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On September 29th, H.E. Sheikh Khalid Bin Ahmed Bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke before the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. Throughout the twenty-three minutes, the Sheikh adhered to three different points: Bahraini kingdom’s good will, progress, and generosity; Bahrain’s frustration towards Iranian involvement in regional affairs; and Bahrain’s distrust and anger towards Qatar’s lack of cooperation with the rest to of the Gulf States, namely, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Egypt. This opinion editorial will discuss the first topic listed, as it was vocalized with an air of superiority and confidence odd for a kingdom with such a recent history of vicious human rights suppression. This tone of self-perceived benevolence was weaved throughout the speech, throughout each conflict or general issue the Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned.
The speech commences with the minister boasting that Bahrain, for the third time, has submitted an application for candidature for the Human Rights Council 2019-2021, which “reaffirms [Bahrain’s] policy to enhance respect for human rights.” Yes, in regards to Bahrain’s classification as a country of “high human development,” indicating that the general livelihood, quality of education, and lifespan of Bahraini citizens is higher than average, does suggest that the basic requirements of human rights are covered. With the amount of money Bahrain has flowing through its economy, protection of those human rights should not be applauded but rather expected. The minister does not once touch upon the individualistic or representative rights humans deserve and need. He does not mention the voices and the opinions of the Bahraini citizens that were so brutally subdued not only by the Bahraini government but also by Saudi Arabian military during the Pearl Roundabout protests that occurred as a result of the Arab Spring. The Foreign Minister blames Iran for “exporting its miserable revolution” and therefore “threatening the peace of the region.” While Iran is certainly creating violence and chaos in the Middle East, the “miserable revolution” the minister speaks of was the Iranians’ plea for the right to vote in 2009, an event which lit a fire across the Arab world, including the Gulf States.
The wealth of the Gulf States dampened the effect of the Arab Spring uprisings in several Gulf States, for example Saudi Arabia. Bahrain, however, savagely crushed their citizens for peaceful protests. Due to the fact that the minister accredits hefty portions of the region’s unrest to Tehran’s revolution suggests a euphemistic use of the word “peace.” The diction related to the concept peace utilized by the Gulf States leaders is the wrapping paper for a package of suppression-inducing policies. Similarly euphemistic, in an Al-Jazeera documentary, Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark, about the protests in Bahrain, the Bahraini government brought in thousands of armed soldiers from Saudi Arabia for the sake of “national safety,” which actually means the safety and security of the Bahraini royals and leaders.
The protesters never lifted a finger before the Bahraini government incited violence. The police beat sleeping protesters. A government official cited in the Al-Jazeera documentary said this of the men, women, and children peacefully protesting: “let them die in the street.” Can this government criticize Iran or Qatar for causing violence and financing terrorists groups when they themselves terrorize their own people? The minister says that Bahrain believes in the principles of dialogue. They are committed to the restoration of Yemen, the reconstruction of Libya, Morocco’s initiative of autonomy; they are carrying out plans for their 2030 sustainable development goal and they gave a few awards to the high achieving women of Bahrain. The minister’s speech was dominated by an international agenda, sprinkled by a few domestic developments that were purely economically focused. Bahrain is split down the middle: immense quantities of wealth enabling progress — economic progress — and an archaic system of government inhibiting social and political advancement towards more transparent and representative leadership.
The foreign minister concludes his speech, saying that “the state cares for its peoples interests,” but the structure of Bahrain’s government and economy are a recipe for exactly the opposite as Michael Herb claims in The Wages of Oil: Parliaments and Economic Development in Kuwait and the UAE. The combination of an absolutist government and an economy based off of extreme rentierism does little to benefit the actual citizens, and rather, becomes a leaking bank account dripping directly into the hands of the royals.
It seems worthless to comment on the hypocrisy of Bahrain, as a comment such as “let them die in the street” is so inhumane it seems to be indicative of an unpersuadable mindset. As an American, the judgment currently written in this op-ed is also hypocritical as the United States is a model of hypocrisy, making no effort to help the citizens of Bahrain. It is demoralizing and absurdly upsetting how the United Nations, in its proprietary, formal, and euphemistic spirit, is such a complacent setting for shameless lies.