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The Three Blind Mice of the Middle East

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In Bahrain, the daughter of one of that country's most prominent human rights advocates has now been on a hunger strike for well over 52 hours. The whereabouts of her father,
Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, and his family members, as well as many others, remains unknown after they were whisked out of their homes in a dead-of-night raid by 15 masked security forces dressed in black.

She told The Guardian newspaper of his arrest: "They broke the door of the apartment.
My father didn't resist at all, he went to them calmly but straight away a policeman told him, 'Down, down, get on the floor' ... They dragged him down the stairs and started beating him," she said.     

"They did not give any reason ... They were beating him very severely, on the ground, maybe four or five of them, kicking him and hitting him in the face."

She said her father had been calling for democracy and had been saying that the regime was guilty of killing, torturing and detaining people, and should be put on trial.

And then there is Ali Isa Saqer, who died in Bahraini custody. Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, is accused of posting a "fabricated image" of Sager on his Twitter account, showing that Saqer was beaten in custody. The images are graphic, showing Saqer's body covered with bruises and gashes.

According to the interior ministry, the Sager photos were fabricated.

As for Rajab, the official Bahrain news agency and a newspaper close to the government accused him of being part of a "terrorist network" and of passing "false information" to international organizations for the purpose of "harming Bahrain's reputation."

Later, he was prevented from traveling to Saudi Arabia. In December, Rajab's computer
was confiscated as he was about to board a plane at Bahrain international airport. It was
returned with the power on, indicating that information may have been downloaded or
copied.

Meantime, Maryam Alkhawaja of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, reports, "The
fourth death in detention in 10 days yesterday." Kareem Fakhrawi was a businessman
who disappeared after he went to the police station to file a complaint. He was one of the
founders of AlWasat Newspaper and was on the board of directors.

She writes, "You can see the footage of his body which shows torture marks here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Z3hoDO_Lfg The only official statement was on the
Bahrain News Agency twitter account he died from liver failure complications:
https://twitter.com/#!/bna_ar/status/57938447310131200."

In Yemen, violent clashes were also reported in Sana'a and Aden. Across Yemen,
thousands continued protesting against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Arab Gulf states,
involved in mediating the crisis in Yemen, made a more aggressive push for Saleh to step
down, a move that Saleh has rejected. Meanwhile, opposition demonstrations grow and
more protesters are killed, injured and jailed.

And in Syria, as Security Forces open fire on protesters, the Syrian branch of the
International Federation for Human Rights calls for international pressure on Syria,
denunciation of the repression by the UN Security Council and the convening of a special
session of the UN Human Rights Council.

But Syrian security forces continue to fire on thousands of demonstrators in Deraa,
killing more than 20. Mass demonstrations continue in Douma despite the cutting of
phone lines. Over the weekend, clashes continued with security forces firing live
ammunition on funeral processions and protesters in Banias and Deraa.

Some have suggested that Syria's President Asad is changing his strategy, moving from
"break up the demonstrations in any way necessary" to "just take photos of the main
demonstrators and go to their homes and arrest them after the demonstrations."

But perhaps the Security Forces didn't get the memo. They are continuing to use tear gas,
rubber bullets, and live ammunition to quell the massive disturbances.

Given what has already happened in Egypt and Tunisia, the rulers of Bahrain, Yemen and
Syria must be thought of as "The Three Blind Mice of the Middle East."

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http://billfisher.blogspot.com

William Fisher has managed economic development programs in the Middle East and elsewhere for the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development. He served in the international affairs area in the Kennedy Administration and now (more...)
 

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