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Bahrain campaign to humiliate Shiites goes beyond politics

Bahrain's crown prince is set to visit the White House and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. The US has remained largely silent amid harsh criticism of Bahrain's brutal crackdown.

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“It’s a stupid strategy the government has … [because] in the long run it creates more hatred toward the government,” says Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

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Mr. Rajab, who has twice been prevented from traveling abroad and questioned by military prosecutors, questioned the possibility of dialogue “without creating the environment for it.”

Unlike past crackdowns, women not spared

The government is tightly restricting visas for international media, making it difficult to report on events in Bahrain. Most people contacted by the Monitor insisted on anonymity because they had been warned of repercussions against themselves and relatives if they spoke with the media.

Bahraini security forces regularly steal money, phones, and other items from homes or cars stopped at checkpoints, says the former detainee, adding: “To them, it’s not stealing because we are Shia and we don’t have the right to live here. It’s a Sunni country and has to remain like this.”

Torture is widely used even against women, and includes beatings while blindfolded, forced standing for many hours, and electric shocks on the cheeks, according to human rights groups and former detainees.

A report issued last week by a group called Justice for Bahrain listed 49 females still held. It noted an interview given to Al Jazeera by a doctor, Farida Al-Dalal, who said that, while in detention, she and others were ordered to dance, and called “dirty Shiites” and “Idiots who do not deserve wearing the white coat.”

Unlike in past crackdowns, women are not being spared his time, human rights activists said. “They want to send a message that no one in this crackdown is protected,” says Mohammed Al-Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

Shiite mosques and medical personnel targeted

In another sign of the government’s apparent intent to demean Shiites, who make up around 60 to 70 percent of the population, it has demolished 43 Shia religious buildings, most of them mosques, according to a government tally. And of the estimated 1,700 to 2,000 workers who were dismissed from their jobs for alleged antigovernment protests, most are Shiites.

On Monday, 48 medical doctors and nurses, most of them still in detention, were arraigned before a military tribunal, with 20 of them charged with felonies and the rest with misdemeanors. Most are Shiites. Their trial will resume June 13.

The doctors were dressed casually, some of them in pajamas, and all had their heads shaved, according to a witness. Their blindfolds and handcuffs were only removed when the session began, and they met their lawyers for the first time at the arraignment.

Rights activist Maskati said that many medical personnel were forced to make false confessions on video, admitting that they stole medical equipment or did unnecessary operations.

One former detainee says interrogators accused some medical personnel of intentionally causing some patients to die because, as they said, “‘the more martyrs you have, the stronger your revolution will be and the more people will be on your side.’”

“They think we want more martyrs. I’s unbelievable,” the former detainee says.

“It’s very depressing and especially because nobody is with us,” the released prisoner says. “We feel we are fighting alone and nobody is standing beside us. Even the United States of America is calling for human rights and calling for democracy all over the world, except for in Bahrain.”

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