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Heba Habib


Four American journalists left Bahrain this week after they were arrested by authorities who accused them of "participating with a group of saboteurs who were carrying out riot acts." Their arrests made headlines – and drew swift attention from the U.S. government.

Abduljalil Alsingace is in jail, sentenced to life. Most people have never heard of the Bahraini journalist and blogger. He has no backer to apply pressure for his release – or even to receive humane treatment in prison. His plight attracts virtually no international attention.

The United States has its 5th Fleet based on the small island nation. All it took was a few phone calls to get the four Americans released.

[After Arab Spring, journalism briefly flowered and then withered]

"We are grateful to the Bahraini authorities for their speedy resolution of the issue and to the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain and State Department officials who worked tirelessly to assist the group," the families of the released journalists said in their statement.

Alsingace and other Bahraini journalists are languishing in jails more or less for the same reason the Americans were arrested: covering the fallout from the Arab Spring uprisings five years ago.

The 2011 revolts in Bahrain were put down by force with the assistance of other Gulf nations. But in Shi"ite majority villages, discontent still ferments, and the same demands as those of five years ago are heard – better treatment by the Sunni majority and political reforms.

Bahrain is ranked 163rd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. And according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, there are at least seven Bahraini journalists behind bars. Many more are facing trials, according to local Bahraini organizations.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights has also recently published a report stating that in the last four months of 2015, more than 400 people were arrested and there has been "a pattern of enforced disappearance, due process violations, and severe torture within the Bahraini criminal justice system, finding evidence of the use of systematic torture between 2011 and 2015."

Alsingace was jailed in 2011 during a crackdown and sentenced to life in prison. In 2015, he went on hunger strike to protest the conditions at Jaw Central Prison, where he was being detained and has been reportedly tortured.

The former professor of engineering at the University of Bahrain was also a Draper Hills Fellow at Stanford University’s Center on Democracy in Development and the Rule of Law. He has long campaigned for political reform and an end to torture, writing on these and other subjects on his blog, Al-Faseela — or "The Date Sapling" in Arabic.

In the introduction to his banned blog, Alsingace wrote: “It is the right of the sapling to grow and embrace the sky without impediment or harassment.

"The sapling has the right to life, like other creatures especially since it is the symbol of the Bahraini people."

Bahraini internet service providers continue to ban access to his blog.