• The embassy asked me about "Al Manama protests" before it waived its protection from me...and with Julian I knew that I was going to be arrested.
• Both the American and Bahraini governments were not aware of the seriousness of February 14...I told them frankly: it will be a new turn
• The speaker said: the Minister of Interior sends you his greetings and tells you that it is better for not to walk a protest...I answered: it is too late
• I wrote a letter to the king few days before 14 February...they mocked me...Had my letter been taken seriously, the country would have avoided all of this.
• The Gulf countries tamed the UK...they put the Bahraini king in charge of "Typhoon" warplanes deal and said to Britain: he has the key
• An American official secretly told me: we informed them not to come close to Nabeel...this means that the US gave the go-ahead to "Al Khawaja" and the other figures to be arrested.
• Assange‘s meeting irritated the Americans...the Bahraini authority told the Americans: Nabeel is breaching the law through leading protests in the capital and is causing us problems.
• I told the embassy: yes, I called for getting rebellious to the law...if "Luther King" and "Mandela" had not made a move, their people wouldn't have been free now.
• The authority applied in details the project of the demographic engineering laid down in "Al Bandar"... this is considered the greatest crime which should be faced.
• There is no more chance to hold a serious dialogue with the regime... the solution has become harder now and needs more popular work.
• Toppling the regime or reforming it is not my work; for this is the politicians work...I am concerned about the independent judicial system and human rights.
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain Mirror had a deep talk with the recently-released prominent human right activist, Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR). For the first time, Mr. Rajab uncovers the story of the existence of American protection to him. How and why this protection was waived from him as a step to for his arrest.
Mr. Rajab also talks about his meetings with the American Embassy since the launch of the calls for protests on 14 February 2011 and until him being arrested on 9 July 2012. Mr. Rajab mentions his letter to the Bahraini king which included some demands needed for reform. Rajab also brought up the phone call of the Minister of Interior to him only few hours before the eruption of the events.
During his meeting with "Bahrain Mirror", Mr. Rajab disclosed some forms of economic pressure exerted by the Gulf States regimes to stop any kind of pressure made by the super powers on the Bahraini regime. In addition, he unveiled ready to be signed deals of millions of dollars with Bahrain being its key, or else!
Following are some extracts of his conversation:
Bahrain Mirror: Why was Nabeel Rajab arrested after he seemed to enjoy international protection?
Nabeel Rajab: I am going to say this for the first time, I remembered it while being in prison and I haven't ever mentioned it to any before. After15 March 2011, and after Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and other political figures were arrested, I was arrested for hours before setting me free.
Two days later, I was asked to go to the American Embassy where I met a senior official who told me that the Americans had informed the Bahraini government not to even think about detaining Nabeel Rajab. The official said to me that they told the Bahraini government, "Nabeel is a worldwide famous human rights activist and has his effective human rights role worldwide. Do not arrest him."
I remember getting disappointed at that time, although they aimed at making me happy by telling me that news. I started thinking that America had given the Bahraini government the green light to arrest Abdulhadi Alkhawaja and the political figures. I felt annoyed, for, personally, I did not ask for the protection of any and I have no special relation with the Americans. I professionally do my job as a human rights activist, which is the only thing that concerns me.
Bahrain Mirror: When was this protection waivered?
Rajab: About one year later, the embassy asked to meet me and the officer there said to me: Nabeel you don't call for illegal and unlicensed protests? I answered: yes. Then she asked: Do you call for licensed protests? I answered: these protests can't be licensed. Here, she asked: are they illegal? I replied: Maybe. The law does not mean justice for me, some laws are unjust and I support rebelling against these laws. I continued: if Martin Luther King followed the American laws, the American laws wouldn't have changed today. Moreover, had been Nelson Mandela to obey South Africa's laws, Africa wouldn't have witnessed a change, and had Gandhi followed the English rules, change wouldn't have been achieved. The officer said: this is maybe good struggle thinking, and I may, personally, agree with you, but we are in a public government that deals in what is legal and what is not.
I replied: with all due respect, but yes I call to rebel against the laws that do not match with the norms, particularly, in the absence of a real and effective mechanism for people to change those laws.
It was obvious that the Americans wanted through these questions to get a confirmation from me regarding those issues before their protection waiver, for the authority in Bahrain had told them that Nabeel is breaching the law and causing them troubles. This took place after my interview with Julian Assange, the Wiki Leaks founder. I think that interview irritated the Americans and may be one of the reasons to take off their protection from me; however, I have nothing at hand to prove this, it's only a gut feeling.
Bahrain Mirror: As long as your unlicensed calls for protests were the cause of withdrawing the protection from you and made your arrest easier, will you repeat your calls for such protests after being released?
Rajab: I can't give you now an absolute answer. All I can say is that every session has a different discussion, I have a lot to do and I want to be outside jail to enact my role and make the Bahrainis' voice heard everywhere. I leave the answer to this question for the coming events to respond, as the events will decide my stances and calls.
Bahrain Mirror: Few days before 14 February, you wrote a letter to the Bahraini King that included some demands to reform the Bahraini situation. Do you see that your letter and demands are still valid and effective till now?
Rajab: Before 14 February, I used to hold meetings with the American Embassy and we had several meetings within a short period of time. At first, neither the Americans nor the Bahraini government knew the seriousness of the 14 February movement, and so was the case with the political societies (parties). The government told the Americans that nothing important is going to happen, while the associations said that the movement is but a storm in a teacup. However, I knew since the beginning that the movement will be a new turn in the Bahraini history. When they asked me in the embassy about the calls for protests, I told them that the issue will be serious, they asked me then: what will happen? I replied: it will be a new turn for the country. They asked: did you address the government? I said: no, I didn't, but this is a good idea. I will write a letter to the King.
Indeed, I wrote a letter on 11 February 2011. The demands were way more less and simple than now. In my letter, I asked to release the political detainees, initiate a
dialogue with them and dissolve the National Security Agency. The letter did not grab any official attention, the government and its followers mocked me and they wondered why the king would consider my letter. I say it loudly today, had the content of my letter been taken seriously, the country would have avoided all what happened following my letter and all what it has escalated to today.
Bahrain Mirror: How did they deal with you adopting the call to 14 February demonstrations?
Rajab: the Americans kept on meeting me every two or three days to closely stay updated with the developments of these calls until 14 February came. On that day, few hours before the start of the protests, they called me from the office of the Minister of Interior. The speaker said: Nabeel...we heard that you called for demonstrations. I said, "I didn't call for demonstrations, I said I will walk in a protest from my home in Bani Jamrah to Sar, this is one of tens of the protests that will be formed in many Bahraini regions. I have nothing to do with the other protests." He said, "But you called for protests in public, we don't know who called for the other protests." At that time, Abdulwahab Hussein and I were the only ones to adopt supporting the protests by our names, thus, we changed the ambiguity of the calls for protests to known names. The speaker informed me that: "the Minister of Interior sends you his greetings and tells you that it is better for not to go out in a protest because you have no license and it is better to ask for one". "If you really wanted to give me a license to go out in a protest, you would have called me before now, and not only few hours before its start", I replied. "Today we are going to start a new history, the past has gone away", I added. "Send my greetings to the Minister of Interior, thank him for his concern and tell him that we will go out in our protests", I continued. You know what happened in Bahrain after that.
Bahrain Mirror: Do you think that Bahrain faces a real official pressure to find out a solution for its crisis?
Rajab: the first thing to be taken into consideration is that the Bahraini government has a public relation campaign which costs it millions of dollars. It is worth mentioning that Bahrain is the second country in the world, after Israel, to spend its money on public relation campaigns. Moreover, Bahrain tries to get the Congress members to its side by sending them gifts and it does the same with parliamentary members, institutions, and religious leaders.
The second thing is that the governments have their interests that are manifested in loss and profit calculations. These countries have political and economic relations with the Gulf countries and also have a lot of budgets. The Bahraini regime is unlike the Syrian one which has many enemies. Bahrain is among the Gulf States framework which has interest relations with western countries; oil and arm deals of millions of dollars. When Britain exerted a slight pressure on the Bahraini regime for a limited period of time, the Gulf countries stopped all the arm deals from Britain; which cost it millions of dollars. However, when the Gulf countries returned to signing a deal of British fighter "Typhoon", they ordered that this deal to pass through Bahrain and be done via the Bahraini king, in particular. This message was clearly understood by the British. They intentionally sent the Bahraini king to make this deal, as he couldn't meet the British prime minister normally, thus they entitled him to arrange this deal.
Britain has never taken an honorable stance regarding the Bahraini struggle in general and during the historical era, and during the hardest crisis the Bahrainis witnessed. Despite its long history, the British interests are above the values and principles. Britain has not stood by the Bahrainis during any stage of the struggle in Bahrain. Britain not only always supports the regime, but it economically makes use of every crisis Bahrain faces. 2011 security crisis left a gap and led to a decrease in the balance of trade among Bahrain and the European countries, and instead of taking the same position as the European countries; Britain came to fill this gap and made use of it. Thus, the British ambassador announced few weeks previously that the trade balance mounted to 30% between British and Bahrain in 2012, whereas this rate decreased with countries other than Britain. Today, on 29 May, a statement was issued by Human Rights Watch denouncing the official British stance towards the Bahrainis crisis. The statement literally said, "Stability and reform will stay beyond reach in Bahrain as long as the country's ally, specially the UK, provide its support without any criticism despite the existence of increasing evidence that prove the violations".
Bahrain Mirror: Do you think that the increased dose of sectarianism applied by the regime has a limited or continuous aim?
Rajab: It is not a current or limited thing; however, it works through consolidating-sectarianism project. There is a project of re-engineering everything: re-engineering of population represented by changing the indigenous people, weakening their existence and changing them to be the minority. There is also a project of re-engineering of history represented by rewriting the history and deleting part of its origin. There is also a project of re-engineering the cultural and social side; all of this is for undermining the indigenous population in order that this group does not form a future burden on the regime, economic, or social burden.
The regime works according to a strategy set since 2004; a strategy which was specifically set after the religious leaders went out in a protest against the personal status law. This is definite information and not only an analysis.
Before this incident, there were two trends in the authority; one of them calls for marginalizing the Shiite based on what was laid down in Al Bandar report. This trend could strengthen its position after going out in that protest for it showed the enormous capability of the religious leaders to gather people. Since that day, the regime decided to weaken the existence of the indigenous population in a way that they do not form a burden on the regime anymore and curb the Shiite religious leaders, their charity institutions and their religious buildings. Despite disclosing this scheme found in Al Bandar report in 2005, nothing was changed; however, the scheme worked according to what was planned for. Unfortunately, when Al Bandar gait came to public at that time, the political societies were busy preparing for the elections, the thing that halted every kind of strong reaction; thus the reaction concerning that crime remained very limited at that time. Now and after long years, it is clear that everyone is aware of this scheme, but it is too late.
Now there are various political settlements of new ethnics groups that are being introduced to the country, there are entire cities that are being built for those who are brought and naturalized from different countries- with my respect to all the ethnic groups they come from. There are entire cities that are built for those people next to Jau prison; those people are isolated from the native people, as if they live in settlements. The regime is following a very dangerous schema and is moving quickly and in full swing to achieve it. On the other hand, the regime succeeded in accomplishing the freedom restricting legal system, putting the political and civil societies under the authority's control and banding the movement of Shiite religious readers, their institutions and their religious buildings.
Bahrain Mirror: How can the Bahrainis defeat this project and stop it?
Rajab: there should be a strong resistance form the Bahraini side and from the natives to face this project and defeat it. It is the duty of this people to fail this project with all the available peaceful ways of resistance. This is considered a great crime and conspiracy against the Bahrainis. This conspiracy has to be opposed.
Bahrain Mirror: Is there a specific mechanism to force the authority to respond to a serious dialogue?
Rajab: I think there is no specific way now. The solution has become harder now and we are beyond any political solution. I guess that we have reached a stage
where we depend on the pressure of the popular work. The other countries can help, but the movement has to be from the inside.
Bahrain Mirror: In the press conference you held a day after your release, it was believed that you said: if I will not be given my rights, I will call to the downfall of the regime, how accurate is this expression?
Rajab: this expression was said to prove a question that I was asked about the divisions in the street between an opposition that wants to reform the regime and another opposition that wants to bring down the regime. I said the above statement as a kind of example, i.e. when the authority does not respond to my demand; it forces me to oust it.
My job is neither changing the regime nor ousting it. We are human rights activists who are committed to specific human rights measures. Our problem is not with the ruling regime, this issue is to be solved between the political parties and the regime. My job is to ensure that the judiciary of this regime is independent, stop torture , stop the arbitrary arrests, stop the discrimination against the natives, have an independent judiciary institution, have free civil institutions and have a legislative institution that has the capability and power to legislate and supervise; these are the criteria of my job. If the opposition wants to oust the regime or reform it; this is beyond my criteria, however, this comes within the rights of the citizens of self-determination. There is no problem when demanding to change the regime.
Tomorrow ... the moment that made Nabeel Rajab cry