UK military backing to Bahrain ignores “ethical” policy
The UK Foreign “ethical” policy suffered another set back following the visit of the Amir of Bahrain that ended on 26 July. The Financial Times (23/24 July Weekend) reported that Saferworld, a pressure group, objected to weapons sales to Bahrain. The FT reporter Robert Shrimsley said “British arms exports halved in value last year, with sales falling from 1.9 bn 1998 to 980m pounds. A substantial reduction in arms sales to Saudi Arabia fell from 803m to 131.09m. There were also sharp falls in the value of exports to UAE which fell from 172m to 5.53m. Saferworld voiced concern at the sales of arms to repressive regimes. It also objected the weapons sales to Gulf states with histories of repression including Bahrain and Qatar.” The UK officials stated that the British government’s conditions on sales of equipment are that they are not to be used for “internal repression” or “external aggression”. However, there is no indication on how will the UK check on whether the equipment would be used for other purposes. The Associated Press reported on 24 July that “The U.K. and Bahrain agreed Monday on further steps in the establishment of an air training academy in the desert nation. Bahrain, a former protectorate that gained independence from the U.K. in 1971, often holds joint military exercises with British forces, and for several years has been sending its officers, cadets and pilots to train in the U.K. Bahrain also is the regional base for the U.S. 5th Fleet. Bahrain and the U.K. signed a defense pact in 1994. Gen. Sir Charles Guthrie, chief of staff of the U.K.’s armed forces, visited Bahrain in February to review military cooperation with Bahraini leaders. The two countries signed an amendment Monday to a 1990 memorandum of understanding about cooperation in the supply of defense equipment and services by which the U.K. will help in developing the air academy, the Ministry of Defense said. The U.K. will send teams to Bahrain to provide strategic advice on how the academy should be established, the ministry said. Royal Air Force selection staff already have provided advice on how Bahrain should establish proper aptitude and medical testing before selecting pilots. Over the next months and years, the air force will help establish the training school, the ministry said. No financial aid is involved, but the ministry said the U.K. would discuss any equipment purchases Bahrain wanted to make, such as of training aircraft. The amendment was signed by John Spellar, British minister of state for the armed forces, and Sheik Abdullah bin Salman Al Khalifa, chief of staff of the Bahrain Defense Force. Bahrain emir Sheik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, who arrived in Britain on Sunday, was present at the signing ceremony at the Farnborough Air Show in southern England, and later paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair’s 10 Downing St. office said the half-hour meeting was very warm and that the two men discussed the relationship between their countries and regional issues such as the Middle East peace process.” Reuters stated on 24 July “BAE Systems said on Monday that it had signed a contract for defence systems, equipment and training for the defence force of Bahrain. The British defence contractor said the deal, the financial value of which was not disclosed, followed an agreement signed earlier between the Bahrain and British governments to increase military cooperation in the island state. Bahrain’s chief of staff, Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman al-Khalifa, was quoted as saying earlier by the official Gulf News Agency: “We hope the agreement will strengthen and develop military cooperation between the two countries to service their joint intention of achieving security and peace.” He said the agreement was a revised version of a pact signed in 1990. Bahrain, a former British protectorate, also has a defence cooperation agreement with the United States. Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is in Britain for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and other officials.” ————————- MANAMA, July 24 (Reuters) – The Gulf Arab state of Bahrain and Britain signed an agreement on Monday to increase military cooperation, the official Gulf News Agency reported. It said the memorandum of understanding signed in London covered upgrading and developing defence equipment in the island state in addition to military training and joint exercises. The agency quoted Bahrain’s chief of staff, Sheikh Abdullah bin Salman al-Khalifa, as saying: “We hope the agreement will strengthen and develop military cooperation between the two countries to service their joint intention of achieving security and peace.” He said the agreement was a revised version of a pact signed in 1990. Bahrain, a former British protectorate, also has a defence cooperation agreement with the United States. Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is in Britain for talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair and other officials.
Bahrain: Visit to UK and Morocco linked to vital issues
The high profile visit by the Amir of Bahrain, accompanied by his senior advisors, to the UK and the scheduled visit to Morocco next Wednesday 26 July are expected to focus on several issues. One strategic issue will be the continuing dispute with Qatar as the International Court of Justice is expected to pass its verdict later this year about the disputed islands of Hawar. Six years ago (December 1994), the Gulf Cooperation Council summit was held in Bahrain amid the sounds of bullets and smell of tear gas being fired by the security forcers against the citizens. The events that disturbed that summit are still lingering and the possible escalation with Qatar this year may create another environment that may see the end of the Gulf security alliance. Morocco has recently withdrawn its ambassador from Qatar following press allegations that Qatar had purchased British military equipment and passed them to Algeria. The Algerians support the Polisarios who are engaged in a conflict with Morocco and are struggling for their independence. The high-profile Bahraini delegation that will be visiting Morocco is expected to utilise the deterioration of relations between Qatar and Morocco and this may play a role in the alliances being forged by each country ahead of the ICJ ruling. The current visit to Britain is expected to cover other issues relating to the on-going political situation inside Bahrain. The government of Bahrain has expressed its happiness with the third annual report published by the British Foreign Office regarding alleged “improvement” of human rights in Bahrain. The Bahraini government has been leaning towards France in the past years, and the recent gestures between the two governments are aimed at regaining the influential relationship. The on-going investigation about the fate of Ian Henderson who led the repressive security forces in Bahrain since 1966 is bound to overshadow the discussion. Scotland Yard continues its investigation in his case and any future trial of Mr. Henderson will be a trial for the entire repressive system that has ruled Bahrain for a long time. The opposition hopes that the UK will use its influence for promoting human rights and democracy. The worst would if the British Foreign Office were to be seen as apologising for dictatorship, Bahrain Freedom Movement 24 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Political reforms require repealing repressive measures and structures
The Amir of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, will pay a visit to the UK starting on 23 July to be followed by a visit to Morocco. During his visit to the UK, the Amir will meet Queen Elizabeth II and will also hold talks with British Prime Minister Tony Blair “on the friendly relations between the two countries and the means of enhancing them in addition to the situation in the Gulf region and issues of common interest.” Since assuming power in March 1999 the expectations of the people of Bahrain have gone up only to plummet later when it was realised that the claims of reforms had not materialized or initiated. Opposition forces inside and outside the country supported the pledges made by the Amir that he would allow the resumption of the municipality election, which was halted in 1956. The opposition also welcomed the opening-up of debate in the press about democracy and constitutionalism. However, these positive steps are being countered by the continuation of repressive measures and dictatorial policies. Both the State Security Court and State Security Law are used as and when needed to silence the nation. It is a fact that no matter what reforms is put in place, they all could by nullified by the State Security Law and Court. Moreover, the government is going ahead with the appointment of “mukhtars”. The so-called governor of Muharraq said last week that he has more than fifty names to choose eighteen of them as mukhtars. These individuals are charged with spying and reporting on all public functions that may be held in their areas. The ruling family has also implemented a wide-ranging and far-reaching programme of “khalfanisation” whereby all members of the Al-Khalifa family are being appointed to take control of State positions and even quasi-civic associations. A recently formed Business Woman Association was made up and led by several Al-Khalifa ladies. Critics point out that the government is sending mixed and vague signals for reforms because of the nature of the present political phase. The crisis with Qatar means there is a need for public support while the scheduled visit by a UN team next February to investigate arbitrary detention means the interior ministry wants to pass this period only to resume its flagrant repression later on. At present, scores of citizens are being arrested every now and then for short periods, roughed-up, tortured and released after few days so that international human rights organisations may not monitor their cases. The Amir will go to Morocco next Wednesday, and the opposition hopes that something similar to what happened in Morocco takes place in Bahrain. The Moroccan king dismissed the interior minister who had been responsible for repression. The people would support the Amir if he were to dismiss those responsible for repression in the past 25 years. Bahrain Freedom Movement 22 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 989
OMCT on Bahrain
OMCT on Bahrain The International Secretariat of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)issued two urgent actions on 18 July raising concern that “at the beginning of July 2000, security forces attacked several houses in Bilad al-Qadim and arrested a number of citizens, releasing them a couple of days later…. “Also, its is reported that on 21st June, a child, Mosa Jaafer Al-Shaikh from Daih was arrested and kept in jail for four days, allegedly tortured severely and then released.” Moreover in June 2000, a number of young people were sentenced to seven years of imprisonment, following their arrest as children three to four years ago. The International Secretariat of OMCT recalled that “Bahrain is a state party to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 37b) which states that “The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.” Furthermore, that “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” OMCT urged the Bahraini authorities to: i. take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of the mentioned children; ii. order their immediate release in the absence of valid legal charges; iii. carry out a full and impartial investigation into the alleged arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture, in order to identify those responsible, bring them to trial and apply the penal, civil and/or administrative sanctions provided by law; iv. put an immediate end to the use of arbitrary or illegal detention of children and abrogate 1974 State Security Law and all national laws which are not in compliance with international human rights standards; v. guarantee the respect of human rights and the fundamental freedoms throughout the country in accordance with national laws and international human rights standards, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Update on Qatar-Bahrain Dispute
DUBAI, July 18 (Reuters) – The emir of Qatar said on Tuesday that his country would withdraw a court case against Bahrain if their territorial dispute was settled before the verdict. Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, speaking to Doha-based al-Jazeera satellite television during a visit to Iran, also said that Qatar welcomed a rapprochement with Bahrain, its Gulf Arab neighbour, despite their differences. “I believe if the two sides agreed on an amicable solution, naturally this issue will be withdrawn from the International Court of Justice,” Sheikh Hamad said. The world court in The Hague began public hearings in May in the dispute over the small but potentially oil- and gas-rich Hawar islands, controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s but also claimed by Qatar. Bahrain also claims Zubarah, a town on Qatar’s mainland. The two states nearly went to war in 1986 over the issue. The world court is expected to issue a verdict within four to six months of the hearings’ end. A ruling will be final and binding. Bahrain’s Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Monday said Manama had not wanted the dispute and stressed the need to “extend bridges of closeness and cooperation and unity to the brothers in Qatar.” MANAMA, July 17 (Reuters) – Bahrain’s ruler said on Monday he wanted good relations with Qatar despite a long-running territorial dispute between the two Gulf Arab states that flared earlier this year, Bahrain’s GNA news agency reported. “Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa stressed Bahrain’s honest desire to extend bridges of closeness and cooperation and unity to the brothers in Qatar,” GNA said. “We never wanted this dispute to occur,” Sheikh Hamad told a public gathering in the capital. Bahrain and Qatar have long argued over the sovereignty of the small but potentially oil- and gas-rich Hawar islands controlled by Bahrain since the 1930s but also claimed by Qatar. Fresh tensions emerged in May after Bahrain suspended bilateral talks, saying Qatar had failed to respond to its proposals. The dispute went before the International Court of Justice in The Hague at the end of May.
Bahrain: Contradictory messages and practices adopted by the government
The Geneva-based International Organisation Against Torture issued an important survey of human rights abuses in Bahrain between 1995 and 1998. OMCT revealed that it had documented the cases of 843 children who had been detained and ill-treated by the Bahraini interior ministry. OMCT stated that Bahraini children cases represented 38% of all children’s cases in 31 countries documented by the organisation. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Ra’y Al-Aam said on 16 July that the Bahraini government refused to allow Bahraini teachers to work in Kuwait. An official denial was published by the government today, but it has been well known in the Gulf that the Bahraini government has consistently intervened to make life worse for those Bahrainis who decide to go abroad in search for a decent living away from the repressive regime in their homeland. The government-controlled press has continued to cover the seminar early this month (4 July) in Al-Ahli Club. Intellectuals and pro-democracy figures spoke freely in favour of the restoration of the National Assembly and rejected the plan to consider the Shura Council as a replacement to the constitutional body or an improvement to the political process. The papers said that the Amir supported the statements in the seminar. If this is so, then the BFM welcomes such sentiments and hope that the Amir will permit the return of democracy to Bahrain. It is recognised that certain positive steps were announced, and next year may witness the resumption of the Municipality Election that existed in Bahrain between 1926-56. The BFM had declared its support for this step. However, there is concern that the plans for appointing “mukhtars” will not only violate the rights of citizens to play their role but will also jeopardise the planned local elections. The “mukhtar” is a person appointed by the interior ministry and is charged with spying on people and monitoring public functions. The position of the mukhtar was mainly fostered after 1956 when the local election had been banned. The two systems are contradictory to each other. The contradictory practices and messages may reflect differences of opinion between those who might allow a limited reform to take place and those who are objecting to any reform. Bahrain Freedom Movement 17 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Exiles expose the atrocities of the government
A group of Bahraini exiles took the case of the people of Bahrain on 14 July to the Bahrain-Delmon Exhibition being organised by the government at London University (SOAS). Pamphlets were distributed explaining the demands of the people and highlighting how the Bahraini government treats its people. More than thirty British personalities wrote a letter to SOAS administration urging the closure of such exhibition that attempts to advertise false images by a government that denies its people all basic rights. The marriage announcement of a US Marine Cpl. Jason Johnson (25 years old) and Meriam Al-Khalifa (19 years old) has brought to surface the tribal rituals of the ruling family. According to the customs of the ruling family, all females from the Al-Khalifa are banned from marrying anyone outside the ruling family. Male members may only marry following permission and normally such marriage is only allowed for a second wife. For example, the Prime Minister’s second wife is an English woman. Those who violated the rules are punished severely. An intellectual Al-Khalifa woman lives with her husband (a musician, who is not an Al-Khalifa) in the UAE rather than in Bahrain. These complicated rituals have created many problems to the youths of the ruling family and many of them suffer in silence. The present case has caused a rift in the family recently because the couple left Bahrain with ease as US military personnel are allowed to leave the airport by merely producing a card. Questions have been raised about the facilities provided to Americans in Bahrain and at least some are misusing the privilege. On 14 July, the appointed and unconstitutional Central Municipal Council renamed the suburbs of the capital, Manama. Fourteen new names were selected in away that reflects the attitude of the ruling family towards Bahrain. The historic old capital name (Bilad al-Qadim) was ignored as well as other names such as Ras-Romman, Sanabis, Makhargah, and others. In their place came strange names such as Al-Fateh suburb. “Al-Fateh” means “The Conqueror” and refers to the grand father of the Al-Khalifa family who invaded Bahraini in 1783. The term “conquerors” is a medieval and outdated one that used to describe wars between Muslims and non-Muslims. The insistence of the ruling family to use this term is not an affront to the civilised Bahrainis. Bahrain Freedom Movement 15 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Marriage of Mariam Al Khalifa
12 July CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — A princess from Bahrain fell in love with a U.S. Marine, fled the Persian Gulf using fake documents and married him. Now, she is seeking asylum here, saying she faces persecution if she returns to her island nation. “I did the worst thing possible in my country, to fall in love with a non-Muslim,” said Mariam Al Khalifa, 19. “To make it even worse, he’s an American.” Al Khalifa’s hearing before the Immigration and Naturalization Service is scheduled for Monday. The State Department wants her deported. According to an account in the Los Angeles Times, Al Khalifa and Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson at first hid their courtship from her parents. When their relationship was revealed, she was confined to the house but spoke with Johnson by telephone. “We had to see each other behind my family’s back,” she told the newspaper. “When they found out, they were very angry.” She declined to comment further to The Associated Press except to say she hoped to eventually repair relations with her family. Al Khalifa carries the title of sheika because her father, Sheik Abdullah Al Khalifa, is a cousin of the head of state, Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Bahrain is a small island off the eastern coast of Saudi Arabia that also is the regional base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Johnson, 25, was assigned to a unit providing security for Americans there. He met Al Khalifa at a mall in the country’s capital of Manama and a romance blossomed, the newspaper reported Monday. As his deployment was ending late last year, he didn’t want to leave without her. She dressed in baggy clothes and a New York Yankees cap to hide her long hair, and hopped a ride on a commercial airplane using U.S. military documents that Johnson had forged, the newspaper reported. In Chicago, INS officials discovered the ruse. Al Khalifa immediately requested political asylum. The INS granted her request for a hearing and in the meantime, the couple married in Las Vegas. “I think they’d kill her if she ever returned,” her husband said. “She embarrassed the royal family. To keep their reputation clean, they would have to take vengeance.” For his part, Johnson was demoted to private first class and given extra duty. The couple currently live on the military base. The newspaper quoted an unidentified spokesman for the Bahraini Embassy in Washington as saying that Al Khalifa shouldn’t worry about returning home because “the family still loves her very much and would love her to go back.” But Al Khalifa says she fears right-wing clergy in Bahrain might encourage others to attack her if she returns. Some Middle East experts doubted that Al Khalifa faces any real danger in Bahrain, though she may be socially ostracized for dishonoring her family and country. “If her family forgives her, I don’t think there is much the clerics would do,” said Richard Dekmejian, a Middle East expert at the University of Southern California.
Bahrain: Delmon exhibition emptied from history of Bahraini people
The Bahrain-Delmon Exhibition launched in London (12 July) is a replicate of the exhibition held in Paris last year. The Bahraini government approach towards the history of Bahrain reflects its present approach towards the people of Bahrain. The books that are taught in Bahrain schools and the presentations of the Bahraini ministry of information attempt to concentrate on certain aspects and at the same time to ignore or distort others. The ancient history of Bahrain is characterised by its strategic position between east and west, fertile lands, fresh water, and pearls diving, all of which made Bahrain a centre of urban (i.e. non-nomadic) settlement throughout history. Some 2300 years BC, Bahrain became a centre of one of the ancient empires trading between Mesopotamia (now Iraq) and the Indus Valley (now the region near India/Pakistan). This was the civilisation of Delmon that was linked to the Sumerian Civilisation in the third millennium BC. Bahrain nowadays is proudly a cosmopolitan society with mixed communities. The history of Bahrain is a rich one with a history of achievements in culture. Last year, the 700th year since the death of the great philosopher Sheikh Maitham Al-Bahrani (born 1238, died 1299) was totally ignored by the government. This is because the ruling Al-Khalifa family does not feel part of Bahrain that dates before its arrival in the country in 1783. This also explains why the indigenous population who existed since ancient times are amongst those who are discriminated against by the ruling family. This fact has been confirmed by the UN Human Rights Sub-Commission resolutions of August 1997 which condemned the government of Bahrain for its violation of human rights and discrimination against the indigenous population. It is fair to say that all Bahrainis of today’s society are suffering from the government of Bahrain. It is a tribally controlled government that depends on mercenaries imported from outside Bahrain for its security forces. These security forces have no loyalty to Bahrain and have been practising all types of abuses including extra-judicial killing and torturing detainees to death. Instead of bringing any of them to justice, the senior officers where presented with the highest decorations last March. In the beginning of July, the British officer who controlled the repressive forces since 1966 retired but all the repressive structures which he created continue to intimidate and persecute the people of Bahrain who are demanding the restoration of their basic and constitutional rights. Bahrain Freedom Movement 11 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Extra Daily News (CNN)
Friday July 7, 2000
Forbidden Love: The Princess and the Private
It may be hard for you to believe, but an American soldier fell in love with a member of royal family, and smuggled her out of her own country so they could marry! Now their forbidden love could cost them their lives. EXTRA explains why these newlyweds are taking seriously the vow “till death do you part.”
They are a young couple in love. Jason, a fresh-faced 25-year-old marine, and his sweetheart, an exotic 19-year-old beauty named Meriam. The two celebrated their recent marriage, a spur-of-the-moment wedding at a Las Vegas chapel last fall. But a dark cloud looms over these young lovers. A reminder that theirs is a forbidden romance, one that could get both of them killed. The two have received death threats because Meriam is no ordinary teenager; she’s a princess. A royal from the Persian Gulf nation of Bahrain, a member of the ruling Al Khalifa family, her father, second cousin to his royal highness, the Amir.
Although considered the most “liberal” of the Gulf States, arranged marriages there are still common and there is no socializing between young men and women. “We’re not allowed to have boyfriends we’re not allowed to talk to guys. Until we get married it’s not allowed,” says Meriam.
But Meriam says she’s always been a rebel. Fresh out of an all-girls high school, she met Jason at a mall in Bahrain while he was stationed there. At first she didn’t tell him about her royal roots.
“I was scared that if he found out he would stop talking to me because it happened before,” she explains. By then it was too late, they’d fallen in love. Meriam’s parents warned her to end the highly improper relationship. But love persevered. The two continued to meet on the sly writing each other touching love letters. Then on November 1st 1999, Jason masterminded a daring escape smuggling Meriam out of the country.
“Me and a couple of other people went and rented a Lexus so we kinda fit into the neighborhood, she hopped over the wall, we threw her into the car and took off,” Jason describes.
Meriam, who was leaving her family and abandoning a life of luxury, remembers almost backing out of the deal. “I was like I can’t leave. I was like what do I do? I can’t let him just go because I can’t imagine my life without talking to him or without seeing him,” she reveals. On the way to the airport Meriam disguised herself in baggy clothes and a hat. Jason had a phony passport ready. They made it past several security checkpoints and onto a plane bound for Chicago. But soon Meriam’s family realized she was missing and authorities were waiting in the US. Meriam’s family wants her back, but she fears torture and persecution, were she to return. She managed to convince immigration agents of the dangers and was granted temporary asylum in the US.
“For a daughter to leave the ruling family without the permission of the parents is quite an insult because women represent the honor of the family,” says Professor Richard Dekmejian, a Middle East expert at the University of Southern California.
He says if Meriam were to voluntarily return home, in that culture she would be considered damaged goods. “She has compromised her female purity and therefore I expect her to find difficulty in getting married again,” he believes.
Dekmejian says Bahrain depends on the US for military protection. And the last thing the ruling family would do is compromise that relationship. For that reaso, he doesn’t think the young lovers should worry about those death threats.
“If anything happened to the marine or the girl this would reflect very badly on the royal family,” Dekmejian says. Jason, once a marine corporal, has been demoted to a private for obtaining the phony ID for Meriam. Meriam has had to learn how to clean, cook and do the laundry. And although she misses her family, Meriam’s devoted to her new husband and he to her.
“I knew I had to give up things but when it comes to him it didn’t matter,” she says.
“Nothing comes before her. Not the Marine Corps not my own personal family. Nobody does.” Jason swears. But Meriam’s not home free yet. The INS is still trying to decide whether or not to grant her US citizenship.
10 July 2000
Marine, Sheik’s Daughter Defy Tradition for Love Culture: The pair eloped from Bahrain against her family’s wishes. Now she’s asking the INS for asylum in the U.S., claiming she would be persecuted if forced to return home.
By TONY PERRY, Times Staff Writer
The Marine and the royal cousin fell in love but her family disapproved. Royally. She was forbidden to see him and confined to the house. In her native Bahrain, that can happen to women who defy Islamic taboos.
And so Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson and Meriam Al-Khalifa did what young lovers often do when confronted with a hostile world: They fled.
Now they are at the center of an immigration court case in San Diego as she fights to remain in the United States.
Johnson, 25, spirited his 18-year-old beloved out of Bahrain late last year aboard a commercial airliner, disguising her as a Marine with phony military documents and a New York Yankees cap to hide her long hair. But when the couple arrived in Chicago, they were confronted by officials of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who had been alerted to the royal runaway by the government of Bahrain, a strategically important U.S. ally.
Rather than bow to the State Department’s request to take the first flight back to her Persian Gulf island nation, Al-Khalifa requested political asylum, contending that she faces persecution for breaking one of the strongest strictures in the Islamic world.
“I did the worst thing possible in my country, to fall in love with a non-Muslim,” said Al-Khalifa, now 19. “To make it even worse, he’s an American.” Johnson agrees. “I think they’d kill her if she ever returned,” he said. “She embarrassed the royal family.
To keep their reputation clean, they would have to take vengeance.” Given a reprieve by the slow pace of immigration proceedings, the truck driver’s son and the sheik’s daughter married in a wedding chapel on the Strip in Las Vegas in November, two weeks after arriving in the United States.
They settled into the spartan accommodations of government housing at Camp Pendleton, a world away from her life of luxury in Bahrain. There Al-Khalifa does housework–something she had servants to do in Bahrain.
Johnson, who has been busted by the Marine Corps back to private first class for the escapade, goes to work every day as a machine-gunner.
On July 17, the couple faces the latest in a series of INS hearings in San Diego, where a judge will consider her petition for asylum, a plea opposed by the U.S. government. It is common for some families in Islamic countries to treat a woman who has dated, let alone married, without her family’s blessing as nothing more than a prostitute who has brought dishonor on her family and country–a fact that INS officials considered in allowing her to remain in the United States for a hearing.
Though Bahrain is considered by most scholars to be far more liberal than most Islamic nations, it has seen a recent surge of Islamic fundamentalism. Bahraini women who dare to socialize with non-Muslim men are sometimes considered “damaged goods” to be scorned or physically assaulted, said Richard Dekmejian, a Middle East expert and political science professor at USC.
A spokesman for the Bahraini Embassy in Washington said Al-Khalifa has no reason to fear returning home. “The family still loves her very much and would love her to go back,” said the spokesman. “Nothing will happen to her. This is a family matter, not a royal matter.” Still, she fears that others in Bahrain, possibly at the behest of right-wing clergy, might assault her if she returns, possibly as a sign that not even the royal family is exempt from a strict enforcement of cultural codes. Dekmejian doubts, however, that that would occur in a high-profile case involving the wife of a U.S. Marine, given the Bahraini government’s concern about maintaining good relations with the United States. “If her family forgives her, I don’t think there is much the clerics would do,” said Dekmejian.
The couple met in a mall in the Bahraini capital of Manama, where Johnson was assigned to a counter-terrorism unit to provide security for Americans in Bahrain, including 500-plus U.S. Defense Department employees. For several months she hid from Johnson the fact that her father is Sheik Abulla Al-Khalifa, a cousin of the head of state, Emir Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa. As the daughter of a sheik, she holds the title of sheika.
All he knew was that she spoke nearly flawless English with a slight British “Spice Girl” accent and had been to the United States at age 12 to visit Disney World in Florida.
“We had to see each other behind my family’s back,” she said. “When they found out, they were very angry.” Forbidden by her family to see each other, the two continued their courtship mostly by telephone. That’s when the intercontinental elopement plans were hatched.
With his yearlong tour of duty nearing its end, Johnson refused to leave without the woman he loved. Using his night-vision goggles to scout out security procedures at the airport, Johnson found that Bahraini citizens are asked for their passports before boarding a plane, but that U.S. Marines are not. So he went to great lengths to disguise her as another Marine, furnishing baggy “grunge” clothes and phony military documents.
To avoid attracting attention in picking her up for the drive to the airport, he even rented a Lexus to blend in with the expensive neighborhood. Though the masquerade lasted no further than Chicago, Al-Khalifa convinced INS agents that she had a credible fear of being harmed if returned to Bahrain–over the objections of the State Department, which wanted her put on an immediate return flight.
This decision entitled her to a hearing under U.S. laws that allow political asylum for foreign citizens who can demonstrate that they face persecution because of race, religion, political opinions, social group or nationality. Being married to a U.S. citizen alone does not guarantee a right to stay in the country.
Experts on immigration law say there is a precedent for Al-Khalifa’s asylum bid on the grounds that she will face persecution for having married outside her faith. But they noted that she will have to present evidence of physical threats or past maltreatment–and evidence that she has become such a pariah that local authorities would not protect her. “Just showing that she will be socially ostracized will probably not be good enough,” said Kevin Johnson, an immigration expert and law professor at UC Davis.
Laurel Fletcher, associate director of the International Human Rights Law Clinic at UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, said the record of women seeking asylum on grounds of gender-related persecution is mixed. “This case seems to fall both into the ‘political opinions’ and ‘social group’ categories,” said Fletcher. “She is clearly a nonconforming Muslim woman.”
In Las Vegas, Johnson’s family says they love their new daughter-in-law and wish the Bahraini royal family could come to accept their son in the same way. “These kids are very much in love, and she’s scared to death what will happen if she is sent back,” said Johnson’s grandmother, Frances Johnson. “If I could, I’d tell that royal family:
Please, can’t we forget tradition and make these kids happy?” Johnson’s father, Dale, a cement truck driver, says he can understand how his daughter-in-law’s father, the sheik, can be upset at a child who defies his wishes. “I have mixed emotions about this,” he said. “I’m sure her parents are really having a hard time dealing with this.
From their viewpoint, I’m not pleased. But from the standpoint of kids in love, I think it’s great.
Bahrain: Will the government manage to fool the UN team next February?
Government’s efforts are being intensified following the agreement with the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit Bahrain in the period between 25 February and 2 March 2001. This visit was initially scheduled for October 1999, but the government presented several excuses for delaying the visit for one year until October 2000. However, earlier this year, the government proposed that the visit be cancelled or postponed until later in 2001. The chairman of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Judge Louis Joinet made it clear during the UN Human Rights Commission session last April that the Bahraini government attempts to delay the visit indefinitely will be rejected and that unless the visit takes place before the beginning of next UN meeting (April 2001), the WGAD will name and shame the Bahraini government for its continued atrocities. In the mean time, two other UN working groups requested to be allowed to visit Bahrain and investigate cases of torture and extra-judicial killing. The government’s manoeuvres were further exposed when a leading Swiss newspaper revealed how a torturer, Abdul Aziz Atteyat-Allah Al-Khalifa, was leading the Bahraini government delegation during UN session on human rights last April. The paper also revealed that the US delegation had made a point of not meeting with the torturer to avoid the liability of such interaction. With all the pressure that was mounted by UN teams and human rights activists, the government finally succumbed and agreed that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention will be allowed to visit Bahrain before next April (hence 25 February – 2 March). Since then, the interior ministry has been rushing scores of Bahraini youths to receive sentences of imprisonment following very short and secret sessions of the unconstitutional State Security Court that are held in the militarised village of Jaw. It is not yet clear how the government intends to deal with the detained pro-democracy figures such Abdul Wahab Hussain and Hassan Mushaimaa. News from inside the jails revealed that the interior ministry is applying extreme pressure to get them to sign to pre-prepared confessions. Several of them had been transferred to solitary confinement as part of the torture process. The clock is ticking and the interior ministry wants to get rid of as many cases as possible before the arrival of the UN team. One of the ways adopted by the regime to clear cases is to sentence the citizens by the State Security Court which is condemned by all international human rights organisations. The UN team’s remit concerns those arbitrarily detained and the people who receive sentences by the security court are still considered as arbitrarily detained people as the due-process (by which they were sentenced) falls short of all constitutional and international requirements. The government will attempt to fool the UN inspection team but such attempts may backfire in the face of the human rights abusers. Bahrain Freedom Movement 9 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Henderson’s Singaporean villa; More citizens sentenced
More information was revealed about the British officer who has led the repressive security forces since 1966. Sources inside Bahrain indicated that the ruling Al-Khalifa family has purchased a large villa for him in Singapore and that he plans to travel between the two countries. The Singaporean villa will be used as his residence if and when he feels that returning to the UK would be risky for him. On 2 July, the ruling family honoured him publicly. His name was mentioned in the local Arabic media for the first time since he assumed his role in Bahrain in 1966. More names of citizens came to light following their secret sentencing by the unconstitutional State Security Court. The month of June witnessed the sentencing of scores of citizens in batches. The ruling family is rushing Bahrainis through its court following the fixing of a date for the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit the country in the period between 25 February and 2 March 2001. The ruling family wants to get rid of as many cases as possible before the arrival of the UN inspection team. The following citizens were amongst those sentenced in June. These were arrested in Tobli and Isa Town three to four years ago when they were children. After growing up in jails, they were brought before an Al-Khalifa judge for sentencing: – Tahir Abbas Hussain Mahffodh, 18 years old (7 years imprisonment). – Ali Alshaikh Mosa Hassan Al-Oraibi , 18 years old (7 years) – Nabil Abdul Nabi Al-Saffar , 19 (5 years) – Jawad Salamn Isa , 19, (5 years) – Ammar Isa, 18, (5 years ) – Mohammed Badr Alshaikh 18 year (5 years) – Naji Ahmed Salamn 18 , (5 years ) – Sadiq Ali Al-Shofa , 18 (5 years) – Hamid Ali Ibrahim , 18, (5 years) – Alsayeed Jaafer, 18 ( 5 years) Three others were also sentenced to three years imprisonment by the same court. It has been reported that Maitham Badr Al-Shaikh, a detainee, was transferred on 4 July from the torture chambers to the military hospital following the deterioration of his health. This youth was subjected to a severe torturing by Badr Al-Dha’aen. The authorities refused to release him despite his health deterioration. His brother, Mohammed, is also in jail. It was also reported that Hussain Al-Tattan who was arrested in December 1994, has been transferred to a solitary confinement cell for the seventh month. The torturer Riadh Fazaa was the one who decided to place the citizen in solitary confinement. On 1 July, the security men stopped Mr. Shakir Abdul Jalil Abbas (from Abo-Saibaa) upon his return to his homeland across the Bahrain-Saudi causeway. The citizen works in Kuwait and was returning to Bahrain to visit his family when he was stooped and arrested. Bahrain Freedom Movement 7 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Intellectuals confirm the national demand; UN team’s visit scheduled
The evening of 4 July witnessed an intense debate between Bahraini intellectuals with strong women presence at Al-Ahli Club. The main speaker was Dr. Abdul Aziz Obol who summarised the views held by most Bahrainis that the Shura Council, in whatever form, is unconstitutional and can never be a replacement for the main demand: “the restoration of the National Assembly”. Other pro-democracy personalities joined the debate including Mr. Abdulla Hashim, Mr. Ibrahim Isa, Mr. Ibrahim Kamal-u-Din and the journalist Ali Saleh. They all confirmed that the demand that brings all Bahrainis together is the restoration of the constitutional parliament. They called for the activation of Bahraini’s Constitution and urged the Amir to hold talks with the Committee for Popular Petition (CPP). The CPP has been denied any meeting with the Amir since Novemeber 1994 when it collected some 25,000 signatures from the public calling for the restoration of political rights to Bahrainis. In the UK, Channel 4 and the Guardian covered on 4 July the news of the retirement of Ian Henderson and confirmed that Scotland Yard is still examining his case. The “chief torturer” will be awaited in Britain where human rights campaigners are calling for his arrest and trial. On the other hand, local newspapers said on 4 July that the Cabinet has approved the law regulating the National Guard. This paramilitary unit was formed by the Amir (then a Crown Price) in early 1998 in the absence of the prime minister. The premier considered the formation of the force as one of the steps to out-maneuvour his grip on the security forces. In the past few days, the security forces attacked several houses in Bilad al-Qadim and arrested a number of citizens. Some of those known to be arrested were: Jaafer Mohammed Alhamdi, 30 years old, Abd Ali Ahmed Almarhoon, 31 years old, Mohammed Jaafer Jassim, 19, Khalil Ibrahim Almotowaa,19, Alsayed Jabir Alsayed Ibrahim,17. Another youth Mohammed Abdul Jabbar Ibrahim Aldurazi who is 19 years old fell down from the top floor of his house after being chased by security men and had his arm and waist broken. Despite that, security men beat him and tortured him severely on the scene. Two days later, all those arrested were released and the wounded youth was transferred to hospital. On 30 June, the mercenaries attacked the house of Saeed Ali Hassan Khalaf , 22 years old from Bilad al-Qadim. Since Saeed wasn’t there, they confiscated his car and took his brother Mirza as a hostage. Saeed had spent three years in the torture chambers. On 21 June , a child, Mosa Jaafer Al-Shaikh from Daih was arrested and kept in jail for four days, tortured severely and then released. The authorities have lately applied a new policy to deal withdetainees. They keep them in jail for short periods, torture them severely and them release them. This is because the regime is attempting to hide the extent of atrocities committed by the undisciplined security forces. It was revealed that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detenetion will at last be able to visit Bahrain in the period between 25 February – 2 March 2001. The visit was initially scheduled for October 1999, but the regime played for time. It is expected that the government will still attempt to prevent the UN team from visiting Bahrain. However, the confirmation of the date of visit is a victory for the people of Bahrain who are struggling for their basic right to live with dignity in their homeland. Bahrain Freedom Movement 5 July 2000
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
British ‘torture chief’ quits
Brian Whitaker, The Guardian, Tuesday July 4, 2000, page 13.
A British colonel accused of torture while running the secret police in Bahrain retired abruptly yesterday from his post as an advisor to the island’s interior ministry.
A statement by the Gulf News Agency said the prime minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, met Ian Henderson and thanked him for his ‘long service in the security department’.
Mr Henderson, 71, a Scot, took charge of Bahrain’s security in 1966, five years before it gained independence from Britain. He had previously served in colonial Kenya, fighting the Mau Mau uprising.
Oppositions groups in Bahrain, which has a population of 400,000, frequently complain of human rights abuses. In 1995 they accused Mr Henderson of ‘masterminding a ruthless campaign of repression’. He denied the accusation.
Mr Henderson’s retirement comes as the new ruler of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa, sets about liberalising the state. Besides announcing steps towards democracy, he has released several political detainees and set up a committee to monitor Human rights.
An Amnesty spokesman said:’ We’ve repeatedly raised our concerns about torture with the Bahraini authorities and with Henderson himself, since 1987.
‘ The government of Bahrain has consistently denied torture, but has never, to our knowledge, carried out a proper investigation.’
Mr Henderson left his post as Bahrain’s head of security two years ago to become an advisor to the interior ministry.
In January this year Jack Straw, the home secretary, announced that the organised crime branch of the Metropolitan was investigating Mr Henderson’s activities.
This came after it was reported that Mr Henderson had celebrated New year at his country home on Dartmoor, which is marked with a 5ft-high gallows and a sign saying ‘Beware of the Dogs’.
Lord Avebury, vice-chair of the parliamentary human rights group, suggested that Mr Henderson was liable to be arrested if he set foot in Britain again.
Scotland Yard confirmed yesterday that the papers in the case were still being examined.
Bahrain: Government’s declaration on Henderson
The Government of Bahrain declared on 3 July that Ian Henderson , the chief of intelligence department since 1966 has retired. The news was displayed in the local papers and this is the first time since 1966 that his name and tittle has been announced in the Arabic language media. The declaration is aimed at sending a message to the outside world that the “Henderson Era” is over. A spokesperson for the BFM said that this declaration would not change the actual policies of the regime for the following reasons: 1. There are a dozen British officers who assume senior roles in the internal security apparatus, such as Donald Bryan and Dave Derby. Al-Khalifa members and other people, mainly from the outside, fill the rest of the top positions. 2. The security system has been extended with more authorities given to local police stations to intimidate and persecute political activists. This internal security system has unlimited and unaccountable powers by virtue of the State Security Law that was masterminded by Ian Henderson. 3. Ian Henderson and his men will remain in Bahrain to oversee other operations they are involved with, such as espionage. In the UK, Scotland Yard is investigating the case of Ian Henderson for alleged involvement in torturing Bahrainis since 1966. Human rights campaigners are calling for his arrest upon his return to the UK so that other tortures are warned that there is no impunity for human rights abusers. Bahrain Freedom Movement 4 July 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Unionists expose the malpractice of the Bahraini government
Members of the Committee of General Committee of Bahraini Workers wrote a letter to the authorities and other concerned bodies highlighting the fact that they are being threatened and pressured by the Bahraini interior ministry. The Executive Committee of the General Committee of Bahraini Workers had taken a decision to boycott all international labour meetings whenever a Bahraini government’s delegation attends. This decision has been taken as protest against he continuation of the Bahraini government to deny the labour movement their constitutional rights. The workers committee is denied all powers that would lead to its status being upgraded to a union position. The Executive Committee had submitted a petition to the government stating several key demands, amongst them: amending the Labour Law so that unions are legalised as specified by Bahrain’s Constitution; return of exiled unionists to Bahrain; and equal representation between employers and employees in decision making relating vocational training However, the interior ministry threatened the workers’ committee that they will be banned and punished. Furthermore, the interior ministry forced the committee’s president to defy the decision taken by his colleagues and to attend the International Labour Union in Geneva in mid June, where the labour minister and government delegation were also present. Arab trade unionists met in Geneva and condemned the Bahraini government policies and practices towards the labour union movement in Bahrain. Mr. Hassan Jammam, Secretary General of the Arab Labour Union, criticised the Bahraini government for its continued violations of citizens rights. The political situation in Bahrain is not improving despite attempts by the government PR machine to misinform the outside. This is what the leading pro-democracy personality, Mr. Ali Rabea, wrote in Al-Quds a lengthy article on 28 June explaining how Bahrainis enjoyed more rights under British colonialism that under independence. Pro-democracy figures, such Abdul Wahab Hussein and Hassan Mushaimaa are languishing in the ever-increasing jails of Bahrain. No reforms what so ever had taken place, and indeed the dictatorial practices are being consolidated through the issuing of more laws that favour the rule of dictatorship in Bahrain. Bahrain Freedom Movement 2 July 2000 Tel/Fax; (+44) 207 278 9089
Bahrain: Pro-democracy personality calls on the Amir to listen to the people
Frustrations are mounting inside the country following the series of trails conducted by the unconstitutional State Security Court and the news that Bahraini men and women are being ill-treated inside the jails by the mercenaries that had been imported by the ruling family for repressing the citizens of Bahrain. Loud gas-cylinder explosions were heard in the past few days in Sitra and its surrounding. The residents are commemorating the martyrdom of Ali Taher who was shot dead in Sitra in July 1996. The ruling family has refused to bring the killers to justice and instead the senior security officers responsible for human rights abuses were promoted and commended. The security forces attacked Daih and arrested several people on 24 June, amongst them a 14-year Mohammed Ali Hassan. The child was released and summoned for further interrogation and ill treatment in the following days. A delegation representing the Committee for Defence of Human Rights in Bahrain participated in the UN meeting on development, which is being held in Geneva between 25 and 30 June. The government sent its envoy as well. Bahraini human rights activists exposed the false claims of the government and the extent of misery suffered by the citizens of Bahrain under a government that has yet to recognise the rights of citizens to live with dignity in their homeland. The pro-democracy figure, Mr, Ali Rabea, wrote an important article in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 28 June questioning why Bahrainis had enjoyed more political rights under British colonialism than during the period of independence. Mr. Rabea said that Bahraini enjoyed local elections in 1926 and elections in 1950s for education and health councils, but since independence, Bahrainis began to lose all their rights. The process of de-franchising Bahrainis was further consolidated in 1975 when the Amir dissolved the National Assembly. Mr. Rabea said that the Shura Council (regardless whether it is elected or appointed) is unconstitutional and has been rejected by the people of Bahrain. He explained how the previous Amir rejected all attempts to submit the Popular Petition that was signed by some 25,000 citizens. He called on the present Amir to change such a policy and to start listening to the people. Mr. Rabea reminded the rulers of Bahrain that the people demands are very clear and are centred around the restoration of the National Assembly, the release of political prisoners and detainees, freedom of expression and rule of just and constitutional law. Bahrain Freedom Movement 29 June 2000 Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089
July 2000 Editorial
Bahrain-Qatar Border Dispute at The Hague:
International arbitration encourages other Gulf countries to mutually settle disputes
It has always been assumed that the border disputes in the Gulf are a time bomb. Ten years ago it exploded ferociously leading to a war that threatened the stability of the region. The repercussions of that war are still unfolding in the Gulf. Saddam Hussain is still feared by some of his neighbours especially Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. That is why when the International Court of Justice in the Hague (ICJ) started its proceedings last month, to resolve the border dispute between Bahrain and Qatar, a feeling of relief began to emerge in the political circles in the region. It was hoped that it would serve as a reminder that leaving unresolved disputes to drag on could only lead to more complications and deterioration of relations among the countries concerned.
The Government of Bahrain had opposed the idea of international arbitration but after decades of bickering there was no other conduit to pursue. The Saudi mediation had produced no results and the Government of Qatar was insistent on taking the issue beyond the regional circle. Having been reprimanded by the other Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries for its military intervention in 1986 in a related incident at a coral reef known as Fasht Al Dibel, the Qataris chose to take up the issue all the way to The Hague. Following that incident the Saudis took the challenge of two GCC states going to war very seriously and put their weight behind a mediation initiative. When after three years the deadlock remained unresolved, Qatar insisted on international arbitration. During the 1990 GCC summit which was being held in Doha at the peak of the Gulf crisis following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, Qatar insisted on discussing the disputed with Bahrain as an item on the agenda. After strong Saudi intervention the two sides agreed to give mediation some more time after which the two sides would agree to go the ICJ. The Bahrainis were clearly cornered and were made to agree to the principle of international arbitration for the first time. Five years later, the Saudi mediations appeared to have faltered and the Qataris ceased the opportunity to take the case to the ICJ.
The ICJ ruled that looking into the case was within its jurisdiction. The two countries were given some time to prepare their cases. Finally when it appeared that the final proceedings at the ICJ were underway earlier this year, the two sides appeared surprisingly at ease and were exchanging ambassadors for the first time. They went as far as forming a joint High Committee comprising the two Crown Princes. Few months later it became clear that the Committee was not able to produce substantial results in terms of the border disputes. Bahrain decided unilaterally to suspend its activities until the verdict of the ICJ has been announced.
As the proceedings continued over the past month, tension persisted and threatened to destabilise the region. In fact, it sent shock waves throughout the Gulf and pushed the Saudis to reconsider their border disputes with their neighbours. In a surpassingly quick move, a Saudi-Yemeni border agreement was sealed last month, a step that was considered difficult to achieve due to the tense relations between the two neighbouring countries. Barely forty years ago the two neighbours were engaged in a war that claimed thousands of lives. Suspicions remained the main feature of the relations between Sanaa and Riyadh especially after the Gulf War in which Yemen was accused of siding with Iraq. Now that the agreement with Saudi Arabia has been achieved, there are speculations that Yemen could soon find itself a member of the GCC. Although this is unlikely to happen soon, the sudden improvement in relations between the Saudi Arabia and Yemen made the reconciliation of the two governments possible. Yemen stands to gain the most financially since its labour force could soon find itself heading to the Gulf from where they had been pushed out a decade ago. The Saudis did not want to be “humiliated” by appearing in an international court and were ready to give away something in return. Amidst these development the Sultanate of Oman abruptly concluded a territorial agreement with Pakistan with regards to the sea borders.
The main outstanding and dangerous border dispute in the Gulf is the claim by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) against Iran for the sovereignty over the three small islands. The Shah had seized them on the eve of the British withdrawal from the Gulf in 197. For the past eight years the UAE has launched a media campaign on the issue and is threatening to take it to international arbitration. The recent rapprochement between the Gulf states and Iran was not received well by the UAE which has taken some steps to rehabilitate Iraq. Last month the Iraqi Embassy in Abu Dhabi was reopened after ten years following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The GCC had set up a trilateral commission to play a mediating role between the two countries. But no progress has been made. The UAE has made the issue a national one and barely a day passes without reference to the three islands in the local media. Seminars and conferences are being organised to highlight the case. The UAE has not hidden its displeasure at the GCC-Iran rapprochement and used relations with Iraq to counter this move.
Kuwait and Saudi Arabia stand at the other end of the equilibrium. The UAE is encouraged by the Qatar-Bahrain case at the ICJ and is preparing the ground for a similar litigation. The Iranians have not yet agreed to the idea and the relations are not unexpectedly, at low ebbs. However, the Iranians are more flexible with regards to another border dispute involving both Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. The three countries are contesting the oil filed of Al Dorra at the lower part of the Gulf and when Iran started oil exploration in the field last month, the Saudis used their good offices with Tehran to stop the process. Now the Kuwaitis have announced that the Saudis have agreed to discuss the issue and are encouraged by the signs coming from Riyadh. Once they settle with Saudi Arabia it will be an easier task to negotiate a settlement with Iran.
The international arbitration at the Hague is thus a mixed blessing for the Gulf. It has led to a sudden movement to sort out the mess left behind by the British. Whether serious and lasting solutions could be reached or not is open to speculation. But the Saudis are trying to avert international arbitration and rushing to settle their disputes with their neighbours. Perhaps this single outcome is good enough to justify the whole judicial process. The Bahrainis hope the ICJ’s imminent verdict will be in their favour. If it is not, more bizarre consequences could follow. We hope the ICJ will soon announce an amicable solution that retains Bahrain’s sovereignty over the islands of Howar. That will avert the possible complications of a negative verdict from Bahrain’s point of view.
Bahrain Freedom Movement
1 July 2000
Tel/Fax: (+44) 207 278 9089