Is the Ironman Triathlon Becoming a Sport for Dictators?

December 4, 2015

By Peter Bogdanich

December 4, 2015

This Saturday, the U.S. triathlon promoter Ironman will hold its first competition in the Middle East. But by choosing Bahrain as its host, Ironman is teaming up with a royal family that has arrested top athletes and thousands of others who called for political reforms.

Bahrain_map_-_2 (1)Ironman’s half-marathon “Middle East Championship” is set for December 5th in Bahrain, an island monarchy located off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. The local partner for the event, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, is a prince who stands accused of calling for and overseeing the arrest of major Bahraini athletes who participated in demonstrations for democracy and reform.

In February of 2011, thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets of the capital city to call for democratic reforms in largely peaceful protests. Security forces responded with tanks, tear gas, and live ammunition. Dozens of peaceful protesters were killed, and thousands were subjected to arbitrary arrest.


2011 Bahrain protests. Photo by Lewa’a Alnasr.

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Thank Nicholas Kristof for challenging US tear gas sales to Bahrain’s dictator

December 18, 2011

Will you thank Nicholas Kristof, columnist for The New York Times?

Mr. Kristof has written a moving piece showing the deadly costs of US tear gas sales to Bahrain’s Khalifa dictatorship:

People here admire much about America and welcomed me into their homes, but there is also anger that the tear gas shells that they sweep off the streets each morning are made by a Pennsylvania company, NonLethal Technologies. It is a private company that declined to comment, but the American government grants it a license for these exports — and every shell fired undermines our image.

Kristof goes on to write:

The repression is ubiquitous. Consider Zainab al-Khawaja, 28, whose husband and father are both in prison and have been tortured for pro-democracy activities, according to human rights reports. Police officers have threatened to cut off Khawaja’s tongue, she told me, and they broke her father’s heart by falsely telling him that she had been shipped to Saudi Arabia to be raped and tortured.

She braved the risks by talking to me about this last week — before she was arrested too.

Reporting like this is what forces US officials to back away from policies that stand in the way of democracy.

Please join us in thanking Mr. Kristof for this important piece.

US Authors Urge Sec. Clinton to Stand Up for Bahraini Freedom

November 18, 2011

In a  Freedom Forward letter released today, prominent US writers Khaled Hosseini, Nafisa Haji, Aisha Sultan, and Susanne Pari are urging US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to support Bahraini activists who have faced a government crackdown.

The authors urge Secretary Clinton to secure the freedom of Bahraini poet Ayat al-Qarmezi and other peaceful Bahraini reform activists.

The authors state, “We are concerned that the US military relationship with Bahrain’s unelected government may be coming at the expense of our support for democracy activists in the country.  The sentencing of Ayat al-Qarmezi and countless others requires us to take a stand for their freedom.

The letter is signed by:

  • Khaled Hosseini, Author of The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns.
  • Nafisa Haji, Author of The Writing on My Forehead and The Sweetness of Tears; Freedom Forward Boardmember.
  • Aisha Sultan, Journalist.
  • Susanne Pari, Author of The Fortune Catcher).

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Thank ESPN.

November 14, 2011

ESPN has done a hard-hitting piece on Bahraini athletes who were allegedly tortured because they protested against their US-backed dictatorship.

The 12-minute video is worth watching:


Not only does the video talk about the crackdown on protestors, but it also reports on the US military alliance with Bahrain’s dictatorship. ESPN even covers the pending $53 million US arms sale to the Bahraini government — as well as Congressional efforts to stop that sale.

Please take a moment to thank ESPN for this important piece.

We will send a formal thank-you letter to ESPN that includes your name.