Disgraced ex-policeman John Yates says that Bahrain is “safer than London”, and that the Bahrain uprising is “like the London riots”. In fact, the Bahrain uprising is a major event. Bahrain has seen bigger demonstrations as a percentage of population than any other country affected by the “Arab Spring”.
I’ll discuss these claims in a moment, but first Bahraini readers might be interested in the events that led to Yates coming to Bahrain.
Until 18th July 2011 Yates was Assistant Commissioner of London’s Metropolitan Police, and Chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority. He was forced to resign from both these positions over allegations that he misled Parliament and the British public over the extent of the hacking of people’s private telephones by now defunct British newspaper The News of the World. This hacking was done not for any reason of national security, but to gather juicy stories to sell sordid newspapers.
Right now, Bahrainis are protesting and DYING for an open civil society. One of the things they are dying for is the right of Bahrain’s MPs to hold the security forces to account.
Bahrainis therefore should savour the following July 2011 interrogation, screened live on British television, where British MPs hold the then Assistant Commissioner John Yates to account over his role in the phone hacking scandal; days later, Yates had to resign:
Yates’ brassneck beggars belief. His career was ended because he was a senior policeman who was called to account for his actions by elected British politicians.
No sooner than the scandal had made him unemployable in any British police force, he accepts work in Bahrain working for a regime that is fighting its own people to try to ensure the continuation of the unaccountable system in which the Bahraini security forces can never be held accountable by Bahrain’s elected politicians!
The News of the World phone hacking scandal continues, and Yates might yet face criminal prosecution for his role in it. Even as Yates was PR-ing for the Al Khalifa regime on 12th April 2012 about how safe Bahrain is, he was once again in the British press.
Not over Bahrain, but over the his role in the phone-hacking scandal, this time when the Independent Police Complaints Commission ruled that he had shown “very poor judgement” in lobbying to get a job in the Metropolitan Police for the daughter of one of the private detectives involved in the hacking the phones of ordinary British citizens, including the murdered teenage girl:
No wonder the nepotistic Al Khalifa regime was so keen to employ him!
March 2012 also saw Yates being interrogated by another British inquiry, the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics. This inquiry was also established in the wake of the News of the World scandal, and Yates was interviewed via conference call from Bahrain. This exert sees Yates being grilled over his receiving inappropriate “hospitality” from Murdoch-owned newspapers:
So much for Yates’ professional reputation.
So is Bahrain really safer than London? Well, let’s forget the PR, and look at some facts instead. Bahrain has a population of 1.2 million, half of whom are expats, mainly South Asian migrant workers who are not directly affected by the current violence.
So that’s an indigenous population of 600,000 Bahrainis. The UK has a population of around 60,000,000. Bahrain has seen about 80 protesters and by-standers killed, and 4 police. Adjusted for population that’s the equivalent of 8,000 civilian, and 400 police deaths in the UK.
The only thing in recent British history that remotely compares to the death toll of the Bahrain uprising is the Northern Ireland Troubles, which involved 3,600 deaths over 30 years. Northern Ireland has a population of 1.7 million, multiplied by difference in population size between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom as a whole, this is the equivalent of a death toll of 126,000 over 30 years, or 3,600 deaths per year over 30 years, less half the Bahrain losses for 2001-2012, as a relative percentage of population.
By contrast, the English riots of 2011 lasted only 3 days, with a death toll of just 5 people out of a population of 60,000,000. This is the equivalent of 0.05 of a death when adjusted down from the population of the UK to the population of Bahrain. Clearly, there is no comparison whatsoever between the death toll of the 2011 English riots and the death toll of the Bahrain uprising.
Whatever else he may be, Yates isn’t stupid, and must know this, since Northern Ireland related terrorism would have been Scotland Yard’s biggest single concern during the entire period from when Yates joined the Metropolitan Police in 1981 until 11th September 2001.
Further, when Yates joined the police in 1981, England was shaken by a series of inner-city uprisings against what inner-city communities saw as racist and discriminatory policing:
This led to the Scarman Report, a major re-think about the purpose of British policing, and police tactics and community relations:
A key part of these recommendations was that the personnel of British police forces should reflect the populations they police, subsequently a major recruitment drive ensued to ensure that British police officers were recruited from all Britain’s ethnic and religious communities.
This is the background to Yates’ career. No policeman of his generation could possibly advance their career to senior levels unless they demonstrated an awareness of an commitment to these new principles.
Yet in Bahrain Yates forgets all this, and lies about the Bahrain uprising. After the 1981 inner-city uprisings, any police officer who dismissed the political legitimacy of these communities’ grievances could not expect promotion to senior ranks. But Yates does exactly this in Bahrain, denying that there are organised protests in Bahrain, and dismissing protesters as hooligans, largely to justify the running of the 2012 Formula 1 blood race:
Of course, one thing we didn’t see in the 2011 English riots was the police taking sides and helping looters to loot shops. We saw this in Bahrain this week, when gangs of “loyalist” vigilantes took to the streets attacking Shia-owned businesses:
So there’s plenty for John Yates to reform, if he was really employed to reform what passes for a police force in Bahrain. But he isn’t really there to reform anything. His role in Bahrain is all about:
- Window-dressing and PR, a “respectable” (ha-ha!) face of Bahrain policing
- “Specialist Operations”, surveillance, counter-terrorism and VIP security, which was Yates’ specialisation as Assistant Commissioner
Of course, there is a sense in which Yates is right about Bahrain. Bahrain IS safe and prosperous if you are one of the “haves”. Yates, in the pay of this repressive regime, knows all too well.
From the perspective of the luxurious villa and cossetted lifestyle that so Yates and so many other Western expats live in Bahrain, the protesters are just “trouble makers”, as Yates put it.
This perspective is shared by wealthy indigenous Bahrainis, not “Sunnis” in general, but the billionaire ruling Al Khalifa clan and the clique of Najadi “Arabian” clans and ethnically Arab Sunni Huwala clans from Iran who historically have been the chief beneficiaries of Al Khalifa rule.
But there are really two Bahrains: there’s the wealthy first-world economy Bahrain enjoyed by the regime, its cronies and hangers-on; then there’s the relatively poor Bahrain, where the majority population endure a chronic unemployment, a sectarian glass ceiling on the professions, and a standard of living closer to that of rural Egypt than the rest of the GCC.
Wealthy Bahrain drives a Ferrari to go and see Ferrari race in the Formula 1 GP, poor Bahrain sticks a Ferrari sticker on an old red Toyota Corolla of 1991 vintage and hopes it’s reliable enough to make the 20km down the Bahrain International Circuit in Al Sakhir, where’s its driver works in a hotdog stand serving wealthy Bahrain.
This poor Bahrain is the Bahrain that’s carpet-gassed nightly in as part of the on-going contestation of social space in Bahrain, in a brutal police bid to keep contain the “trouble makers” in the villages, away from prestige areas like the BIC, the Diplomatic Area or the shopping malls.
Yates claims the Bahrain police are “unarmed”, yet they use riot gasses used in civilian law enforcement in a military way. Instead of using these gasses sparingly at specific targets in open spaces, they are used in the same way that the military use nerve gasses, concentrated into great clouds that envelope entire villages, entering homes, cars and bedrooms. This alone has killed scores of people.
The police similarly abuse baton rounds (rubber and plastic bullets), which are fired directly into people’s faces, the way live rounds are used. Live fire is used against protesters in Bahrain, but never by police in uniform. Citizen journalist Ahmed Ismael was buried today, shot dead two weeks ago by an non-uniformed vigilante who had been mingling with the police. This is how poor Bahrain is policed.
One is tempted to say that at least Assad’s thugs in Syria have the honesty to use live-fire openly against their own people. The Khalifa regime thinks it can PR live-fire killings away in the same way it thinks it can PR everything else. As such they are of a lower moral order even than the thugs of Assad and Gaddhafi, and Yates is a facilitator of their abuse.
Mourners at the funeral of citizen journalist Ahmed Ismael, shot dead by an armed vigilante within eye sight of the “police”, April 2012: “This isn’t organized protests, it’s just vandalism, rioting on the streets”, John Yates in the UK newspaper The Daily Yelegraph, February 2012.
Putting an end to these practices would have been top priority for any real reformer. But Yates isn’t interested in this. Instead he parades himself before the media trivialising the suffering of tens of thousands of people in the service of vested interests.
Poor Bahrain, the Bahrain of the indigenous majority population, lives in a totally different economy to wealthy Bahrain. Poor Bahrain’s local subsistence economy is inconsequential to wealthy Bahrain’s globalised, first world economy. Indeed, it even gets in the way of wealthy Bahrain’s economy.
The wealthy Bahrain economy would probably to better if the poor Bahrain endured by the majority population simply didn’t exist, a point not lost on the would-be ethnic cleansers among Bahrain’s ultra-regime loyalists. The sort of people who loot Shia-owned businesses. The sort of people John Yates is paid to make the world forget.
Those with a long memory might remember how during Apartheid white South Africans used to whine about how the international media and human rights organisations had “got it all wrong”, about how the trouble had been exaggerated, and was just the work of a handful of “trouble makers”, how the majority population should be left to develop “apart”.
This is the kind of Arab apartheid that disgraced former policeman John Yates has been hired to police using a ‘police’ force that daily commits what in Yates’ native UK would be crimes.
Modern British policing began with Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850) who founded not only today’s Metropolitan Police, but the “Peelian” principles of ethical policing:
- Every police officer should be issued an identification number, to assure accountability for his actions.
- Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.
- Above all else, an effective authority figure knows trust and accountability are paramount. Hence, Peel’s most often quoted principle: The police are the public and the public are the police.
The so-called “police” of the current Bahrain regime are an affront to all these principles, not least of all “the police are the public and the public are the police”. This can never be the case as long as the Bahrain force is a sectarian force with a high percentage of mercenaries who have no connection whatsoever to the people they “police”, merely loyalty to the regime that pays their salaries.
Britain’s time-honoured and internationally respected system of civilian policing is under threat from so-called “supercops” like Yates