So far this summer, three policemen have died and hundreds more have been injured, many severely, all as a consequence of policing coordinated violent street attacks. During these last few weeks Bahrain has also witnessed a worrying escalation of the direction of the street violence being endured, with a change of tactics by the terrorists. This time the intended targets were not just the police but also the public at large, in particular the Asian community. Five bombs placed in the heart of largely Asian residential areas, killed two and injured a third Asian expatriate worker, a cowardly and despicable attack on one of the more vulnerable sections of Bahrain’s international multi ethnic society. The murder of these two innocent Asian workers, however did bring a certain increase in the amount of international condemnation and media coverage against the terrorists, but and it is a big “but” at what cost to the Kingdom? The Kingdom’s reputation, its very soul had been laid bare yet again.
Given the widespread and extra coverage in the international media did Bahrain witness a corresponding surge in visiting journalists who so often descend like vultures when they have an anti government story; the answer is a categorical “No”. Did the increase in coverage against the targeted community and the innocent victims of this hideous act, result in a corresponding increase in sympathy for a long-suffering general public, again “No”!
As a long-term expatriate resident of Bahrain I for one am not surprised, I have seen it before. Most media reports on Bahrain originate, or are syndicated from just two sources, AP or Reuters. To us old hands we have come to accept that the reporters of these two agencies also have an alternative more nefarious role. Their role is simple; to subvert by innuendo fabrication or misinformation a reader’s attention and generate a sympathetic view away from the real victim to one that, gives credence for and justification to, the use of the violence in the first place. Clouding the issue, moving the point of focus, that is the name of their game. To ensure that the finger pointing is never in the direction of the actual culprits or criminals, never towards the self proclaimed “opposition” and their violent proxies, but by innuendo and inference, to create a finger that points straight to the door of the regime and by implication to government intransigence.
How and why is this done? The “How” is obvious, by the use of a simple media template, a simple formula. Let me explain. Unfortunately for the victims, Bahrain and the truth, reporters who are well known sympathizers of the self proclaimed “opposition” staff both AP and Reuters locally in Bahrain. They are not beyond using fabrication, exaggeration and misinformation under any headline. They delight in putting the regime down, their idea of payback. In exaggerating the extent of anti-government support in Bahrain and the myth of an ongoing “Arab Spring” type revolution. The objective to feed the international media wires with a steady stream of supposed popular supported opposition rhetoric and propaganda disguised as news. To maintain the myths at any cost; the revolution is “real”, the demonstrators are the “majority”, represent all the “people” and are always “peaceful” maintaining only classic “democratic” aims; statements that are about as near to reality as the tale of the Owl and the Pussy Cat.
When four Asian workers were murdered in February and March of 2011, beaten to death with knifes and clubs at the hands of mobs, other than the local news reports there was hardly any condemnation, a whimper or murmur in the international media. There was no condemnation by Human Rights Societies or politicians either for that matter, quite the reverse. One well-known self labeled human rights activist Maryam Alkhawaja even stated at an international peace forum that these deaths were caused by Asian on Asian violence not at the hands of the mob; an unforgivable piece of propaganda by a someone who uses the term Human Rights activist to cloak her political aspirations. Was this open fabrication of the truth condemned by any NGOs, any other reporter or western politician, once again the answer is a categoric “No”. These attacks were in fact more often just totally ignored prior to the publication of the BICI report.
Quote from the BICI Report “Some expatriates, particularly South Asian workers, were the targets of attacks during the events of February/March 2011. Pakistanis, in particular, were targeted owing to the membership or suspected membership of some Pakistanis in the BDF and police force... The Commission notes that four expatriates were killed and many were injured by mobs as a result of these attacks.”
Post the publication of the BICI Report even then, these killings received little public media recognition, the murder of Asian expats at the hands of the mob was relegated to an item of non news. It warranted little more than a mention in passing. The story of Asians, innocent bystanders being murdered at the hands of supposed peaceful demonstrators didn’t fit the myth so it never had a chance on the wires. These sad episodes were quickly sanitized and given the usual “template treatment” from the outset, damage control turned into positive spin.
The AP or Reuters “template report” is one that has minimal information about the events in hand. Is seeded and interspersed with opposition rhetoric, propaganda and misinformation, and irrespective of headline often contains or references some sound bite from a well know opposition dissident, preferably one living in exile or abroad. It is a report where no attempt is made to validate information; hearsay or rumor and random claims are presented as truths. It is a report without balance. Appropriate interviews from alternative sources such as expatriate associations, serving parliamentarians, local dignitaries or from the other section of mainstream Bahraini society are never included. It is a report that always contradicts any government statement and certainly a report that never prints comments from anyone that would raise doubts as to the validity of the revolutionary myth.
AP reporter Reem Khalifa is without a doubt locally the worst offender, she obviously thinks that because there are so few other voices reaching the wires her claims, parceled up as news, will never be questioned. She is not a reporter she is a provocateur. Create a myth, repeat and reiterated so many times that when someone calls a spade a spade or a lie a lie they can instantly be condemned as being a spin doctor or of being a government agent, a troll. Human Rights organizations, NGOs and activists play a supportive game, but they also have their own template, which they repetitively use to forward their own political agenda.
I am no journalist more a witness to events in Bahrain, I see and know the Island intimately. I have met most of the players and recognize the lies, the fabrications and misrepresentations instantly. I find it hard therefore, to give AP or Reuters reports on Bahrain any credibility; objectivity and neutrality are not words in their vocabulary. It is not even journalism. Their reports have no substance and concentrate on defending a “non-violent” deserving youth of the street or a mythical pro democratic theocratic sectarian opposition wishing for no more than democratic reform set in a scenario of a never ending cycle of confrontation with a brutal and demonic regime. AP and Reuters reports are never about the million plus other people who make up Bahrain.
If you are reading an AP or Reuters report on Bahrain check now and see how many of these snippets of misinformation you can find.
“Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet” Now this is true, but I question why no story it seems is complete without a reference to this fact. As to the rest read between the lines.
“Western allies have stood by Bahrain's monarchy during more than 20 months of unrest”
There have been no more forceful critics than the western allies, but what is odd is that prior to February 14th 2011, Bahrain was by the same states hailed as an shining example of a progressive open emerging democracy, an example for the region. The sudden change in attitudes by its friends almost overnight in 2011 is a something many a Bahraini will never forgive.
“Peaceful demonstrations led by majority Shi'ites are demanding democratic change in the Sunni-led monarchy.”
What is never mentioned is that the monarchy is “Bahraini” and secular in nature, the monarchy also rules over a substantial indigenous Sunni population. It is not a scenario of Shi’ite against regime it is one of a small sectarian self-proclaimed opposition against everybody else, this is the reason that the street revolution failed; it lacked popular majority support.
As to the demonstrators being peaceful now that has to be regarded as a sick joke, especially given the level of violence Bahrain has seen lately.
“The opposition in Bahrain is not calling for revolution, or the overthrow of its royal rulers, the al-Khalifa clan.”
“Shiite demands a greater voice in the country's affairs and an elected government”
“Shi'ites complain of discrimination in the electoral system, that has left Bahrain’s poor Shiite majority disenfranchised.”
What utter nonsense, read the opposition graffiti, Facebook pages and numerous tweets to get the real answer to that. The theocratic sectarian clerics, the Ayatollahs that run certain opposition political societies want no more than to establish a regime based on a Sharia compliant Iranian model. Such a model is neither democratic nor progressive.
It is important also to note, for it is never stated although always implied, a definition of who or what is defined by the use of the word “Shi’ite”. The lack of definition is done with obvious intent, to highlight a sectarian divide. By inference alone AP and others seek to define the Shi’ite as everyone of that religious sect, who by default are accredited as being the followers of the clerically led “opposition”. An “opposition” that is claimed to be the representatives of an oppressed, victimized, and disadvantaged majority. That being Shia means by default one is underprivileged, powerless, abused and maltreated. It is a view pushed to extremes for the benefits it brings from blinkered, sympathic NGOs, activists and badly informed politicians but also those with an alternative adgenda. It is however, no more than a political expediency, a total misreprentation of the truth. Take a look at the current members of Bahrains elected parliament and to the Shura Council, the business leaders the mix of people, the men and women of both sects, is amazing but AP and Rueters reports never give credence to their voices. They prefer only to use the voices of ex members of the parliament who resigned in 2011, to use people who work against Bahrain not for its benefit.
Another fact that is never told is that, there are in Bahrain many Shia that are not part of this self declared opposition, who are not sympathic to this revolutionary zeal. They still all want reforms nevertheless, in the same way as do most Sunni, but they all want reforms that are intitated internally, from within the current system. Reforms that have a local context and are reflective of Bahrain’s history and culture. They object, in fact resent their views being highjacked and attributed to opposition theocrats, of being included in these sweeping representative statements. They are with the majority of Bahrainis, that do not want a foriegn system imposed, be it one that mirrors the Iranian model or of a western style, one which does not reflect Bahrain’s culture and traditional Islamic values.
On the subject of elections, after years of boycotts opposition parties contested the parliamentary elections in 2006 but this was not before, according to Wikileaks cables (06MANAMA869), leading Al Wefaq cleric Ali Salman obtaining a fatwa from “Parties Overseas” to permit his flock to participate. Belief in a strict religious sectarian foreign agenda based around the dictates of fatwas and edicts is what in reality disenfranchises many Shia, particularly women in Bahrain, politically and socially. Perhaps people should ask of the EX opposition MPs why such fatwas were necessary. Of AP or Reuters reporters, people need to ask why none of the current elected Parliamentarian or Shura council member voices are never heard, full stop.
“Shiites comprise about 70 percent of Bahrain's 525,000 citizens”
“The regime has naturalized up to 200,000 sunnis to serve in the security forces”
This is absolute nonsense, a myth of convenience often quoted to justify criticism of the regime and present them in a negative light. A first population census was initiated by the British in 1941 and they have been conducted at regular intervals ever since. The last was held in 2010 when the native Bahrani population was counted as 568,399. They asked of a person, their sex, religion, marital status and nationality. For religion the tick boxes used were Moslem, Christian, Jew, Hindu or other. The census form does not ask one of sect i.e. Sunni or Shia. Thus on what hard data are the quoted percentage figures of a Shia majority based when within the system, official data does not exist. An analysis of election returns assuming Shia vote for Shia and Sunni for Sunni would indicate a split much closer to 51% to 49% but even then such data is speculative at best. It is true to say however of the entire residential population of 1,234,571 people, (local and expatriate combined) 70% are Moslem.
On the question of Nationalization and the security forces, this is another handy little tool used to bash Bahrain. I recently saw a silly claims that up to 200,000 Sunnis have since 2001 been naturalized but more often the figure quoted remains close to 100,000 at a rate of 9,000 per year. The British during the days when Bahrain was part of the Indian Raj stationed Asian troops in Bahrain, many families of Asian descent remained after the British left. They continue to serve among a largely Bahraini force but the connection with the subcontinent remains strong and Bahrain does still recruit from overseas. However, contrary to popular believe service does not come with the guarantee of nationalization. Such claims have to be taken with a pinch of salt, the figure banded about remain in the realm of fantasy.
If the Shia were, as claimed 70% of the population of the 2010 census, they would number 397,879 leaving just 170,520 Sunni to be accounted for, comprising both naturalized and native peoples. Way back in the 40’s and 50’s when the British undertook the first census, they did collect data in relation to sect. They found the population almost equally split. Assuming therefore the descendants of these people would grow at a roughly similar rate they would make up a similar sized percentage in the current population in both communities, Sunni and Shia. However given the outlandish claims now attributed to the number of naturalized Sunni citizens supposedly included in the population census figures of 2010 there is now no longer any room for the inclusion of any historic Sunni descendants. Shia at 70% plus 20% newly naturalized citizens, the balance the descendants of those historic Sunni, equals the 2010 total. Where have the indigenous Sunni gone, they have disappeared, did they not have any off spring? Did they cross their legs during the intervening decades? The figures, the percentages now being banded about to imply a Shia majority simply do not compute, they have propaganda value only. The old idiom of telling a lie so often that it becomes an accepted fact is pertinent in this case.
“Shi'ites also complain of discrimination in jobs, housing and education.”
"They are prisoners of conscience”
“At least 50 people have died in the unrest”
“Given the Bahraini authorities' background in spreading disinformation”
Opposition rhetoric often used and modified to be applicable to cover a range of subjects. On education however since it is free and compulsory up to the age of 16 for all Bahraini children I am surprised they actually include it. However I do particularly like the last of this group. It is can applied on a broad front, handy for adding spice to a contradiction and for managing perceptions, particularly if you have to discount or counter any true statement or fact accredited or given by the regime or government.
“Authorities increasingly portray the opposition as traitors and influenced by Shiite giant Iran”
“Washington, meanwhile, faces a difficult balancing act between unease over Bahrain’s increasing harsh tactics and the need to preserve critical military and political alliances with the Gulf states as front-line partners against Iran”
So we move onto the “Why?” There is plenty of evidence that Iran meddles in Bahraini affairs, that certain Western nation’s embassies have used Bahrain’s so called opposition as a tool in dealing with the Ayatollahs in Tehran to the detriment of the Kingdom. Well known NGOs, accepted tools of foreign governments have carried out massive campaigns to vilify the government and the regime on the slightest excuse. Seldom if ever critiquing the opposition and its connection to violence and outside influences.
It is often said if Iran were behind or financing the simmering trouble here in Bahrain, the country would be more like Syria rather than Athens or Madrid during a demonstration. However the reality is that it suits Iran to keep the so called revolution here in Bahrain fizzing away. Not as a distraction to Syria or Iranian internal problems but as a running sore, a mosquito buzzing around the ear lobes of Western politicians. It is to the Iranians, a priceless situation; marketed properly it can be used as a continuous embarrassment for the West. Iran ensures that there is sufficient moral and financial support to keep the pot boiling. For what purpose you might ask? Simple Iran has a singular goal, a simple aim; it wants the West itself to define the regime in Bahrain as tainted, to be declared as ruthless, dictatorial and despotic.
The AP and Reuters reports provide all the necessary vision, mission and goals needed to support Iranian long term interests here. Articles that spread the word that the so called opposition, are not Iranian proxies, but the underdog, doggedly hanging in there, virtuous in representing Western democratic values. They are the good guys, while the Western stooges and the regime, are seen by the World as the baddies. It is not so much a manipulation of news but rather the re-enforcement of dogma through the repetitious use of innuendo, misrepresentation and propaganda. Its sole purpose is to undermine any moral regime support at an international level to a point where friendly association by Western nations is untenable. To create and build a ground swell of popular public and political support that can then be used to pressure foreign governments. The consequences of which would result in a closed base, withdrawn troops, opposing weapons systems allowed to become obsolete even inoperable, allowing Iran to step into the void as champion of the under dog; unopposed.