Leading Bahraini activist arrested for social media posts criticising Bahrain’s participation in US-led Red Sea operation

Leading opposition activist Ebrahim Sharif was arrested today for criticising Bahrain’s participation in the US-led coalition in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) said today.

BIRD spoke to Ebrahim Sharif’s lawyer, who attended the police interview and confirmed his arrest was linked to social media posts on X, formerly known as Twitter. In one post, Mr Sharif criticised the decision of Bahrain’s “unelected” government.

US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin III visited Bahrain twice over the past two days and met with Bahrain’s King and Crown Prince. In a press release following the meeting on 19 December 2023, Secretary Austin thanked Bahrain King and Crown Prince for “their generosity”.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) commented:

“Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin III declared Bahrain’s participation in the Red Sea operation, a decision made by the Bahraini regime without the consent of its citizens.

When Ebrahim Sharif criticised the decision on social media, exercising his right to freedom of peaceful expression, he was arrested.

The US government is directly implicated in his arrest as they choose to partner with an abusive ally. We urge them to publicly call for his immediate and unconditional release, and failing to do so makes them complicit.”

In September this year, the US and Bahrain signed a security agreement that was criticised by Bahraini human rights activists, as reported in the New York Times.

Key References

Social media posts which led to Sherif’s arrest:

Sharif’s Post I:

English Translation:

Why does the Bahraini government (which is unelected) present itself as a legitimate “analyst” for the American coalition to lift the blockade imposed by #Yemen on the ports of the usurping Zionist entity, without any consideration for the position of the Bahraini people who strongly support our besieged Palestinian people in #Gaza, or the dangers of this decision on national and national security and stability? All Arab and Islamic countries, including those with ports overlooking the Red Sea, have refrained from participating in this aggressive alliance.

It is shameful that our foreign policy and our stances regarding peace, war, and international alliances have become linked to what America wants!!

Sharif’s Post II:

English Translation:

“To all free-minded individuals in #Bahrain, the government has issued a decision and joined an aggressive alliance to lift the maritime blockade on the Zionist entity, which commits daily massacres, besieges, and starves our people in #Gaza and Palestine.

However, no one can take away from us our conscience, our Arab, Islamic, and human belonging, and our right to defend our oppressed brothers in Palestine. Let’s all express our stance under the hashtag: #Bahrainis_Against_The_Alliance and loudly declare: #Bahrain_Government_Does_Not_Represent_Me
Note: For those who do not have accounts on open social media platforms, they can declare their position in WhatsApp groups or similar platforms.”

Relevant Links
On 18 December 2023 Lloyd Austin issued a statement “on Ensuring Freedom of Navigation in the Red Sea”: https://www.defense.gov/News/Releases/Release/Article/3621110/statement-from-secretary-of-defense-lloyd-j-austin-iii-on-ensuring-freedom-of-n/

Secretary Austin met with Bahrain King and Crown Prince on 19 December 2023, and following the meeting he issued a press release thanking Bahrain for their participation.

On 19 December 2023, Lloyd Austin issued a post:

Earlier in the day he was in the country to greet the US marines. https://twitter.com/SecDef/status/1737057350542864739

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