2-20-2013By Brian Dooley
Human Rights Defenders Program
In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, a government crackdown on dissent and increasingly violent protests have led to mounting civilian and police casualties. Bahrain desperately needs an end to this crisis.
Two years ago, President Barack Obama told the Bahraini government “the only way forward is for the government and opposition to engage in a dialogue, and you can’t have a real dialogue when parts of the peaceful opposition are in jail.”
The regime restarted its dialogue with some opposition groups last week. This is an encouraging step, but real progress will only happen if the regime releases its prominent dissidents in jail and allows them to join the dialogue.
As the dialogue continues, medics who were detained after treating wounded protesters and telling the international media the truth about the abuses remain in jail. Opposition and human rights leaders who called for democratic reforms remain in jail. And Human rights defenders and civil society leaders continue to face threats, arrests, and prosecutions for peaceful human rights activities.
Two years after the democracy movement filled the streets of Bahrain, human rights defenders continue to look to the United States for support—despite its muted criticisms of the violations committed by the ruling family. It’s past time that the United States supports—through word and deed—human rights and civil society groups fighting for democratic reforms in the country.