Economic Freedom in Bahrain

September 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Last week, the Fraser Institute released an update to its annual rankings of the world’s freest economies. I was very proud to read that Bahrain came in at #7 on this year’s list, ahead of economic powers such as the United States and Japan.

Although Bahrain has experienced unrest over the past 20 months, our economy remains resilient. Under the leadership of His Royal Highness, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrain has developed and implemented a forward-thinking plan for economic development in Bahrain. Bahrain is an excellent place to do business because of minimal government regulations, zero corporate taxes, and a highly capable and highly educated domestic work force. Reports like these provide great validation to the hard work of so many people and provide a reminder that Bahrain remains a great place for foreign direct investment.

I would encourage anyone interested in learning more about doing business in Bahrain to get in touch with my office directly.

Honoring and commemorating Bahraini police

September 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Monday, Bahrain commemorated the members of its police force who were either injured or killed in the line of duty at an event hosted by H.E. Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, Bahrain ’s Minister of Interior. The stories of these brave officers are often ignored in international media reports from Bahrain and I would like to join H.E. the Minister in honoring and commending all Bahraini police officers for their service to the safety of our country.
 
Bahraini police officers face constant threats of violence on a daily basis. Armed only with non-lethal forms of crowd control, police officers often confront highly coordinated attacks from crowds wielding projectile weapons and petrol bombs. Since February 2011, four officers have been killed and over 1,400 have been seriously wounded. Fifty-two of these officers were wounded so severely that their injuries are considered life-changing.
 
Incitement to violence against police officers is a serious impediment to reconciliation in Bahrain . Peaceful dissent is the right of all citizens in Bahrain , but it is incumbent upon all leaders in society to condemn violence explicitly. Doing so will help advance a meaningful, inclusive dialogue without preconditions to the benefit of all Bahrainis.

H.E. Shaikh Khalid’s Speech to the UPR in Geneva

September 19, 2012 § Leave a comment

Earlier today, His Excellency Shaikh Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa – Bahrain’s Foreign Minister – addressed the UN Human Rights Council during the follow up session to its Universal Periodic Review of Bahrain. In his speech, Sh. Khalid not only outlined the Government of Bahrain’s full acceptance of 145, and partial acceptance of 13, out of 176 recommendations made by the UPR; H.E. also made a number of important points about the political situation in Bahrain and outlined a path forward in which all sectors of society can play a constructive role in resolving lingering differences in our country. I would like to share some particularly noteworthy passages with readers of my blog.

H.E. the Foreign Minister rightly notes that Bahrain’s government is only one actor in Bahraini politics and that progress and reconciliation require all political actors to renounce violence. In his speech, Shaikh Khalid said:

“Every person has the right to disagree with, or dissent from, their Government, and to state that disagreement or dissent publicly – and of course within the limits of orderly discourse in a democratic society. But no one has the right to force factionalism upon a society against its will. We welcome peaceful expressions of disagreement but not incitements to hatred and violence which damage the social fabric of a nation.”

It is also important to highlight, H.E. the Foreign Minister’s comments about the government’s reform initiative and the challenges that face it within Bahraini society.

“I now turn to the challenges we face. We have heard criticism: that we are ‘dragging our feet.’ It is true that significant challenges remain. Reforming government structures and restoring the culture of tolerance and understanding in all aspects of civic life takes time. It is difficult. Our leadership is committed, and already significant reforms are being felt.

“Challenges also reside outside of government. Some unfortunately believe that continued unrest on the street affords them a political advantage. To keep up the momentum and media coverage, they fuel the flames of extremism and violence. They reject dialogue. They should not be encouraged.

“No one could expect that an inclusive and tolerant system of politics will emerge if leaders of important groups seek dominance instead of dialogue and reject democratic institutions. Such attitudes, it must be said firmly, trample on the ideals of a society governed by the rule of law.”

I could not agree more with these sentiments. Bahrain has real issues that must be addressed. And while the government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to address them in good faith, there has been no reciprocity – as it is said in a famous Arabic proverb, “one hand alone does not clap.” H.E. Shaikh Khalid’s speech in Geneva offers a genuine opportunity to move forward and it should be recognized as such by the international community.

Denouncing the attack in Libya

September 18, 2012 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday morning, I awoke with horror to the news that the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was killed along with three others in an attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. By all accounts, Ambassador Stevens exemplified the very best of what it means to be an Ambassador. He served his country exceptionally well and he will be greatly missed. The diplomatic community is like a big global family and we all feel the loss of Ambassador Stevens and his colleagues acutely.

Bahrain’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned these attacks in the strongest possible terms. Bahrain has taken extra precautions to help secure the U.S. Embassy in Manama and we will continue to ensure the security of all diplomatic missions on our soil.

It is also important to speak out against the film that sparked these senseless acts. In a statement released last Thursday, the Ministry strongly denounced this film that defames the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Freedom of speech should be exercised responsibly and should respect the proud religious traditions of all the world’s citizens.

Incidents like these remind us of the fragility of life and the sacrifice of those who choose to serve their country. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families during these difficult times.

Remembering 9/11

September 11, 2012 § 1 Comment

September 11th will always be a day for remembrance and thoughtful contemplation. Even though 11 years have past, I can still remember where I was when I first heard the news. 
 
The scale of the devastation on 9/11 reminds us all of our responsibility to root out and fight against the ideology of intolerance and extremism wherever it is found. The Kingdom of Bahrain is proud to ally itself with the United States in this important endeavor.
 
I am also reminded of the unity of purpose we all felt in the aftermath of those devastating attacks. The way the world came together 11 years ago reminds us that it is possible for people of all religions and ethnicities to unite in support of our shared values. Bahrain will continue standing with our ally, the United States, to bring about an end to violent extremism for the benefit of all the world’s people.

Freedom of Expression and the Nature of Protests in Bahrain

September 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed renewed interest from news organizations and analysts about freedom of expression in Bahrain. Although there have been exceptions, the majority of outlets have renewed their allegations that Bahrain cracks down on an individual’s right to “peaceful protest” and freedom of expression. Compelling and irrefutable evidence directly contradicts these assertions.

Bahrain’s government frequently provides authorization for demonstrations at which citizens can freely assemble to express their grievances. Just last Friday, Al Wefaq organized an authorized protest that drew a considerable crowd. Like other authorized demonstrations, organizers worked with the relevant authorities to balance individual rights to freedom of expression with the needs of the remainder of the public in order to ensure that it did not affect the rights of others. Just because a demonstration is “peaceful,” does not give demonstrators the right to “peacefully” block traffic on a major highway – thereby making life miserable for other citizens going about their business. This procedure is very similar to those employed in major metropolitan areas around the world, including the United States. Major demonstrations follow a route prescribed by relevant authorities, and are restricted to a specific period of time. This allows police and other first responders to adequately plan for a variety of contingencies.

This demonstration was not an aberration; indeed, Bahrain has a long tradition of legal, authorized protests spanning over many decades. In the past 20 months specifically, hundreds of authorized protests have taken place in Bahrain. It is important, however, to draw a distinction between peaceful protest – which the government of Bahrain protects – and violent ones that endanger public safety. Every night, Bahraini police confront myriad attacks that endanger their personal safety, and the safety of other Bahrainis. The government respects individual rights, but will not tolerate tangible threats to public order.

It is also important to understand that demonstrations which begin peacefully often into violence. Beginning last May and June, demonstrations held under the auspices of a major opposition society in Bahrain have followed a disturbing pattern. Following receipt of a demonstration permit, the group would organize protests with thousands of participants. After the authorized demonstration ended, hundreds of youth armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons would assault police officers. Although the government consistently makes attempts to facilitate mass expression, the demonstrators themselves often blur the lines between peaceful and violent protest in a way that endangers ordinary citizens.

It is also important to note that Bahrain expanded freedom of expression in response to the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and from the deliberations of last year’s National Dialogue. As a result, His Majesty the King approved changes to Bahrain’s constitution bolstering this fundamental right. Bahrain has more work to do, but continuing to advance spurious claims in the face of direct evidence to the contrary does not contribute to the atmosphere of reconciliation in which the government is currently engaged.

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