Police in Bahrain briefly detained two American human rights activists Sunday, along with about 20 Bahraini citizens who were protesting ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix Formula One race scheduled for this weekend.
Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, and Nadim Houry, the deputy director of HRW’s Middle East and North Africa division, were picked up along with the Bahrainis when police raided a demonstration, Malinowski told The Cable. Members of the group were treated well and released, he said. The American pair were in Bahrain to observe the protests surrounding the Grand Prix and to document the government’s response.
After being released, Malinowski said Bahraini security forces had used tear gas, noise grenades and pepper spray to disperse the demonstrators at the nonviolent rally he was observing.
“This is a nightly happening all over Bahrain now. The unresolved political tensions are being manifested on the streets, with increasing anger on both sides,” he said. “The only solution is to give people a peaceful outlet for expressing their opposition to the government and, more important, a process that will address their legitimate political grievances.”
Malinowski added: “Most of the young Bahraini protesters were beaten a bit upon arrest. We have heard from many others with recent accounts of torture in the hours after their arrest. These are brutal tactics, which make the situation worse for everyone, including the government.”
The Bahraini Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment.
The 2011 Grand Prix was canceled because of the protests on the streets of Bahrain’s capital, Manama, and the objections of several Formula One drivers. In the lead-up to this year’s event, scheduled for Sunday, the government has been cracking down on protests.
Last Friday, thousands of protesters defied the government and attended the funeral of activist Ahmed Ismail, who was killed in a protest late last month.
Former national security adviser James L. Jones took on yet another job last week when he was named chief executive of the U.S.-Kurdistan Business Council, a new trade association advocating for U.S. companies in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
The council was launched with a reception last week in honor of Mahmoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), who was in Washington to meet with top administration officials. Jones’s appointment was announced at the event.
The Kurdish region’s oil reserves are vast, and new pockets of oil resources are being discovered on a regular basis. But the KRG is embroiled in a fight with the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over who controls the rights to the region’s oil and who can sign contracts with foreign firms for exploration and extraction.
For Jones, this is just the latest in a list of private-sector jobs he has taken on since leaving government. He is also a fellow at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, a member of the board of directors of General Dynamics and a senior adviser at Deloitte Consulting.