Author Archives: Bahrain Coordinating Committee Administrator

Press Release: Activists to Gather at 5PM Today to Demand Release of Nabeel Rajab

Activists will gather today at 5PM outside the Bahraini Embassy in Washington DC to demand the release of Nabeel Rajab, a prominent Bahraini human rights defender who was sentenced today to three years in prison.

Active since the late 1990s in the Bahrain human rights scene, Rajab currently serves as the President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.  Since the start of the Bahraini Uprising in 2011, Rajab has been continually harassed by authorities.  Last year, he was summoned before the Military Prosecution after photographing the corpse of a man who was tortured to death in prison.   Police have targeted his house with tear gas on several occasions.  In January 2012, Rajab was beaten by police at a protest.

The three-year sentence  is on the charge of participating in an “illegal gathering.”  Rajab was already serving a three-month prison sentence stemming from a complaint filed by a group of retired security officers and an adviser to the King, in a separate case.

For event information, please visit and RSVP on the event’s facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/events/198227033642242/198236670307945/?notif_t=plan_mall_activity

 

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Bahrain Watch detects spy operation against activist organizations

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: bill@bahrainwatch.org
Twitter: @bhwatch

July 25, 2012

UK COMPANY HELPS BAHRAIN GOVT SPY ON ACTIVISTS
Malicious E-Mail Attachments Sent to Activists Steal Passwords, Record Skype Calls

Bahrain’s government is spying on Bahraini activists with a malicious computer program apparently supplied by a UK firm.

Bahrain Watch founding member Bill Marczak, and Citizen Lab security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire analyzed a string of suspicious e-mails sent to activists over the past two months.  The e-mails promised exclusive images or documents about the political situation in Bahrain.  Upon closer examination, the e-mails were found to contain attachments that installed a malicious program on a victim’s computer.  Some of these e-mails impersonated Al Jazeera English reporter Melissa Chan.

The malicious program was found to record keystrokes, take screenshots, record Skype calls, and steal passwords saved in web browsers, e-mail programs, and instant messaging programs.  The malicious program sent this data to an internet address in Bahrain.

The analysis suggests that the malicious program is “FinSpy,” a product of UK firm Gamma International.  FinSpy belongs to the FinFisher suite for “Governmental IT Intrusion and Remote Monitoring Solutions.”  Gamma International was criticized for apparently selling the same product to Mubarak’s regime in Egypt. Before technology giant Apple closed the security gap, FinSpy would infect computers by tricking users into thinking that it was an iTunes update.  London-based NGO Privacy International has threatened to take the UK government to court for failing to control the export of surveillance technology to repressive foreign regimes.

During the analysis of FinSpy, a stolen GMail password was later used in an attempt to access the GMail account, suggesting that the Bahraini government is actively monitoring and exploiting the information captured by FinSpy.

A detailed report of the technical analysis of the program can be read at: https://citizenlab.org/2012/07/from-bahrain-with-love-finfishers-spy-kit-exposed/3/.  A non-technical report of the analysis by Bloomberg News can be read at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-25/cyber-attacks-on-activists-traced-to-finfisher-spyware-of-gamma.html.  Bahrain Watch would like to extend its gratitude to all of the activists, researchers, and journalists, including those at Bloomberg News, who contributed to this story.

Have I been infected?

The malicious e-mails analyzed were sent from the following addresses:

The malicious e-mails analyzed had the following subject lines:

  •     Existence of a new dialogue – Al-Wefaq & Government authority
  •     Torture reports on Nabeel Rajab
  •     King Hamad planning
  •     Breaking News from Bahrain – 5 Suspects Arrested

The malicious attachments display images or documents when opened.  If you have received e-mails with these subject lines or from these addresses, DO NOT OPEN THE ATTACHMENTS.  If you opened one of the attachments, your computer may be infected.  STOP USING THE INFECTED COMPUTER IMMEDIATELY.

If you have received these e-mails, or any other suspicious e-mail about Bahrain with an attachment, please contact bill@bahrainwatch.org with details.

Tips for safe internet usage

Do not open unsolicited attachments received via email, Skype or any other communications mechanism.  If you believe that you are being targeted, be especially cautious when downloading files over the Internet, even from links that are purportedly sent by friends.

Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based activism.  About Bahrain Watch: http://bahrainwatch.org/about.html

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Contact: bill@bahrainwatch.org
Twitter: @bhwatch

Pictures from the crackdown on today’s demonstrations around Bahrain

Opposition groups called for protests in ten areas around Bahrain to take place today, Friday, July 13th.  The protests were set to start at 5pm Bahrain time.  The Ministry of Interior announced yesterday that all demonstrations would be considered illegal, and anyone participating in today’s events would be breaking the law.

Today, riot police were on the scene early.  Many streets were closed, and some towns were partly sealed off, preventing people from getting in.  Checkpoints were installed in other areas.

Despite the intense security measures and attempts to prevent protesters from joining the demonstrations, people went out anyway.  The crackdown started even before even the demonstrations commenced.  Tear gas and flashbang grenades were fired in every town that attempted to protest.

Riot police raided many private homes, in some cases firing at the occupants.  In Karzakan, a 16 year old girl was shot with a flashbang grenade, and at the same house a 40 year old woman was forced out of the shower naked.  Police also directly targeted protesters.  A 13 year old from Al Dair was shot in her ankle with a tear gas canister.

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee has not yet been able to establish the exact number of injuries, but the pictures below tell the story.

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Turning point for dozens of policemen in Bahrain

As tiny as Bahrain is, 24 hours a day are not enough to cover all the stories we want. There are so many invisible soldiers and so many moving stories that the world doesn’t know about.

A few days ago we talked to about 15 men, who worked at the ministry of interior. They all had put in between seven and 27 years of dedicated services as policemen or similar positions. Most of them have families and children depending on them.

When we asked them, what’s their situation now, they all said we’re on hold, waiting. The ministry of interior didn’t officially dismiss them, they don’t have a letter that sets them free, but they won’t take them back either. They can’t work elsewhere because they’re caught in the middle.

In the beginning they were all hesitant to talk on camera, they were worried that the government will come after them or punish them, as some are still waiting their appeals in court. Some didn’t mind showing their faces, others wanted to tell us their stories anonymously.

While we’re working on their individual stories and we’ll post them for you to read, we thought it’s still important to give you a quick highlight on what these policemen went through since the uprising.

Some of them were called in for interrogation during working hours then arrested, others just decided to not show up because of the injustice and inhumane approached they’ve witnessed. Most of them were forced to stand in their uniform under the sun facing the wall for hours.

Without mentioning their names here, one of the policemen said his turning point was the events that took place at the University of Bahrain. He claims he saw with his own eyes riot police protecting thugs and siding with them, because those masked thugs were well known officers, and sons of ministers. He specifically mentioned the son of the foreign minister wearing a mask and joining the thugs in beating people and harassing women. After that he decided not to go to work after what he had seen.

Another man saw what happened when police evacuated the lulu roundabout, saying the theft, burning, and stealing policemen committed was shocking. They take anything and everything as they go.  He says when he saw what they did to the people, and one man after another falls, he couldn’t continue because he couldn’t do this to his own people.

When protesters blocked the road at the financial harbor, one of the policemen told me the riot police and the protesters were on good terms. They were talking and no violence erupted until thugs and other riot police showed up and started hitting the front row of protesters with their batons. The ones at the back started throwing rocks, and protesters in front rows tried to calm them down. He overheard police saying that one of them should try and get hit to reverse the pressure. He said he saw a policeman getting hit; he picked him up and sent him with a Syrian policeman, with a minor injury. Then a rumor came out that this officer had died. He told us, after this incident he realized the dirty game the government is playing, and the lack of transparency in their approaches, as well as the continuous planning to frame the revolution and the protesters in a violent manner. That was his turning point.

Police told us that when Peninsula Shield Forces entered Bahrain, they were given the same uniforms as Bahraini riot police.  Several police further said that a member of the Peninsula Shield Forces shot martyr Ahmad Farhan in the head.

Those policemen are sentenced to between one and eight years in prison, as well as the dismissal from their jobs. Some have already served their sentences, and others are awaiting their appeals. Some still get 50 percent of their salaries, others get nothing at all. Like many other Bahrainis, they’re just waiting, jobless, demanding justice.

One of them told us “Even if they ask me to go back to work, there is no way I will, ever.”

** There are no exact numbers yet, but different accounts suggest more than 200 hunderd policemen defected to in support of the Bahraini uprising, not including females. **

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Wait for our video interviews with some of these policemen. We’re also working closely with Human Rights First to release a proper report.

International outcry over Bahraini Prince’s potential Olympic attendance

by guest blogger Chloe Kems.  Follow Chloe on Twitter: @kems4BH

International human rights groups, Bahraini activists, and – as of Thursday – members of the British parliament are urging Britain to ban the royal head of Bahrain’s Olympic Committee from attending the London 2012 games.  Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the son of Bahrain’s king, is set to attend the London Olympics this August, despite his role in the detention and alleged torture of athletes during the 2011 crackdown in Bahrain.

When protests began in mid-February 2011, athletes participated in the democracy protests and Pearl Square demonstrations along with 500,000 Bahrainis from the country’s majority Shi’ite population. When athlete support for Bahrain’s democracy uprising became public, Nasser, who serves as the Head of Bahrain’s National Futbol Association in addition to the country’s Olympic Committee, was “put in charge of effort to detain and punish athletes” who had been spotted participating or supporting the Pearl Square protests.

150 athletes were either detained or suspended after the regime alleged they participated in protests.  Prince Nasser made several controversial statements about the protesters, saying he hoped “may a wall fall down their heads,” and that they would have “nowhere to hide.”  Of the athletes, he stated that he believed the convicted should be imprisoned for life. Relatives of some of the detained athletes allege that they were tortured by Prince Nasser.

However, in late June, Fahad A al-Binali from the Bahraini President’s office issued a statement to The Guardian, in reaction to their coverage of the alleged torture and Olympic debate: “We vociferously reject the very serious allegations your newspaper has made against HH Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa … we categorically deny any involvement of HH Sheikh Nasser in any of these grave unfounded accusations of torture.”

Nasser is not subject to an EU or UN travel ban, the likes of which are currently levied against leaders in Syria, Zimbabwe, and other regimes with histories of human rights violations. A committee of representatives from Britain’s Home Office, Foreign Office, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will decide whether or not Nasser will be granted a visa to the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

In May, the BBC’s sports blog reported that “Foreign Secretary William Hague says the government won’t hesitate to use its powers to extend London 2012 travel bans to individuals and officials with connections to undesirable regimes.” Secretary Hague has stated that Sheikh Nasser is among those who will be closely assessed for links to human rights violations that would render him undeserving of an Olympic invitation.

A powerful voice joined the activist coalition to prevent Nasser’s Olympic attendance on Thursday, when George Galloway, a notoriously outspoken member of the British parliament, publicly warned “so called Prince Nasser” of a citizen’s arrest should he travel to London. Galloway’s statement, which currently has over 45,000 views on YouTube, warns Nasser: “don’t come to London, because you won’t enjoy it … you torture, you supporter of murder, you thief, you usurper, you war criminal, you dirty scoundrel, you are not welcome in London. … We will hunt you, wherever you are.”

The British MP’s fierce statements against Nasser coalesce with the release of a statement from the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) regarding the human rights climate in Bahrain. Twenty eight countries signed the push for reform implementation as per the BICI and improved cooperation with the UNHRC.

Although neither the US nor the UK signed the UNHRC statement, the outcry over Nasser’s potential Olympic attendance is gaining international traction. Following the protests that surrounded the F1 race in May, the London Olympics builds upon a growing phenomenon in Bahrain: sports politics are bringing global attention to human rights violations in the small Gulf nation.

The story of Sitra’s martyrs

We visited a grave yard in Sitra where martyr Ali Alshaikh is buried next to other martyrs.

Zainab Alkhawaja told us their stories, what happened and how they died.

Ali Alshaikh’s house was filled with his pictures, his mother remembers how active he was and kind to others. It was the third day of Eid in 2011 and he was only 14 when he got shot during a protest close to his Sitra home. He told his family he can’t celebrate Eid while there are political prisoners in Bahrain.

March for Freedom in Bahrain today — slideshow #BCCLive

Hundreds of people joined a “March for Freedom” in A’ali, Bahrain.  Riot police attempted to block the roads, but the demonstration continued.  Participants included Said Yousif and Zainab Al Khawaja, as well as our own #BCCLive witnesses, who took these photographs and videos today.

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Meanwhile, we wait to hear word of the conditions of Ali Al-Mowali, who was seriously injured while peacefully protesting yesterday, after being shot in the head, and who is, we understand, undergoing his second surgical operation, and of Syed Hadi, who was arrested on the scene yesterday and was reportedly taken to the Dry Dock Detention Center.

Around Bahrain

There were many attempts to sit and write the first blog, but the overwhelming feeling always wins. Not knowing where to start and how to tell all the stories you hear on a daily basis — there are so many.

More than one year later, Bahrain is still struggling, the people are still fighting, they didn’t give up. The world gave up on them. Realizing that what we get in America and other parts of the world are only headlines and bullet points, famous names, and some pictures here and there. In reality, the headline we get once every two weeks, is the story of people’s lives every day here.

The crackdown took different approaches here; it’s not only limited to tear gas, bird gun shots, and arrests. The crackdown became a lifestyle. Even worse, a lifestyle people are getting used to.

Nothing looks different on the surface, everything looks normal on main roads and highways, with pictures of the King, Prime Minister, and Crown Prince hung up everywhere. In villages, however, things are anything but calm.

One of the first experiences we came across, was getting stuck in traffic. All we could see was smoke, as we got closer, we realized that protesters blocked the street with tires and lit them on fire. Minutes later, about 5 police cars were parked, and riot police rushed into village alleyways firing sound bombs and tear gas. It was strange to see everyone calm and just waiting, no honking, no wondering. Everyone is used to it, I was told, “This is normal, this happens everyday in different areas.”

People here are always excited to tell their stories, and recite incidents. Everyone is always talking and discussing the situation, not just in Bahrain but even in Egypt, Syria and around the region.

The sense we got is that youth and activists are organized, and task oriented. It’s a collective effort to plan, document and produce to get their voices and news out there.

Costa Coffee carried the spirit of the Pearl Roundabout, there is that sense of freedom, and determination to keep going. It’s the focal point for activists and journalists, and also secret services!!

The stories we hear every day are shocking and heartbreaking. There is the latest story of Mohamed Al Buflasa, a Sunni activist who was arrested before. Apparently, his relatives didn’t like his activism, so the story as we heard it from people goes like this:

His wife’s sisters brainwashed his teenage daughter and tricked her into filing a case against her dad, accusing him of sexually harassing her, which she did. So Al Buflasa was taken to prison. His sister, and some say his wife, too, stood up for him and denied the accusations. So, police take the girl, as well, for a hoax — without questioning the aunts who pushed her to act.

There are the stories of the kids, one who got shot in his left eye and lost it while he stood by his dad to sell fish — Ahmed Nasser Alnaham. Another 11 year old kid, Ali Hasan, who went to court for being accused of taking money from people to block roads, according to the Ministry of Interior.

So many stories of families who lost a father, a brother, or a son.  Families who lost their jobs and are on a daily hunt for food. Kids dropping out of school to work and bring food to the table.

A woman told me that a man in his late 40s offered to wash her car for her. She said that she doesn’t need it watched, but then looked at his face, and couldn’t bare to leave him like that. She told him you can just wipe the windows and I’ll pay you. She says, he ran to my car, to clean it just to get money. She was explaining to me how much it hurts to see the Bahraini elderly unemployed and helpless, trying to bring food to the table in any way possible.

We will follow stories of families and try to go to their homes, and shed light on their struggle. Follow our Twitter @connect_bahrain for live updates and news.

New updates to the Twitter and our blog from our “on the ground” blogger

As you know, the Bahrain Coordinating Committee serves to both educate and promote the causes of human rights and democracy in Bahrain.

To that end, we are pleased to announce a series of tweets and blog posts which will appear over the next few weeks.  Our undercover witness, a Bahrain Coordinating Committee member, will post updates from Bahrain on Twitter and on this blog, presenting you with a timely and authentic view of the situation “on the ground.”

For security reasons, the identity of the blogger will remain anonymous.  Visit our Twitter account @Connect_Bahrain and follow the hashtag #BCCLive to see up-to-the minute reporting from Bahrain, starting today.

Blog Posts will appear on this blog under the “Bahrain Coordinating Committee Administrator” account.

Follow us on Twitter and subscribe today so you don’t miss a single tweet or post in this interesting series.