Ali Gharib reports:
A Bahraini journalist and blogger spoke at the Netroots Nation conference today about how her country’s protest movement has been beaten back, the personal costs of supporting the uprising, and how the U.S. State Department remained silent.
Lamees Dhaif said that she supported the protest movement that became widespread in Bahrain following the initial outburst of the Arab Spring. “It was very simple,” she said. “Those people have rights.” But her outspoken support cost her jobs at three newspapers in one day and her family was targeted. “As bloggers, as journalist,” she said
we pay [very high] price of speaking loud. I don’t think any American citizen can understand what I’m saying. If we say one word that they consider wrong, they can punish you in every possible way. They can punish you, they can punish your family, they can hunt you everywhere. [They] tried to burned my house with family in, attacked my house. My brothers were hunted in their jobs; they were punished because of their sister. My sister [was] arrested for fifty days as a punishment to me, to force me to stop writing.
Dhaif is in the U.S. as part of a State Department-sponsored tour for foreign journalists.
The Obama administration has agreed to investigate concerns raised by the AFL-CIO labor federation that Bahrain has failed to live up to its obligations to protect workers rights under a free trade pact with the United States, the labor group said on Thursday.
“The egregious attacks on workers must end, and the Bahraini government’s systematic discrimination against and dismantling of unions must be reversed. These actions directly violate the letter and the spirit of the trade agreement,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement.
The Associated Press reports:
Bahrain’s ruler has canceled all vacations for top officials next month. A special center and mediator have been named for talks with opposition groups that are proposed to open July 1.
Now the question is whether anyone will show up.
The Shiite groups that speak on behalf of protesters — who took to the streets four months ago to demand greater rights — have shown no rush to embrace the appeals for dialogue by the Sunni monarchs they accuse of creating a two-tier society in the strategic Gulf kingdom.
The possible failure to open talks could be interpreted as far more significant than simply a payback snub by Bahrain’s Shiite majority after unrest that’s claimed at least 31 lives and left hundreds of people detained or expelled from jobs and studies.
It would serve as clear recognition that the complexities on the tiny island — drawing in heavyweight issues such as U.S. military interests and Arab worries over Iran — are too vast to solve over cups of tea between the rulers and the opposition.
“Events seem to have gone too far and too fast for some kind of quick fix through talks,” said Toby Jones, an expert on Bahrain at Rutgers University.
For its size — about 525,000 citizens on an island that can be crossed in 30 minutes — Bahrain perhaps packs more high-stakes challenges that any of the other Arab uprisings.