Posts Tagged ‘US State Department’

Turns out State Department did lie about revoking award to Finnish journalist

September 29, 2020

Back in March 2019 I reported on the US State Department revoking an award to a Finnish journalist [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/12/one-journalist-who-did-not-get-the-women-of-courage-award-but-almost/], but saying it was done in error. Now the State Department’s Office of Inspector General has established that it was done – as suspected already – because of the journalist had posted critically on President Donald Trump.

Finnish journalist speaks out after Trump administration cancels 'Courage' award

After a Foreign Policy report suggested that the State Department may have retaliated against her because of her criticism Trump on social media, then-State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino asserted it was a miscommunication and that she had been “incorrectly notified” of her award. He called it a “regrettable error,” saying Aro actually “had not” been a finalist. However, the 16-page OIG report found that Aro’s social media posts were the only reason her award was rescinded. “Indeed, every person OIG interviewed in connection with this matter acknowledged that had (the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues) not highlighted her social media posts as problematic, Ms. Aro would have received the IWOC Award,” it states. Asked about the findings of the report, Aro told CNN Friday, “In my heart I feel like an international woman of courage. That the Trump administration can’t take away from me.” The release of the report comes more than a year after a group of Democratic senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee requested an OIG probe into the circumstances of Aro’s award being revoked. Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking member on the committee, said in a statement Friday that the “State Department owes Ms. Aro an apology.”
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Moreover, the report found that the State Department had provided false information to the press and Congress to explain why the award had been rescinded. Officials from the department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs “told OIG that they disagreed with the language in the talking points and press statements suggesting that Ms. Aro was incorrectly notified and was not an awardee,” the report says. In a briefing with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in March 2019, the acting director of the Office of Global Women’s Issues said “not really” when asked if Aro’s social media posts played a role in the department’s decision and the ambassador claimed he was not “worried” about Aro’s social media posts. The “Department’s statements during this briefing do not align with the internal discussions that occurred at the time the decision was made to rescind Ms. Aro’s selection. OIG found no documentary evidence to corroborate the Department’s claims during the briefing with congressional staff,” the report states. “Also, Department officials from (the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues), (the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs), and Embassy Helsinki all told OIG that, had Ms. Aro’s social media content not come to light, she would have received the award.”

New documents raise questions over State Dept. move to rescind honor for Trump critic

Menendez said in his statement Friday that the report “confirmed that Secretary Pompeo’s Department misled the public and Congress about why it rescinded Ms. Aro’s award, covering up that her social media posts were the reason the award was withdrawn. The Trump administration also drafted talking points that falsely stated Ms. Aro had never been selected as a recipient.” “Secretary Pompeo should have honored a courageous journalist willing to stand up to Kremlin propaganda. Instead, his department sought to stifle dissent to avoid upsetting a President who, day after day, tries to take pages out of Putin’s playbook,” the New Jersey Democrat said.

2020 International Women of Courage Awards by the U.S. State Department

March 4, 2020

Today, Wednesday 4 March 2020, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo hosts the Annual International Women of Courage Awards at the U.S. Department of State to honor 12 women from around the world.  The First Lady of the United States Melania Trump will deliver remarks to recognize the accomplishments of these women. For more on this and 7 other international awards that have word COURAGE in their name, see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The 2020 announcement comes remarkably quickly on the heels of last year’s, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/12/18/usas-international-women-of-courage-awards-for-2019/

This year will bring the total to 146 awardees from 77 countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. Following the IWOC ceremony, the 12 awardees will participate in an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) visiting various cities throughout the country, before reconvening in Los Angeles for the conclusion of their program on March 16. The 2020 awardees are:

Zarifa Ghafari (Afghanistan) After successfully launching and operating a women-focused radio station, Afghanistan’s Zarifa Ghafari became mayor of Maidan Shar, in conservative Wardak province, at the age of 26.  When she showed up to start work, a male mob appeared and she was forced to flee.  Despite death threats, Ms. Ghafari came back, defying her conservative critics and their narrative that a woman is unfit to lead.  She then withstood a walkout by all of the male members of her office.  She later demonstrated ability and courage in tackling her town’s problems.  Despite fierce opposition from vested interests, she successfully launched a “Clean City, Green City” campaign that reduced littering.  Ghafari’s courage has inspired girls and women not only in her community and the wider province, but across the country.  In her capacity as a trail-blazer and door-opener for a new generation of young women, she has helped empower the women of Afghanistan.

Lucy Kocharyan (Armenia) Using her platform as a journalist, Kocharyan has championed children with mental health issues and has emerged as a leading voice in the fight against psychological, physical, and domestic violence against women and children.  Through her dedication and resolve, Kocharyan became famous for launching “Voices of Violence” in August 2018.  She has become a spokesperson on gender-based violence in Armenia and has continued to speak out despite harsh criticism – from people on the street who yell “shame” as she passes by, to parliamentarians speaking out against her and threatening her with lawsuits.  She successfully started a conversation about domestic and sexual violence that is slowly leading to some action. Gender-based violence is a pervasive problem throughout Armenia, where traditional social norms regarding masculinity, femininity, gender equality, and the division of household tasks remain rigid, making her achievements and impact all the more impressive.

Shahla Humbatova (Azerbaijan) Shahla Humbatova has worked as a defense lawyer in Azerbaijan since 2013, and is one of a handful of legal advocates who have been consistently willing to defend individuals facing punishment for exercising their fundamental freedoms.  She has bravely defended human rights defenders, journalists, bloggers, youth activists, members of the political opposition, and others.  Her example has inspired other lawyers to better advocate for their clients in politically sensitive cases, and her courage in representing LGBT clients in a conservative culture has pushed civil society further down the path to tolerance.  She is one of only two female lawyers to take these cases on in a difficult environment in which human rights lawyers have regularly been harassed and threatened in social media, suspended from practicing law, and disbarred. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/01/20/annual-reports-2019-azerbaijan-in-review-muted-hope-for-2020/]

Ximena Galarza (Bolivia) Ximena Galarza is a Bolivian journalist with over 25 years of experience. She has worked as a reporter, a television presenter, and news editor on some of Bolivia’s most important news channels including Red UNO, Cadena A, and TVU. Across her extensive career, Galarza has interviewed hundreds of politicians, academics, intellectuals, artists, and experts. She has also trained journalists to better inform the public of their rights and obligations. Galarza’s work has supported democracy in Bolivia and exposed corruption and violations of democratic freedoms. Since 2015, Galarza has hosted the program Jaque Mate (Check Mate) on TVU, one of Bolivia’s most prestigious news programs. In 2019, two of Galarza’s interviews impacted Bolivia’s history by demonstrating fraud in the October 20 presidential elections.  The electoral irregularities were later confirmed by an independent analysis from the Organization of American States.

Claire Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso) Claire Ouedraogo is the President of the Songmanegre Association for Women’s Development (Association féminine songmanegre pour le développement), an organization she founded that focuses on eliminating female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) and promoting female empowerment through family planning education, vocational training, and micro-credit for women in the rural and underserved Center North region of Burkina Faso. She also serves as a senior advisor on the National Council to Combat Female Genital Mutilation. She is an active member of the Burkinabe Movement for Human and People’s Rights. In 2016, the prime minister of Burkina Faso nominated her as an Ambassador of Peace for her work in empowering rural women. Despite the increased threat of terrorist attacks and violent acts against civilians in Bam Province, Mrs. Ouedraogo continues her courageous work on behalf of vulnerable women threatened both by FGM/C and terrorism.

Sayragul Sauytbay (China) Sayragul Sauytbay was born in Ele Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang, China.  She attended medical university and worked as a doctor, teacher, education director, and headmaster. In July 2016, Sayragul and her family attempted to move to Kazakhstan but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) confiscated her passport and prevented her from going with her husband and children.  From November 2017 to March 2018, Sayragul was forced by the CCP to teach Chinese to ethnic minority people in a detention camp.  In March 2018, Sauytbay fled to Kazakhstan to avoid being sent back to the camps, where she feared she would die.  Subsequently, Sauytbay become one of the first victims in the world to speak publicly about the CCP’s repressive campaign against Muslims, igniting a movement against these abuses.  Her testimony was among the first evidence that reached the broader international community of the CCP’s repressive policy, including both the camps and the coercive methods used against Muslim minorities.  Sayragul and her family received asylum in Sweden, where they now live.

Susanna Liew (Malaysia) Following the February 2017 abduction of her husband, Christian pastor Raymond Koh, allegedly by state agents, Susanna Liew has fought on behalf of members of religious minorities who disappeared in Malaysia under similar circumstances—including Amri Che Mat, Joshua Hilmy, and Ruth Sitepu—or who face persecution for their beliefs.  Susanna actively pursued justice for her husband and others during the Malaysian Human Rights Commission’s (SUHAKAM) 2018-2019 public inquiry into enforced disappearances and continues to push the government to investigate these cases and prosecute those responsible.  Despite police harassment and death threats, she continues to advocate for her husband and others, not because of her faith or theirs, but because of their rights as Malaysians.  Susanna and Raymond founded Hope Community in 2004, a non-profit organization that works with the poor, needy, and marginalized.  She previously served as a school principal and educator.

Amaya Coppens (Nicaragua) Coppens is one of the leaders of the 19th of April Student Movement in Nicaragua. She participated in numerous protests against the Sandinista government and the violent, repressive tactics deployed by its security forces. In September 2018, she was abducted by Nicaraguan police from her residence after participating in a peaceful protest. She was released in June and continued to speak out against the regime in Nicaragua. She had the opportunity to repatriate to Belgium during her first captivity, but refused. On November 14, Coppens was imprisoned again when she and 12 other activists attempted to bring water to mothers of political prisoners on hunger strike. She and other political prisoners were released by the regime on December 30, 2019.

Jalila Haider (Pakistan) Known as the Iron Lady of Balochistan, Jalila Haider is a human rights attorney and founder of “We the Humans – Pakistan”, a non-profit organization to lift local communities by strengthening opportunities for vulnerable women and children. She specializes in defending women’s rights and provides free counseling and legal services to poverty-affected women. The first female attorney of her Hazara community, Haider led a peaceful hunger strike to recognize the right to life for the Hazara following a series of targeted attacks. Ms. Haider has taken up the cause of many other vulnerable communities. As Balochistan’s President of the Women Democratic Front and Balochistan’s branch of the Aurat (Woman’s) March, she fought against violence against women in public spaces, at work, and at home.

Amina Khoulani (Syria) Khoulani is a survivor of the Assad regime’s detention and torture centers, which have arbitrarily detained over 140,000 Syrians, and has dedicated her life to helping the families of forcibly disappeared Syrians.   A long-time civil society activist, she fled Syria in 2014 after her release from prison. She was imprisoned for six months for “peaceful activism” and her husband detained for two and a half years at the notorious Sadnaya Prison. They survived, but her three brothers died while in regime custody.  From this devastating experience, Khoulani rededicated her life to seeking information and justice for the families of the disappeared. She is a founding member of “Families for Freedom”, a women-led movement launched in 2017 by families who’s loved ones have been detained and disappeared in Syria. Forced from her home and country, living under constant threat as a refugee without government representation, she continues to advocate for human rights, democracy, and peace in Syria.

Yasmin al Qadhi (Yemen) After obtaining her journalism degree, Yasmin Al-Qadhi was one of the first women to write articles for local newspapers during the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Sanaa’a.  When the civil war broke out in Yemen in 2015, Yasmine and her sister Entisar established the Marib Girls Foundation.  Through the foundation, she works with senior army officials to combat child recruitment and obtained the military’s commitment to release any child recruited or detained.  She fostered support for women displaced by the conflict by coordinating with the local and international community.  She also raised awareness by co-producing a film about the negative effects of displacement on women and children. Yasmine still resides in Yemen, a tribal society where women are discouraged from working in public spaces. She is working to change social norms and has become a role model in her society.  Both at home and abroad, she encourages women’s empowerment and meaningful participation in civil society and the UN-led peace process.

Dr. Rita Nyampinga (Zimbabwe) Rita Nyampinga has been a human rights defender for more than 35 years, fighting for gender equality in the workplace since she joined a trade union in 1983.  She is also a trained mediator, and a mentor for girls and young women in leadership.  Her experiences during detention led her to form the Female Prisoners Support Trust to support women and children in detention and raise awareness of the appalling conditions they face. Dr. Nyampinga continues to serve on several boards including Women Coalition of Zimbabwe, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Women Academy on Political Leadership Excellence, and Women AIDS Support Network.  Her goal is to see a world that protects and respects the rights of prisoners through a just and fair legal system that is nondiscriminatory based on gender.  In 2010 she became the Social and Economic Justice Ambassador for Zimbabwe’s Coalition on Debt and Development.  Dr. Nyampinga won the Female Human Rights Activist of the Year in 2014 from Alpha Media House.

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2020 International Women of Courage Award Recipients Announced

USA’s International Women of Courage Awards for 2019

December 18, 2019

Stock Daily Dish on 16 December 2019 reports that Melania Trump made a rare public appearance to present 13 women with the 2017 Secretary of State’s International Women of Courage Award. The prize honors those who fight for women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk. “Together, we must declare that the era of allowing the brutality against women and children is over while affirming that the time for empowering women around the world is now,” Mrs. Trump said. She called on leaders to “continue to work towards gender empowerment and respect for people from all backgrounds and ethnicities,” and on the international community to fight all forms of injustice. For more on this award – and 7 more that have ‘courage’ in the title – see: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

Each US embassy can nominate one woman for the award. The 13 women honored this year are:

Malebogo Molefhe (Botswana), who used to play for the Botswana national basketball team, has served as an advocate for survivors of gender-based violence after she was attacked and shot eight times by her ex-boyfriend in 2009 and confined to a wheelchair,

Rebecca Kabugho (Democratic Republic of the Congo), has led peaceful anti-government protests calling for credible elections in the DRC, and spent six months in prison for her role as an activist

Major Aichatou Ousmane Issaka (Niger), currently the deputy director of social work at the Military Hospital of Niamey, was one of the first women to join the Nigerien army in 1996, and was one of the first to attend a military academy. She has served throughout Niger, including in the Diffa Region, a stronghold of the Boko Haram terrorist group.

Veronica Simogun (Papua New Guinea), the founder and director of the Family for Change Association, who works to help shelter and relocate women affected by violence,

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh (Vietnam), a blogger and activist who promotes environmental and human rights issues under the nom de plum Me Nam or Mother Mushroom. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/18/vietnamese-blogger-mother-mushroom-released/]

Saadet Ozkan (Turkey) was a primary school teacher, who uncovered a “decades-long pattern of sexual abuse” and forced a criminal investigation of the principal; she still supports the victims and their case as a private consultant.

Jannat Al Ghezi (Iraq), helps Iraqi women escape violence, rape and domestic abuse, as well as Islamic State terrorism and occupation, and offers them shelter, training, protection and legal services through the Organization of Women‘s Freedom in Iraq

Sister Carolin Tahhan Fachakh (Syria), known as Sister Carol, runs a nursery school in war-torn Damascus for more than 200 Muslim and Christian children, as well as a tailoring workshop for internally displaced women.

Fadia Najib Thabet (Yemen) is a child protection officer who has dissuaded young boys from joining Al-Qaeda, exposed its Yemeni branch Ansar al-Sharia as a recruiter of child soldiers and reported on human rights violations for the UN Security Council.

Sharmin Akter (Bangladesh), a student who refused an arranged marriage at age 15, which resulted in the prosecution of her mother and her much-older prospective husband,

Sandya Eknelygoda (Sri Lanka), who fought for justice after the disappearance of her journalist husband in 2010 and who has served as a voice for the families of others who have disappeared during the country‘s civil war.

Natalia Ponce de Leon (Colombia), who has become a human rights activist for the victims of acid attacks after a stalker threw a liter of sulfuric acid on her in 2014,

Arlette Contreras Bautista (Peru), a domestic violence survivor and activist, who helped launch the Not One Woman Less movement, which aims to increase the social and political awareness of women‘s rights and gender-based violence in Peru.

The newspaper noticed that Mrs Trump did not mention her husband or his presidential administration during her 10-minute remarks.

One journalist who did NOT get the Women of Courage Award (but almost)

March 12, 2019

First lady Melania Trump honors the International Women of Courage awardees during a ceremony at the State Department in Washington on March 29, 2017. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

A few days ago I referred to the International Women of Courage Awards [see; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/11/international-women-of-courage-awards-2019-given-out-at-the-us-state-department/]. One name you will NOT see listed there is that of Jessikka Aro, a Finnish investigative journalist.   explain why in Foreign Policy of 7 March 2019.

Jessikka Aro was to receive a “Women of Courage” prize. Then officials read her Twitter feed.

“It created a shitstorm of getting her unceremoniously kicked off the list,” said one U.S. diplomatic source familiar with the internal deliberations. “I think it was absolutely the wrong decision on so many levels,” the source said. The decision “had nothing to do with her work.”

The State Department spokesperson said in an email that Aro was “incorrectly notified” that she had been chosen for the award and that it was a mistake that resulted from “a lack of coordination in communications with candidates and our embassies.” “We regret this error. We admire Ms. Aro’s achievements as a journalist, which were the basis of U.S. Embassy Helsinki’s nomination,” the spokesperson said.

Aro received a formal invitation to the award ceremony not from the embassy but from the State Department’s Office of the Chief of Protocol on Feb. 12.

There is no indication that the decision to revoke the award came from the secretary of state or the White House. Officials who spoke to FP have suggested the decision came from lower-level State Department officials wary of the optics of Pompeo granting an award to an outspoken critic of the Trump administration. The department spokesperson did not respond to questions on who made the decision or why.

To U.S. officials who spoke to FP, the incident underscores how skittish some officials—career and political alike—have become over government dealings with vocal critics of a notoriously thin-skinned president. ….In the minds of some diplomats, this has created an atmosphere where lower-level officials self-censor dealings with critics of the administration abroad, even without senior officials weighing in.

Aro said the decision to cancel her award and corresponding trip to the United States caught her completely by surprise. “[When] I was informed about the withdrawal out of the blue, I felt appalled and shocked,” Aro told FP. …

U.S. Cancels Journalist’s Award Over Her Criticism of Trump

International Women of Courage Awards 2019 given out at the US State Department

March 11, 2019

On 7 March 2019, US Secretary of State Pompeo hosted the Annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards at the State Department to honor 10 women from around the world. First Lady Melania Trump delivered special remarks at the ceremony.

Now in its 13th year, the Secretary of State’s IWOC Award wants to recognize women around the globe who have demonstrated exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for peace, justice, human rights, gender equality, and women’s empowerment, often at great personal risk and sacrifice. Since the inception of this award in March 2007, the State Department has recognized more than 120 women from more than 65 different countries. U.S. diplomatic missions overseas nominate one woman of courage from their respective host countries. The finalists are selected and approved by senior Department officials. For more in this and other awards for women: http://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/international-women-of-courage-award.

The names of the 2019 IWOC winners are as follows:

  • Razia Sultana of Bangladesh
  • Naw K’nyaw Paw of Burma
  • Moumina Houssein Darar of Djibouti
  • Mama Maggie of Egypt
  • Colonel Khalida Khalaf Hanna al-Twal of Jordan
  • Sister Orla Treacy of Ireland
  • Olivera Lakic of Montenegro
  • Flor de Maria Vega Zapata of Peru
  • Marini de Livera of Sri Lanka
  • Anna Aloys Henga of Tanzania

Short bios of the 2019 awardees can be found through the link below.

https://www.state.gov/s/gwi/iwoc/2019/index.htm

Low key launch of 2016 State Department Human-Rights Report raises questions

March 4, 2017

The Voice of America (3/3/17: Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report) and other media reported on the low-key way in which the US State Department launched the 2016 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

FILE - U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson arrives in Mexico City, Mexico, Feb. 22, 2017.

Sources:

Tillerson in Background as State Department Issues Human-Rights Report

http://gantdaily.com/2017/03/03/tillerson-skips-release-of-annual-human-rights-report/

US State Department gives out International Women of Courage Awards 2016

April 8, 2016

Missing in action: Wheelchair-bound human rights advocate Ni Yulan failed to attend the awarding ceremony in the U.S. She told the BBC that her passport was withheld.Photo U.S. Department of State/Flickr

Human rights lawyer and activist Ni Yulan became one of the 2016 recipients of the International Women of Courage Awards conferred by the U.S. Department of State on 29 March. The wheelchair-bound human rights lawyer Ni Yulan from China was not present; she he told the BBC that her passport was withheld.  Yulan Ni won the Dutch Human Rights Tulip in 2011.[https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/chinese-human-rights-defender-ni-yulan-freed/]

She shares the 2016 recognition from the USA with 13 other women: Read the rest of this entry »

US State Department 2014 Human Rights Defender Award to Azimjon Askarov and Foro Penal

July 23, 2015

On 16 July 2015 Assistant-Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor – Tom Malinowski – presented the 2014 Human Rights Defenders Award to Azimjon Askarov of Kyrgyzstan and Foro Penal, a NGO from Venezuela, in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information on this award see:  http://www.brandsaviors.com/thedigest/award/freedom-defenders-award-us-state (note: the name varies).

Azimjon Askarov is known for trying to bring together people of all ethnicities especially Uzbeks and Kyrgyz. He is serving a life sentence for alleged involvement in the killing of a police officer. He won the 2010 Homo Homini award and was a Final Nominee for the MEA in 2011. Due to Mr. Askarov’s imprisonment, his son, Sherzod, accepted the award on his behalf.

Foro Penal, a Venezuelan pro-bono network of over 200 lawyers and 1,000 human rights defenders, advocates for human rights and rule of law in Venezuela and abroad. With severe restrictions on the media and internet access, Foro Penal provided timely, critical, and independent information during the 2014 protests, and continues to defend and promote human rights despite risk of government suppression. Founder and Director Gonzalo Himiob and Executive Director Alfredo Romero accepted on behalf of Foro Penal.

For the backlash created in the case of Mr Askarov see my next post.

2014 Human Rights Defender Award Ceremony for Azimjon Askarov and Foro Penal.

 

Bahrain: #FreeNabeel campaign more urgent than ever in view of resumption USA security assistance

July 8, 2015

Nedal Al Salman , Head of International Relations and Women & Children’s Rights Advocacy of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights [BCHR], launched today a day of solidarity for the president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, with videos of supportive MEP’s. There is an urgent resolution adopted by the EU Parliament about Bahrain and in particular the case of Nabeel Rajab. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/video-statement-of-troublemaker-nabeel-rajab-who-is-on-trial-today/]

You can join in the campaign by recording your self on video, state your name and the organisation you represent and say a few words about Nabeel Rajab and call for his release. Your video/photo can be shared on twitter under the hashtag #FreeNabeel [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/nabeel-rajab/]

How difficult it is to match human rights diplomacy with geopolitical considerations is shown in the OP-ED in the New York Times of 7 July 2015 by Sayed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy:

“Last week, the State Department announced the resumption of “security assistance” to Bahrain. This ended a four-year ban on the transfer of arms that the United States put into effect in 2011, after the Bahraini government’s harsh crackdown on Arab Spring protests. In a statement, the State Department argued that Bahrain had made enough progress in human rights reform to be rewarded by ending the embargo, even though the human rights situation in Bahrain was not “adequate.” The State Department dedicated 49 pages of its 2014 report on human rights, released last month, to Bahrain.

It is a damning document: detailing arbitrary detention, torture, prison overcrowding, constraints on free speech and more. The decision to renew security assistance — in the words of a State Department spokesman, “armored personnel vehicles, MRAPs, Humvees, TOW missiles, arms and ammunition, that kind of thing” — is not only incongruous but also shortsighted, with potentially disastrous consequences.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein of Jordan, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, criticized acts of torture in Bahrain in his opening remarks at a session of the Human Rights Council in June. He called for “an immediate investigation” into allegations of torture in Bahrain’s prisons and for the release of “all those detained in connection with their peaceful activities.”

If Prince Zeid were a Bahraini, he could probably be arrested on charges of “insulting a statutory body” — as happened to the human rights defender Nabeel Rajab after he called for prosecution of officials who committed torture in prison. He now faces at least 10 years in prison on various charges relating to his activism.

I was arrested on March 16, 2011, a day after the government announced a state of emergency, a month after the protests started. A military court sentenced me to prison for protesting and talking to the media. What they did to me in prison will stay with me for life.

On my first day in Jaw Prison, about 20 miles south of the capital, Manama, an officer spat on me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me against a wall. During interrogation, another smacked me in the face and dared me to raise my arms to shield myself. They told me I’d be beaten even more if I did.

While I was in detention, four people were tortured to death, as Human Rights Watch has reported. In the interrogation rooms, we always thought of those who had been killed, wondering who might be the fifth. After my release from prison, I fled Bahrain and in 2012 sought asylum in Britain. This January, Bahrain revoked my citizenship, along with that of 71 others, leaving me stateless.

Bahrain’s situation has not improved since 2011. Last November, an inmate was beaten senseless and thrown into solitary confinement, where he died from his wounds during the night. In March, a prison riot broke out. Prisoners were angry about their treatment in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, and about the unfair trials that had put more than a thousand of them there. Prison authorities are accused by prisoners of responding with excessive force.

What happened next was incomparable to what I was put through. According to a report published last month by a coalition of rights groups, including my own, prisoners said that police officers used birdshot and tear gas against inmates inside corridors and cells. Inmates were rounded up, beaten and held in the courtyards, where they spent weeks sitting in Bahrain’s heat. Former prisoners allege that officers forced inmates to kneel and lick their boots. An imprisoned academic named Abduljalil al-Singace has been on a hunger strike for over 100 days, in protest of the ill treatment suffered by prisoners in March. (There are growing concerns for his health.)

In light of the continuing abuses, the State Department’s praise of the release of the political prisoner Ibrahim Sharif as a sign of “meaningful reform progress” is absurd. Never mind that Mr. Sharif, sentenced to five years in 2011, had served most of his sentence, and that as a political prisoner, he should never have been imprisoned to begin with. And as one political prisoner was released, another, Sheikh Ali Salman, received a four-year sentence for his opposition activities. The police also called in his deputy for questioning last week, after he made a speech against torture in prison.

When the United States expressed concerns a few weeks ago to the Human Rights Council in Geneva about “the continuing criminal cases on grounds of political expression and assembly,” Bahrain rejected them as groundless. It is Bahrain’s prerogative to disregard its American ally’s qualms, but must the United States reward such disrespect by renewing military assistance?

The answer lies in geopolitics. Persian Gulf monarchs are on high alert as the United States nears a nuclear deal with their regional rival, Iran. They want to protect their position as the West’s strategic partners and maintain their influence in the Middle East. At the same time, the rise of the Islamic State is a potent threat to their security, which America seeks to bolster militarily. Resuming arms transfers rekindles not only the American-Bahraini relationship but also the hugely important American-Saudi one.

But these diplomatic considerations come at the cost of relinquishing whatever moral standing the United States had in Bahrain. Ending the suspension of military assistance was a misuse of America’s substantial leverage to bring positive change to the human rights situation in Bahrain and the Gulf, which has only deteriorated since 2011. For Bahrainis striving for a democratic country, America’s move is completely regressive.

President Obama promised a “tough conversation” with the Gulf monarchs when he met them in May. Was this the outcome of that conversation?”

Losing Leverage on Bahrain – The New York Times.

What Wikileaks reveal about Saudi Arabia’s methods against human rights defenders

June 23, 2015

On 22 June Ms. Samar Badawi, via the Monitor of Human Rights in Saudi Arabia [MHRSA], tells how the government fabricated stories to explain to the USA its travel ban on human rights defender Waleed AbuAlkhair. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/06/14/saudi-arabian-human-rights-lawyer-waleed-abu-al-khair-wins-ludovic-trarieux-prize/]
He already was portrayed as an atheist, working for foreign agendas, receiving foreign funding, etc. Now, in one of the leaked WikiLeaks cables of the Saudi Foreign Ministry, the Ministry of Interior tries to justify its preventing Waleed AbuAlKhair from traveling to attend the Democratic Leaders Program sponsored by the US State Department. After the Saudi ambassador in Washington received a call from the US Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Saudi Ministry of Interior fabricated a story that Waleed is facing a family suit because of his marriage and his conversion from Sunni to Shiite Islam. None of this was mentioned in court, when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for demanding constitutional monarchy, and the establishment of two human rights organizations.
for more information: samar.badawi1@gmail.com