Where to start talking about where Bahrain is now? The Arab spring is approaching winter and the hope that something, anything will happen internationally is fading faster and faster. People are re-evaluating their options for help and phone calls to human rights organisations are getting more desperate.
Last week protestors took their life in their hands by demonstrating in Bahrain's mecca of consumerism, The City Centre Mall. People who had dropped by for a little light retail therapy where flabbergasted when protestors started chanting anti government slogans. I watched the protests out of the corner of my eye as I had my hands clapped firmly over my eyes. This, above everything else was the most audacious move I have seen made in the protests so far. I cannot believe that anyone who took part in that didn't know the retribution they would face.
As the dust settled, we counted up the arrested. A large number of women, significant as up till now we have only had a token amount of women in jail for protesting. They were those who had some kind of authority like the head of nursing or the vice president of the teachers union. A large number of underage kids too, some as young as 12 have been brought to trail. As always they were denied access to families and lawyers, but this time their was more anxiety about the situation. Understandable, the Mothers of 12 year olds cannot be expected to sit back and wait for the government to decide when they should be allowed to see their kids.
Students too, who had watched the King's speech just before Eid, were gobsmacked to be told that they were now to be criminally investigated. The King had said they would all be allowed back to study, now many of them have been served with court summons. Some are thinking of leaving before the courts start, they had been in jail in February and March and had no desire to repeat the experience.
One man yesterday was sentenced to 15 years in jail for burning down a farm and allegedly stealing a sheep and a chicken. You'd start laughing if it wasn't so serious. Over thirty people were sentenced for burning that particular farm, a far greater number of people than the farm would actually hold. It is odd that there are more than enough witnesses stating that this particular man was all the way over the end of the island at the time. Having visited his wife and one year old daughter myself, I am puzzled at where he is supposed to have hidden the sheep and chicken in the small one bed apartment in a village he lived in.
Questions need to be asked about the money the family place in account for the prisoners in order to buy shampoo and soap and other essentials. This money is not reaching the prisoners. Clothes and blankets that were asked for were not given. It is a very important point of honour among Shiah Bahraini's that you are never seen with something without giving some part of it away, so if the prisoners are allowed to have a piece of cake or a packet of crisps they share it with their jailers, the very men who torture them.
The two longest serving women prisoners are now Reema and Fadheela, one a student and the other a poor factory worker. Since the other student Mariam was let out, there has been a marked deterioration in the conditions in which they are kept. Mariam was a fighter who refused to be intimidated, Reema and Fadheela are more easily scared. They have succeeded in stopping any requests for visits or better food or things like that. They don't ask anymore.
Court cases yesterday and today confirmed that the government is going through a "I don't care what the international community think" phase again. I wonder if the recent invitation to Bahrain to attend an arms fair in the UK was taken as tacit approval. America are now providing Bahrain with TOW missiles. I'm sure I can look forward to finding them in the bottom of my garden once they have been delivered. The idea that Bahrain needs them for self defence against outside countries is farcical. Until then, they've started firing sound bombs at gas canisters to make them explode and set houses on fire in the villages. Video evidence of this is available.
They've jailed our Doctors again, 10 to 15 years each. Here at least, we hope that international pressure will be able to do something. There is something so horrific about jailing Doctors for treating wounded that it may actually help the people of Bahrain. This more than anything else may help us get the international pressure we need.
Until then, the boys go out every night and play cat and mouse with the security forces. I get tremulous, fearful phone calls every day from a variety of sufferers. They tell me their 14 year old son was arrested, and can I find out which police station they were taken to. I tell them I can't. They ask me if they should go out and look for them once the nightly blockade of the villages is over. I tell them it's useless. They just send people from police station to police station as a kind of game. They tell me they can't afford a lawyer, I find one that will work pro bono while emphasising that there is nothing the lawyer can do, they will not be allowed to see the prisoner either. They ask me when they can reasonably expect news of their child. I tell them in about a month and half. Bahrain keeps it's prisoners incommunicado for 45 days at least.
They ask me if the underage kids will be kept separate from the adults, I tell them no. 12 year old boys will be mixed into the general prison population. They will share cells and beds with drug addicts and convicted murderers. A silence on the line, and then they thank me and apologise for wasting my time.