Policy Brief: Bahrain on Verge of Turmoil after Rape of Activist


Washington DC – Following the assault and rape of a young Bahraini activist, from the unemployed commission, two nights ago by the Bahrain security forces, hundreds of Bahrainis went to the streets and chanted anti government slogans.

The chants called for the removal of the uncle of the Bahraini King and Prime Minister Khalifa Bin Hamad Al-Khalifa.

The International Crisis Group issued a report in May 2005 warning of turmoil if the Shia majority’s grievances are not addressed.

American policy has been lackluster on Bahrain and is in support of the absolute monarchy. The policy is clearly perceived by the majority of Bahrainis as working against them, and in contradiction to the American public policies of supporting democratic reforms.

While the US embassy in Kuwait welcomed and met with Sunni/Wahhabi political activists, namely Hizb AlUmah, it refuses to meet with Shia activists from Al-Wifaq and other independent activists.

Similarly the Bahrain desk officer in Washington refuses communications with any Bahraini Shia activists.

This exclusively pro-Sunni approach stems from the State Department’s decade-long relationship with Sunni Arab governments and organizations.  Not until the liberation of Iraq, that the State Department witnessed meetings between Shia Arabs and American officials. Even in ceremonial events, such as the State Department annuals Ramadan Iftar, only one Shia was invited from the over 120 Muslim guests. This has been the case in the past years also.

Current American policy is ultimately pushing the Shia majority towards Iran who is welling to offer them support. The increase of Iranian influence in Bahrain will be a direct result of American officials’ unwillingness to speak honestly to its Bahraini ally about his discriminatory policies against the Shia majority.

These policies include preventing Shia from working in security, diplomacy, and senior government positions. Others include giving Sunnis larger votes than Shia. Small Sunni districts are allowed to pick the same number of representatives as much as large Shia districts.

Also, in a bid a to alter Bahrain’s demography, The Al-Khalifa’s government has imported and nationalized over 100,000 Sunnis from Arab and non-Arab countries and offered them jobs and housing. Meanwhile the Shia majority suffer from high unemployment and lack of housing.

The Monday night attack and sexual assault on Mosa Abd Ali (24) from Al-Oker village and the harassment of other members of the unemployed commission who were working to end the high unemployment rate among Shia is a dangerous development that the US must take seriously.

The assault and rape and the resulting protest might trigger larger turmoil than those in the 1990.  American active involvement is needed to stem such possibility. The Bahraini majority must receive more than promises and lip-service from its government and its American ally.

On Tuesday, the US State Department denounced United Arab Emirates for arresting dozens of gay men, but remained silent on the rape of the Bahraini Shia activist. US silence here would be seen as an approval of the rape.

To watch the protests please click on the link below:


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