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Bahrain Joins US Air Strikes, but Still Tortures Americans and Silences ISIS Critics

Bahrain protest against UK supporting torture in Bahrain. Photograph taken by Terry Scott on October 12, 2013. Copyright: Demotix

Bahrain protest against UK supporting torture in Bahrain. Photograph taken by Terry Scott on October 12, 2013. Copyright: Demotix

“He was ordered to stand on one leg for four hours. He says he was beaten repeatedly, as threats were made to rape his mother and sisters.” This sounds like the actions of ISIS, the Al Qaeda offshoot that has brutally taken control of large parts of Iraq and Syria. But it is actually a description of what the Bahrain government, an ally in the coalition against the ISIS, has done to an American citizen and thousands of its own citizens. 

Bahrain and four other Arab countries have joined the coalition against the militant group, which is killing Muslims and minorities and spreading horror, in order to grab land for its self-declared caliphate. It goes without saying that Bahrain didn't even pretend to hold a parliamentary session to approve the decision to go to war. Bahrain's contribution to the coalition has also drawn laughs on American comedian Jon Stewart's “The Daily Show”:

This comes shortly after Bahrain deported an American diplomat. Also recently, Shaikh Khalid Al Khalifa, the head of the national committee for defence and national security at the Shura Council, brushed off the danger of the ISIS.

Allegations of torture

Bahrain is now in the third year of its crackdown on a popular uprising. Tagi Al-Maidan, a US-born citizen, found himself caught in the struggle after he returned with his mother to Bahrain following her divorce. There, he was arrested and tortured into signing a false confession that he is an attempted murderer. He is now serving a 10-year sentence in Bahrain's infamous prison system.

Al-Maidan was arrested at his house and put on trial for charges that included illegal gathering and assaulting armed forces. In an interview with an Arabic-language daily, his mother denied all the accusations, saying her son was home at the time of the alleged incident, adhering to the American embassy's travel advisory.

The mother says there is no physical evidence to support the claims against her son. She demands that any supposedly incriminating evidence must be presented in open court, where, she is confident, it would be quickly refuted. According to Human Rights Watch, courts in Bahrain “fail to deliver basic accountability and impartial justice“.

According to prominent Bahraini human rights activist Said Yousif Almuhafada, Al-Maidan is being mistreated in prison. Almuhafada described the bad conditions in a tweet earlier this summer:

Tagi Al-Maidan, a US citizen, is on a hunger strike in block 3 [of Jaw Prison] due to his mistreatment, lack of medical attention, and deprivation of food that is necessary for his medical condition.

After several prisoner deaths in Bahrain last year, the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights said in its 2013 report:

The continuation of the current violations against all prisoners in Bahrain may lead to future loss of lives.

Four deaths were attributed to the lack of medical treatment in prison in 2013.

According to his mother, Al-Maidan has lost 16 kilos (about 35 pounds) since his arrest, his hair is falling out, he's developed a stomach ulcer, and he is experiencing back pains. Without medical attention or enough diplomatic pressure to release him, Taqi's psychological condition is also expected to deteriorate.

The arrest of Nabeel Rajab

Bahrain is also silencing those who speak against the ISIS, while turning a blind eye to defectors from its own armed forces, who have climbed the ranks of ISIS and call on Bahrainis to join the organisation.

Bahraini authorities have again arrested Nabeel Rajab, a prominent human rights activist who was released from prison in May 2014 after spending two years in prison for advocating peaceful protests. This time, he was held for criticizing police defectors who joined ISIS. Indeed, Rajab has commented on acts committed by ISIS many times. After American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded by ISIS, he wrote on his Instagram account:

On Instagram, Nabeel Rajab pays tribute to American journalist Steven Sotloff who was killed by ISIS

On Instagram, Nabeel Rajab pays tribute to American journalist Steven Sotloff who was killed by ISIS

الصحفي الامريكي ستيفن سوتلوف الذي قتلته داعش الليلة هو من الصحفيين والباحثين الذين زاروا البحرين عدة مرات وكتب عدة مقالات وبحوث تدعم نضال شعب البحرين ولذلك التقيته عدة مرات – ان هذه القسوة التي تبديدها هذه الحركات الاسلامية المتطرفة قد أضرت بالإسلام والمسلمين اكثر من الأضرار التي خلفها أعداء الاسلام – كل تعاطفي وتعازيي لأسرة هذا الصحفي المقتول على أيدي أعداء الانسانية

The American journalist Steven Sotloff who was killed by ISIS is one of the journalists and researchers who visited Bahrain many times and wrote many articles and investigations that support the struggle of Bahrainis and I have met him several times. The cruelty that radical Islamist movements have inflicted on Islam and Muslims is more than the enemies of Islam [have dispensed]. I offer all my condolences to the family of this journalist, who was killed at the hands of the enemies of humanity.

Rajab also criticized the inaction of the political forces in the Gulf region to crack down on ISIS. He tweeted to his 240,000 followers:

The highest Saudi cleric describes ISIS and Al Qaeda as the greatest danger facing Islam, but there are politicians in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf who consider ISIS's occupation of Mosul a popular revolution.

He was arrested after he tweeted in reply to an ISIS YouTube message calling Bahrainis to arms:

The authorities in Bahrain considered this message offensive to national institutions, and decided to keep him in custody, until he is brought to trial on October 19 for “denigrating an official institution”. This has sparked a discussion about the government's hypocrisy in its fight against ISIS. Ex-MP Ali Alasheeri tweeted:

The state authorities, who don't raise a finger when a high-ranking official tweets about how over half of Bahrain is made up of infidels, is an incubator of the ISIS ideology.

Journalist Adel Marzooq asked his 35,900 followers:

Aside from the financial and military support, how can the international alliance, in the first place, deal with the cultural and theological support of ISIS?!

Bahraini authorities demolished about 40 Shia mosques across the country as part of its crackdown on protests against the Sunni regime. ISIS is doing the same to historic mosques, shrines, and places of worship throughout Syria and Iraq. Activist Abdulelah Almahoozi made a comparison between two acts, asking if we aren't witnessing the same phenomenon in essence:

Isn't the act of demolishing mosques, as the police and military forces have done, the same act that ISIS is performing? Therefore, aren't the security institutions inspired by an ISIS-like ideology?

Meanwhile, the Bahrain-born-and-raised preacher Turki Al Binali, who pledged allegiance to ISIS, has issued a new statement on why allegiance to the Caliphate Abu-Baker Albaghdaddi is the duty of every Muslim.

The Bahrain Ministry of Interior, which customarily publishes pictures of political dissidents and their charges before they go to court, hasn't posted anything yet about the identity of the three unnamed Bahraini men in the YouTube message calling on Bahrainis to join ISIS. The government hasn't announced a public investigation into the matter, either.

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