Bahrain dictatorship’s British government supporters

Maryam al-Khawaja

From Index on Censorship:

Bahrain is Britain’s shame

12 Sep 2012

Today at the Houses of Parliament, Maryam al-Khawaja asked MPs to put pressure on Bahrain to commit to reforms and free polit[i]cal prisoners, including her father and sister. Here, the prominent human rights defender denounces Britain’s indifference.

When confronted with the facts of its own brutal crackdown on popular protests and human rights defenders, Bahraini officials usually stick to a routine. They hide behind tired lines of denial and hype supposed reforms. The actual situation on the ground continues to deteriorate — and inaction from the international community has emboldened the government. Most astounding is the silence from one of Bahrain’s greatest allies: the United Kingdom.

The UK government has made countless pledges to push on Bahrain to implement supposed reforms, but has yet to push forcefully on its partner where it counts. Almost a year after the Bahraini government publicly accepted the grim picture of human rights painted in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry report and its recommendations, the country continues to perpetuate flagrant human rights violations.

It is more than important than ever for the United Kingdom’s legislators to question Britain’s relationship with Bahrain — and to place pressure on the government to demand real reform. Bahraini officials like Nasser Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who was a VIP guest at the London Olympics despite the numerous allegations he tortured protesters, should be shunned by British mandarins. UK legislators must also push on Bahrain to follow through on promises of transparency and accountability; many of those involved in the crimes committed in the past year and half, have either remained their positions or been promoted.

The United Kingdom’s silence places it in danger of being seen as complicit in Bahrain’s human rights abuses, particularly when the UK has a direct method of influencing Bahrain: through its economic relationship. If it doesn’t halt arms sales, the United Kingdom is ostensibly giving permission to the Bahraini government to violently silence its people. A serious commitment to human rights from the United Kingdom means that a serious conversation about economic and diplomatic sanctions is necessary and important to do.

Political prisoners jailed on trumped up charges need the United Kingdom to press on its friend on the international stage. It is shameful that the UK and the US refused to sign onto a joint-statement issued by 27 countries this year, condemning human rights violations. Despite damning evidence that continues to mount both countries have been shamefully silent on this topic — and this must change.

This isn’t about regime change, or a chaotic dialogue about political reform. It is about something very simple: human rights. Silence from such an important trade partner spells out permission, casting a shadow on the UK’s commitment to free expression and human rights. Bahrainis have started saying that the UK and USA are to Bahrain what Russia is to Syria — enablers.

Maryam al-Khawaja is acting President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights Deputy Director of the Gulf Center for Human Rights. Twitter @MARYAMALKHAWAJA

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15 thoughts on “Bahrain dictatorship’s British government supporters

    • Yes, Index on Censorship in the introduction writes about “Britain’s indifference”; which is a bit of a misnomer. The British government would be really “indifferent” to Bahrain, if it would help neither the Bahraini dictatorship nor the Bahraini people. However, in fact, it helps the dictatorship with arms deals and other deals (including, as discovered recently, British computer spyware to spy on Bahraini dissidents).


  1. Bahrain protests are a Shia issue; the Shia were formulated 1,400 years ago when there was a succession dispute after the death of the prophet Mohammed. The Shia have hated the Sunni’s since that time. Nothing new.
    The protests in Bahrain have nothing to do about democracy; why do you not see Sunni’s protesting?
    Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia all suffer the same problems with the Shia. Iraq will be transformed and a Sunni province will evolve; or a complete separation of the Sunni from the Shia. There is oil wealth involved, along with Persian Shia neighbors (who actually hate all Arabs, Shia and Sunni), so the process in Iraq will take time. Sunnis want to live in peace and harmony, as it is commanded in the Qoran. The Shia love to live in misery as long as they are attacking Sunni’s.
    Read what Ahmed Kasravi, an Iranian Shia wrote about the Shia, he was assassinated in an Iranian court, the killer was released after only a few years.
    Read deadly into this issue of Shia and Sunni, study the Qoran and you will be wandering how the Shia can even claim to be Muslim, sorry to say this.
    The best solution is for all Shia in the aforementioned countries to relocate to Iraq, their religious home, in their own Shia area. The problem is that the Shia prefer to suffer, martyrdom is in their religion, provided they feel to be making gains against the Sunni.
    There are books in Arabic about the Shia religion, that the shia follow, about their true prophet, mehdi…I have yet to find these in English.


    • Hi “John Kennedy”, I am not sure whether you are an English or US public relations agent for the Bahraini royal dictatorship, a sectarian Saudi salafist using an Anglo pen name, or someone else again.

      “Why do you not see Sunni’s protesting?” A lots of Sunnis do protest. Not only against dictatorship in Egypt, Tunisia, etc, but also against the royal family dictatorship in Bahrain. These Sunnis are violently persecuted by the regime, even if their criticism is very moderate.


      See also

      Eg, the Wa’ad party is one of the biggest opposition parties in Bahrain. It is a secular party, but most of its supporters are from Sunni families.

      The Quran says nothing about Sunnis or Shias 🙂

      And I strongly object to your plan for ethnic cleansing, sending Shias from Lebanon, Bahrain, etc. forcibly to Iraq. Just like Israeli, and Dutch, right wingers’ plans of driving Palestinians forcibly across the Jordan river are extremely wrong. Like it was wrong to drive Turkish Cypriots to the north, or Greek Cypriots to the south. Or like the 1970s British Conservative government plan of forcibly driving Roman Catholics out of most of northern Ireland was criminal. Fortunately, it did not become practice.


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  3. I really agree with “John Kennedy”. Look at Iraq after Shias rule. They turn it ugly. At least Bahrain government did not treat its people as what Bashar did. At the same time, I support governments to deal with their people equally with out any discriminations. Thanks


    • Hi Fawaz, do you support “Kennedy’s” ethnic cleansing proposals as well?

      The problem of Iraq is not Sunnis or Shias, but war and foreign occupation.

      Bahrain is a lot smaller than Syria. And the anti-regime movement in Bahrain is peaceful. Still, the dictatorship killed and injured many people. In the beginning, the anti-regime movement in Syria was peaceful as well, but then foreign al-Qaeda fighters and Saudi, CIA etc. money started to pour in, hijacking the protest from peaceful Syrian protesters.

      Also on the Bahrain-Syria comparison:


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