Bahrain Medics Show Trial: This Is Not Syria, Therefore No Western Outcry
by Finian Cunningham
> Global Research, March 22, 2012
Bahrain's disgraceful show trial of medical staff is set to continue, with
news this week that 20 doctors and nurses are to be retried in a civilian
court on trumped-up charges of subversion against the US-backed regime.
The medics were already sentenced by a military tribunal (a military
tribunal!) to up to 15 years in prison after months of being held in illegal
detention, denied legal counsel and subjected to torture.
Moving their case to a civilian court is presumably meant to signal a
concession by the regime. But what it illustrates is that the Al Khalifa
royal rulers of Bahrain are unreconstructed despots who are implacably set
against accepting any kind of democratic reform.
The persecution of the majority Shia population - 70 per cent of the island
- by an unelected Sunni elite is business as usual as epitomized by the
vindictive targeting of medics whose only "crime" was that they treated
hundreds of people injured in the state's brutal crackdown against the
Recently, Washington has been doing its PR best to present the monarchy in
the Persian Gulf kingdom as being belatedly open to reform - this after a
year of unrelenting repression against a largely peaceful pro-democracy
Bahraini grassroots activists are concerned that sections of the official
opposition belonging to the Shia Al Wefaq political society are being
groomed by the US State Department to accept a "compromise deal" with the
royal rulers that would effectively see the monarchy remaining in power and
the status quo merely being given a facelift.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has been praised in the US corporate media for
overseeing "brave" moves towards political power-sharing and dialogue with
the mainly Shia-led opposition.
Washington's envoy on human rights Michael Posner and former national
security advisor Elliott Abrams have talked up "important steps" by the
Bahraini regime towards reform.
However, no amount of Washington spinning can conceal the facts of life:
that the US-backed Bahraini regime will continue violating human rights and
international law in order to maintain its stranglehold hold on political
and economic power at the expense of the Shia majority.
For 280 years, the Sunni rulers, who invaded the country from neighbouring
Qatar, have sat on the chests of the indigenous Shia, and they are not going
to give up their privileged seats of comfort. The Al Khalifa dynasty has
enriched itself through graft and corruption while the majority of Bahrainis
struggle with unemployment and poverty.
The oil wealth of the tiny island has lined the pockets of the Al Khalifas,
but for the ordinary Shia it has brought poverty, pollution and sickness. To
add insult to injury, when the mainly Shia-led uprising last February
peacefully demanded elected government to replace the unelected venal family
dynasty, it was met with batons, bullets and brutality, with thousands
incarcerated or fired from their jobs, several tortured to death while in
Historically, to maintain this excruciating state of inequality, the
Bahraini rulers developed a system of governance and state security
apparatus that is "bullet-proof to reform". Under American and British
tutelage, the Bahraini rulers became adept at presenting the kingdom as a
relatively benign monarchy. They may have acquired the modern semantics and
appearance of political progressivism, such as referring to the kingdom as a
constitutional monarchy with a (rigged) parliament instead of an absolute
monarchy as in neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf sheikhdoms. But
not far below the surface, Bahrain's institutionalized despotism was always
the dominant reality.
For example, the kingdom's prime minister is 78-year-old Prince Khalifa Al
Khalifa, the uncle of the incumbent king. He is the world's longest sitting
prime minister, having first occupied the post in 1971 when Bahrain gained
nominal independence from Britain. Prime Minister Khalifa - also known
locally as Mr Fifty-Fifty - has never faced an electorate and is notorious
for siphoning off Bahrain's oil wealth to become one of the richest men in
For decades, despite glamorous images of mirrored skyscrapers and Formula
One Grand Prix, Bahrain has been run with an ironclad National Security
Agency. The agency was, and is, a veritable "torture apparatus" headed up by
members of the royal family and assisted in its nefarious conduct by
ex-colonial power Britain.
Between 1968-98, the main architect of the NSA and its sectarian methods of
repression against the Shia population was British colonel Sir Ian
Henderson. Henderson, who had previously gained British government
commendation for his role in efficiently, that is brutally, suppressing the
Mau Mau revolt in Kenya during the 1950s-60s, oversaw the detention and
torture of thousands of Bahrainis held for years without trial in the
dungeons of Bahrain.
Former detainees told Global Research that one of Henderson's sadistic
methods of interrogation was to force them to sit naked on upright glass
bottles, the necks of which had been roughly broken off to leave protruding
jagged points. The detainees told how Henderson personally oversaw the
torture of inmates.
Today, the British influence on Bahrain's NSA continues. One of Bahrain's
senior police chiefs is Briton John Yates, formerly of Scotland Yard;
another senior police chief is American John Timoney, who formerly ran the
force in Miami, Florida. Both men have reputations of corruption and
brutality from their previous commands.
Bahrain's institutionalized despotism under a family dynasty is backed up
with a military and police force whose ranks are filled by foreign
expatriate Sunnis recruited from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Pakistan and Jordan.
The regime forces serve their Sunni masters with a vicious hatred towards
the Shia population.
This fact is attested by the daily and nightly attacks on Shia villages by
Saudi-backed regime forces, with massive amounts of tear gas fired into
streets and homes. At least 25 people have died from suffocation with tear
gas over the past year since Saudi-led forces invaded Bahrain to crush the
uprising. The victims range from a five-day-old baby girl to elderly men and
women who are too weak or infirmed to escape from their smoke-filled homes.
In the past week, mourners attending the funerals for two men who died from
tear gas exposure were themselves attacked by riot police who proceeded to
fire more tear gas.
So, on the one hand, we see the Bahraini rulers wearing a velvet glove
offering "dialogue" and "reforms", with Washington and London providing the
positive-sounding script; while on the other hand, what is felt is an
iron-fist smashing down the doors of homes, firing tear gas into houses,
dragging suspects away in the middle of the night, detaining them without
trial and torturing to death.
And this is all happening in a supposed new era of reformism and dialogue in
Bahrain that Washington assures is underway.
The continued persecution of the Bahraini medics is another fact on the
ground to demonstrate the despotic nature of Washington and London's
"important ally" in the Persian Gulf.
The medics were sentenced for up to 15 years by a military court last
September on a range of outlandish charges, including "attempting to
overthrow the government" and "spreading defamatory information" about the
That verdict caused international protests from human rights groups, who
denounced it as a travesty of legal procedure, not least because the sole
basis for the prosecution were the confessions of the defendants -
confessions that were obtained under torture.
Then, as now, the response from Washington and other Western governments and
media was muted.
The medics include world-renowned surgeons Ali Al Ekri and Ghassan Dhaif and
his wife, Zahra, and brother and sister, Bassim and Nada. Also sentenced was
Rula Al Suffar, the former head of Bahrain's Nursing Society. These are
individuals of impeccable medical professionalism and ethics, who refused to
close the doors of Bahrain's main public hospital, Al Salmaniya, when the
regime began butchering protesters last February-March. Global Research can
bear witness to the dedication of these medics and countless others who
struggled in the wards and corridors of the hospital to patch people up with
the most horrendous wounds as wave after wave of injured were ferried in.
Dr Al Ekri was assaulted while performing surgery and hauled into detention
by Saudi-backed forces who had smashed their way into Salmaniya Hospital - a
crime against humanity, just one of many following the Saudi-led invasion of
Bahrain that was given the green light by Washington and London.
There was a faint sign that Washington's recent talk of progress and reform
in Bahrain may have somehow sent the hint to its favoured despots to quietly
drop the embarrassing show trial against the medics. But with the
continuance of the prosecution - albeit in a civilian court instead of a
military tribunal - it seems that institutionalized barbarism cannot
overcome its tyrannical instincts for power, even at the behest of its more
PR-savvy patron in Washington.
One can only imagine the sanctimonious mouth-foaming reaction by Washington,
London and the corporate media if such a travesty was perpetrated against
medics in Syria.
But Bahrain is not Syria; it is an ally, therefore Western governments and
media suddenly develop blindness and speech impediment in the face of
blatant crimes against humanity.
Finian Cunningham is Global Research's Middle East and East Africa
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Received on Thu Mar 22 2012 - 18:16:52 EDT