@NickKristof vs @IAA_Bahrain

Here’s the thing, I am friends with Nick Kristof and have been reading his articles for years before he became interested in Bahrain. I got to know Nick when I approached him to offer presenting Bahrain and the news floating around from my point of view. He accepted and we hung around in one of his visits to Bahrain for about 4 hours. Later, he posted this video on NYT.

I was surprised when I woke up few days ago to see that he’s in the airport, being deported to the UAE. It would have been a courtesy for him to inform me so that I would welcome him to Bahrain. We had contacted each other variously before and I know that Nick knows about the proper procedure for journalists to enter Bahrain, which is to obtain a media visa, applying to it online. He may have his reasons, but below is what he published on Bahrain and right after is IAA’s response. Enjoy.

When Bahrain Said: Get Lost

Nicholas D. Kristof

BAHRAIN, one of America’s more repressive allies, tries to keep many journalists and human rights monitors out. I recently tried to slip in anyway.

The jig was up at the Bahrain airport when an immigration officer typed my name into his computer and then snapped to attention. “Go back over there and sit down,” he said, looking at me in horror and keeping my passport. “We’ll call you.”

The Sunni monarchy in Bahrain doesn’t want witnesses as it tightens its chokehold over a largely Shiite population. Almost every evening, there are clashes between the police and protesters, with both sides growing more enraged and violent.

Around 100 people have been killed since Arab Spring protests began in Bahrain in February 2011. I was in Bahrain then as troops opened fire without warning on unarmed protesters who were chanting “peaceful, peaceful.”

The oppression has sometimes been nothing short of savage. Police clubbed a distinguished surgeon, Sadiq al-Ekri, into a coma — because he tried to provide medical aid to injured protesters. By all accounts, torture has been common.

In the larger scheme of things, Bahrain is a tiny country and maybe doesn’t matter much to the United States. What nags at me is that this is a close American ally — assaulting people in some cases with American equipment — yet the Obama administration mostly averts its eyes. This is a case not just of brutal repression, but also of American hypocrisy.

After that initial crackdown in 2011, the king commissioned a blunt outside report, and the Obama administration hoped that the country would ease up under the more open-minded crown prince. That hope is collapsing, and Bahrain is now clamping down more tightly.

“The human rights situation in Bahrain has markedly deteriorated over recent months, with repressive practices increasingly entrenched,” Amnesty International noted in a recent report on Bahrain. It concluded: “the reform process has been shelved and repression unleashed.”

The crackdown has, in turn, hardened the opposition, which increasingly turns to Molotov cocktails, rocks and other weapons to confront the authorities. Moderates on both sides are being marginalized.

This is a tragic turn for Bahrain, which traditionally was a lovely oasis of prosperity, moderation and toleration. Astonishingly, the country’s ambassador to Washington is actually a woman from Bahrain’s tiny Jewish community.

But the king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, can blame himself for the escalation of violence. He has imprisoned leading advocates of peaceful resistance, like Nabeel Rajab, the globally respected president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. My take is that the regime intentionally jails peaceful moderates so as to leave the protest movement in the hands of young men who discredit it by throwing firebombs — and thus create a justification for repression.

On my last visit to Bahrain, I profiled Zainab al-Khawaja, a dynamic young woman with perfect English who studied Mahatma Gandhi and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and tries to apply their methods. She is exactly the kind of opposition leader Bahrain needs, firing off Twitter messages rather than rocks, but in an e-mail to me a month ago she lamented: “It’s becoming very hard to even tweet about violations in Bahrain.”

She was prescient: Now she has been imprisoned as well.

“The reason the regime goes after them is because people like Zainab and Nabeel represent a force that they cannot deal with,” said Maryam al-Khawaja, Zainab’s sister, who is now in exile. “They stand firm despite the violence. They continue to protest, and they refuse to use violence. This encourages others to do the same. It’s easier for the regime when protesters use things like Molotov cocktails.”

The Obama administration initially spoke out against the crackdown but has since been “inconsistent and muted,” notes Brian Dooley of Human Rights First. “This has been horribly frustrating for human rights activists in Bahrain hoping that the U.S. would support their push for democracy,” he added.

President Obama pulls his punches partly because the United States bases the Navy’s Fifth Fleet in Bahrain and partly because Saudi Arabia insistently backs the repression in Bahrain. The security considerations are real, but, to me, this feels like an echo of Egypt: the United States curries favor with a dictator and ignores public yearning for change. The upshot is extremism, instability and anti-Americanism.

At the airport, an immigration officer eventually approached and told me: “Your name is on a list. You cannot be admitted.” There’s no negotiating with a blacklist, and early the next morning I was deported to Dubai.

Government officials treated me respectfully, and I never felt in danger. It’s different if you’re Bahraini. On the day I arrived, police arrested perhaps the last Bahraini human rights activist still at large, Said Yousif al-Muhafdah, after he posted a photo on Twitter of a protester whom police had shot with shotgun pellets. Muhafdah is charged with “disseminating false information through Twitter.” The downward spiral continues.

Response to New York Times – When Bahrain Said Get Lost by Nick Kristof – December 22nd 2012

Dear Editor

This letter is in response to Nick Kristof’s latest editorial, “When Bahrain Said: Get Lost” (December 22nd, 2012) for a totally exaggerated and inaccurate account of Bahrain.

Firstly, it must be clarified that it is standard procedure for incoming media, regardless of nationality, to obtain an approved media visa prior to arrival, should they choose to fulfill professional duties in country. The author failed to obtain this visa, yet chose to attempt in entering the country, knowingly of the country’s policy.

Despite the author’s elaborate account of what only was standard airport procedure, he should be reminded that well over 500 journalists have been welcomed this year alone. Additionally, apart from the International Committee of the Red Cross, who has been granted access to regularly visit and monitor the detention facilities, other human rights advocates have been invited. This includes a delegation from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who visited earlier this month and were given full access to meet all their requests. Another UN Special Rapporteur on Torture is scheduled to visit in the coming months. The door continues to be open to credible parties who wish to assist the country in its growth.

The author appears to be uninterested in opinions conflicting with his own, especially those of the Government, given the request to be removed from the Information Affair’s Authority mailing list which has consistently disseminated updates on the reform process.

The release of the Bahrain Independent commission of Inquiry (BICI) Follow-Up report last month (http://bit.ly/TFPg83), restored hope with the many developments enforced during the past year. The author chose to source Amnesty International, who released their report on the same day as the BICI Follow-Up Unit’s report, therefore lacked any consideration for reviewing – or intention to review – what has actually been achieved with regard to the reforms.

With the Government’s wholehearted commitment, it has ensured that no one is detained for their right to exercise freedom of expression. An individual like Mr. Nabeel Rajab is responsible for continuous calls to provoke citizens to defy the laws of public gathering, which often turn extremely violent. Ms. Zainab Al-Khawaja has several charges against her; including attempted entry of a prohibited military zone, a serious crime in any country; and most recently, protesting inside the premises of the largest hospital facility in the country, disrupting the activities of the medical staff and their patients. These breaches cannot be labeled as acts of heroism. One that justifies these actions provides reasons to defy the rule of law, diminishing the stability and security of all citizens.

The legal channels are accessible for all who choose to express discontent with the Government, whether in Parliament, or through the daily critiques of Al-Wasat newspaper, or even in one of the over 90 legal rallies that occurred this year alone. Individuals that choose to repeatedly abuse the legal code, endangering the majority of citizens’ lives and livelihood, is not something the Bahraini Government, or any establishment, would stand for.

Finally, Mr. Said Yousif Al-Muhafdha is not the “last activist” as implied; as citizens continue to voice concerns through the legal channels mentioned earlier. Contrary to the author’s claim, the country has been changing and progressing since 2002, and as in any modern society, will continue to adapt to the ever-changing needs of society

Categories: Bahrain

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10 replies

  1. Western policy is to contain Iran by supporting Sunni governments, no matter how repressive or violent.

  2. Since 2002?! Native Bahraini’s have been humiliated and tortured since the 70s if not earlier…

  3. Native Bahrainis? Check your history. Many instances of illegal immigrants (although there were no established forms of immigration formed in Bahrain at the time) migrating to Bahrain during the late 19 and throughout the 20th centuries, creating pockets of villages and ghettos due to inability to socially mix with established society at the time. That is one reason why for village proliferation.

    The 1981 and 1996 coup attempts are evidence of foreign interference in Bahraini affairs. As the recent Bahraini population is susceptible to religious messages abroad. Additionally, a majority of supposed political movements were influenced of directly established by foreign entities mainly from Najaf, Karbala and Qom (all of whom are competing). Many of these political establishment compete on the basis for acquired religious taxes in the form of Khoms (20% of all yearly assets). That in itself is reason enough for transnational Shia political movements to mobilize support in other nations.

    I think people have watered down the history of unrest in Bahrain. There is a lot at stake for interested groups and foreign infiltration operates intimately within communities that choose not to become a part of Bahraini society.

  4. Dear,
    I will leave the issue of obtaining media visa to the journalist himself,, but I am 100% sure #bahrain will never grant Kris access. Saqar is referring to allowing 100s of journalist lately to get to bahrain!! Please name few?? Just to mention that bahrain denied access for aljazeera journalists to attend gcc summit lately!!
    Dear, if bahrain has nothing to hida… it won’t deny access for any journalists.. as easy as this.
    Accepting bici report does not add any good to bahrain unless it implements its recommendations. Can you -as bahraini- show any single recommendation done… none.
    Finally, bahrainis wants the gov to represent them.. want to take ownership of their own dicision.. we do not want dictatorship… as easy as this.

    • Thank you for your comment, which I object to 100% because simply you are 100% wrong. Go to bna.bh and click on implementing the Bahrain indp comm of inquiry link.

  5. I think Nick Kristof should change his name to Mr. Cutoff as he is totally cutoff from the reality on the ground in Bahrain.
    Blame this on the free haircut (haircuts are expensive in the US) by an opposition supporter at the former Pearl Roundabout. Jokes apart Mr. Cutoff doesn’t have a clue of Bahrain’s political history to write an educated piece on Bahrain’s unrest.
    I think many people have already presented a lot of facts in support of Bahrain’s leadership.
    However a very important point to note is that Shiites do not and I repeat DO NOT represent a majority of the
    citizen population. The sunni/shiite figure as I understand now from a very reliable figure is tha the split is now 50/50. Bahrain government does not segregate its citizen population by any religion, caste or creed.

  6. This is a proper opportunity to talk about what happened in Bahrain in “former Pearl Roundabout”

    I am foreigner I have spent in Bahrain 5 years (2007-2011), I was working in Bahrain Financial Center and leaving in Muharraq. And my way back home is the former Pearl Roundabout where were the protestors who were pretending that it is a peaceful protests, I have been caught by teenagers in the former Pearl Roundabout who beat my car because I look foreigner. I could not understand that teenagers are protesting!!!! And for what? Do they have the legal age to protest and to elect ? and do you think that a lady alone in her car going back home from work will offense them ?
    And another time the adults protestors tried to beat a men with a metal rod on his head because they heard him saying his name in the telephone which is “Khalid” and you can understand why his name is making for him such kind of problem but hopefully he avoided it at the last seconds intelligently.

    With all my respect to Mr. Nick Kritoff, he has interviewed only one part and he did not interview the second part.

    I would also ask him if he has seen the number of the protestors in his video published and if he have seen the number of the protestors in the AL FATIH MOSQUE ?

    I would ask him also why teenagers were protesting ? did he know that beating a foreigner in her car in illegal and also against human rights ?

    Did he know why trying to beat someone whose name is “Khalid” ?

    I am sorry to say that the persons that he interviewed (except Dr. Saqer) are the instigators and the first persons to break the laws and the human rights.

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