Please find below a letter sent to the Washington Post regarding their recent publication on Bahrain
I am writing in response to the latest article published by the Editorial Board, “Darkening skies over Bahrain for human rights” (June 24th, 2016) as it deeply misrepresents recent events in Bahrain at a time when it is crucial for readers to accurately comprehend the volatility of the domestic and regional environment.
Firstly, the accusation that the Government of Bahrain is “fomenting division” is wholly unsubstantiated. It is the Government that prioritized addressing social grievances in efforts to rebuild the social fabric []. This included the establishment of independent bodies to address complaints related to any human rights violations; compensation fund that delivered over $26m to those affected by the unrest; rebuilding places of worship; reinstatement of dismissed workers []; among many others corroborated by the recent Dept. of State report referenced.
These facts should not be downplayed and individual cases are not representative of reform that spans years. It is these efforts that paved the way for an over 50% voter turnout in the General Elections.
However, the success of the reform program as well as the National Dialogue was continuously rejected by some opposition members as many equated dialogue with defeat. It was the 2014 general election that was derailed by opposition members as many feared their participation would deflate the tensions they struggled to uphold.
This included Shaikh Ali Salman, Secretary-General of Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society (Note: the society’s official should be used along with their clerical leadership as this is key to understanding how they operate), who announced a boycott of the elections, and threatened expulsion to any member running as independents. This was further endorsed by Ayatollah Isa Qassim when he issued a ‘fatwa’ (religious edict) urging citizens to support the boycott. This was followed by an onslaught of violent attacks on the homes and personal property of candidates that defied the Ayatollah and the clerical political leader.
This is only one example of many instances where religious figures and podiums are exploited for political and personal gains. Throughout the past few years, hardliners have encouraged citizens, particularly youth, to defy laws and use violence as a means. With security exercising maximum self-restraint to support efforts in rebuilding trust, there have been no fatalities as a result of polices’ action in over two years. In the same time span, 6 officers and a 72-year old farmer have lost their lives. As recently as last night, a bomb was detonated that killed a mother and injured her three children.
This violence instigated by fundamentalists exasperates sectarian tensions in the hostile environment Bahrain resides in and will not be tolerated by any modern society. Bahrain recently prosecuted 24 individuals for their involvement in Daesh to echo the message of addressing extremism irrespective of creed.[] It is for that reason the country recently witnessed the passing of a law that bans clerics and religious organizations from the formation of political societies or participation in other political activity.
Unfortunately, the Board chose to cite an NGO as its primary source of information rather than official sources. The omitted details are key to understanding the severity of the charges the individuals faced. [] []
Finally, the security relationship Bahrain shares with the United States spans decades and has nothing to do with domestic issues. Politicizing a defense agreement at a time of serious mutual global threats would endanger both our nations. This is not the time to compromise the safety and stability of our countries.
The Editorial Board’s stance on Bahrain has remained stagnant, despite the significant progress of the country and drastic regional developments. I encourage you to publish this letter to ensure the Government has a voice in the narrative presented. I also urge you to utilize this very accessible channel between us in future publications.
Abdulla Al Khalifa
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the United States
1 Moving Beyond 2011, BICI Follow-Up Unit Report http://bit.ly/1miCj2F
2ILO Officers of the Governing Body recommend “that the complaint calls for no further action on its part and; declare closed the procedure under article 26 of the ILO Constitution concerning the abovementioned complaint” (para 20 d, e) http://bit.ly/1nKaTDR
3Daesh Members Prosecuted http://bit.ly/29ePwZZ
4Ayatollah Isa Qassim Revocation of Citizenship http://www.policemc.gov.bh/en/news/ministry/53329
5Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society Suspended by Administrative Courts https://www.docdroid.net/v48HOW1/press-release.pdf.html