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An Independence Day Reflection

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The United States Declaration of Independence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Today, the fourth of July, is the day Americans celebrate their independence.

Like many Americans, I am descended from men and women who believed in freedom and human rights, and fought for it, when necessary.  I am proud that I am related to Virginia patriots who fought alongside George Washington. My mother’s cousin fought in World War II before he was 20 years old.  He landed at Normandy and he saw his best friend get shot and die right before his eyes before he helped liberate occupied France.  His service continued through Vietnam.  My father served in the Korean War.  They fought for the freedoms we hold dear in the U.S.A. and I think about their courage whenever I see our flag.

But I know and believe that any American who becomes a citizen today, as many people will, is just as much an American as I am and has every claim to our rights and freedoms.  I wish everyone in the world did, as well.

Since I have started volunteering for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee, I never forget how lucky I am to live in a country where I can speak my mind, write about what I believe, and contact my country’s leaders without fear of being arrested and tortured.

I can stand in front of the White House or the Embassy of Bahrain and carry a sign or speak to passers by and no one will menace or prevent me.

I can go to church knowing that my government will not bulldoze it to the ground, as the regime in Bahrain destroyed mosques centuries older than the United States.

My teenage son can walk down the street without fear of being hit by rubber bullets or shot gun pellets.  None of his school friends have been killed by riot police.  He does not know that there is a country in the Gulf where enemies of freedom even desecrate the graves of young men.

When I retire for the evening, in my home, security forces will not rush into the streets of Falls Church, shooting tear gas grenades around and even into my home.  That will not happen here, although it happens almost daily in Bahrain.  My daily life is not filled with violence and fear.

Because I am free, I can fight for democracy and freedom for the people of Bahrain, not with a musket or automatic rifle, but with my words.  When I watch the fireworks tonight, I will say a silent prayer that the day will come, very soon, when the people of Bahrain can live in a country free of repression.

Responding to questions about the Bahrain Coordinating Committee

Freedom of speech is an important human right.

If you follow the Bahrain Coordinating Committee on Twitter (@connect_bahrain), you may have noticed that as we have become more visible on social media, we have also achieved the dubious distinction of attracting the attention (and occasionally, the vitriol) of a handful of detractors who identify themselves as loyalists to the Bahrain regime, but who do not appear to be associated with the regime in an official capacity.

Since some questions have been raised, as the present public relations counselor for the Commitee, I will respond.

Who funds the Bahrain Coordinating Committee?

As has been stated, the Bahrain Coordinating Committee is an all-volunteer, U.S. based grassroots movement that does not receive funding from an outside entity at this time.  Committee volunteers assume expenses themselves, such as website fees and postage.  Volunteers donate creative services, such as photography and graphic design.  My own company, Fletcher Prince, provides public relations services, as needed, on a pro bono basis.

Does the Bahrain Coordinating Committee have to report its activities to the U.S. government?

The short answer is: no.  Our activities fall under our rights to freedom of speech in the United States.

As you may know, some individuals and organizations who serve as agents to foreign principals report their activities to the Justice Department, who, in turn, makes this information available to the American people.  For example, Qorvis is required to report its activities on behalf of the Kingdom of Bahrain, in compliance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

However,  the Bahrain Coordinating Committee is not an agent for a foreign principal.  For example, we are not ordered to, or paid to, undertake communications activities by an individual, organization, or government agency outside of the United States.

I initiated and have had many discussions with staff members at the Justice Department regarding compliance with FARA.  The Justice Department is fully aware of our activities and has been enormously helpful in clarifying FARA regulations for me.  At this time, neither I, nor Fletcher Prince, nor the Committee are required to report activities undertaken for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee to the Justice Department in compliance with FARA.

Why hasn’t the Bahrain Coordinating Committee posted a reply to my tweet?  Or replied immediately to my tweet?

The issue arose recently when we published a blog post relating an account of an unprovoked physical attack on an activist in Bahrain.  We reported information from our own sources, from other reliable sources, as well as photos, and video.  Accounts of the event were also published in the New York Times, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and by other reputable media.  Still, the Committee was accused, on no grounds, of misrepresenting the facts.  This slander was not wholly unexpected, as some of these individuals have previously attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of reports by other human rights organizations and activists, in an effort to impact the reputation of those organizations.

While we do attempt to correct misinformation when we can, the Committee is under no obligation to respond to each tweet posted on Twitter.  Any movement has to contend with the reality of opponents.  That comes with the territory of freedom of speech. The Committee is not required to respond to abuse, insults, baseless accusations, and verbal attacks that slanderous in nature.  No reasonable person would expect that of us.  If we spent too much time defending ourselves against a vicious few, we would be distracted from our aim of helping a great many deserving of our focus and efforts.

Also, as a public relations counselor, I do not have an ethical duty to respond to every tweet posted by a handful of individuals regarding myself or my work on behalf of my pro bono client, nor do I feel compelled to respond to slanderous accusations or insults.  Some of this activity amounts to harassment, and whether I respond to it or ignore it is a choice that is mine to make.  However, I will respond to legitimate questions that are posed to me, as promptly as I am able.  My “silence” or lack of response to certain individuals does not prove or disprove anything.  It either means I am busy with other work, or simply choosing to ignore Internet trolls.

Apart from that, I want to say our cause is just and credible, and the manner in which the Committee conducts its affairs is legitimate and ethical.  It’s important to note that the Bahrain Coordinating Committee does not stand alone in advocating for human rights and exposing injustices associated with the regime in Bahrain.  Many of our concerns and recommendations are held in common with U.S. leaders, the United Nations, and leading human rights organizations.  Much of what we report has previously or also been reported by major news organizations.


If you have a question about the activities of the Bahrain Coordinating Committee, feel free to use the contact form on our website.

The youngest victims of tear gas in Bahrain – the babies and the unborn

Photo credit: Hasan Jamali, Associated Press. Bahraini anti-government protesters demonstrate Thursday, June 21, in Diraz, Bahrain. Riot police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse the demonstrations against alleged deaths of infants and miscarriages blamed on excessive tear gas. Arabic on the sign reads: “For what crime have they been killed?”

Excessive exposure to tear gas has been demonstrated to cause miscarriage in pregnancy, and infants are particularly susceptible to the side effects of tear gas, which can be fatal in instances.  Unfortunately, in Bahrain, many families have lost their young and unborn babies through exposure to tear gas.

On Thursday, June 21, a demonstration was held in Bahrain to bring attention to this tragic development.  However, the demonstration was not met with sympathy.  The protesters were fired on with tear gas and stun grenades.  During the clash, even two press photographers, one from Associated Press, were temporarily detained by riot police.

For the past two years, tear gas has been used against Bahrainis in a number of ways — much of it indiscriminate and excessive.  It has been used against protesters, fired into neighborhoods, and even propelled directly into homes.  The BICI report stated that Bahrain’s police used a disproportionate amount of CS gas when dispersing protests, and that in a number of situations, police fired CS gas into private homes in an “unnecessary and indiscriminate” manner.

Physicians for Human Rights has also chronicled the use — or should we say, the misuse, of tear gas — and resulting fatalities.  Many deaths have resulted from inhalation, or through injuries sustained by being struck by the projectiles.

Although the Kingdom has pledged to pursue the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission, very little in the way of true reform has taken place, and the use of excessive tear gas continues unabated.

We’ve been provided with a list of names of infants and unborn children by ea_as on Twitter, and list them here.

We mourn their passing, and we send wishes of sympathy to their families.

Fadak Mushaima from Al Dihe

Hawra Mohamed from Sanabis

Fatima Al Samie from jidhafs

Ali Badah (he was named like his martyr brother Ali Badah, from Sitra)

Hussein Sabeel from Sitra

Sajida Jawad from Al blad Al qadeem

Yahya Youssef from RAS Rumman

Fatima Abbas from Adarei

Batool Mohammed from Sanad

Hadil Mohamed from Sarr

Yasser Mehdi from Karrana

Reda Hani from Almaamer

Sayed Hussein Sayed Ahmed from Sanabis

If you have updates or corrections to this list, please let us know.

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee deplores the use of tear gas by government forces against the residents of Bahrain, and joins international human rights organizations in calling for its immediate cessation.

Slideshow of images from ADC Convention

Here are some images from the exhibit display organized by Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain and Bahrain Coordinating Committee. The ADC Convention is taking place today through the weekend in Washington, DC.

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Gearing up for a big day: Bahrain Coordinating Committee at the ADC Convention

Tomorrow is a big day for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee!  The Committee will be exhibiting, along with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights for Bahrain, at the the ADC National Convention.  The ADC, as you may know, is a nonprofit organization which has been dedicated for 32 years to protecting the civil rights of Arab Americans, promoting understanding, and preserving cultural heritage.

The convention represents a tremendous exposure opportunity for the Bahrain Coordinating Committee, and our cause.  We are looking forward to informing as many people as we can with our materials, exhibits, and delegates.  Convention attendees will have the opportunity to meet and speak with several Bahraini American activists, including Husain Abdulla, Director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, and a Bahrain Coordinating Committee leader. 

One must-see element of the Bahrain Coordinating Committee’s exhibit will be a compelling display of art by Bahraini children, who have movingly conveyed their feelings about the turmoil in Bahrain through creative expression.

Although we expect it to be a busy day, we will try to tweet at least once from the conference (follow us on @Connect_Bahrain), and share some photos of the day with our blog readers, Facebook fans, and Twitter followers.  On Twitter, look for the hashtag #ADCConv to follow conference updates and events throughout the day, and be sure to follow @ADCtweets .

The conference itself promises to be fascinating.  Held at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill Friday through the weekend, there will be dozens of panel discussion sessions and speeches, including appearances by

  • Benjamin Jealous, NAACP president
  • Michael Moore, Academy Award-winning director of ‘Bowling for Columbine’
  • Ben Rhodes, White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting

Abed Ayoub will be moderating two panel discussions, in his separate work for the ADC.

Other exhibitors at the conference include the U.S. State Department and the Department of Education, as well as an array of nonprofit organizations and commercial exhibitors.

We hope to win lots of support for our cause: for democracy and human rights in Bahrain.  Wish us luck tomorrow, and if you are attending the ADC National Convention, please drop by our booth and say hello.

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.

Bahraini Lawyer’s Rights to Privacy Violated; Bahrain Coordinating Committee Pledges Its Support

In response to reports, The DC-based Bahrain Coordinating Committee strongly condemns sensitive and personal content posted on the Bahrain Forum, a pro-government Bahraini online discussion forum.

Allegedly, a video file was posted online that contained images of the prominent Bahraini human rights lawyer, Mohammed al-Tajer.  The images depicted him in his bedroom with his wife.

In the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report (section 1261.b), it was reported that Tajer was threatened with humiliation by government forces who had arrested him and detained him for several months for making a speech during the Bahraini protests in February 2011. While detained, Tajer was abused in prison, and in the course of interrogation was informed that he had been videotaped sleeping with his wife and was threatened that this tape would be made public.

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee condemns all acts of torture and humiliation, and calls on the government and its agents to treat political dissidents and other Bahrainis with respect and humanity, as they seek to obtain the rights to free expression, and other basic human rights.

Connect with the Bahrain Coordinating Committee Online

Bahrain Coordinating Committee on TwitterSocial media can be used to inform, educate, support, and connect.  It can also be a powerful communications medium for positive change.  The Bahrain Coordinating Committee is taking full advantage of the communication potential of social media.  Connect with us online!

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The Bahrain Coordinating Committee now has a home on YouTube.  We feature a number of excellent videos made by others on our YouTube Channel, including award-winning documentaries on Bahrain.  Thanks for subscribing to our YouTube Channel.

Candlelight Vigil for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

The Bahrain Coordinating Committee held a candlelight vigil for the imprisoned Bahraini activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, in front of the White House in Washington, DC this evening (April 27, 2012).

About a dozen volunteers assembled in front of the White House at dusk to peacefully show support for the activist and disseminate information about the struggle for human rights and reforms in Bahrain.  Curious onlookers stopped by throughout the evening to learn more — the volunteers were able to converse at length with twenty-thirty people throughout the evening.  The response of onlookers was positive and receptive.