Monday, December 19, 2011

Raising consciousness and solidarity
BAHRAINIS at London May Day rally.
Now Manchester is centre of solidarity

WITH scenes of police brutality in Egypt, the continuing death toll in Syria, and Israeli forces attacking the funeral procession of someone they had killed earlier, we can see why some people have said despondently that the euphoria of the "Arab Spring" has been succeeded by a Middle Eastern Winter.

But if we are looking for rays of light, one is that the people are plainly not giving up, nor going away, not even when the surely desperate forces of "order" have to drag women by their hair from Tahrir Square.

Another is that there is a movement of support and solidarity sprouting, more aware and conscious than anything we saw in the anti-war movement, maybe because it is centred on people with first-hand knowledge of the struggles because they and their families are directly involved. Refugees and exiles, from being merely people we ought to help, can help us know the score, the better to understand and fight the policies and regimes our governments are supporting.

Here's a report about Bahrain, and the arrest, physical violence and ill-treatment practiced against human rights defender Zainab AlKhawaj:

" We are deeply concerned about her safety after seeing the violence that she was subject to during arrest. Zainab Al-Khawaja is a 28-years-old member of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, famous human rights blogger as @angryarabia and a mother of 2-years-old girl from Bahrain.

"On 15 December 2011, Zainab was arrested by Bahraini security forces from a roundabout on Budaiya highway, west of capital city Manama where she was taking part in a peaceful-sit-in-protest. The security forces responded with firing tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the protest, while Zainab continued the sit-in before the police moved in to rough her up. She was arrested, handcuffed, assaulted and punched in her back by the police officer as she was forcibly dragged off into custody. She, as well as another woman Masooma Al-Sayed were then taken to the police station.

"Zainab is a mother of a two-year-old child, whose husband Wafi Al-Majed is in prison along with her father, Bahrain’s most prominent political activist and human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who was imprisoned for life in June by special military court. Zainab faces grave danger and is at risk of being tortured, as the regime has systematically attacked human rights defenders, health workers and professionals who are speaking up against the repression and human rights abuses.

"We condemn ill-treatment of Zainab Al-Khawaja in public in the strongest possible terms, and arbitrary detention and demand the authorities to release her and Masooma Al-Sayed immediately and unconditionally. We ask all concerned people to take immediate and urgent action in support of Zainab Al-Khawaja and Masooma Al-Sayed. Zainab Al-Khawaja and Masooma AlSayed are to be detained for seven days.

"According to their lawyer:
Masooma Alsayed was kicked in her leg and is now limping, was not seen by doctor
Zainab when arrested had something sprayed in her eyes and was unable to see for approx an hour. Zainab in police station was beaten on head, arms and legs, as she was unable to see
Zainab recognized the voice of the policewoman who beat her, but the prosecutor refused to write it down. When her lawyer attempted to show the prosecutor video of the arrest, he refused to see it. A policewoman came in with bandaged arm claiming Masooma and Zainab hit her.

Zainab refused to sign statement unless policewoman's name was taken who hit her. The prosecutor got angry and made everyone leave the room, awaiting decision.

The moment Zainab was arrested

This information from Bahrain was relayed to us via Manchester, where there is a Bahraini people's solidarity campaign that has demonstrated with support from health workers and other local trades unionists and students against a Bahraini business conference, and in support of Bahraini doctors and nurses who were brutally attacked by the regime there.

At the weekend there was a conference in Manchester about the struggle for freedom and equality in Bahrain, addressed by among others, Tony Lloyd MP who is chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party. (Just for the record we note that Manchester Central MP Lloyd did vote against the Blair government on Iraq, and on the renewal of Trident.) This conference "In support of the Bahraini revolution" was made possible with the help of the refugee rights and political asylum research group RAPAR which says it will work with rather than merely for its clients, and has been assisting Bahraini students whose funds were stopped by their government.

As a Mancunian "exile" who grew up proud of Peterloo and the Chartists, and the area's historic lnks with colonial and Irish freedom and anti-Apartheid struggles , I award full marks to those who are maintaining the tradition in today's world! And best wishes to the Bahraini freedom struggle!

And Iraq - Kurdistan

Meanwhile, and to set aside the mutual back-slapping between allies that has accompanied the US withdrawal from Iraq, here's a friend on Facebook posting pictures of an event that happened in London recently:

"On the occasion of International Human Rights Day our group Freedom Umbrella: Action for Kurdistan organised a seminar in UK parliament on the violation of human rights in Kurdistan. The seminar was hosted by Labour MP John McDonnell the speakers included Asos Hardi from Awene Newspaper in Kurdistan, Bashdar Ali Journliat and brother of journalist Sardasht Osman who was assassinated last year for criticizing the Kurdish authorities, Houzan Mahmoud from Organisaiton of Women’s freedom in Iraq and Mufid Abdullah journalist also editor of Kurdistan Tribune website. The seminar was chaired by Gona Saeed from Freedom Umbrella".

To which an Iraqi woman solidarity activist has commented:
"Great work Houzan, to have this meeting in parliament at this crucial time when the US/UK are congratulating themselves on what they have done to Iraq! The Kurdish region is often referred to by lobbies like 'Labour Friends of Iraq' as a shining example of people who benefited from the invasion and are living in democracy! Corruption, nepotism and lack of accountability are the main ills in Iraq today!"

To which Houzan Mahmoud replies:
ank you dear friend, well the so called Labour Friends of Iraq are standing with dictators not with the workers of Kurdistan. We know what is going on that's why we are hosting such meetings to make these issues known. best wishes".

To which I concur.

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