Tunisia, Ennahda and Bahrain

The Ennahda (al-Nahda) party, which won the largest number of seats in the recent Tunisian election, has declared its support for the counter-revolutionary forces in Bahrain, according to the official Bahrain News Agency.

A report from the agency says the party's political bureau "reiterated that the unfortunate incidents that took place in the Kingdom of Bahrain during February and March 2011 were riotous acts of sabotage by sectarian elements who had nothing to do with the Arab Spring and even defamed Arab revolts".

This would be startling news if true, but I'm sceptical. The report doesn't contain any direct quotes from Ennahda officials and, on past form, it's quite likely that alleged statement was made up by the Bahraini authorities.

As I pointed out last month, the government of Bahrain is so desperate to find international support for its repressive policies that if the support doesn't exist it's happy to invent it.

Previous blatantly false declarations of support have been attributed to Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, Navi Pillay, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, and William Hague, the British foreign secretary.

Meanwhile, there are growing suspicions that people who tweet critically about Bahraini are being deliberately targeted and harassed by trolls connected to the regime.

Brian Dooley of Human Rights First writes that the trolls have "one mission in mind, to drown out dissent with large numbers of harassing messages".

One example he cites is that of Lamees Dhaif, who was recently voted Bahraini Woman of the Year in an Arab fashion magazine’s online poll:

"Women get targeted in a specific way on Twitter," she told me. "There are lies spread about us – that I was sighted in a motel with someone at 11.30 at night, or that I was seen wearing a bikini, or drinking alcohol, or in an orgy. These are all total lies, but they keep repeating these things over and over to distract people’s attention from what we report or say."

Lamees has 37,000 Twitter followers (LameesDhaif). Much of the "sexual stuff" is aimed at readers in the Gulf, she says. Lamees adds that male human rights defenders are routinely accused of homosexuality and trolls often give them female nicknames.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 21 November 2011.

UPDATE, 22 November: Ennahda has issued a statement saying the Bahrain News Agency's claims are untrue