Why Continue to Blame a Liberal Bahrain?

It is a measure of the utterly misplaced bias of a section of the western media and propaganda machinery including so-called human rights-related websites that when terrorists are brought to book in the US or the West [like currently in France] there is a wave of glee and jubilation among them but when thugs with similar inclinations are brought to justice in Arab and Islamic countries through proper judicial trials, there is a huge outcry.

Bahrain has been a victim of this bias.

Since the 2011 troubles, Bahrain has been in the news off and on for all the wrong reasons and often the focus also shifts to the rights and privileges of its populace. The fact is that Bahrain being an island the size of Singapore, it is always trying to find ever new ways to ensure the welfare and well-being of its citizens. For example, the Supreme Council for Women and the Bahrain Women’s Association only last week joined hands to ensure the protection of women’s rights and called for the issuance of a unified family law to protect these taking into account the privacy of the two Islamic sects.

shaikh khalifa bin salman al khalifa
Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Prime Minister of Bahrain.

The Kingdom’s Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa can often be heard in the media invoking the nation’s one-family spirit, since excluding expatriates, the population of Bahrain is just about 600,000. It is actually possible therefore for the state to look after virtually every citizen. Social security and welfare are the two pillars of this resolve and the citizens’ rights are protected under the Constitution.

At a minuscule level this family spirit manifests itself when the state promptly, and quite often, steps in to help citizens in distress, coming forward to extend a helping hand to them sometimes even without their having to seek any assistance. There have been instances where people have lost their houses and belongings in fires, shops in marketplaces have suffered from conflagrations sparked by short-circuits, those on visits abroad have met with major accidents or people (in quite a few cases children) have faced insurmountable costs of medical care abroad for certain medical conditions or operations. In each case the state has been prompt to provide succour with one SOS or even on the basis of Press reports.

But the larger picture is even more reassuring for every citizen. Thus, like in the West there is a social security system in place which provides a range of benefits to people. This includes unemployment benefits, especially to the youth, and disability and sickness benefits. There is a virtually continuing project to build housing colonies and units are allotted to the citizens on low long-term instalments backed by heavy subsidies. Medical care and primary education is free in any case and even higher education institutions charge modest fees. There is a pension scheme in place as well.

Over and above all this, King Hamad has schemes in place to ensure the orphans, the widows and the elderly enjoy a quality life. There are state-sponsored homes for the elderly and orphans and even an institution which helps out the battered and abused women caught in the vortex of dysfunctional marriages.

One agrees that beyond welfare loom the citizens’ rights but the point to note is that Bahrain is among the few Arab and Islamic countries offering – even encouraging – religious freedom, freedom of speech and expression of opinion, Press freedom, gender equality, equal voting rights for women and right to take part in various elections. Being a parliamentary democracy with elections every five years all this is not surprising.

It is regrettable therefore that despite all this, a section of the world media and websites continue to discredit Bahrain on the score of rights and freedoms without updating their information and sources. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry long ago redressed a number of rights-related issues and BBC long ago finally expressed its regrets for projecting Bahrain negatively during the so-called Arab Spring with little to back its claims.

But somehow some outfits [understandably a majority of them backed by Iran, which has become notorious for trying to create trouble in Bahrain through men and arms] continue to paint Bahrain in dark hues. But as I stated in the beginning, no citizen with terrorist tendencies in any country can expect mercy and no sympathy can be shown to him or her in the name of freedom of expression. That would be a dangerous idea.

Brij Sharma
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.