Home > Human Rights in Bahrain > U.S. State Department statement on U.S. position on Bahrain protests

U.S. State Department statement on U.S. position on Bahrain protests

Here is a portion of the transcript of the Daily Press Briefing which took place at the U.S. State Department from the February 15, 2012, just a month and a half ago.

QUESTION:Question on Bahrain?

(Spokesperson Victoria Nuland) MS. NULAND: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yesterday you said from the podium that demonstrators should be able to demonstrate peacefully, security forces should allow that. Most of the people who tried to demonstrate yesterday on the anniversary of the beginning of the demonstrations were blocked. What does that say to you about security sector reform that you said is unfulfilled?

MS. NULAND: Well, first of all, we’ve seen a lot of conflicting reports about who was at fault in the situation there. But from our perspective, anybody who wants to demonstrate peacefully should be allowed to demonstrate peacefully – emphasis on the word, “peacefully.” At the same time, we hold the government of Bahrain responsible for the performance of its security forces. We’ve made no secret, Scott, in the context of the implementation of the Bahraini Independent Commission investigation recommendations, that we think that the security sector in Bahrain needs reform, and that that’s one of the unfulfilled, unfinished items on the to-do list.

Here are my thoughts on her statement

If Ms. Nuland is going make an allegation that conflicting reports exist, she had better have some facts to back it up.  By their own admission, the Bahrain government admits they were at fault and that excessive force and torture took place (and is still taking place).  She doesn’t need to state that the U.S. thinks the security sector in Bahrain needs reform.  The Bahrain government already admitted that themselves!  Does she even realize the extent of brutality, arrests, and abuses that were occurring and are still occurring?  Can she possibly be aware that, BICI report aside, this is a government that has defined the term repression in the past two years?  For context, let’s look at this video from one year before, on February 15, 2011, in which Bahraini forces attacked attendees at a FUNERAL

These people are un-armed and practically unable to defend themselves against the repeated crackdowns.  They are literally out-gunned.  You know what they have?  Air horns.  You will hear about Molotov cocktails.  Well, the police are throwing Molotov cocktails, too, and so are vigilantes.

And to be honest, if any of these arrests, beatings, kidnappings, and torture happened in America, you can bet Americans would come at our repressors with a lot more than Molotov cocktails.  If anything, the Bahraini people have shown remarkable restraint, in my view.  I am not advocating violence, but at the same time, think about it: after peacefully protesting, and being assaulted, tortured, arrested, and seeing your friends and family killed, and your houses of worship destroyed, what would you do?  I’m disgusted by our officials who keep repeating that the Bahraini protestors need to be peaceful.  These are not violent people.  They are telling the wrong audience.  They need to tell the government to stop torturing, then talk about peace when that happens.

Given the gross inequality in power, and given that the initial protests were entirely peaceful but were met with what the Commission and the world describe as excessive force by government forces, it seems to me greatly inappropriate that she appears to put the onus on the protesters to maintain peace.  At best, it is massively insensitive, at worst, it’s just simply not a true representation of the facts, and that disturbs me.

A much stronger message of support for the protesters needs to be made by the U.S. and far stronger messages of condemnation for ongoing abuses.  Backed up by sanctions, if necessary.

Take action:

Write to Victoria Nuland and tell her she needs to substantiate her allegations about Bahraini protesters with facts, the next time she makes a public statement on behalf of the United States.  Tell her as an American you support a stronger stance on Bahrain and the continuing human rights abuses that are occurring.

Victoria Nuland
Office of the Spokesperson
Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

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