Ali Isa Saqer died of torture in prison last week in Baharain, accused of trying to run over a policeman with his car while trying to escape live fire as police fired on peaceful protesters in mid March.
Torture is so widespread in Bahrain that shot protesters avoid hospitals, and dig the bullets out with needles and razor blades rather than be tortured and beaten by police who stand guard at every hospital. The doctors and nurses themselves can be arrested for treating protesters, and dozens have gone missing without a word or trace.
The Kingdom of Bahrain is also cracking down on online expression. A recent attempt by CNN to interview human rights activists details how Bahraini police rounded up, abused, and arrested the activists before they could be interviewed. Zainad Alkhawaja, Twitter activist, riveted the kingdom with her moments-after account of the brutal beating and arrest of prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, her father, on April 9th. Today on April 13 she is in her second day of a hunger strike, fasting for the release of her father, husband, and brother-in-law, who were all beaten and taken by the government without explanation.
Dr. Khulood Al Sayaad, a pediatrician whose strikingly beautiful face appears at 1:09 in this CNN report, is among those doctors arrested and detained by the Bahraini police. She was presumably arrested at the hospital while treating children injured during demonstration clashes with police. Her cousin, Mohammed Al Daaysi, is now on a hunger strike until her release. Prominent human rights activist and self-styled revolutionary, Al Daaysi jokes light-heartedly with his Twitter fans about smoothies and juice, but his fast is for real, and he means to starve himself until he can again see Khulood face to face. He faces the very real fear that she too will end up like Ali Isa Saqer.
This humanitarian crises is unfolding just five miles from the US Navy 5th Fleet, on an island with a population comparable to my home city of Seattle. And yet, Secretary Clinton nonchalantly smiles and shakes hands with Maryam Alkhawaja after Maryam tells her: "my father and my two brother-in-laws and my uncle have all gone missing". All she asks is a statement condemning these human rights abuses, and where is the America that spoke out for Egypt, that defended Libya? For that, she is interrogated 15 minutes by secret service for the audacity to speak to Secretary Clinton.
Civil rights and individual liberty are the vital forces of America. They are what make us great. If America has something to offer the world, it is not capitalism, it is freedom. Freedom and human rights. This is what defines us as a nation and as a people. Let us not be afraid to speak out forcefully for human rights regardless of the cost. People braver than us are paying costs greater than us every day, in Yemen, Syria, Egypt, and Bahrain. Khulood Al Sayaad, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja, they suffer in jail, perhaps tortured, for actions you and I take for granted every day.
Let us live up to our values and be in the forefront calling for the civil rights of the people of Bahrain. Let us aggressively call out for international action, and rally consensus around this just cause. I do not believe we should intervene in a unilateral fashion, but I also do not believe we should stand idly by. What Bahrain needs, America has to offer, and this is a terrible time to remain silent.