Eid Mubarak

August 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

On behalf of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain , I would like to wish Muslims everywhere an Eid Mubarak.
Last week was a busy one at the Embassy. In addition to Monday night’s Iftar on religious freedom, I also hosted Iftars on Wednesday and Thursday that brought together leading members of the Washington , D.C. community to commemorate the Holy Month of Ramadan.
On Wednesday, I co-hosted an Iftar with the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign – an organization founded in 2010 that works to combat anti-Muslim prejudice in the United States . The event included an interfaith panel that discussed the Campaign’s important work, and how interreligious dialogue can help solve pressing conflict around the world. In a time when events in places like New York City and Tennessee have enflamed anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States , it is reassuring that the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign is bringing so many people together to increase understanding and promote tolerance.
On Thursday night, I hosted the last of the Embassy’s weekly Iftars. We had a great turnout that included members of the Washington , D.C. diplomatic community, religious leaders, Bahraini & American students, Congressional staffers, and members of the U.S. – Bahrain Friendship Society. I would like to thank everyone who came out to the Embassy this year for our Iftar dinners and look forward to welcoming the community again next year.

An Iftar Highlighting Religious Freedom in Bahrain

August 14, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last night at the Embassy, I hosted an Iftar that brought together leading members of the Washington, D.C. community interested in international religious freedom issues. It was a great opportunity to discuss the role religious pluralism plays in the everyday life of Bahrain and to highlight the ongoing work to address the ongoing reform process in Bahrain.

The highlight of the evening was a panel discussion that focused on the role interreligious can play in promoting understanding around the world. The assembled panelists included His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick – the Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Dr. Chris Seiple – the President of the Institute for Global Engagement, and Kyle Ballard – an official in the U.S. State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom. Joe Grieboski, the head of the Institute on Religion and Public Policy, chaired the panel. I appreciated the candor of each panelist in offering their assessment of the situation in Bahrain and about religious freedom in the broader Middle East.

During many of my public appearances, I emphasize the need for a comprehensive, multi-lateral, inclusive dialogue without preconditions to address Bahrain’s internal disagreements. Events like this offer the opportunity a compelling example of how honest dialogue can contribute to further understanding and reconciliation.

Responding to the Washington Post

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Tuesday night, The Washington Post released an editorial entitled “Backfire in Bahrain.” The piece presented a highly selective interpretation of events and, ironically, ran on the same day wire services reported that the government of Bahrain had charged fifteen policemen with mistreating prisoners.

Police in Bahrain don’t face an opposition that is “slowly radicalizing.” The opposition in Bahrain has contained very hardline and violent elements from the beginning. The Post falls into a familiar trap. It should recognize that the opposition has its own energy and its own ideology, some of which Americans might find extremely unpalatable

For many months, Bahraini police have been forced to control aggressive protestors who block streets, sabotage roadways and vandalize property, and who regularly attack the police with Molotov cocktails, rocks and other lethal weapons. Bahraini police officers do not carry firearms and only have nonlethal forms of crowd control, such as tear gas, to control crowds that become violent, destructive, or highly disruptive. Our police employ tactics that are quite consistent with the methods used by Western nations on a regular basis. Bahrain has demonstrated a willingness to investigate wrongdoing and will address violations of our rules of engagement when complaints are brought forward.

Bahrain is on a difficult road, but The Post continues to ignore the real progress the government has made to implement the recommendations of the National Dialogue and those contained in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry Report. Progress may seem slow to some, but it has been real, meaningful and significant. I would ask for our friends in the United States, with whom we have been strong allies for many decades, to have patience while the political dynamic changes. It can’t be expected to change radically overnight, but meaningful change has been made both in the last 18 months and on a continuous basis for the past 11 years.

Perceptions from the Lantos Commission Hearing

August 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday, with some trepidation, I attended a hearing of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on the implementation of the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry as a member of the audience. The individuals invited to give testimony represented a veritable “who’s who” of critics of Bahrain in Washington. As expected, some of these individuals made inaccurate statements and drew inapposite comparisons about the situation in Bahrain. I am concerned that members of Congress, and the American public, who may be unfamiliar with the facts are being provided a singular narrative, misinformed and exaggerated by campaigning activists.

But the hearing was not all unproductive. I was very pleasantly surprised that a few participants took a nuanced view of the facts on the ground and elucidated what those facts mean for U.S. policy. I can highlight one instance here: those who conducted recent multi-stakeholder consultations in Bahrain highlighted the opposition’s failure to join in dialogue with HRH the Crown Prince during the unrest as a significant error. As one participant noted, HRH the Crown Prince’s proposals of 13 March 2011 went significantly beyond anything ever before. At the time, these proposals were accepted by a majority of the relevant parties save one. The rejectionist stance by this single group, as the BICI Report itself noted, had catastrophic consequences and constituted a missed opportunity of major proportion: “If HRH the Crown Prince’s initiative and proposals had been accepted at the time, it could have paved the way for significant constitutional, political and socio-economic reforms and precluded the ensuing negative consequences.” (paragraph 1692). It is vital that the American public and policy establishment appreciate that no lasting solution can emerge from those who reject inclusive dialogue and boycott Parliamentary process but rather escalate tensions and attempt to control the law by controlling the street.

In order to make future U.S. deliberations on Bahrain more beneficial from a policy standpoint, I would recommend including persons with direct knowledge of the facts on the ground and of the Government’s efforts in implementing the BICI recommendations in Bahrain. One such person who cannot be said to have a “dog in the fight” is Dr. Cherif Bassiouni – the Chairperson of the BICI and a former Nobel Peace Prize nominee. I understand he was invited to appear but unable to attend due to scheduling difficulties. I suggest in future the Lantos Commission staff make greater efforts at either establishing a schedule to accommodate uninterested but well-informed persons or include someone in a position to make authoritative comments.

The Ministry of Justice’s BICI Follow-up Unit is headed by Ms. Dana al-Zayani. Her team recently released its interim report in June detailing the significant actions taken by the government over the past eight months. This report was not made part of Wednesday’s record nor were its contents reflected in the proceedings. By inviting someone from the Follow-up Unit, or a member of the National Commission tasked with the initial responsibility of implementing the recommendations, members of Congress would have been able to address their concerns directly with empowered persons. These persons would also be in a position to challenge the unfounded testimony and accusations of some of the other interested witnesses.

Credibility in international relations depends on reciprocity and mutual respect. This requires that statements are meticulously checked for factual accuracy, for without the facts there can be no credibility. The Kingdom of Bahrain values its long-standing relationship with the United States and shares this great country’s steadfast commitment to the cause of universal human rights. Our countries have shared a close cooperative relationship ever since my country’s independence some forty years ago. We have always maintained the highest levels of cordiality and frankness in our communications. In the customary spirit of good relations between our nations, I look forward to working with Congress, and the Lantos Commission, on the work currently being done in Bahrain. To this end, I encourage any member or Commission of Congress to contact my office to address any concerns they may have directly.

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