Saturday, August 20, 2011

Kansas City and Bahrain

According to the Bahrain Embassy in Washington, DC, nearly four decades ago, Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa "was awarded the Freedom Medal of Kansas City from the Mayor and people of Kansas City." The Bahrain Government's PR machine is using this and other awards he has received from various parts of the world as "evidence" of the King's international credentials and appeal.

Does Kansas City really want to be associated with the violent crackdown on democracy activists over the last few months in Bahrain?

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has overseen a series of brutal measures since March – hundreds have been detained and there has been widespread torture and at least four deaths in custody. International human rights organizations, including Human Rights First, have documented these serious violations. In a June statement in Geneva, U.S. Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe cited Bahrain as one of the countries where there had been "violent repression of peaceful protests." She's right. I was in Bahrain last month on a factfinding mission and met dozens of released detainees who told me of the torture and harsh conditions they had endured. Doctors, nurses and others have been harshly punished for treating injured protestors. This brutality is also shaping media coverage from Bahrain, where reporters have revealed that dozens of doctors and other medical professionals are among those who have been detained and tortured in custody.

Since the King has been promoted by Bahraini embassies as a good guy, a guy who gets medals from places like Kansas City, we have written to Kansas City Mayor Sylvester James to request that he ask King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to return the Freedom Med

al of Kansas. This step would make clear that the city does not want to be aligned with the Bahraini government's appalling human rights record. We ask you to join us in that call.

Tell the King that his actions are out of step with the values of Kansas City. Sign here and add your voice to the list of Kansas City residents who want Bahrain's King to send his medal back. This is your chance to help peaceful reform and human rights in the Arab Spring. It's time for Kansas City to unfriend the King of Bahrain.

Dear Mayor James:

I am alarmed about the ongoing human rights violations in Bahrain and that the Bahrain Government is promoting the King of Bahrain’s credentials by citing his medal of freedom from Kansas City. The people of Kansas City value democracy and human rights, and we do not want to be associated with regimes that crack down on peaceful protestors. Please ask the King to return his Freedom Medal of Kansas City, a move that will make clear our community’s commitment to freedom, democracy and human rights.