Bahrain is promoting its relations with Israel under the banner of fostering ‘religious tolerance’. During an event in September at the unabashedly pro-Zionist Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, Bahrain’s crown prince joined 400 representatives of various religious faiths. The Bahraini National Orchestra also played HaTikyah – the Zionist national anthem – which calls for everyone with Jewish ancestry to return to their homeland in the form of the state of Israel. However,These overtures towards Israel are now inciting a backlash from Bahrainis.
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“The human rights situation is the worst it has been in the country’s modern history,” Khalid Ibrahim, director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights, told Fanack. “There is no one to speak up, no space for civil society. Most of the prominent human rights defenders are in jail, sometimes tortured, have fled the country or are banned from leaving it if they work with the international community.”
At 3am on 15 January 2017, Bahrain executed by firing squad Ali al-Singace, 21, Abbas al-Samea, 27, and Sami Mushaima, 42, for killing three police officers in a 2014 bomb attack. The executions sparked local outrage. Dozens of protestors clashed with police, blocking roads with burning tires, hurling firebombs and gasoline bombs. Security forces dispersed the protestors with tear gas and wounded several by firing buckshot.
A court in Bahrain dissolved the main Shia opposition party al-Wefaq in July 2016. The problem is a straightforward one: the opposition wants more democracy and all that comes with it, such as a constitutional monarchy, transparency, inclusiveness, equality and justice. The government, which is essentially an extension of the royal family, does not.
Ali Salman the popular dissident, Shiite cleric, and secretary general of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, the main opposition group in Bahrain, was arrested after a series of speeches he delivered calling for political reform and accountability. It was by no means the first time Sheikh Salman had been imprisoned. After a long career in demanding political reform and human rights for the Bahraini people, Salman was jailed between 1993 and 1994, and was banished from the country in 1995.
In addition to Rajab’s prominent activities in protests and demonstrations, he is well known for his pioneering use of social networking, which he has used as a key element in his human-rights campaigning to spread the word to the international community of the abuses his nation is suffering. This virtual battlefield got him into prison more than once. Although it seemed that the government was trying hard to get Rajab removed from the scene every time it had the chance, that only made Rajab and his case more famous.