Below is some of what has been keeping us busy
The Bahrain Watch team has been quietly busy over the past few months setting up new collaborations, making some internal changes, playing with new ideas and tactics in striving to make sure it can continue making an impact with it’s limited resources. To help us with this, we welcome our tenth member, Maryam Alkhawaja, who is coming on board to lead and support existing and new research, and to help with targeted advocacy. She will be travelling to Brazil next week.
The Right to Know Campaign – more reaction on verdict
Following on from the verdict issued last week which we emailed you about and which was first reported in the Independent. Today, Reuters and Glenn Greenwald picked up the story. Noah Browning writes, “A legal battle between an activist group and Britain over a decades-old diplomatic cable on Bahrain has exposed a thorny link between the UK’s colonial past and its new military ambitions in a region it once dominated.” While Greenwald says, “disclosing these facts would make the British and/or the Bahrainis look bad, cause them embarrassment, and could make their close friendship more difficult to sustain. Therefore, the British and Bahraini populations must be denied access to the evidence of what their governments did.”
We will launch the Right to Know web page when the Henderson document is released assuming the FCO decides not to appeal the decision.
Access Denied – more deportations and visa denials
Two cases of denial of access have been reported this month. British-Lebanese artist Tania Khoury was deported 14 hours after arriving at Bahrain airport. She wrote this evocative description here. Whilst Ziad Abdul-Samad, Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development President of the Euro-med Civil Platform had a visa application rejected. Over 230 prominent cases of the denial of access for journalists, monitors etc have been documented in the Access Denied project.
AmanTech (أمانتك) – new digital security project
We are delighted to be working with HIVOS International on a new digital security project called AmanTech. Bahrain Watch has been at the forefront in monitoring digital security threats targeting activists, bloggers, journalists, photographers, and lawyers in Bahrain. In the past, we have identified surveillance technologies and spyware like FinFisher and IP spy links and this project will allow us to continue monitoring the digital security threats faced by activists who continue being arrested in order to shut down their social media accounts and to constrain the digital space for free expression.
The project involves a community-wide programme to provide people in Bahrain with essential training and knowledge on how to use technology safely and securely in order to protect themselves from the various cyber threats they encounter everyday.
HIVOS has generously provided a $50,000 grant in support of the project in order for Bahrain Watch to carry out the work by the end of the year. For more information, email us on [email protected]
Connecting Tear Gas research project – new collaboration to document tear gas use
In 2013, Bahrain Watch member John Horne began a collaboration with Dr Anna Feigenbaum, an expert on the history of tear gas, called the Connecting Tear Gas Research project.Working with researchers, NGOs, journalists, medics and tactical technologists, the project aims to contribute to public discussions and policy-making on the safety and social impacts of tear gas and policing technologies. It also seeks to strengthen documentation and understanding of how tear gas is exhibited, exported and deployed, drawing on new tools to collate, analyse and visualise data. As part of this, John has been working with Anna and her colleagues at the Civic Media Hub at Bournemouth University on a series of datalabs this year to develop and strengthen digital skills.
Our project Arms Watch that began in 2012 has documented and identified the companies supplying arms with weapons that have been used against protesters in Bahrain. Tear gas has been a weapon of choice for the security forces, who have purchased and fired millions of canisters since 2011. It has been used excessively, recklessly and continuously, fired into homes, schools and mosques. It is also responsible for at least 39 deaths in Bahrain between 2011 and 2013, according to data compiled by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR).
We see the Connecting Tear Gas Research Project as a critical way of raising awareness of tear gas use around the world, connecting global struggles and questioning what is now becoming dangerous mainstream policing tactics. Our own work on tear gas has shown the value of documentation and transnational advocacy. The #StopTheShipment campaign, supported by a global coalition of NGOs led by Bahrain Watch, forced South Korea to stop a shipment of 3 million tear gas canisters to Bahrain – around 4 canisters for each Bahraini citizen.
The tear-gas manufacturer planning the export, DaeKwang Chemical Corporation, according to War Resisters International, is currently being investigated “by national authorities for multiple illegal activities including tax evasion, smuggling of gunpowder, illegal manufacturing of explosives, and submitting false information for export license application. According to an anonymous source, a recent export license application to DAPA was denied on the ground of allegations stated above. Depending on the result of the investigation, [DaeKwang] could lose its tear gas manufacture license.” This is a an example of how documentation and advocacy can lead to real impact.
Middle East Solidarity Magazine – Issue 1 available from May 2015
Middle East Solidarity Magazine brings together news, campaign reports, interviews and features from across MENA. It aims to highlight the separate but connected struggles, covering the strikes and protests which are missed by the mainstream media. It is a joint project of MENA Solidarity Network, Egypt Solidarity Initiative and Bahrain Watch, and is supported by funding from British unions UCU, PCS, NUT and a number of Trades Union Councils and local trade union branches.
The issue includes a cover story by Anne Alexander and John Horne on ‘The Gulf tyrants and their British backers’, features by Nadine Marroushi on ‘Operation Anti-Sexual Harassment’ in Egypt and by Sameh Naguib and Joseph Daher on the role of sectarianism in the counter-revolution. There are also reports by Mokhtar Ben Hafsa on the Tunisian teachers’ strike, Mohamed Boutayeb on how Moroccan public sector workers are challenging new anti-trade union laws, and Sherif Azer examines Egypt’s terrorism laws.
From Bahrain to China – Bahrain Watch co-founder tracks down major attack tool used by China
Bill Marczak, Bahrain Watch’s co-founder, has taken his work that began with Finfisher in Bahrain, to global heights last month with the publication of China’s Great Canon that outlines the use of an attack tool “the Great Cannon clearly has the capability for use in a manner similar to the NSA’s QUANTUM system,4 affording China the opportunity to deliver exploits targeting any foreign computer that communicates with any China-based website not fully utilizing HTTPS” The report was widely reported in the mainstream media including front page of the NYTimes.
Successful joint conference on the 4th year anniversary of Arab uprisings
In February 2015, Bahrain Watch collaborated with MENA Solidarity Network and Egypt Solidarity Initiative convening a successful conference in London entitled ‘The Arab Uprisings Four Years On’. You can read more about it here and here and listen/watch it here. We thank over two hundred people who came and hope to make this an annual event.
9-30 July 2015- Road Block art exhibition, London
“Road Block” is an art exhibition that will be held at Rich Mix Cultural Foundation in London.
This exhibition explores how power inscribes itself in urban space through architecture and images. As parts of Bahrain transform into territories of dissent, where roundabouts become ‘squares’ and spaces for political speech and action, graffiti is visible like never before and road blocks and marches are part of everyday life- we see the scenography and spectacle of revolution.
Bahrain Watch, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain are sponsoring this event.