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Paul Jay said “On Monday Febraury 14th, approximately a thousand Saudi soldiers in armored vehicles entered Bahrain”; however Saudi Arabia entered Bahrain on March 14th. 

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PAUL JAY: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. And on Monday, February 14, approximately 1,000 Saudi soldiers in armored vehicles entered Bahrain to help put down the protesters at the invitation of the Bahrainian king. Now joining us to talk about what’s happened since Monday in Bahrain and the underlying causes of the protest and what he expects to come next is Husain Abdulla. He’s director of the Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and he joins us from Alabama. Thanks for joining us, Husain.


JAY: So if I understand it correctly, you’re a small businessman in Alabama, and the Americans for Democracy in Bahrain is a national organization that has members across the country.

ABDULLA: Correct.

JAY: What prompted you to form the organization? And have you been back to Bahrain since you founded it?

ABDULLA: Well, as a Bahraini American, I did not find any real representation in the United States for issues that relate to where I came from, home for me. No one advocate for human rights, religious freedom, democracy for the people of Bahrain. So me and some other Bahraini Americans decided, why not create a front or an organization that does exactly that?

JAY: Where does your funding come from?

ABDULLA: It’s from us, from members within the Bahraini-American community. We fund it ourself. We travel using our own personal money, and whatever expense that comes, you know, we fund it personally.

JAY: If I understand it correctly, you left when you were about 20 years old. Have you been back?

ABDULLA: If I do go back, I’ll be arrested and probably tortured and charged with some heinous crime according to the Bahraini court of law.

JAY: For what reason, do you think?

ABDULLA: Basically for my activities in the United States, because what I’m doing, it’s showing the true pictures of the regime in Bahrain.

JAY: Okay. So tell us what happened Monday and what’s happened since.

ABDULLA: Bahrain no longer is an independent country. It is occupied by Saudi Arabia and by some GCC countries like United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and now, recently, Kuwait. These troops came to attack the pro-democracy, peaceful, unarmed people of Bahrain. They first, on the 15th, attacked the different big cities, villages in the country, to spread fear on the people, and then the problem when they attack the symbol of democracy where the protesters has been camping for weeks, the Pearl Square or the Pearl Roundabout. And they eventually demolished that symbol, thinking that after demolishing it they would be able to quieten the pro-democracy movement in the country. The Saudi forces have killed Bahrainis. Their hands are full of Bahraini blood. People have tortured Bahrainis and also injured so many, arrested so many, that we don’t know where they are right now.

JAY: And what’s the state of things in the last two, three days? Are protests continuing?

ABDULLA: Yes, they are. There is strong resiliency, defiant bravery. The people are not going to stop, because they know if they give up and give in to this pressure from Saudi Arabia and to this invasion and occupation, basically they’ll be treated like slaves all their lives. So either live free or die free.

JAY: Now, the US government and President Obama have said the reason why there’s no need for more pressure on Bahrain, or even some intervention, as there’s been in Libya, is because the king seems willing to have certain political reforms. So is there some sign of some reform?

ABDULLA: No, and I’m very disappointed from this hypocrisy that’s coming from the White House. When there is a revolution in Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia, somehow we’re supporting that, even reluctantly. However, when it is in Bahrain, I see this blatant support to the regime in allowing the regime with cold blood to kill innocent Bahrainis. Looks like somehow the Bahraini blood is less important than the Libyan or Egyptian blood. Also, the State Department is issuing some weak and very negative statements calling for both sides to restrain. I wonder what kind of “restrain” you want from an unarmed Bahraini civilian. The restraint should come from the forces that using live bullets.

JAY: So why do you think there is such hypocrisy?

ABDULLA: Because Bahrain is a Fifth Fleet base. There is also, I think, an agreement made between the Obama administration and the Saudi government that we’ll give you the green light for a certain period of time. See if you can crush this movement. If not, we have a plan B. And we need your support in Libya. Therefore, what you’ve seen, that soon after the Saudi troops enter Bahrain, there was a strong support from the GCC countries to the no-fly zone, which they initially opposed.

JAY: The Gulf Cooperation Council, it’s under this rubric that the troops have gone in, if I understand it correctly. And because they’re invited in, it’s not considered a foreign intervention under normal international law.

ABDULLA: GCC charter does allow countries to seek help from neighboring GCC countries (Gulf Cooperation Council). If those countries were attacked from a foreign force, if they were invaded by foreign force to protect the nation, to protect the people of that country, there is nowhere in the GCC charter that says that if a country–the country can seek help from neighboring country or other GCC country to kill or to suppress democratic movement in the country. So this is an invasion. This is–you cannot call Saddam’s invasion to Kuwait as an invasion and occupation and call the movement of Saudi Arabia into Bahrain something else.

JAY: They’re suggesting under international law a government has a right to ask another country to come in. You don’t think that’s true?

ABDULLA: That’s not true, because United Nation stated clearly that what is taking place in Bahrain might be elevated to clear violations of international law, because what they’re doing, they’re seeking the help of Saudi Arabia. Against who, exactly? Against the people of Bahrain, against the majority of the people of Bahrain. So you want to bring a foreign nation to kill your own people, I don’t think that is considered seeking help.

JAY: Let’s go back to the issue of who makes up the Gulf Cooperation Council. And I’m particularly interested in Qatar. Saudi Arabia’s kind of a more obvious story in a sense that the Saudi monarchy has made very little pretensions about democracy or being on the side of the reform movement anywhere. But Qatar has, through Al Jazeera and its expressed policies, at least what it advocates, has said it’s on the side of these democracy movements. On the other hand, Qatar’s part of this supporting Saudi’s invasion or intrusion into Bahrain. What do you make of that?

ABDULLA: Well, Qatar supports democracies that is not on their doorstep. They supported the democracy movement in Egypt because Qatar and Hosni Mubarak did not have a good relationship. They supported the movement in Tunisia because that is far away from them. They are in Libya because that was a deal–according to the deal that was made. However, in Bahrain they’re not supporting the movement in Bahrain. Actually, there is a gag order. You will not find any positive or any major news about Bahrain in Al Jazeera. That tells you there is a hypocrisy, because they don’t want democracy next door, because if if there is real democracy next door, guess what? Qatar will have real democracy. People in Qatar are going to say: if people in Bahrain can choose their government, why can’t we do the same thing? So I will not put my bet on Qatar supporting democratic movements in the Arab world. They are doing what the United States is doing right now, pick and choose which revolution to support.

JAY: The population of Bahrain is about a million, and maybe half of those people are guest workers. And then in terms of religious division amongst the Muslims, if I understand it, it’s about 60, 70, perhaps even 80 percent are Shia, whereas the ruling family is Sunni. Talk a bit about these various divisions and what role do they play in the movement that’s happening now.

ABDULLA: The majority of the population, as you stated, around 70 percent are Shia Muslim, 30 percent are Sunni Muslim. And the ruling family belong to the Sunni sect of Islam, the government throughout the years. You see, Bahrain situation or the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain is not recently born. It’s an old movement. The government use the sectarian flag every time there is an issue in the country, every time there is a demand by the people. However, the issue in Bahrain is not sectarian. Sunni and Shia Muslim lived side by side each other for years for a long time. This is more of a demand movement. This is more of a pro-democracy movement. There are Sunni Muslim, which is the minority in the country, are protesting with their Shia brothers in Bahrain. There are Sunni political prisoners in the country, in Bahrain. So the government want to use it as a sectarian [inaudible] or a sectarian flag and try to say that Iran behind it, so, you know, the West will be cautious, they will be scared.

JAY: Now, if I understand it correctly, in 1970 there was a UN-sponsored poll of Bahranian public opinion asking people if they wanted to be part of Iran or an independent Bahrain, and the majority of people, and I assume the majority of Shia, said they wanted an independent Bahrain. They did not want to be part of Iran. So this Iranian hand, you think, is not real.

ABDULLA: It’s not real. First, I’m from there, and I talk to people every day, those youth who are protesting. No one wants to be part of Iran. This is a Bahraini national issue. And if you wanted to be part of Iran, we had an opportunity to be part of Iran. The people of Bahrain are Arab. The people of Iran are not Arab. We have two different cultures. We’re neighbors, we respect our neighbors, but we don’t want to be belonging to no one. That includes Saudi Arabia or Iran. The issue of Bahrain, the political problem, is a local issue, is an indigenous problem, has nothing to do with Iran. And our own secretary of defense, Robert Gates, said that Iran has nothing to do with the recent uprising in the country. It is basically a political problem. There are people who thinks, people who believe they have grievances that are not heard by the Bahraini government.

JAY: As we said, half the population are guest workers, which is–in Qatar I think it’s even more; it’s something like two-thirds or three-quarters of the population of the country are guest workers and don’t have citizenship. Are the guest workers participating in the protest? Do they have any role to play?

ABDULLA: No. The guest workers actually leaving the country because they–it’s became a war zone. You know, FedEx left the country, no longer has offices in Bahrain. Other multinational corporation are threatening to leave the country. Formula One abandoned their race in Bahrain. So many other trade conferences canceled in the country. Al Khalifa made Bahrain into a war theater. They’re going to kill everyone that is against them. They’re going to–.

JAY: Al Khalifa being the royal family and the king.

ABDULLA: Yes, correct.

JAY: But I’m asking about guest workers themselves, who have no rights and perhaps are the most discriminated against. Have they been involved in the protests at all? Or do they feel too afraid ’cause they have no standing now?

ABDULLA: They feel too afraid. Plus you see the issue is an indigenous issue. It is issue for democracy, voting rights, human rights. So when it comes to the guest workers who are in the country, no, they’re not participating in these uprisings. Actually, they’re leaving the country.

JAY: And what do you want to see from Western countries? What policy do you think should be being followed now?

ABDULLA: There should be a clear call that Saudi forces are not welcome in Bahrain. They’re a problem, not part of the solution. They should withdraw immediately. And there should be an investigation for all kind of atrocities that took place in the country while the Saudi troops were there and Bahraini troops, what they have done. Add to that there should be a clear order to release all the political prisoners in the country and start an immediate process of democracy. Also, apply pressure on the Bahraini government to listen to the citizens of Bahrain and allow the people of Bahrain the opportunity of self-governance.

JAY: Is there any move at the level of the United Nations to bring this forward to the Security Council, the Saudi intervention in Bahrain?

ABDULLA: Not to the Security Council, but, yes, there are movement in the United Nations. The United Nation made a very good statement or very positive statements that condemned what’s taken place in Bahrain and elevated it to a level that it is probably in the way of violating international law. When it comes to human rights organizations, civil society groups, you name it, condemnation is just flying left and right. But the silence from the West, and especially the two big allies of Bahrain, United States and United Kingdom, their stand is shameful.

JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.

ABDULLA: Thank you.

JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End of Transcript

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Husain Abdulla is director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain