U.S. Military vs. Human Rights in Bahrain

Wednesday, February 23, 2011
George W. Bush with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain (R)
For the U.S. government, strategic priorities have taken preeminence over human rights in Bahrain, where a substantial opposition movement by the Shiite majority is threatening to topple the long-ruling Sunni royal family.
 
Bahrain in one of only four countries in the world with a majority Shi’a population, and the only one in which the Shi’a are not in power. The others are Iran, Iraq and Azerbaijan.
 
Because the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based at this island nation, located off the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf, American foreign policy has been devoted to maintaining strong relations with King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. By remaining in Bahrain, the U.S. can guard the Strait of Hormuz, a vital shipping route for Middle Eastern oil, and protect its other interests in the region.
 
But remaining loyal to the king has meant ignoring allegations of human rights abuses endured by Shiites who have suffered discrimination in politics, employment and housing. That treatment has fueled the recent protests, including a march on Tuesday that numbered more than 100,000—a remarkable figure given Bahrain’s native population is barely half a million.
 
“The problem has been that we have been doing everything we can to cuddle up to the Khalifas and have been consciously ignoring at best the situation of Bahraini Shiites,” Gwenyth Todd, a former political adviser to the Navy in Bahrain, told The New York Times. “We could find ourselves in a very bad situation if the regime has to make major concessions to the Shia, unless we change our tone.” She related one case in which she was forced to use $30,000 of her own money to fulfill a Navy program to help poor Shiites after a Naval commanding officer reneged on the program because it would offend the royal family.
 
Nabil Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights added that the American military has always taken the side against human rights. “The U.S. did not build up any good relations with the opposition. They always categorize them as fundamentalist or extremist in their reports, in order to justify their political position in support of the government,” Rajab said.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
 
Bahrain Shiites Turn Out in Vast Protest (by Michael Slackman and J. David Goodman, New York Times)

Comments

Peace Bahrain 8 years ago
For King and Country. The Kingdom of Bahrain is the most tolerant country in the Middle East. It is proud of its history and the ruling family who through the constitution and legislative action have ensured the well being of every man, woman and child living in this proud nation. HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa signed the National Charter in 2001 which was approved and accepted with open arms by 98.4% of the population. A charter that was historic, visionary and for the benefit of the people is today being questioned by small minorities who so far have reaped the benefits. The same people who wish to “peacefully” over throw the government through demonstrations and civil unrest; by attacking security personnel which is not peaceful showing a lack of discipline and respect for people in authority and the law of the land. These same security officials, who are being attacked, are risking their lives for the safety of the demonstrators and a peaceful country. The charter guarantees freedom of speech for all, and despite the extreme actions taken by these people calling for a change, HM King Hamad has personally addressed the country, offered condolences and set up a committee headed by the Deputy Prime Minister, HE Jawad Al Arayedh who himself is shiete, to address these issues. There has been complete transparency by the Government and almost 3000 houses were distributed this year to needy families and over10, 000 houses are currently under construction. The families on the housing waiting list receive over BD100 per month until their unit is delivered. Bahrain is a peaceful Islamic nation with a wise leadership that does not differentiate by colour or creed nor accept extremism in any form. The government has provided free land for houses of worship for residents to openly practice their faith, all of whom live in harmony with the local population of Bahrainis. The protestors have shown signs of racism against people from different walks of life, all of whom live here for the betterment of the country. The Kingdom of Bahrain offers free medical and education to all citizens of the country. The unemployed are offered BD150per month and advice and support with finding employment. There is no tax and a fund has been set-up to offer business loans with low interest rates for Bahraini entrepreneurs. Through the Charter, the National Audit was created to offer further transparency and monitoring of national funds. All the reforms are being addressed and it will take time to achieve our goals and through the vision and guidance of the ruling family the Kingdom of Bahrain will continue to rise and be proud. HM King Hamad has asked for there to be peace and understanding and through his faith is confident that we will continue on this path of progress. We are proud of our achievements and despite being a small country with limited resources we have achieved international recognition for our human rights and progressive vision. Peace Bahrain

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