World Shia Forum

Identity, Equality, Unity

On Bahrain – by As’ad AbuKhalil

kim-kardashian

“Kardashian went to Bahrain and Kuwait to promote “Millions of Milkshakes.”  She evidently had a great time, declaring at the end: “Thanks Sheikh Khalifa for your amazing hospitality. I’m in love with The Kingdom of Bahrain.” For this, she was roundly mocked by Bahraini opposition and Middle East commentators. Bahraini activist Maryam al-Khawaja posted an open letter to Kardashian inviting her to meet with human rights activists during her trip.   The one bright note, such as it was, came from @Therwees: “Kim Kardashian tweeting about Bahrain makes more news than actual Bahrain.” Kardashian, much like April’s Formula One, generates positive publicity for a Bahraini regime which carried out an unspeakably brutal crackdown last year, continues a fierce campaign of repression, and has been utterly unrepentant.  The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry authoritatively catalogued the massive human rights violations during the crackdown:…
The Bahraini regime has responded in at best pro forma way, seeking to project an image of compliance without actually making any serious reforms or imposing real accountability. Human Rights Watch recently concluded that Bahrain had failed to implement most of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry — an assessment shared by the Project on Middle East Democracy, which a few weeks ago found only 3 out of 26 recommendations implemented.  Cherif Bassiouni, who had previously defended the BICI argued that “a number of recommendations on accountability were either not implemented or implemented only half-heartedly. The public prosecution has yet to investigate over 300 cases of alleged torture, some involving deaths in custody, and there has been no investigation, let alone prosecution, for command responsibility, even at the immediate supervisory level, of people killed in custody as a result of torture.”
What’s more, in many ways Bahrain’s practices are getting worse, not better. Stiff prison sentences for activists such as Nabeel Rajab, arresting people for criticism on Twitter, targeting activists and critics, revoking the citizenship of activists, and banning all public protests do not suggest a regime on the mend.   The violence which erupted a few weeks ago only highlights Bahrain’s ongoing social and political deterioration.  Even the U.S. State Department, which has rightfully been criticized for failing to pressure Bahrain on human rights and political reform, recently spoke out with unusually lengthy and detailed criticism of its escalating crackdown, and last week warned that Bahraini society could break apart. Neither pressure from domestic activists and international human rights organizations nor occasional international media scrutiny has had much effect.
Bahrain’s regime has focused far more over the last year and a half on a public relations pushback than on addressing its real political deterioriation and human rights disaster.  It has spent heavily on PR firms to rehabilitate its image, and anyone who writes or tweets about Bahrain has become quite accustomed to the inevitable responses which follow. Holding the controversial Formula One race in April was a key part of the attempt to demonstrate to the international community that Bahrain had returned to normal — a portrayal somewhat undermined by the burning tires, furious activists, and critical media coverage which followed. (My all time favorite video response remains this “Epic Fail” from Katy Perry.)  This Index on Censorship story suggests that whatever her personal intentions, Kardashian’s visit falls into the same category of attempts to rehabilitate Bahrain’s image without any meaningful policy changes.   That protests and tear gas disrupted the international media coverage of her visit as well is therefore in some ways a promising sign that the reality of Bahrain’s ongoing repression and failure to deal honestly with its recent past has not yet been washed away.

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This entry was posted on December 4, 2012 by in WSF and tagged , , , .
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