Beloit College Stands with Zainab al-Khawaja `06
4:30 pm Monday December 26 -Zainab sends her greetings and thanks to Beloiters: Thanks so much for your support. You guys are great. Please do all you can, everything helps and if there's something u suggest I do as well let me know. Everyday I see injustice and I'm sick of it. I'm trying to do what I can but it feels so minuscule compared to the oppression the people here are being subjected to. Give Shawn [Gillen] and Beth [Dougherty] big hugs from me =) tell them I think of them often, and remember alot of what they taught me, which is miraculous considering how horrible my memory is now. =p
This page will be updated to reflect ongoing events and other actions Beloiters can take to be in solidarity with Zainab.
Please Speak Out Against Proposed Arms Deal
Beloiters who wish to support Zainab should support the cause of the Bahraini protesters. The immediate effort should focus on defeating a $53 million proposal by the U.S. Department of Defense to sell armored vehicles, missiles and other military equipment to Bahrain. Please call the office of their U.S. Representatives and/or Senators, and ask to speak with the staff member who advises on foreign affairs (second best would be an email):
· President Obama will soon decide whether to sell $53 million in arms to Bahrain. I am writing/calling to oppose that deal in the strongest terms possible, because of the endemic human rights abuses being committed by the Bahraini government in a systematic, brutal repression of its own people.
· I urge ____to sign the joint resolution (introduced by Senator Ron Wyden [D-OR] and Representative James McGovern [D-MA]) against this sale. [Note: five senators – Robert Casey Jr. (Penn.), Richard Durbin (Ill.), Benjamin Cardin (Md.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), and Robert Menendez (N.J.) - have already expressed their concern about this arms deal.]
· Since last February, countless Bahrainis have taken to the streets to cry out for democracy and demand basic civil rights. The regime’s response has been to vilify legitimate, peaceful protesters as Iran-backed insurgents, and to conduct a full-on counterinsurgency style campaign against activists, ordinary citizens and whole villages where protests have occurred. The recent Bassiouni report - commissioned by the al-Khalifa government itself! – confirms and details strong evidence for these claims.
· A December 18 column by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times describes the murder of a 14 year old boy by means of an American-made tear gas shell fired at close range, and gives just a glimpse of the horrors in which our country’s silence and arms sales profits implicate us as Americans. Such heinous acts are the kind our government vigorously opposes when committed by our adversaries, such as Syria and Iran. In the case of our ally Bahrain, shall we avert our gaze from the abuses and prepare to sell yet more firepower to the perpetrators? No! This would be outrageous and unacceptable.
· The Congress and the President must reject the current arms deal proposal, call for the immediate release of all jailed activists and demand an end to the crackdown. No more support should be given to the al-Khalifa regime until it emerges with a plan to engage in true, comprehensive democratic reform. I urge Congress to block the sale of arms to Bahrain, and to call on its government to chart a course for democratic reform and reconciliation.
· Mr. Kristof cites Zainab al-Khawaja on the moral minimum standard the U.S. must take with regard to the proposed arms deal:
“At least don’t sell them arms. When Obama sells arms to dictators repressing people seeking democracy, he ruins the reputation of America. It’s never in America’s interest to turn a whole people against it.”
Known to many by her Twitter name, Angry Arabiya, Zainab is a leader in the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain. She is the daughter of prominent human rights activist AbdulHadi al-Khawaja (now sentenced to life in prison for his part in the February 14, 2011, protests in Bahrain, along with Zainab's husband Wafi, who was sentenced to 4 years).
Arab Spring demonstrations spread across the Middle East to Bahrain by February, 2011. In April, Zainab went on a hunger strike to protest her father's arrest and mistreatment. In November, after months of a violent government crackdown, a widely publicized human rights report (commissioned by the regime itself) showed widespread evidence of abuses; the government has promised improvements even as it has continued to pound dissidents. A comprehensive overview of events can be found in the New York Times' history of Bahrain coverage.
On December 15th Zainab was arrested after refusing leave a sit-in demonstration. There is video of her arrest in which she is shown being dragged in handcuffs into a Bahraini police van. International outcry for her release was stirred by these reports and the disturbing images; e.g. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote two columns on the situation in Bahrain (the second half of the December 18 column is about Zainab):
Zainab was released from jail on Tuesday, December 20th, but it appears likely she will still stand trial for the charges lodged by the police (attacking a police officer and fomenting hatred of the government) against her.
Latest information can be obtained on the website of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, with which Zainab is affiliated.