Bahrainis were given a harsh reminder yesterday that the Bahrain government brooks no criticism.
In a statement the Bahraini Ministry of Interior cautioned against criticism of the government’s decision to send eight fighter jets to take part in air-strikes in Yemen as part of a Saudi-led, US-backed coalition against Houthi forces. It warned against “any attempt to exploit the situation through division or sedition, or issuance of statements against the approach Bahrain has taken.” The Ministry “would take appropriate steps against individuals that put the safety and security of the country at risk,” it added.
After the Al Wahdawi political society condemned the Gulf coalition’s air strikes as “flagrant aggression” that violated international law, police arrested its secretary Fadhel Abbas and another unnamed individual for “exploiting [the] situation in Yemen to disrupt the peace and endanger security and civil order”, according to the Interior Ministry’s twitter account. The Justice Ministry announced it would file a lawsuit demanding the dissolution of Al Wahdawi.
The action against Al Wahdawi is merely the latest example of Bahrain’s intolerance of speech critical of the government. Over the past year, human rights activists and members of the political opposition have been arrested and prosecuted, often for peaceful criticism of the authorities, and the government invested itself with further powers to arbitrarily strip critics of their citizenship and the rights that attach to it.
Whatever the merits of Bahrain’s military policy, its people have the right to express peaceful criticism of it.