Two Americans, Radhika Sainath and Huwaida Arraf, were arrested by Bahraini authorities for their role in current protests against that country’s regime. They were arrested Saturday in Manama while acting as part of a team of monitors of peaceful protests.
The women were volunteers with the Witness Bahrain program, which situates observers in trouble spots, including Shiite villages, in the hopes that western presence will inhibit violence by security forces. Last year, those forces killed dozens of protesters who gathered at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout.
Footage of Arraf's arrest:
The women were arrested downtown in Manama at one of the latest demonstrations in favor of increased democracy in the Gulf nation.
According to a member of the Bahraini human rights community, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, the arrest of journalists, and their analogues, is far from rare and rarely fatal.
“Journalists are often detained from time to time here,” she said, “but they won't dare touch them especially if they're US citizens. The U.S State Department is already involved in the case and I've no doubt they'll be released unharmed (like the others.) It'll be shocking if this story has a different ending, but I doubt that will happen.”
A small group of us were on the initial Skype call with human rights activists from Bahrain. A doctor who I only knew by the name of A* explained how security forces would attack Shia villages with teargas and birdshot on a daily basis, break into houses at night and toss teargas canisters into tightly packed homes, arresting anyone suspected of involvement in the democracy movement.
Would we come and stay in these villages? Surely, the government would behave differently if Americans and Europeans were watching.
Bahrain is a major American ally in the Middle East and provided staging grounds for the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq. The country is regional fleet headquarters for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet and the Naval Central Command, covering the Gulf, the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea.