Hate speech in Bahrain and warning of death or revenge

2020-03-13 - 7:36 am

The form of hate speech and negative stereotyping in the authorities' media coverage against the opposition have been one of the main means of the political conflict in the uprising that has been ongoing in Bahrain since 2011. Hate speech went through a late development of its mechanisms in some of its main platforms such as: Bahrain TV, the four government newspapers, and social media, in order to avoid international criticism. For example, it is no longer acceptable for Bahrain TV to broadcast an episode in which it draws red circles around the heads of athletes participating in peaceful protests and instigates their arrest, as it did in 2011.

The scope of hate speech includes the following: inciting to tighten the security grip, suppressing freedoms, ending dissenting political action, arbitrary arrests, stiffening penalties including revocation of nationality, carrying out executions, promoting the deterioration of prison conditions that turned into a fertile environment for torture, and retaliating against political and human rights activists. The scope of incitement extends even against International bodies condemning human rights violations, as happened to former High Commissioner, Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Al-Hussein, who was a victim of hate speech because of his criticism of the human rights situation in Bahrain.

However, the development process that tried to regulate "hate terms" in the press and to let Bahrain TV avoid being involved in direct incitement similar to the previous approach, did not succeed in improving the performance of those engaged in hate speech and failed to separate hate speech from the institutional nature. Therefore, the commonly-used hate terms are the same terms used by all official parties involved in hate speech. Hence, the security officer who electrocutes the victim to extract confessions under torture uses the same language and terms used by one of the official figures on Twitter or one of those who write newspaper articles, such as inciting extreme harm. For example, does it seem normal for journalist Osama Al-Majid to publish an article titled "You are the greatest forgery known to mankind" (May 23, 2018 - Bahrain's Al-Bilad newspaper), in which he called for purifying the society from the activists of the societies that have been dissolved because of exercising freedom of expression? This means taking away the political rights of citizens belonging to an opposition that won more than 60% in the 2010 parliamentary elections, for malicious reasons. In Bahrain, the context of this speech will be normal because the threat of death or severe retaliation by security members in prisons is almost a daily behavior, let alone the press that receives instructions from the security services.

In addition, it has become possible to expect some security measures through hate speech campaigns. For example, the issuance of the first decree to revoke the citizenship of 31 Bahrainis in 2012 was preceded by an incitement campaign that mentioned some names. Moreover, increasing the sentence of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman to lifetime in prison over the charge of colluding with Qatar early last year was also preceded by an incitement campaign after a malicious trial, in which evidence of conviction was evidence of innocence, and during the course of the session, fair trial guarantees were violated.

The odd thing about hate speeches in Bahrain is that some parts of them are similar to the speeches of extremist groups. For example, some books issued by the Directorate of Religious Guidance of the Bahrain Defense Force contain Takfiri terms. Even some terms in the pleading made by the Public Prosecution against the leader of the Shiite Community in Bahrain, Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Ahmad Qassim, at his trial, are similar to those of the Takfiri groups.

The strangest thing in the peculiarities of hate speech in Bahrain are some contexts of incitement. For example, the authorities intended to carry out death sentences on July 27, 2019 against the two victims of torture, Ahmed Al-Arab and Ali al-Malali. Like a crime committed at night, the families of the victims were summoned for an unscheduled visit without revealing the reasons, amid an atmosphere of tension, while the female police mocked the anxiety of mothers during the visit. The families were not informed of the implementation decision. After the visit had ended, the cemetery was surrounded by security, and graves were dug. Then, the execution crime was carried out. Meanwhile, intelligence accounts on Twitter cheered joyfully the news of execution and tweeted in conjunction with the time the killing bullets were shot. They tweeted - trying to spread terror - early at dawn and before the families were notified by the official authorities. Was among those who took Ali Al-Arab and Ahmed Al-Malali to the execution platform someone who was involved in their torture and then posted on social media sites announcing the crime?! This question is legitimate, especially if we know that Ali Al-Arab was subjected to torture even after the death sentence was issued against him in the last session, by the guards of Building No. 1, and he was forced to sign a confession while blindfolded after his toenails were removed and was severely tortured at the Criminal Investigation Directorate building.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that the electronic hate campaigns run by accounts linked to the Bahraini security services enjoy continuous support from the Saudi and Emirati electronic flies. In addition, security policies are reserved for the Supreme Defense Council, which is composed of the ruling family and headed by the king.

*Baqer Darwish, Chairman of the Bahrain Forum for Human Rights

Arabic Version