Bahrain's Minister of Justice on BBC's HardTalk
After the disputed showpiece of the Grand Prix, it has been a week of sustained efforts by the Bahraini regime to claim legitimacy, sometimes claiming "reform" but more often invoking the need for "security" against the "threat" of the opposition. The Prime Minister told Germany's Der Spiegel:
This is a movement of people which, in the modern world, we call a "terrorist group." This movement is supported by Iran and Hezbollah. What we are facing is exactly what the Americans are facing with terrorism.
The Minister of Justice tried to take the international stage with an appearance on BBC's HardTalk, denying --- with some difficulty that there were any issues around the holding of the Grand Prix. And Ed Husain of the Council on Foreign Relations, hosted for three days by the regime, spent the week claiming on Twitter and then on his "expert" blog that he knew all about the roots of the crisis:
If Bahrain is good enough for the U.S Fifth Fleet, it's good enough for F1 Grand Prix games. Back away, Iran's Molotov hurlers.
Far from taking the initiative, however, the regime has appeared to be on the defensive over events. By Sunday, Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa was gathering headlines for his instruction to supporters to intervene in a vote, held by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, for best Current Affairs programme: "I call on everyone to stand with Bahrain and vote against the harmful Al Jazeera film." That "harmful" documentary is Shouting the Dark, which documents the regime's attempt --- with the assistance of outside forces led by Saudi Arabia --- to crush the protests in spring 2011.
In particular, the hunger strike of detained human rights activist Alkhawaja, now in its 82nd day, is gathering international attention as well as focusing the various opposition groups on the claims for justice and rights.
Yesterday, Alkhawaja's family were allowed, after a six-day lockout, to see the detainee in a military hospital. Far from pointing to regime compassion, the visit confirmed --- after days of denial by Bahraini authorities --- that Alkhawaja was being drugged and force-fed.
In a series of messages last night via Twitter (see separate EA feature), Alkhawaja's wife Khadija Almousawi documented the pain of her husband while putting out his continued hope: "Despite all that happened to Hadi, he is as strong as a mountain, very thin but content and with his large smile. Again he said to us today he has never been happier."
Almousawi continued, referring to her detained daughter, activist Zainab Alkhawaja, as well as her husband: "No matter what they do, they cannot break my Hadi or my Zainab and this gives me strength to continue being hopeful."
The regime response? Saqer Al Khalifa, a leading figure in the social media campaign and former media attaché at the Bahraini Embassy in Washington, took the spectre of threat to a new level: Alkhawaja was comparable to the Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, the planner of the attacks of 11 September 2001.