Bahrain Critics Must Look Inward

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Bahrain’s main opposition group Al Wefaq National Islamic Society was dissolved earlier this month and its assets liquidated under a court order because the outfit “deviated from political activities.” The society was also accused of inciting violence and making calls for illegal rallies which, in the past, have had this tendency to degenerate into violent free-for-all.

US, UK Ignore Reality

When the court delivered the judgement, representatives of British and US embassies were present.

Yet, the recently-appointed British Foreign Secretary, who has a history of making political gaffes, in a Press statement seemed to back Al Wefaq when he advised Bahrain to guarantee and protect political freedoms for all its citizens. “I encourage all sides to engage in constructive and inclusive dialogue to promote social cohesion and inclusivity, including political representation for all Bahrainis,” he babbled, without realizing it is Al Wefaq whose MPs had quit Parliament en masse and boycotted subsequent elections.

And US Secretary of State John Kerry, in a Press statement expressed deep US concern about “the decision of a Bahraini court to dissolve the opposition Al Wefaq political society and liquidate its assets.”

bahrain critics must look inward.
Bahrain critics must look inward.

Al Wefaq Laundry List of Charges

This, when the charges against the society make for a long laundry list: insulting the Constitution, supporting terrorists, seeking foreign intervention in Bahrain’s internal affairs, mocking the judicial authority, using religion in politics, misusing mosques for political activities, casting aspersions on the legitimacy of the nation’s Parliament and inciting people to disobey the law.

The society’s secretary-general Ali Salman is already serving a nine-year term for seeking regime change by force, inciting people to break the law and spreading sectarian hatred. He also helped implement the strategy of a terrorist group known as February 14 Coalition, which is known to have perpetrated several bomb attacks in Bahrain, killing policemen.

In this situation how sound is the advice of the leaders of two First World countries is anybody’s guess. They ought to understand that not once but twice serious attempts were made on the government’s initiative to enter into a dialogue with the opposition and on both occasions the opposition leaders left the table on specious grounds, displaying no seriousness to sort out differences on a range of national issues.

At the same time their constituents boycotted the national elections, having previously resigned from Parliament en masse, warned their followers against contesting as independents, and terrorized and attacked the person and properties of those who did.

US and UK Must Look At Themselves

More importantly, before trying to interfere in Bahrain’s internal affairs the US and the UK need to look inward. It is one thing to preach political freedom to other countries but could Johnson answer why his boss Theresa May ordered the deportation of Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada when she was Home Secretary? Because he was doing the same things which Al Wefaq leaders have been doing since 2011.

And as for the US, the less said the better. Has the U.S. forgotten the McCarthy era of the 1950s when reckless and unsubstantiated accusations were made against so-called communist sympathizers, so much so that even a great artist like Charlie Chaplin had to sneak out of the US for good?

So it is better for leaders not to poke their noses into the internal affairs of other nations, especially when they happen to be upright democracies like Bahrain. Each country has to take decisions in the wake of any political deviation on the basis of its own judgement, contingencies, profile and demography.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.