I have lived and worked in Bahrain for over thirty years and believe me since February 14th 2011, I remain constantly amazed how ignorance and a media that sees only headlines in terms of bad news, have been allowed to cast such a shadow over this tiny Island Kingdom. Over half of the island’s 1.234 million residents are expatriate workers, yet you will be hard pressed to find a single voice in that community that will say the F1 should be cancelled for security reasons. Why is that?
Bahrain is actually the most progressive open secular country in the Gulf. It is a place we expatriates are proud to call home. We are not ashamed to say we love it here, but to date has any reporter, or in fact has anybody, ever asked us if we feel safe living here? After the submission of the Bassiouni report, did anyone take our opinions on the implementation of recommendations of this independent commission (BICI) having openly and honestly investigated the events of last year has changed the island for better or worse? NO.
Bahrain does not have a bloody despotic regime, be it royal or otherwise, despite what is depicted by the press. Just ask any of the 566,172 foreign residents what we think. We come from over 80 nations and have a wealth of comparative views. Yes, Bahrain is a monarchy that is different to your American dream and yes people died in the attempted Shia revolution. But then so did police and innocent bystanders murdered by the media labelled peaceful protesters. It is a little known fact that the police themselves suffered more injuries than protesters. We witnessed every government action from calls for dialogue and compromise that fell on deaf ears to attempts at appeasement. We then witnessed the calls from the wider unreported majority for the government to restore law and order on the streets and resist the sectarian movement. We have seen the level of violence against the police escalate as a result of extremist Shia clergy’s calls to crush them. We have witnessed the controlled response by the government and security forces. Thus, we can state openly and honestly that this regime is far from despotic, dictatorial, or bloody. It is paternal and given the huge subsides and freebies provided to citizens across the board, it is almost socialist as well. Thus such short descriptive labels are simply a media myth formulated to justify selected media headlines that suited the biased and much sensationalized story lines put out.
Today, there is still an underlying sectarian problem aided and abetted by a hardline, extremist clergy who want an Islamic Republic on the lines of Iran. Yes, there are a few people that vent their anger on the streets and attack the police, place barricades of blazing tires across roads and on odd occasions as was the case even last year, resort to extremes of violence in the name of progress. Fortunately they remain few in number, acting more like a mosquito in a room, trying their hardest to give an illusion of revolution and an illusion that they represent the majority.
Less than 20 kms wide and 65 kms long, setting a dozen tires burning at various locations, can give the illusion that the Island is in flames whereas the reality is that these piles have been torched by a small number of Shiite rioters and street thugs who have no interest in F1, democracy or progress.
As to Bahrain’s native population, has anybody ever asked the Sunni section of the community their opinions? Although they may not be a majority in terms of sect, they are nearly as numerous as the Shia. The vast majority of people here – Sunni, Shia and expatriates supported the changes brought about by the BICI report, but totally reject these threats of violence. Witnesses to an attempted sectarian coup we now feel totally rejected ourselves by the international community, totally forgotten, for no reason other than being peaceful spectators. Bahrain is, even now at its lowest ebb, safer than London. Can a women, or anyone for that matter, walk the streets in the middle of the night without fear? You can in Bahrain. Are the Olympics going to be cancelled because of the London Riots or murder muggings and knife crimes? No!
The people of Bahrain deserve better than this. Do no not pigeon hole the country as if it were Syria or Iraq, for it is not. Finally, do not believe the rhetoric of radical extremists which flows through social media channels and is picked up and passed as truthful citizen journalism by a lazy international media looking for sensationalism and a headline.
Neither I, nor my family, will be leaving Bahrain anytime soon. We hope to attend this and further F1 events for years to come.