‘Royal family dominates courts’: Bahrain arrests high-profile human rights defender

Maryam al-Khawaja (Larry Busacca/Getty Images/AFP)

Maryam al-Khawaja (Larry Busacca/Getty Images/AFP)

A prominent human rights activist Maryam Al-Khawaja was arrested shortly after arriving in Bahrain to check on her father, who is hunger striking in prison along with thousands of sentenced activists, a key opposition figure Nabeel Rajab told RT. Maryam al-Khawaja, the co-director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, has been detained upon arriving at the airport of Bahrain and was taken into custody on Saturday. She came to her native country to visit her father Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, who was detained back in 2011 and is now on hunger strike.

The public prosecution denied Maryam the right to meet with her lawyer before interrogation and during the questioning wasn’t allowed to talk to her about her legal rights.

She is reportedly charged with insulting the king, assaulting a police officer at the airport, and engaging in an illegal human rights campaign. The investigation was extended for seven days, according to her Twitter feed.

The president of the Bahraini Center for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, told RT that the Bahraini Royal family is using the judiciary system, which doesn’t meet any international standard, as a “tool to attack human rights activists.”

RT: She’s not been officially charged yet I gather, what are the prospects of her being freed and why is she being held then?

Nabeel Rajab: She went to Bahrain to see her father. As you know she is a Bahraini with Danish nationality and she was not allowed to get in. This was the second time she tried to go to Bahrain and when she insisted she wanted to enter her country and to see her father she was detained and taken into custody. And now she is charged with attacking a policeman or police woman and was stopped and got seven days interrogation and then she will be taken before a court.

Unfortunately this is the case for all human rights defenders in Bahrain. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja’s health condition is very bad, more human rights defenders tomorrow are going on hunger strike. A lot of people were sentenced, human right’s defenders, on a daily basis by the court which is dominated by the ruling family. Today you have one photographer, Mr. Humaidan, who was sentenced to ten years. There were two women activists sentenced to five years or more. As I am talking to you the court has been issuing sentences against a lot of human rights defenders.

RT: Are you doubting the validity of those charges, the reason why she’s being held there?

NR: You are in a country where the judiciary is not independent and has had a lot of criticism from the international community. You will expect to face a judge who is a member of the ruling family. So you are in a country that does not respect human rights. The judiciary system does not meet international standards. [There has been] a lot of criticism by international human rights groups and by her friends like the United States, but they don’t care so far. They were taking a lot of human rights defenders to count and using the court and judicial system as a tool to attack human rights activists, to attack photographers, to attack journalists and activists in social media. So we are in a most repressive regime.

Protesters holding anti-government banners participate in a rally organised by Bahrain's main opposition party Al Wefaq in Budaiya August 8, 2014. (Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed)

Protesters holding anti-government banners participate in a rally organised by Bahrain’s main opposition party Al Wefaq in Budaiya August 8, 2014. (Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed)

Now we are worried about the life of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who is on his eighth day of hunger strike. We are worried about this woman taken into custody. Many woman and men were tortured to death. As I’m talking to you a lot of people were being tortured by the police in Bahrain, which has a bad reputation for human rights.

RT: Are you worried that if you yourself went back to Bahrain you’d be in trouble?

NR: I don’t know. I mean I was in trouble. I was just released two months ago. I spent my last two years in jail because of tweeting, asking people to take part in a peaceful protest to release my friend Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike today. And for that reason I spent two years in jail.

And many other hundreds of people, thousands of people are in jail today just because they are practicing their right of assembly, right in gathering, right in writing and criticizing. We have at least 4,000 people today in jail. We have at least 50,000 people who have been in and out of jail in the past three years.

So we are talking not less than seven percent of my whole population was in jail for the past three years, just for either criticizing the government or criticizing the Prime Minster who have been there for the past forty years, or criticizing the King or criticizing the ruling family. The biggest percentage of people you’ve ever seen in any country that has spent time in jail is Bahrain. The country with the most political prisoners is Bahrain.

RT: A final quick thought about Mariam’s dad, we mentioned him just now, your friend in jail there. He’s in the middle of a hunger strike. How far do you think he will carry it, and how exactly do you think he is being treated?

NR: It’s very serious, and I know how serious Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is. He’s a very committed guy, very respected guy, at the regional level, at the international level as a human rights defender. He is a well-known respected human rights fighter and I know he is very serious. In a normal condition, he should not stay more than 3-4 weeks without food, so that is why we are very worried about him. We think he, and all the human rights defenders should be released as soon as possible.


First Indian Jihadist Commits A Suicide Bombing In Syria

Jabhat Al-Nusra has announced the death of one of their Indian fighters in the Hama Governate. The man was given the name “Umar” and said to have been an Indian national. No further detail was reported by Jabhat Al-Nusra.

The identity of the Jabhat Al-Nusra militant had not been revealed, but if he is in fact an Indian citizen – he will be the first Indian causality during this conflict.


Islam for Dummies

This Is What Wannabe Jihadists Order on Amazon Before Leaving for Syria

by Mehdi Hasan

Can you guess which books the wannabe jihadists Yusuf Sarwar and Mohammed Ahmed ordered online from Amazon before they set out from Birmingham to fight in Syria last May? A copy of Milestones by the Egyptian Islamist Sayyid Qutb? No. How about Messages to the World: the Statements of Osama Bin Laden? Guess again. Wait, The Anarchist Cookbook, right? Wrong.

Sarwar and Ahmed, both of whom pleaded guilty to terrorism offences last month, purchased Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies. You could not ask for better evidence to bolster the argument that the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement. The swivel-eyed young men who take sadistic pleasure in bombings and beheadings may try to justify their violence with recourse to religious rhetoric think the killers of Lee Rigby screaming “Allahu Akbar” at their trial; think of Islamic State beheading the photojournalist James Foley as part of its “holy war”but religious fervour isn’t what motivates most of them.

In 2008, a classified briefing note on radicalisation, prepared by MI5’s behavioural science unit, was leaked to the Guardian. It revealed that, “far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could … be regarded as religious novices.” The analysts concluded that “a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation,” the newspaper said.

For more evidence, read the books of the forensic psychiatrist and former CIA officer Marc Sageman; the political scientist Robert Pape; the international relations scholar Rik Coolsaet; the Islamism expert Olivier Roy; the anthropologist Scott Atran. They have all studied the lives and backgrounds of hundreds of gun-toting, bomb-throwing jihadists and they all agree that Islam isn’t to blame for the behaviour of such men (and, yes, they usually are men).

Instead they point to other drivers of radicalisation: moral outrage, disaffection, peer pressure, the search for a new identity, for a sense of belonging and purpose. As Atran pointed out in testimony to the US Senate in March 2010: “… what inspires the most lethal terrorists in the world today is not so much the Quran or religious teachings as a thrilling cause and call to action that promises glory and esteem in the eyes of friends, and through friends, eternal respect and remembrance in the wider world.” He described wannabe jihadists as “bored, under­employed, overqualified and underwhelmed” young men for whom “jihad is an egalitarian, equal-opportunity employer … thrilling, glorious and cool.”

Or, as Chris Morris, the writer and director of the 2010 black comedy Four Lionswhich satirised the ignorance, incompetence and sheer banality of British Muslim jihadistsonce put it: “Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.”

Berks, not martyrs. “Pathetic figures,” to quote the former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove, not holy warriors. If we want to tackle jihadism, we need to stop exaggerating the threat these young men pose and giving them the oxygen of publicity they crave, and start highlighting how so many of them lead decidedly un-Islamic lives.

When he lived in the Philippines in the 1990s, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, described as “the principal architect” of the 11 September attacks by the 9/11 Commission, once flew a helicopter past a girlfriend’s office building with a banner saying “I love you.” His nephew Ramzi Yousef, sentenced to life in prison for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, also had a girlfriend and, like his uncle, was often spotted in Manila’s red-light district. The FBI agent who hunted Yousef said that he “hid behind a cloak of Islam.” Eyewitness accounts suggest the 9/11 hijackers were visiting bars and strip clubs in Florida and Las Vegas in the run-up to the attacks. The Spanish neighbours of Hamid Ahmidan, convicted for his role in the Madrid train bombings of 2004, remember him “zooming by on a motorcycle with his long-haired girlfriend, a Spanish woman with a taste for revealing outfits,” according to press reports.

Religion does, of course, play a role: in particular, a perverted and politicised form of Islam acts as an “emotional vehicle” (to quote Atran), as a means of articulating anger and mobilising masses in the Muslim-majority world. But to pretend that the danger comes only from the devout could cost lives. Whatever the Daily Mail or Michael Gove might have you believe, long beards and flowing robes aren’t indicators of radicalisation; ultra-conservative or reactionary views don’t automatically lead to violent acts. Muslims aren’t all Islamists, Islamists aren’t all jihadists and jihadists aren’t all devout. To claim otherwise isn’t only factually inaccurate; it could be fatal.

Consider Four Lions. Omar is the nice, clean-shaven, thoroughly modern ringleader of a gang of wannabe suicide bombers; he reads Disney stories to his son, sings Toploader’s “Dancing in the Moonlight” with his mates and is pretty uninterested in Muslim beliefs or practices. Meanwhile, his brother Ahmed is a religious fundamentalist, a big-bearded Salafist who can’t bear to make eye contact with women and thinks laughter is un-Islamic but who, crucially, has no time for violence or jihad. The police raid the home of peaceful Ahmed, rather than Omar, allowing Omar to escape and launch an attack on … a branch of Boots.

Back in the real world, as would-be jihadists buy books such as Islam for Dummies, ministers and security chiefs should venture online and order DVDs of Four Lions. They might learn a thing or two.


Two Popular Islamic State Fighters Killed at Tabqa Airbase

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The bodies of two popular Islamic State fighters have been identified outside of Tabqa Airbase. Islamic State Spokeman – “Abu Moussa” – famous for his appearance on the Vice documentary of the Islamic State was killed yesterday by the Syrian Air Force near Tabqa Airbase.


“Abu Salaam Al-Jazrawi, the field commander for the Islamic State at Tabqa Airbase was killed by the Syrian Air Force during an attack yesterday morning. Abu Salaam’s identity and nationality is unknown.

Syrian Army sources have confirmed that the Islamic State has over 100 causalities in their third day of the siege of Tabqa Airbase. The base remains under the Syrian Arab Army’s control, with the Islamic State failing to advance.



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