note, can someone tell me why so many Middle Eastern potentates seem to be critically overweight?  A great business opportunity for WeightWatchers perhaps?

Royal Wedding Sick Bag - copyright Linda Leith

And British designer Lydia Leith as an andidote to all the somewhat questionable quality of the memorabilia currently in full production for the wedding of Britain’s Prince William and his fiance, Kate Middleton, this coming April, has produced the Royal Wedding Sick Bag, in case you want to “Throne up”!  As they are of a certain age I think the Royal couple are laughing at this one themselves – at least I hope so, and I wish them every sucess with their marriage.

Uniform Kitsch

In Libya, we can but pray that Gaddafi’s uniform designer has now got the sack and that the rest of his administration will follow soon.

And lastly, clearly the Arab world is catching on quickly to the idea of freedom of self expression with this effort recently posted on YouTube – Colonel Gaddafi’s recent “clayman” rant turned into “DJ Gaddafi Rocks” Zenga Zenga!


Without wishing to be cynical, as I expressed in my last post, I am not entirely convinced that the ruling Army Council in Egypt will let go of the reins of power easily, despite making some of the right noises.  Certainly, when it comes to the rights of Egyptian women, they still do not seem to have got the message.

This week in Cairo, the Army Council appointed a judge, Tarik al-Bishry to set up a Constitutional Panel to draw up a new constitution for the country. Bishry then went on to choose all the members of the Panel himself, not one of which was a woman.

One of the appointees was a Christian Copt, who represent 10% of the Egyptian population.  Women  in Egypt, of course, represent 50% of the country’s population but that still does not gain them the right apparently to having a say in shaping the future of the new state.

Women Protesters Tahrir Sq. Cairo

Worryingly, in a survey conducted in Egypt shortly before the recent revolution 90% of those who took part still thought stoning for adultery was a “good idea”.

Similarly, in Malaysia on February 14th, Valentine’s Day, hotels in Kuala Lumpur were raided by the “religious enforcement police” and over 80 people detained for being unmarried and sharing a room or being “alone and in close proximity to a member of the opposite sex”. They can expect up to two years in prison if convicted. The law does not apply to non – muslims.

Clearly, for muslim women in particular and arabic women in general throughout the entire world the Revolution is only just about to begin.

Until the next time,


Peter Clifford:


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