Today’s “loyalist” rally outside Al Fatih mosque was attended by a large number of South Asians. Photographs show these being overseen:
Back in 2011, a South Asian spokesman was brave enough to speak up and say that attendance at such rallies was forced:
“Fazlul Karim, president of the Society for Bangladeshi Workers in Bahrain, told the BBC Bengali service that some expatriates in the capital had recently been forced to take part in pro-government rallies and had afterwards been attacked by Shia protesters….”
The treatment of the imported South Asian working-class across the GCC states is disgusting, during my five years in the UAE I saw scenes that could have come straight out of Apartheid South Africa or the USA’s Deep South in the 1950s, chain gangs, etc.
But the Bahrain regime takes this exploitation to new levels of cynicism and hypocrisy. By creating institutionalized sectarianism within the indigenous workforce, the economic marginalization of vast swathes of the majority Shia population, inequality of opportunity and a sectarian glass ceiling in many of the professions, the regime forces socially and economically deprived Bahraini citizens into direct competition with South Asian workers, a situation that would be unheard of in places like Qatar and the UAE).
Not only that, but it naturalizes Sunni South Asians so that they become passport Bahrainis in order to change the sectarian demographic of the country, and hires South Asians into its mercenary police force to carpet-gas the Shia villages. It then FORCES Sunni South Asian workers to attend its pro-government rallies, carry pictures of the King, chant pro-regime slogans, and so forth.
When the inevitable backlash happens, the regime then blames the Shia for being “sectarian” and “racist”, even though the prominent “loyalist” families treat their South Asian servants just as badly as their equivalents in Qatar, Saudi and the UAE.
ALL racist and sectarian violence and discrimination is disgusting and has no place in an open, civil and democratic society. But when things go wrong those who wield power in governments, regimes, and ruling families in the region should be made to carry a greater weight of responsibility than youths and hotheads in the villages. It is they, after all, who invented things like “political nationalization”, and are responsible for immigration, housing and policing policy.
Anyone who plans, authorizes or carries out attacks on persons because of their victim’s race, ethnicity, religion, sect, tribe, language, age, disability, gender or sexuality should be regarded as a criminal in an open, democratic and civil society, and should pay the price if guilty through the criminal law. But this should, as Bassiouni pointed out, apply to royalty, ministers politicians, and heads of police forces, universities, schools and other public bodies just as much as it applies to angry, frustrated, confused and vengeful youths. The higher up one is in one’s career, the more responsible one is, and therefore the greater one’s level of criminal liability.
Like so much else in Bahrain, an effective solution will only come about once fundamental democratic change has happened. Once this has happen, Bahrain can lead the GCC region honestly in terms of its fair and equitable treatment of minorities.