Britain’s role in Bahrain’s torture regime

Colonel Ian Henderson, who from 1966 until 1998 was Bahrain’s security chief, is alleged to have instituted and overseen a brutal torture regime in the Gulf state, as a result of which he came to be known as the “Butcher of Bahrain.” Numerous human rights organizations have investigated and confirmed the allegations against him, yet an investigation by British police was suspended in 2008 due to a lack of co-operation from the Bahrain government.

“Ian Henderson has played a very dirty role,” said Saeed Shehabi, Bahrain Freedom Movement, in 2002. “Ever since he came to Bahrain in 1966, he embarked upon an era of terror and thousands of people were arrested — arbitrarily arrested — and tortured under his command. Until he retired, two or three years ago, he was the strong man behind the whole repressive regime in Bahrain.”

Blind Eye to the Butcher (2002)

In a report on Bahrain’s reliance on foreign nationals in its security services, Ian Black adds:

Bahrainis often complain that the riot police and special forces do not speak the local dialect, or in the case of Baluchis from Pakistan, do not speak Arabic at all and are reviled as mercenaries. Officers are typically Bahrainis, Syrians or Jordanians. Iraqi Ba’athists who served in Saddam Hussein’s security forces were recruited after the US-led invasion in 2003. Only the police employs Bahraini Shias.

The secret police – the Bahrain national security agency, known in Arabic as the Mukhabarat – has undergone a process of “Bahrainisation” in recent years after being dominated by the British until long after independence in 1971. Ian Henderson, who retired as its director in 1998, is still remembered as the “Butcher of Bahrain” because of his alleged use of torture. A Jordanian official is currently described as the organisation’s “master torturer”.

Channel 4 report on human rights abuses in Bahrain (1999)

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5 thoughts on “Britain’s role in Bahrain’s torture regime

  1. DE Teodoru

    That Blair is an fool was proven by his obsession with the illusion of making Britain look bigger by standing next to the US. In fact, he looks like a poodle next to a pile of Bush-it!

    And so, shown to be someone else’s pet, Britain on the decline can only prove its fearsomeness one opponent of British interests at a time. If you are emaciated by cancer and everyone knows you have cancer, the only way you can be fearsome to your enemies is to be seen guiding others in their torture. For example, the chief of the Hungarian Secret Police frightened everyone because his thugs randomly arrested and tortured people in his Budapest HQ in his presence. When, in 1956, the Hungarian rebels saw he was such a little thing quivering in his boots, they didn’t kill him because he was a Jews (as some claim) but because the idea that such a puny guy terrorized them for so long made them so enraged that they pounced on him in revenge. Britain, since it began dying of consumption after WWII, has had to create fear by becoming the “torture master” giving on-the-job-training and supervision to all British Commonwealth members’ secret police; that way, despite its decline, at the existential level, locals out to remove British puppets, would conclude that it’s not wise to screw around with the Empire, though it no longer exists. So, puny men like Henderson made sure that they’re seen by the victims as guiding the torturers so that victims pass the word around: IT’S NOT WISE TO FOOL AROUND WITH THE DECENDENTS OF QUEEN VICTORIA AS THEY STILL CAN HURT YOU REAL BAD!

    Those he-man high-tech heroes you see in British MI-5 and MI-6 BBC movies are not the real guys—the real guys are more like the Hungarian chief of secret police or Henderson!

    The same can be said about today’s CIA. Our operatives, as you can see on secret videos, are not James Bond lean but look plump like DCI Tenet or puny like DCI Hayden. Often they’re plump, not because of heavy winter clothing, but because bag men recruiting locals and transferring money are usually fat from nervous over-eating and lack of exercise!

    Since the end of the Cold War, as US declines, we’re doing the same thing as the Brits. And, we’re doing it a hell of a lot more than ever before since 9/11. At end of WWII we were indeed the good guys. But since Bush, our secret agencies have had to create the illusion that we can get anyone anytime because, as a declining power—rotting from the top like a fish– we have had to hide our corrupting national weakness. Our leaders seem so dumb or helpless—just like the British rulers– that we have to resort to the same “being there” when our friends the thugs ruling the Middle East torture resisters against scumbag rulers we support. One might ask, where did that get Blair, his career ruined as Bush-it’s poodle? You can see how worn-out Blair is in self-disdain and shame. But, out of power, there’s nothing he can do to change his image, now that he’s in an even more personally helpless position.

    The lesson is, however, that doing as we decline, what Britain has been doing since its decline, will only sink us deeper into a position where the only friend we have is Israel. And how much of a friend is that, given that Mossad may have wiped out two Kennedys in fear that they would force it to give up on its nuclear weapons?

    Carter was the only president who showed that despite humiliation by Vietnam and ridicule by Watergate, the US could regain its leadership status– though incredibly weak– by behaving in a consistently ethical fashion. With the neocons Pharisees declaring this century America’s “unipolar moment,” they have duped us, not into appear strong, but rather as Israel’s mad dog on a chain. What we’re like off that chain, on our own, is demonstrated every day in Afghanistan: weak and trying to fake power through boom, boom, boom and bang, bang, bang. Let us learn from Britain’s error of trying to fake fearsomeness rather than draw into itself and rebuild its power as a model of world order.

  2. Christopher Hoare

    As a Brit, growing up, all these criminal secret service activities were accounted as a great service to us, the Brits. The same thing happens today in the States.

    I remember an Egyptian student teacher trying to tell some truths about Britain and the Suez canal to us 5th form kids in about 1954 — we thought he was insane. The truth, and his moral courage, only became apparent to me years later when I left the country — and its self-serving lies behind.

    The moral of the story? More multiculturalism, more contact with others ( not indoctrinated into the same patriotic lies ), more travel into other countries (not as tourists — fools on a bus — but participants). With the opening up of America to other people and other ways of understanding the world, even the present morass of exceptionalism and state crimes could be extinguished. Of course, the oligarchy wouldn’t like that — they’d make travel even harder and more uncomfortable than it is today.

  3. Paul Woodward

    Same guy. As someone fairly well acquainted with the British private school system (Britain’s so-called “public” schools), I have to wonder whether it was at Eton, Rugby or some such school that Henderson first discovered that he might have a vocation in the art of brutality. The ability to endure and dish out brutality is an important dimension of the cultivation of Britain’s famous stiff-upper lip.

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