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HRW: Children among those arrested in Bahrain’s ‘repression of pro-Palestine protests’

December 24, 2023 at 1:11 pm

Protesters wave Palestinian flags during a solidarity sit-in with the Gaza Strip, in Manama on November 17, 2023 [MAZEN MAHDI/AFP via Getty Images]

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Friday has said that Bahraini authorities have arrested and harassed scores of people involved in pro-Palestine protests across the country, including minors.

The NGO noted that the crackdown has even extended to those engaged in online pro-Palestine advocacy since October, when Israel unleashed its genocidal, ongoing war against Gaza, following the Palestinian resistance operation Al-Aqsa Flood.

Citing Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), HRW said that as of 15 December, authorities in the Gulf kingdom have arrested at least 57 people, including at least 25 children, with at least one person targeted for their social media posts.  Of those, 36 people, including 23 children have not yet been released.

Through conducting interviews, HRW say they have confirmed the arrests of demonstrators and children.

READ: Bahrain parliament pushes to reverse normalisation with Israel

“Bahraini authorities have activated their repressive machinery not only against peaceful criticism of their autocratic rule but also against Bahrainis demonstrating in solidarity with Palestinians facing bombardment, starvation, and apartheid,” said Niku Jafarnia, Bahrain and Yemen researcher at HRW.

“Bahraini authorities are certainly showing alignment with other regional states in stooping to jailing children for peaceful activism.”

ADHRB has also reported that some of those arrested “were subjected to psychological and physical torture to forcefully extract confessions.”

One woman said that her 15-year-old son had been arrested even though he did not participate in any protests. He and his friends got caught in the middle of a protest and were arrested by anti-riot police. “There is no reason for them to arrest him,” she said. “This random arrest ruined his future.”

Bahrain was among the four Arab states to normalise relations with Israel in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, and their “suppression of pro-Palestinian speech is the most recent example of authorities’ systemic suppression of freedom of expression, assembly, and belief,” says HRW.

ADHRB asserts that the Bahraini government refuses to represent the orientations of its citizens, who have expressed their rejection of the agreement and their clear support of Palestine and its cause.

Last month ADHRB condemned the use of repression through force of arms against citizens by the Government of Bahrain, represented by the MOI (Ministry of Interior) and further denounced the arrests of citizens on the grounds of exercising their right to freedom of expression.

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