2017 has emerged as one of the most burdensome years in the memories of the people. Martyrs day attempts to keep the memories of the victims.
On the 17th of December of each year, Bahrainis mark “Martyrs Day” to commemorate those who have lost their lives at the hand of the Bahraini regime’s forces and to condemn systematic extrajudicial killings. The occasion has been celebrated by citizens since the mid-1990s, in various areas across the country, during which anti-regime slogans are chanted.
The protesters call for judicial accountability of criminals and those responsible for human rights aberrations; however, the culture of impunity, enforced by both the regime and the king, is the reason why nothing change, in addition to the existence of international immunity for the regime.
They also demand political and civilian rights, as well as better housing, jobs, an end to discrimination, and call for a democratic regime that would put an end to the ruling family’s dictatorship.
Scuffles are usually witnessed between demonstrators and security forces, which violently crack down on these peaceful protesters, using shotgun pellets and tear gas canisters to disperse them.
Deplorable Human Rights Situation
Bahrain’s deplorable human rights situation has been deteriorating continuously since February 2011. Since then, the opposition has documented cases of excessive force against protesters, arbitrary arrests, lethal use of tear gas, kidnappings, and systematic (physical, psychological, and sexual) torture.
But in June 2016, the government imposed severe restrictions on civil society, free speech and any criticism. There are currently up to 200 extrajudicial killings, which resulted in the martyrdom of citizens, and roughly 4000 political prisoners, a significant amount of which are children under 18.
Revocation of Ayatollah Qassim’s Citizenship
On 20 June 2016, the government revoked Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim’s citizenship, prompting his supporters to rally to set a peaceful sit-in in his village, Al-Duraz, to protect him from deportation.
The Bahraini government has indeed weaponized citizenship, arbitrarily denationalizing 990 people since 2012.
The authorities responded to the peaceful sit-in in Duraz by erecting barriers around the village, restricting access to residents only, and conducting sporadic raids.
On 21 December 2016, security forces attacked the protesters, surrounding them with at least a dozen police vehicles and firing tear gas cans into the demonstrators.
Martyrs of Arbitrarily Executions
2017 began with the return of political executions that claimed the lives of 3 political activists: Sami Mushaima, Ali Al-Singace and Abbas Al-Samea; on 15 January 2017. All are torture victims rendered stateless and was condemned to death following authorization by King Hamad, by firing squad.
Arbitrarily executions highlight Bahrain’s violation of the individuals’ rights to life and their rights not to be tortured, and its complete failure to consider and investigate the torture under which the confessions, the basis of the victims’ convictions, are extracted.
Roughly a month later, on 26 January 2017, security forces used live ammunition against the protesters, fatally shooting Mustafa Hamdan (18), who had entered a coma as a result of sustained injuries from a bullet that penetrated his skull, by gunmen in civilian clothes. He got martyred nearly after 2 months on the 24th of March 2014.
The UK has been harshly condemned in the wake of this attack, for training Bahrain’s security services and supporting a regime accused of human rights abuses and of brutally crushing political dissent.
The second month of the year witnessed the martyrdom of the courageous Ghisra (29), along with his companions Mahmoud Yahya (22) and Mostafa Abedali (35), after being shot at by Bahraini security forces, on Feb the 10th of 2017. The 3 martyrs were attempting to flee outside Bahrain through sea.
Martyr Abdullah Al Ajouz
Abdullah Al Ajouz (21) was deliberately murdered on February 20, 2017, as security forces attempted to detain him. This happened while security forces raided a house in Nuwaidrat, South East of Manama
What happened was a physical liquidation and field execution of the martyr, after the regime’s failure to put down the revolution, and exhausted all its options.
The martyr had been arrested in April 22, 2013, and was sentenced to 34 years in prison in many verdicts and over many cases.
Martyr Mohammad Sahwan
On 16 March 2017, Mohammad Sahwan, a victim of excessive use of force by police in 2012, passed away of sudden cardiac arrest in Jaw Prison.
Sahwan was previously injured in April 2011, after the king declared a state of National Safety and enabled the security forces to violently suppress the pro-democracy protests.
The martyr was shot in the back, legs, and head by police with birdshot pellets from a shotgun, and was never treated for the 80 birdshot pellets which entered his head.
A Bahraini court sentenced Sahwan in May 2012 to 15 years in prison under the anti-terrorism law. He tortured to confess to various fabricated crimes.
Martyrs of Fidaa Square
These bloody events culminated on 23 May 2017, which is the date of the last attack launched outside Ayatollah Qassim‘s house, when protestors defended him with their souls and blood.
The security forces attacked Sheikh Qassim’s followers with tear gas and shotguns before denying dozens of wounded civilians access to hospitals and medical care.
The attack resulted in 5 martyrs and at least 286 arrested, charged with assembling and assaulting security officers, and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 7 years to life imprisonment.
The martyrs are: Mohammad Al-Sari, Mohammad Kadhem Zainuddin, Mohammad Hamdan, Ahmad Jamil Al-Asfour and Mohammad Abdul Karim Al-Ekri.
One of the deceased individuals was 28-year-old Mohamed Hamdan, the older brother of the previously mentioned Martyr Mustafa Hamdan.
The mother of martyrs Mostafa and Mohammad Hamdan said: “I do not regret, and I am ready to sacrifice my son Ammar, and myself, for the sake of my country.”
The heinous massacre aimed at ending the leadership of Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, who enjoyed an internal and external consensus rarely to be seen in any political movement, and the result was a total failure of the regime’s agenda.
Martyr Nabeel Al-Samie
Martyr Nabeel Al-Samie was martyred in mysterious conditions on the dawn of June 19, 2017, after being kidnapped by Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior. He was subjected to severe torture at the hands of forces affiliated to the Ministry of Interior following continuous threats by known officers.
Violating Burial’s Rights
The year 2017 bore another mark of the criminal regime: i.e. preventing the families of 12 martyrs from burying their beloved sond in their hometown, as they were forcibly buried in graveyards of the regime’s choice without public funerals.
As for the case of the five martyrs of the Diraz massacre, they were buried without the presence of their families.
“No one can protect you: Bahrain’s year of crushing dissent”, Amnesty’s report said.
On September of that year, Amnesty International documented how the Bahraini government, from June 2016 to June 2017, arrested, tortured, threatened or banned from travel at least 169 activists and their relatives.
The report accused the United States and Britain of remaining silent. The two countries have a particularly high level of influence in Bahrain, where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based and where Britain’s Royal Navy has a major facility.
Amnesty said U.S. President Donald Trump told Bahrain’s King Hamad ‘there won’t be strain with this administration’. Bahrain appears to have interpreted this statement as a green light to pursue its repression,” the report said.
Amnesty added it had received reports of nine cases of government critics being tortured in detention, eight of them in May 2017 alone.
Resuming Executions in 2019
Sami Mushaima, Ali Al-Singace and Abbas Al-Samea’s executions sparked widespread protests across the country. Despite international outcry, Ali al-Arab and Ahmad al-Malali were next executed on the 27th of July. Both martyrs were convicted in a mass trial on 31 January 2018.
Since being arrested in February 2017, there have been multiple accounts of horrific torture. They were subjected to electrocution and beatings, and AlArab had his toenails ripped out.
When Al-Malali was arrested, he was hit by two bullets in his hand, which caused fractures and were not removed for 23 days, and his leg was also broken.
The trial itself was based off of coerced confessions retrieved through torture; Al-Arab was compelled to sign a confession while blindfolded. Furthermore, in the case of Al-Malali he was sentenced in absentia.
Martyr Mohammed al-Miqdad
Three days later, and in response to these executions, protests occurred in the capital city of Manama, leading to martyrdom of Mohammed al-Miqdad (21) from gas inhalation due to tear gas which police had used on the protestors.
Since Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa took power, he created a bogus parliament made up of an upper and lower house. The upper house has 40 members, who are all appointed by the king himself. The lower house is the elected chamber, which also holds 40 seats, but due to astounding gerrymandering, it is impossible for the opposition to get more than 18 seats out of the forty, even if they get majority votes.
All that aside, the parliament has no legislative or monitoring powers.
The US and the UK’s foreign policy regarding Bahrain is shameful, despite the opposition’s continuous calls for an end to arms sales.
Ten years after the revolution, the Bahraini regime has failed to implement real and lasting change. There will be no real reform or solutions to the human rights crisis in Bahrain until the political prisoners and human rights activists are released and the international community is allowed into the country to supervise and apply pressure.
Besides, there needs to be a strong, clear message from the international community condemning the ongoing human rights abuses.