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ICC Note:

In September, Bahrain signed a Declaration of Religious Tolerance and the King himself wrote an editorial describing the country as an oasis of religious freedom in the Middle East. However, the months following have revealed points of concern about Bahrain’s sincerity to this commitment. The Sheikh who attended the declaration’s signing is a leading figure in Bahrain’s security establishment, and accusations regarding his conduct towards prisoners have led the UK to strike his immunity from prosecution in the United Kingdom. Shortly after signing the declaration, the Sheikh was promoted to Bahrain’s Supreme Defense Council. While expat Christians in Bahrain are given restricted space to practice their beliefs, Bahraini Christians face an even harsher reality. Both demographics are closely watched by the security services, and Bahraini Christians in particular are singled out for mistreatment.

 

11/29/2017 Bahrain (Open Democracy) –  In September, one of Bahrain’s most prominent young princes traveled to Los Angeles on behalf of his father for what was hailed as an “historic event” for international religious freedom.

Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, of the Muslim-majority Kingdom of Bahrain, joined Rabbi Marvin Hier, Founder and Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, to sign the Bahrain Declaration of Religious Tolerance and formally launch the King Hamad Global Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence.

King Hamad himself followed the event with an editorial in The Washington Times, describing Bahrain as an oasis of religious freedom in the Middle East and summarizing the key tenets of his new declaration:

“It is the responsibility of governments to respect and protect equally both religious minorities and majorities…and there is no room for religious discrimination of any kind.”

But beneath the glamor of Sheikh Nasser’s reception at LA’s Beverly Wilshire Hotel, or the King’s gloss in Beltway newspapers, is a disturbingly different picture – one that clashes almost diametrically with the mirage of the King Hamad Global Centre.

The promotional stories for the prince’s visit, for example, describe him as merely a representative of Bahrain’s official charity, youth, and sports organizations.

What they leave out is that Brigadier General Nasser is also a leading figure in the Bahraini security establishment – and directly implicated in the violent suppression of the country’s Arab Spring protest movement.

As head of the Kingdom’s Olympic Committee, Sheikh Nasser created a special commission to carry out reprisals against athletes determined to have participated in demonstrations, publicly calling for “a wall to fall on [protesters’] heads … even if they are an athlete … Bahrain is an island and there is nowhere to escape.” If it was up to me,” he tweeted, “I’d give them all life [in prison].”

And there’s credible evidence of his involvement in the crackdown extended beyond supervision.

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