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.

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
Murray Dobbin
Is Trudeau Ready for a Middle East war?
Jeiddy Martínez Armas
Firearm Democracy
Jill Richardson
Washington’s War on Poor Grad Students
Ralph Nader
The Rule of Power Over the Rule of Law
Justin O'Hagan
Capitalism Equals Peace?
Matthew Stevenson
Into Africa: From the Red Sea to Nairobi
Geoff Dutton
The Company We Sadly Keep
Evan Jones
The Censorship of Jacques Sapir, French Dissident
Linn Washington Jr.
Meek Moment Triggers Demands for Justice Reform
Gerry Brown
TPP, Indo Pacific, QUAD: What’s Next to Contain China’s Rise?
Robert Fisk
The Exile of Saad Hariri
Romana Rubeo - Ramzy Baroud
Anti-BDS Laws and Pro-Israeli Parliament: Zionist Hasbara is Winning in Italy
Robert J. Burrowes
Why are Police in the USA so Terrified?
Chuck Collins
Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ From Corporate Tax Cuts
Ron Jacobs
Private Property Does Not Equal Freedom
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Mass Shootings, Male Toxicity and their Roots in Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
The Fordist Academic
Frank Scott
Weapons of Mass Distraction Get More Destructive
Missy Comley Beattie
Big Dick Diplomacy
Michael Doliner
Democracy, Real Life Acting and the Movies
Dan Bacher
Jerry Brown tells indigenous protesters in Bonn, ‘Let’s put you in the ground’
Winslow Myers
The Madness of Deterrence
Cesar Chelala
A Kiss is Not a Kiss: Sexual Abuse and Exploitation of Children
Jimmy Centeno
Garcia Meets Guayasamin: A De-Colonial Experience
Stephen Martin
When Boot Becomes Bot: Surplus Population and The Human Face.
Martin Billheimer
Homer’s Iliad, la primera nota roja
Louis Proyect
Once There Were Strong Men
Charles R. Larson
Review: Mike McCormack’s Solar Bones
David Yearsley
Academics Take Flight
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail