Peace cannot be maintained in the region if states do not maintain internal stability. Some of the reasons for extremism in the Middle East are Arab governments denying their people the right to participate in ruling their countries, the deterioration of economic, social and political situations, the lack of accountability, and the corruption of ruling families.
Since 2011, protests erupted all over Bahrain. They protested about the restriction of civil and political freedoms, sectarianism, and the inability to change their government. The government of Bahrain responded with a campaign of mass and brutal arrests of dissents which resulted in deaths and injuries among protesters due to excessive use of force by the security forces. Harsh sentences of life imprisonment, death penalty, and revocation of citizenship have been handed down by the Bahrain judiciary to dissidents and political prisoners.
The government of Bahrain arrested leaders of political societies in Bahrain, including my husband Shaikh Ali Salman, the Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, the biggest opposition society in Bahrain, and sentenced him to four years in prison. The sentence wasn't unexpected for his trial lacked the minimum standards of fair trials; and looking at Bahrain's political and human rights situation, which is deteriorating from bad to worse, was an indication of what to expect.
I respect the international community's calls for dialogue and release of prisoners of conscience. However, actions speak louder than words. Human rights violations are ongoing in Bahrain. A recent example is subjecting prisoners in Jau Prison to torture and ill treatment at the hands of security forces. However, the US still lifted the ban on arm sales to the Bahrain Defence Forces and National Guards, which was placed on them after the 2011 countrywide protests.
The UK's policy toward Bahrain has encouraged the arrest and conviction of my husband, Shaikh Ali Salman, secretary-general of Al-Wefaq, who was exercising his rights and demanding an elected government, self-determination for the people of Bahrain, and comprehensive reform. The UK criticized the Bahraini opposition's decision to boycott the parliamentary elections. Moreover, Bahrain has the support of many Western countries. It is the house of the US fifth fleet base and recently a military agreement was signed with the UK.
The people of Bahrain are extremely disappointed and frustrated by the US decision to lift the ban on arms sales and other military and security related cooperation, which they consider to be a false message of stability and that the country should be free of human rights violations; while Bahrain's record of human rights abuses remains horrific.
The continued detention of my husband means that a political solution remains far away. It means that Bahraini authorities are not concerned with the reform that Shaikh Ali Salman and other opposition figures are calling for. Bahrain's situation is heading towards more unrest and instability mainly because the authorities are going ahead with the crackdown that started in 2011.
The people of Bahrain continue their struggle and have not stopped demanding reforms. However, the international community must commit to its moral and humane responsibilities towards the suffering and struggle of Bahrainis and demand the release of my husband and other prisoners of conscience, drop all sham charges, and push the government of Bahrain towards implementing serious democratic transformation. We deserve democracy, equality, and stability.
Reem al-Sha'alan is the wife of Sheikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's main opposition party. Ali Salman, who is considered a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, has been recently jailed for four years for inciting violence. He was convicted of inciting hatred, promoting disobedience and "insulting" public institutions.
His trial has been marred by a series of violations, including a reported ban on Salman and his lawyers from presenting oral arguments. Lawyers for the Shi'ite opposition leader also complained that the evidence used against him contained abstracts from his speeches taken out of context.