More than a year ago, I recall how I used to be threatened by pro-Bahraini government propagandists. Random Facebook users have threatened me after commenting on Nabeel Al Hamar’s, the Advisor for Information Affairs for the King of Bahrain, status on Facebook. I don’t live in Bahrain, and therefore, no one could arrest me for my comments, Tweets, or articles about human rights abuses in Bahrain. However, I felt concerned about my colleagues and friends in Bahrain who are risking their lives everyday for exercising their rights to freedom of expression on Facebook or Twitter or any online media.
On March and April, when the state of emergency was announced in Bahrain, and the Shield of Jazeera (a combination of troops from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates) came to aid the Bahraini forces in attacking peaceful protestors, there has also been a cyber war. Pro-Bahraini government Facebook users (or thugs!) started uploading the photos of activists with red circles around their faces. Instead of questioning the ones who threaten civilians, the government of Bahrain started arresting activists whose photos appear on Facebook. One of them was Ayat Al-Qarmizi, Bahraini poetess, who was later released after months of brutal torture and ill treatment in prison. Some activists disappeared like Global Voices’ blogger Ali Abdulemam, while others were killed like the citizen journalist Ahmed Ismael.
That’s not history yet. Last week, the Bahraini authorities arrested the President of the Human Rights Centre in Bahrain, Nabeel Rajab when he returned from Lebanon at Bahrain’s International Airport. Apparently, the Bahraini government claim that Rajab was arrested because of his “insulting tweets.” I invite all to visit his Twitter page @NABEELRAJAB, and search for “insulting” material. For an oppressive state like Bahrain, using Twitter and other social media to expose human rights violations is “insulting the constitution.”
Sadly hilarious, Manama was announced as “the Capital of Arab Culture,” while it’s the place where the state kills, arrests and kidnaps online activists. I hope that my blog post will not be considered as “insulting” by the Bahraini monarchy neither my Tweets on @YusurAlBahrani.