By Jesse McLaren
While Canada and the US are condemning the violence in Syria as part of their imperial ambitions in the region, there is silence towards Bahrain’s Western-backed war on its children.
The dictatorship in Bahrain is an ally of the West, serving as home of the US Fifth Fleet. The regime has long targeted children as a tactic to instill fear in the population. Before the Arab Spring began, children made up to 21 per cent of detainees in Bahrain, and been subject to arbitrary arrest, prolonged detention, unfair trials, torture and sexual abuse. In 2010, 14 year-old Ali Abbas Radhi was beaten by the police and described his experience: “the riot police asked me to stop so I obeyed their orders, but a group of them pointed their weapons towards me which made me panic and try to flee in fear of getting killed. The riot police chased me until they caught me, and they assaulted by beating me and kicking me with their boots or with the butts of their guns to my head and all over my body as well as cursing and insulting the members of my family with dirty words.” As the Bahrain Center for Human Rights wrote, “It is believed that this attack is one of the many random attacks carried out by these forces to spread panic and fear among the villages of Bahrain and especially among children and youth in order to intimidate them from participating in any acts of protest.”
Despite this intimidation, the people of Bahrain have joined the Arab Spring and organized some of the biggest protests in the region. They have been met by brutal attacks, including killing children by ammunition and tear gas suffocation, and the arrest of medics. As of last month, there were 60 children under the age of 18 in detention, some of whom have been sentenced to 15 years in jail by military trial.This week, 11 year-old Ali Hasan was released after weeks in jail (where he had to write his grade 6 exams), and has to stand trial on June 20. Meanwhile, security forces opened fire on a grandfather and his grandchild who were selling fish.
The West has been complicit in this war on children. In February it was reported that some of Canada’s $4 billion arms sales to the Saudi dictatorship were used in the crackdown in Bahrain. In April the F1 Grand Prix refused to cancel its event in Bahrain amidst the ongoing crackdown, and last month the US resumed arms sales to Bahrain as the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, was still in jail. Any condemnation of violence in the Arab world has to start with the direct and indirect violence of our own governments, who for decades have armed dictators and launched wars of aggression, both which have targeted children.