Who We Are
Founded in February 2012 on the eve of the first anniversary of Bahrain’s ongoing revolution, Witness Bahrain is a group of international observers monitoring and reporting on human rights abuses, collective punishment and suppression of Arab Spring democracy activists in the Kingdom.
Our team members include attorneys, writers, humanitarian workers, and community organizers.
Why Witness Bahrain?
On February 14, 2011, tens of thousands of Bahraini citizens, partly inspired by the Arab Spring movements in Tunisia and Egypt, took to the Pearl Roundabout, demanding freedom, democracy and equal rights. Government forces immediately cracked down on the protesters using tear gas, bird shot and rubber bullets. Ali Abdulhadi Mushamai, 21-years old, was shot and killed, becoming the first martyr of the Bahraini revolution, and fourteen other protesters were injured. The demonstrations gathered momentum with protesters occupying the Pearl Roundabout, setting up tents and camping overnight. In the early morning hours of February 17, government forces raided the roundabout to evict sleeping protesters, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and shotgun pellets from close range (with varying reports about live ammunition also being used), killing four and injuring hundreds in what has became known as “Bloody Thursday.”
On February 22, a reported 200,000 participated in the “Martyrs’ March” in honor of the victims killed in the pro-reform uprising with the demonstrations intensifying into March.
On March 14, one thousand Saudi Arabian troops crossed the King Fahd Causeway into Bahrain to help defend the Bahraini regime. The Saudi troops were joined by 500 policemen from the United Arab Emirates. On March 18, the government demolished the Pearl Monument in the center of the Pearl Roundabout and set up a barricade to prevent further demonstrations at the site.
The government of Bahrain has continued to target democracy activists, arresting and sentencing hundreds of people accused of involvement with the protests. Routine use of torture against rights activists by Bahraini authorities has also been reported. Despite the crackdown, Bahrainis continue to protest on a daily basis, met by U.S.-manufactured teargas, Apache helicopters, Humvees and other forms of lethal violence. Between February 14, 2011 and January 3, 2012, the Bahraini government has killed a recorded 55 people. The unconfirmed number now stands at over 65 deaths in the year since the revolution in Bahrain began.
A number of prominent journalists and human rights organizations have been denied entry into Bahrain in the lead-up to the anniversary of the uprising, raising concerns that the government seeks to prevent outside observers from witnessing its repression of planned demonstrations. Human rights activists in Bahrain have called on the world community to witness their revolution, to stand with them at protests, in hospitals and in villages and tell the world what they see.
Witness Bahrain is here to respond to that call.
Why Should We Care About Bahrain?
Over the past year, tens of thousands of Bahrainis have taken to the streets in an attempt to win democracy and respect for their human rights. They have been brutally attacked by government forces. Witness Bahrain believes it is important to respond to the specific call from Bahraini human rights activists to come, witness and report on governmental repression of their unarmed demonstrations. We believe it’s important to stand in solidarity with those fighting injustice around the world and see this revolution as part of the larger global movement for freedom, justice, and equality.
For those of us from the United States in particular, this solidarity becomes even more important as the Obama Administration condemns the violence of the Syrian regime against protesters while simultaneously pushing through an arms deal to the Bahraini government.
Because Bahrain is home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, the US has a unique relationship with and exceptional influence over the country. Instead of using that influence to reflect President Obama’s words that “we stand for principles that include universal rights for all people and just political and economic reform,” the US instead continues to prop up the Bahraini government through military aid and arms deals. The US government provides the Bahraini military with weapons including tear gas (which has killed scores of protesters), Apache helicopters (used to surveil protesters) and Humvees.