FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Malinowski Affair

by

Bahrain has ordered a top US diplomat visiting the island to leave the country after he met leaders of the main Shia opposition party. The government said that the US assistant secretary for human rights, Tom Malinowski, was “unwelcome” and he should end his official three-day visit to Bahrain “due to his interference in its internal affairs”.

Sheikh Ali Salman and Khalil al-Marzouq, the leaders of the al-Wifaq opposition party, were summoned to meet the public prosecutor for interrogation today about what they discussed with Mr Malinowski. The US State Department said that at the last minute the Bahraini authorities had demanded that a member of its foreign ministry attend all private “meetings with individuals and groups representing a broad spectrum of Bahraini society, including those held at the US embassy”.

A State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, sounded surprised at the turn of events, saying the Bahrain government was “well aware that US government officials routinely meet all officially recognised political societies.”

By deliberately provoking a diplomatic incident out of an unexceptional prearranged visit by a senior US diplomat, the ruling al-Khalifa royal family is giving the impression that it continues to be split over how to respond to the democratic protests by the Shia majority that started in 2011. The demonstrations were brutally crushed, with many arrests and widespread torture of any critics of the government, but repression has failed to stop rallies and protests in Shia districts of Bahrain.

The US and Britain have been embarrassed by charges of hypocrisy stemming from their mild reaction to the suppression of all dissent by the Sunni monarchy in Bahrain compared to their forthright condemnation of President Bashar al-Assad for human rights abuses.

Bahrain has been seeking through a public-relations exercise to persuade the rest of the world that life on the island has returned to normal. In May, Prince Andrew was to be the keynote speaker at a London conference celebrating Bahrain as a place of religious freedom and tolerance of divergent opinions, but he pulled out after criticism of his support for the Bahraini government. During a visit to the island earlier in the year, he said: “I believe that what’s happening in Bahrain is a source of hope for many people in the world and a source of pride for Bahrainis.”

As the confrontation between Sunni and Shia gets increasingly bitter and more violent across the Islamic world after the military success of virulently anti-Shia Isis in Iraq and Syria, Bahrain is likely to be affected. Ali al-Aswad, a former MP and spokesman for al-Wifaq, said the order for Mr Malinowski to leave showed that those opposed to reform and reconciliation within the al-Khalifa family were prevailing.

Bahrain has pursued a policy of presenting itself as open to political reform but at the same time suppressing media reporting. While downplaying protests in Shia villages as insignificant, it has jailed or brought criminal charges against four photographers. Others have been sacked by their newspapers, allegedly on government orders.

Hussain Hubail, who won an award for his pictures of anti-government protests, was sentenced to five years in jail after he was arrested while boarding a flight to Dubai. His mother told Human Rights Watch that he had told her he was blindfolded and handcuffed after his arrest and exposed to cold temperatures for long periods until he signed a confession. The security forces’ campaign against photographers appears to be aimed at suppressing pictures of continuing anti-government demonstrations.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the author of  Muqtada: Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shia Revival, and the Struggle for Iraq.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
July 01, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
Hillary: Ordinarily Awful or Uncommonly Awful?
Pam Martens
Clinton Says Wall Street Banks Aren’t the Threat, But Her Platform Writers Think They are
Jason Hirthler
Washington’s Not-So-Invisible Hand: It’s Not Economics, It’s Empire
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Marx on Financial Bubbles: Much Keener Insights Than Contemporary Economists
Pete Dolack
Brexit Will Only Count if Everybody Leaves the EU
Evan Jones
Ancillary Lessons from Brexit
Aidan O'Brien
Brexit: the English and Welsh Enlightenment
Jeremy R. Hammond
How Turkey’s Reconciliation Deal with Israel Harms the Palestinians
Margaret Kimberley
Beneficial Chaos: the Good News About Brexit
Phyllis Bennis
From Paris to Istanbul, More ‘War on Terror’ Means More Terrorist Attacks
Ishmael Reed
OJ and Jeffrey Toobin: Black Bogeyman Auctioneer
Ron Jacobs
Let There Be Rock
Ajamu Baraka
Paris, Orlando and Turkey: Displacing the Narrative of Western Innocence
Robert Fantina
The First Amendment, BDS and Third-Party Candidates
David Rosen
Whatever Happened to Utopia?
Andre Vltchek
Brexit – Let the UK Screw Itself!
Jonathan Latham
107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators
Steve Horn
Fracked Gas LNG Exports Were Centerpiece In Promotion of Panama Canal Expansion, Documents Reveal
Robert Koehler
The Right to Bear Courage
Colin Todhunter
Pro-GMO Spin Masquerading as Science Courtesy of “Shameful White Men of Privilege”
Binoy Kampmark
Who is Special Now? The Mythology Behind the US-British Relationship
Mark B. Baldwin
Russia to the Grexit?
Andrew Wimmer
Killer Grief
Manuel E. Yepe
Sanders, Socialism and the New Times
Franklin Lamb
ISIS is Gone, But Its Barbarity Still Haunts Palmyra
Mark Weisbrot
A Policy of Non-Intervention in Venezuela Would be a Welcome Change
Cesar Chelala
How Tobacco Became the Opium War of the 21st Century
Joseph Natoli
How We Reached the Point Where We Can’t Hear Each Other
Andrew Stewart
Skip “Hamilton” and Read Gore Vidal’s “Burr”
Christopher Brauchli
Educating Kansas
George Wuerthner
Ranching and the Future of the Sage Grouse
Thomas Knapp
Yes, a GOP Delegate Revolt is Possible
Gilbert Mercier
Democracy Is Dead
Andy Piascik
The Hills of Connecticut: Where Theatre and Life Became One
Charles R. Larson
Mychal Denzel Smith’s “Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching: a Young Black Man’s Education”
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Four Morning Ducks
June 30, 2016
Richard Moser
Clinton and Trump, Fear and Fascism
Pepe Escobar
The Three Harpies are Back!
Ramzy Baroud
Searching for a ‘Responsible Adult’: ‘Is Brexit Good for Israel?’
Dave Lindorff
What is Bernie Up To?
Thomas Barker
Saving Labour From Blairism: the Dangers of Confining the Debate to Existing Members
Jan Oberg
Why is NATO So Irrational Today?
John Stauber
The Debate We Need: Gary Johnson vs Jill Stein
Steve Horn
Obama Administration Approved Over 1,500 Offshore Fracking Permits
Rob Hager
Supreme Court Legalizes Influence Peddling: McDonnell v. United States
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail