Ask me about Bahrain

May 31, 2012 § 1 Comment

Part of my job as Bahrain’s Ambassador to the United States is to communicate what is going on back home directly to the American people. This job is particularly important given the often selective nature of press coverage of Bahrain that exacerbates tension and misunderstanding. I think it is particularly important that Americans, and other people concerned about the state of affairs in Bahrain, have a direct conduit to learn more directly from the Embassy in Washington.

In order to achieve this goal, I will be answering a few questions directly from readers of my blog each week. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to answer every question. I will, however, endeavor to address a broad range of topics to ensure I cover as much as possible. Please either leave your question in the comments section, or email me at askambnonoo@gmail.com.

At the NATO Summit in Chicago

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Sunday, I arrived in Chicago with Bahrain’s Foreign Minister, Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, as part of the Kingdom’s official delegation to the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago. Bahrain is participating in the Summit as a key member of the International Security Assistance Force – the NATO-led coalition currently engaged in securing and reconstructing Afghanistan . For its part, Bahrain is working to build capacity in the Afghan national police to assume security control over the country following the coalition’s planned withdrawal in 2014.

Bahrain ’s commitment to the ongoing effort in Afghanistan is a high profile example of the fruitful military-security partnership the Kingdom shares with the United States . In 2002, American President George W. Bush designated Bahrain as a Major Non-NATO Ally in recognition of the mutually beneficial partnership that has existed between both countries for decades. Bahrain has been home to an American naval base since the 1940s and has been the official home of the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet since 1995. Bahrain also commands a division of the joint naval taskforce that combats piracy in the Arabian Sea and off the horn of Africa .

Bahrain has always been proud to stand side by side by our American allies to protect our mutual interests in the region and look forward to continuing this partnership for many years to come.

Addressing the European Jewish Parliament in Brussels

May 18, 2012 § 2 Comments

I just returned from a short trip to Brussels where I had the pleasure to address the inaugural General Assembly of the European Jewish Parliament (EJP). The EJP is a collective effort of the Jewish community in Europe to come together on a regular basis and discuss issues of mutual concern. I was particularly impressed with the wide breadth of participation in the event – delegates came from traditionally large Jewish communities in France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, but also from places like Azerbaijan, Turkey, and the Republic of Georgia.

I was invited to address the Parliament twice during my visit. In my first speech, which I delivered in the European Parliament building, I expressed my belief that Sephardic Jews from primarily Muslim countries can play an important role in fostering understanding between the Europe and the Middle East and discussed the important contributions Jews have made to the history and politics of Bahrain.

During my keynote address later that evening, I discussed Bahrain’s success in building a culture of tolerance and respect for religious minorities. During my time in Washington, many people I speak with are surprised to hear that churches, temples, and synagogues exist peacefully next to Bahrain’s many mosques. This is a source of pride for all Bahrainis.

I continue to believe that my story, that of a Jewish woman who rose to the heights of civil society in a predominantly Muslim country on my merits, has only been possible because I am from Bahrain. Opportunities like these are important to share Bahrain’s unique story of religious tolerance and religious freedom outside of a media narrative that ignores this important part of my country’s history.

Back from Bahrain

May 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Today, I returned from my first trip back to Bahrain in nearly a year. During this time, I had the opportunity to observe and discuss ongoing developments in the Kingdom first hand. And despite what misleading news reports have suggested, Bahrain ’s government remains as committed to achieving comprehensive national reconciliation as ever.

I was especially pleased to learn about the ongoing security reform efforts under the leadership of Chief Tariq Al Hassan and with the help of former Miami Police Chief John F. Timoney. The Bahraini police have a very difficult job and perform well under adverse conditions.

I was particularly struck by the restraint of the police in the face of escalating violence by protestors. Although the size of the demonstrations has diminished over time, the smaller bands of protestors have become more radical. In the last month alone, two bombings have specifically targeted the police and have resulted in many serious injuries. On a nightly basis, police face coordinated and overwhelming firebomb attacks that have seriously wounded many officers. These officers face these Molotov cocktail attacks with only teargas and other non-lethal crowd control tools. Despite what you may have heard, Bahraini police rarely carry firearms capable of firing live-ammunition and exercise tremendous restraint in the face of adversity.

Bahrain continues to move forward with political and security reform, but has not seen a reciprocal response from the opposition. It is important that the opposition condemn this violence and return to negotiations.

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