Thursday, 19 May 2016



‘Who on earth is that guy?’ I wondered. ‘What’s he doing there?’ Meaning the odd chap seated in the Royal Box right next to the Queen, watching the celebrations for Her Majesty’s 90^th birthday at Windsor Castle. Looked like an old-style South American dictator. Stocky, moustachioed, thick dark hair slicked back – only the dark glasses missing. Then I twigged. Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa he was. The King of Bahrain. Also an ugly tyrant, an oppressor and enemy of Bahrain’s people.

It must be a great honour to be seated at Queen Elizabeth’s right hand. Surely the tyrant-king has deserved it? He must be reckoned a good friend of Great Britain. Al Khalifa indeed looked like he was enjoying himself, also chatting to pretty Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice. A jolly good fellow, eh? Funny though that the king and his governing gang have been guilty of trifles like massive, appalling and disgusting violations of the people’s rights. David Swanson of Global Research writes of ‘royal thugs shooting, kidnapping, torturing, imprisoning and terrorising nonviolent opponents.’ A view confirmed, if need be, by Human Rights Watch. The Queen picks her foreign friends well…

Bahrain is an archipelago of tiny, sunny islands in the Arab (or Persian) Gulf. Ruled successively by Assyrians, Persians, Arabs, Portuguese, Persians again, Omanis and lastly by the British. That first meant the blood-sucking East India Company and then a British, euphemistically termed ‘Political Agent’, in reality a Gauleiter of the bad old British Empire, under whom the al-Khalifa dynasty prospered. I possess a guidebook to Bahrain. It shows Bahraini stamps bearing the images of King George VI, the Queen’s father, and then of Elizabeth II herself. Both convey the imperialistic link perfectly.

From 1971 Bahrain became formally independent. Well sort of. A huge US Fifth Fleet naval base is stationed in Bahrain and now Britain too has started a naval base construction. Weedy-looking, waterlogged-faced Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond opened it officially, next to very fat sheikh, member of the al-Khalifa reigning clique, declaring the base ensures the UK’s ‘sustained presence East of Suez’. Wot? Back to the Raj? A laugh!

Alas, this is no laughing matter. Britain’s pathetic fantasies of renewed worldwide glory sit awkwardly next to the continuing repression, the arrest, imprisonment and violent handling of opponents of the regime. An Amnesty International report lists numerous cases of ghastly tortures. Prisoners of conscience are beaten, starved of food and sleep, burned with cigarettes, given electric shocks and sexually abused. Was the Queen perhaps aware of that, as she chatted to the tyrant king? ‘Your Majesty, how many civilians have you tortured today?’ It would be good to know.

Very disagreeable. But why?  Strategic interests are one factor. Bahrain sits near enough to one of the West’s chief bogeys, Iran, to be valuable as a gun pointed at Tehran. The other factor is that Bahrain has oil. Unholy oil. Black gold. Geddit?

Apologists for the nasty king’s misrule play the sectarian card. Al-Khalifa and his supporters are Sunni Muslims. However, about 70% of his people are Shia’. The Shia’ would be intent on spreading a revolution in the Middle East, they claim. Poppycock! The people of Bahrain demand their natural rights, not an Islamic state. How is that subversive? Besides, the king has tried to alter the ethnic and religious composition of the population by granting Bahraini citizenship to foreign advisers and mercenaries. They serve him to conduct armed repression against his own people. By contrast, non-violent opponents of the regime have been stripped of their nationality and driven into exile.

Despite al-Khalifa’s ferocious efforts, the Bahraini civilian uprising did not abate. The people would not be cowed, they kept resisting. So the King resorted to his giant, unpleasant neighbour, the Saudi regime. Saudi troops invaded Bahrain, tanks driving over the causeway that connects the small islands to the mainland, to put down the protesters. A sledgehammer to crack a nut! But the repression has not quite succeeded, yet.

The priest must declare an interest. I have for years being friends with a number of Bahraini exiles in London. Amongst them, the worthy Dr Saeed Shehabi and his wonderful daughter, Dr Ala’a Shehabi. Saeed is not a fanatical agitator for some Shia’ Islamic Caliphate or Imamate. Quite the opposite. He is a thoughtful, civilised and peaceful person, unjustly stripped of his natural Bahraini citizenship and now a citizen of the UK. Ala’a is a campaigner for human rights worldwide and has authored a book about her work. Splendid, brave friends. May they live long and prosper. And may their just cause triumph.

Quoting from some of Saeed’s postings on Facebook: ‘No one can impose Alkhalifa cruel tribal rule on native Bahrainis…Bahraini people will achieve victory. AlKhalifa and Saudis are an illegitimate tribal rule that is not sustainable. They must go…Middle East will not stabilise unless the antiquated tribal rule of AlSaud, Alhkalifa give place to people’s rule. Democratic change is necessary…Despite suppression Bahrainis have shown extraordinary resilience. They are winning the war of wills between people and tyrants.’ Insh’allah!

Back to the Queen. She is a lovely person – I am told. Of course, she reigns but does not rule. If the nasty King sat next to her it was probably her government’s unfortunate choice not her personal one. At least I hope so…

Revd Frank Julian Gelli


** follow on Twitter (Twitter Account not yet Authorized)
| ** friend on Facebook (#)
| ** forward to a friend (

Copyright © Fr Frank Gelli
Email Marketing Powered by MailChimp
** unsubscribe from this list (
| ** update subscription preferences (

No comments: