The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry has initiated an ‘Iran Divestment Campaign’, calling upon businessmen to pull out their investments from Iran and pump them into Kingdom’s economy.
The move is in retaliation for Iran’s “blatant interference in Bahrain’s internal affairs.” Many businessmen have backed the call already.
In addition, the chamber has also called upon the private sector in the countries of the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (of which Bahrain is a part) and the Arab chambers of commerce and industry generally to boycott Iran and Iranian traders.
The move has been inspired following Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Bahrain through its media arms notably Press TV and Tehran Times, which in the last three months have also gone on to distort and misrepresent facts and visuals on their websites.
But even as the Gulf-wide action on this score is looming against Iran for harming Bahrain’s interests, unscrupulous, unpatriotic and unethical businessmen in Bahrain itself are also finally meeting their comeuppance. They have positioned themselves at the forefront of ‘helping hands’ of those who had risen in unison in February and March this year. They called for the dissolution of Parliament and overthrow of the monarchy in Bahrain, they now find themselves at the receiving end of an outraged public opinion.
Grapevine has it that in return for their signal ‘generosity’, services and statements some of the wealthy businessmen were promised senior positions in the proposed new, ‘Republican’ dispensation.
The ‘generosity’ involved supplying free food during the month-long occupation of the GCC Roundabout by anti-government protesters and the statements included denigrating the local and regional media while at the same time praising the Western media, especially the BBC. It has since turned out though that the Western media had their own agenda to promote as a consequence of which the Reuters correspondent has already been expelled from Bahrain. The agency asked to appoint his replacement.
Coming back to the unpatriotic traders on March 1, when the protests in Bahrain were at the height of their frenzy, Faisal Jawad, a prosperous businessman of his flagship Jawad Group, with an eye on imminent change wrote a scathing letter to a local daily claiming “the media in the Middle East is to protect rulers and corrupt governments and not to say the truth and expose unlimited ill-gotten wealth.”
Here was a man who had piled up a fortune under the reformist government of Bahrain and yet was willing to denigrate it because he belonged to the Shia sect which had risen to overthrow the regime. An act which is no less ungrateful than the anti-monarchy protests launched by Shia students studying in leading Western universities on full scholarships and living expenses all paid by the Bahrain Crown Prince under a scheme meant for bright students irrespective of which sect they might belong to.
See this report and video: Video: Bahrain TV Reports: Protesters Burn Their Own Tents
But the expatriate community in Bahrain and those who had refrained from taking any part in the protests saw the agenda of the ‘peaceful’ protesters and refused to heed their exhortations to overthrow the regime.
And now that peace has returned to Bahrain, not only does Jawad rue his actions, he has even tried to court the local Press to deny he ever in any manner helped the protesters and to express regret for having written the letter about “corrupt governments” in a moment of misjudgment.
Farooq Khalil Al Moayyed was another businessman who stood by the Shia protesters though he is himself a Sunni. He was also allegedly promised a plum position once the things worked out to the satisfaction of the ‘republicans’ if only to put in front of the world the facade of sectarian bonhomie. The Bahrain Premier rightly chided the opportunists of their ilk when he recently held a meeting where only businessmen were invited.
In the aftermath of the crisis traders such as Jawad find themselves at a loss to come to terms with the new reality. Seven of his stores were vandalized during the unrest and four have still not reopened; in some part of the city the fancy stores have literally no customers thanks to a Facebook/ email campaign against him.
It is no coincidence that in the aftermath of the Iran Disinvestment Campaign Iran is trying to reach out to Bahrain to make amends and is making conciliatory statements. And so is the case with Jawad.
Referring to his boycott, one reader quite perceptively wrote in a local daily: “It was due to the fact that the public was offended that someone with so much wealth had chosen to inflame the sensibilities of the underprivileged youth with his opinion rather than support them financially from his position of privilege. Society’s livelihood is not a government’s responsibility alone, not unless you are a communist. Instead of criticizing the status quo, people of Mr Jawad’s calibre should do something tangible, not lip service, to give back to the society that helped him amass his fortune.”