'Hundreds held' in Bahrain crackdown

Wife tells Al Jazeera how her husband was arrested by masked man in a wave of arrests targeting Shias.

     

    Shia Bahrainis suspected of taking part in anti-government protests have been arrested by the authorities in reprisals that have also targeted school girls and medical staff treating injured protesters, relatives of those detained have told Al Jazeera.

    A woman who only identified herself as Yasmine said she feared for herself and her family.

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    "I am hiding my identity because I might be targeted. My children and family might be targeted and my husband inside may suffer even more," she told Al Jazeera.

    Bahraini security forces, who are loyal to the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family, have continued their crackdown on the Shia majority in the island kingdom, blaming them for protests that sought political reforms.

    A state of emergency has been in place since March, but it is expected to be lifted in the first week of June.

    Bahrain has not changed its prime minister, in power since 1971 when the country gained independence from Britain, despite the restoration of parliamentary system in 2002.

    Yasmine said her husband was arrested almost two months ago when 10 masked men in civilian clothes climbed over the family's garden walls and forced their way into their home.

    "They searched everywhere. They took our personal belongings they took our documents even our property documents for the house," she said.

    She has not seen her husband since his arrest, although she has been able to speak to him twice briefly on the phone.

    The first time was three days after he was detained. He phoned asking her to bring him clothes, she said. The second time she could hear voices in the background.

    "I could hear a voice say, 'if your children start to cry or you cry I will stop the call'."

    According to Human Rights Watch, Yasmine's husband is one of about 1,000 people who have been arrested since the crackdown on pro-democracy protesters began in mid-March.

    The organisation says about 600 remain in detention.

    The Shia community say the conspicuous silence from the US government has given authorities in Bahrain the chance to act with impunity, as the world's media attention focuses on other pro-democracy movements in the region.

    The US is a major ally of Bahrain, which is home to its naval base, but the authorities had to rely on Saudi Arabia, which is predominantly Sunni, to send in troops to put down the protests.

    US undersecretary for political affairs William J Burns and Jeffry D Feltman, assistant secretary at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, declined to testify on Friday at a congressional hearing looking into alleged human rights abuses in Bahrain.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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