The Independent reports: Maryam al-Khawaja doesn’t mince her words when she’s asked to assess what many Bahrainis think about Britain. “It’s not a very positive picture,” she sighs, stirring a spoonful of sugar into a steaming latte.
“People today are saying the United States and the UK are to Bahrain what Russia is to Syria. They are countries willing to aid repression, people who are willing to overlook human rights violations because it’s in their own interests. The only difference is that Russia doesn’t try to present itself as a beacon of human rights and democracy.”
Al-Khawaja – one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights activists and the daughter of jailed opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja – doesn’t want to be down on Britain. She recently travelled to the UK to hold talks with the Foreign Office and desperately hopes Downing Street will signal some sort of policy shift towards our ally in the Gulf. But she knows it is unlikely.
Over the past 18 months – as whole swathes of the Arab world have hit the streets to demand greater democratic representation and the end of autocracy – Britain has tried to portray itself as a friendly benefactor who is willing to help Arabs achieve a greater level of personal freedom. In Libya and Syria especially we marketed ourselves as supporters of a just cause, whilst chastising countries like Russia and China for blocking the march of self-determination. But with Bahrain our silence has been deafening. [Continue reading…]