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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.

Questions? 

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

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.