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Bahraini students: the struggle against oppression

By: 
Yusur Al Bahrani

November 12, 2012

Students and workers in Bahrain have played a primary role in what’s known as the Pearl Revolution. They continue their fight against Western backed Al-Khalifa monarchy despite the systematic and ongoing oppression of the state.
 
More than a year ago, protesters flooded the streets of Manama and other Bahraini cities and villages in February 2011. They occupied the Pearl Roundabout, which was the Bahraini version of Tahrir Square. The government forces raided the roundabout killing, injuring and arresting peaceful protestors. The Bahraini monarchy invited troops from Saudi Arabia (armed by the West including Canada) and United Arab Emirates to aid in the crackdown on peaceful protesters. Since then, forces have attacked protesters, besieged villages and cities, raided homes in search for activists, and thrown US made tear gas canisters on people’s homes.
 
Protesting students
Outraged by the governments’ attack on peaceful demonstrators, students at the University of Bahrain decided to protest against the violations. They organized a peaceful protest on March 13, 2011. The university granted permission to protest, but Mohamed Al-Khaqani described this as “a trap” to launch a crackdown. Al-Khaqani was a professor at the University of Bahrain and was dismissed after the attack on peaceful students and professors.
 
Pro-government thugs attacked the university, vandalizing buildings and threatening students. Eyewitnesses report that the police surrounded the university, protecting and giving a legitimate cover to thugs who were holding batons, knives and swords, and thus not letting students escape the brutality of the attack. Instead of investigating the case and holding the thugs responsible for the attack, the government of Bahrain held the innocent peaceful pro-democracy students responsible for vandalizing the university and intimidating others. Many students were arrested, tortured and forced to confess to crimes they have never committed. Al-Khaqani was at the university on that specific day. He confirmed that thugs were the ones who vandalized the building. He tried to prevent them from entering the building where he was, but he could not. He defended his students from the vicious attack of the pro-government thugs. As a consequence, “homes of professors and instructors were raided,” said Al-Khaqani. Al-Khaqani was dismissed from the university, and was separated from his students who loved him.
 
Repression and brutality
Knowing the power of students and workers, the government of Bahrain attempted to silence their voice but was not successful. Massive numbers of students and workers have been struggling. “At least 4,000 people who stayed away from their jobs during the arrest or believed to have participated in the protests were sacked or suspended, including nearly 300 from the state-owned Bahrain Petroleum Company. Dozens of students were dismissed from universities, and others studying abroad had their grants suspended,” reports Amnesty International.
 
One of the students is Jassim Al-Hulaibi, a 19 year-old first year student at Bahrain Teachers College with outstanding academic achievements. His father said that Al-Hulaibi’s goal was to become a teacher and influence his students to build a better future for Bahrain. The regime decided to shatter his dreams (and some of his colleagues’). On March 27, 2011 police raided Al-Hulaibi’s home at 2 am. Numerous police cars surrounded his home. They terrorized the children and arbitrarily arrested Al-Hulaibi. They dragged him out of his home, and started verbally and physically abusing him.
 
For almost one month, Al-Hulaibi’s family did not know his whereabouts. During the first two weeks of his arrest, Al-Hulaibi was subjected to torture and ill-treatment. His eyes were covered and his hands were tied with plastic tape. Prison guards would beat him regularly, and offend his religious beliefs. All confessions were taken under torture. He was later charged with vandalizing a university building during the protest in the University of Bahrain on March 13, 2011 and attempts to kill some of those who were in that building. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and he remains in prison until today.
 
There are many students like Al-Hulaibi facing unbelievable sentences for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. Their demands are basic— an end to the ongoing repression, oppression, and discrimination that the majority of the Bahraini population face by the Al-Khalifa ruling family.
 
Al-Hulaibi was not at the University of Bahrain during the protest and thugs attack. On March 13, 2011, Al-Hulaibi was at Salmaniya Hospital. He was receiving medical treatment for his injured leg. Government forces shot him during a peaceful protest in his neighborhood, and he was unable to go to university or walk on his injured leg. There are official medical reports that prove that, but the authorities refused to take this into consideration. So far, Al-Hulaibi has spent more than a year in prison, he was dismissed from university and his grants were suspended. In addition, Al Hulaibi’s father received an official document from the Ministry of Education demanding him to pay BD 1416 ($3766) compensating for the suspended grants.
 
There are many like Al-Hulaibi. There are other students who lost their lives fighting for freedom and democracy. One of them is Ali Al-Moemin who Al-Khaqani saluted during his lecture at the University of Bahrain. “Yes, I needed to salute my student. Ali Al-Moemin was my student. He used to sit on the front. He is my student and I love him. You killed my students and charged us for our solidarity with them. You are charging me for loving my students, and my students love towards me,” said Al-Khaqani. Al-Moemin remains a symbol of a martyr who scarified his soul for real democracy.
 
Protest and solidarity
The fight for freedom continues in Bahrain, despite the government’s brutality. Al-Khalifa monarchy has made sure that there is not enough awareness about the situation in Bahrain, and Western media have played along. Imperialists have played a major role in the crackdown on pro-democracy activists, students, workers and protestors. The West’s support to the monarchies in the Gulf provided impunity for human rights violators. The only way to help students in Bahrain is to denounce the hypocrisy of the Western governments (including Canada) that sells arms to the oppressive monarchies in the Gulf.   

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