Bahrain dictatorship and South African apartheid

This video from the USA says about itself:

Apartheid and sectarian cleansing in Bahrain while the US is silent 22.04.2011

In Bahrain, there is exploitation and oppression of immigrant workers; and tendencies to discriminate against them, reminiscent of the days of apartheid in South Africa.

Not only against immigrant workers; also against the majority of people who officially have Bahraini citizenship.

By Brian Dooley, Director, Human Rights First’s Human Rights Defenders Program:

Is Bahrain the New Apartheid State?

03/18/2015 10:59 pm ED

Over the last week at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, I’ve heard Bahrain described several times as an apartheid state. It’s not a new comparison. A few days after the mass protests for democracy broke out in February 2011, New York Times columnist Nick Kristof wrote a piece from the tiny kingdom titled “Is This Apartheid in Bahrain?

It’s an obvious analogy: There is a minority (mostly Sunni) elite ruling over a (mostly Shia) majority. The last few years have seen systematic discrimination, a repression of fundamental rights, and torture and deaths in custody. People aren’t divided by race but by sect, which typically dictates where they live, what jobs they do, and whether they can achieve political power. Many government supporters sound like many white South Africans used to: defensive about their privileges, with an inflated sense of entitlement and phobia of democracy.

The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom both backed the apartheid regime in much the same way they’re now supporting the Bahrain dictatorship — politically and militarily, while citing an unpersuasive “constructive engagement” policy. As with South Africa in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, public criticism of human rights abuses is muted, with “security concerns” trumping a push for democracy.

When American singer John Legend performed in Bahrain last month, the calls for him to boycott were reminiscent of activism during the Sun City era.

I was one of few people who managed to evade South Africa’s security forces in defiance of the notorious Group Areas Act, which forced people to live in designated areas according to their race. For a year in the early 1980s, as a young white man living illegally in a “Blacks Only” township, I witnessed the cruelty and nonsense of apartheid: its absurd “pass laws” and racist legislation, its rule by fear and its police violence.

I’ve seen Bahrain up close too: its smearing of dissidents as terrorists, its tear-gassing, its bogus trials based on false confessions secured through torture.

The two systems are different. Bahrain has no Immorality Act, which outlawed physical relations between different parts of society (depending on their race). And during apartheid, only white adults — about 9 percent of the population — got a vote to select the country’s prime minister. In today’s Bahrain, the prime minister is appointed by the king (his nephew), and zero percent of the people get a say in who gets the job.

Whether or not Bahrain’s regime is better or worse than South Africa’s apartheid regime isn’t important. Human rights activists shouldn’t have to prove that the regime is like apartheid before the world takes their oppression seriously and steps in to help. Bahrain’s political opposition shouldn’t have to show they have Nelson Mandelas or Steve Bikos or Helen Josephs as leaders before their struggle is recognized as authentic, and they shouldn’t have to organize mass sporting or economic boycotts in an attempt to get international help.

Then, as now, Washington, London and plenty of other Western capitals were on the wrong side of history during apartheid (although in apartheid’s final years, the Reagan administration was forced by Congress to implement sanctions).

But autocracies don’t last forever. Apartheid eventually broke under the weight of its own immorality and inefficiency. And call it what you like, unless Bahrain’s repressive system radically changes, it’ll collapse too.

Britain’s strategic naval base in Bahrain is courting trouble after a human rights activist announced his plan to challenge the legality of the base, as it allegedly contravenes U.K’s own stated guidelines of honouring the human rights situation in overseas projects during the investment phase. The rights activist from Bahrain has accused Britain of “sacrificing human rights at the altar of trade and military deals“, by ignoring the human rights violations committed by the Bahrain government: here.

A prominent Bahraini human rights activist is set to file a lawsuit against the British government for its failure to take rights violations into account when closing a deal for the construction of a new Royal Navy base in the island kingdom: here.

Bahrain: Jailed human rights activist on hunger strike. Index calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been imprisoned solely for practicing his right to free expression and as a result of his human rights work. By Index on Censorship / 18 March, 2015: here.

More than twenty leading human rights organisations have today issued a public statement calling on Bahraini officials to ensure adequate health care and other fundamental rights and freedoms are accorded to detained human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja as he enters the 17th day of a hunger strike: here.

Bahrain Court Postpones Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab’s Case to April 15: here.


Bahrain: Joint statement: Human rights defenders Husain Abdulla and Abdulnabi Al-Ekri threatened at the Human Rights Council: here.

6 thoughts on “Bahrain dictatorship and South African apartheid

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