Bahrain

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Society for Islamic Awareness member Haziq Sheikh watches the documentary "Bahr

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

[Updated at 5:06 p.m., monetary value error]

Footage of executions, beatings and police brutality flooded projection screens at Mezes Hall Thursday evening during a showing of Al Jazeera’s documentary “Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark” for an audience of around 150, hosted by the Society for Islamic Awareness.

Created by journalists from the Qatar based news channel Al Jazeera, the documentary tells the story of the 2011 Bahrain Uprising, an Arab spring movement which seeks to create a constitutional monarchy in the Kingdom of Bahrain.

The documentary follows the uprising from its beginnings at the Pearl Roundabout area in Bahrain’s capital of Manama to the arrests and torture of protesters by the Bahrain military and soldiers from the Gulf Cooperation Council, a coalition of six major nations on the Arabian peninsula.

Up until recently the United States had been supplying arms to Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council, said Saif Kazim, general secretary of the society. Members said they hope to encourage UT students to support a reversal on a $53 million arms deal between the U.S and Bahrain, scheduled to go before Congress for vote on Nov. 23 after conclusions from a human rights probe by the Bahrani government have been published.

“Unfortunately, the outcomes of the current human rights probe depend on the Bahraini government, which is a bit fixed to say the least. We want to raise awareness about this vast crackdown on human rights,” Kazim said. “We feel like we shouldn’t be supporting this kind of monarchy and that we should create a public discussion about the events in Bahrain.”

Ehssan Faraji, regular events chair of the society, began the evening with a statement about the current state of Bahrain and asked the audience to take action and write to their representatives to continue to ban U.S. arms deals with Bahrain.

“For decades the masses in Bahrain have been oppressed by the ruling Al Khalifa family and on Feb. 14 they came out to protest the rule of monarchy, inspired by events in Egypt and Tunisia,” Faraji said.

“Despite oppression, we are seeing the flourishing of a democratic movement in Bahrain.”

This is the first UT screening of the documentary since its release on Aug. 4 and the society hopes that its release will create more awareness and dialogue about Islam, hopefully impacting the events in Bahrain, said Mohammed Dhanjy, president of the society.

“There’s this perception that things have calmed down a lot, but there’s still reports and arrests and the government is still cracking down on protestors,” Kazim said. “We need to let people know that this is unacceptable.” 

A Bahraini anti-government protester gestures in front of riot police on an overpass near Pearl roundabout in Manama, Bahrain on March 13.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahraini protesters poured back to the streets Wednesday after a security court sentenced eight Shiite activists to life in prison in the latest blow by the Western-backed kingdom to cripple the biggest Arab Spring opposition movement in the Gulf.

The fast and angry reaction to the verdicts — the most significant display of unrest in weeks — underscored the volatility in the island nation after four months of unrest and raised questions about whether any credible pro-reform leaders will heed calls by the Sunni monarchy to open talks next week.

In size, Bahrain is little more than a speck off the coast of Saudi Arabia. But it draws in some of the region’s major players: hosting the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet and serving as a growing point of friction between Gulf powers Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Security forces used tear gas to drive back hundreds of Shiite marchers trying to reach a central square in the capital Manama, which was once the hub of their protests for greater rights. In other Shiite areas, protesters gathered in the streets but were held back by riot police. No injuries were reported.

Bahrain has allowed two major rallies this month by the main opposition party, but the confrontations Wednesday were among the biggest challenges to security forces since martial law-style rule was lifted June 1.

Shiites account for 70 percent of Bahrain’s population of some 525,000, but claim they face systematic discrimination such as being barred from top government and political posts.

Bahrain’s government said in a statement late Wednesday that the convicted activists were responsible for “bringing the country to the brink of total anarchy” with a wave of marches and sit-ins earlier this year.

The official Bahrain News Agency said those sentenced to life include prominent Shiite political figures Hassan Mushaima and Abdul Jalil al-Singace and rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Mushaima returned from self-exile in London earlier this year after Bahrain’s leaders promised to erase old charges of opposing the state.

Eight received life sentences while 13 others received shorter prison terms apparently because they weren’t considered leaders.

Fourteen of the 21 convicted are in custody while the rest were sentenced in absentia by the security court, which uses military prosecutors and a military-civilian tribunal. Among the life sentences, however, all but one of the suspects was in Bahrain.