Thursday, 17 March 2011

A Bahrain question

Whilst the tragedy in Japan and the conflict in Libya are rightly filling the news bulletins, the conflict in Bahrain is also a huge story which deserves attention.

At roughly the same time as the uprisings broke out in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, protestors in Bahrain took to the streets demanding more human rights and equal treatment. The ruling family is from the minority sunni community and the majority of the population are shias.

For a long while, nothing much happened. Protestors occupied Pearl Square in the capital Manama and the government did little to stop them. Normal life pretty much returned to the kingdom and it seems that ordinary people even got tired of the protestors and lost sympathy with them. Then, just as the Libyan conflict was at its height and the earthquake and tsunami struck in Japan, the Bahraini government took action, calling for help from their neighbours in Saudi Arabia.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers are now on the streets and two days ago they attacked and cleared Pearl Square. An unknown number of people were killed and injured. There have been repeated reports of gunfire from helicopters and from the ground and recently opposition leaders have been rounded up and jailed and troops have even entered hospital operating theatres to arrest doctors because they treated injured protestors.

Nothing is universal in this sort of situation, but the reports from Bahrain suggest that those on the streets were peacefully demonstrating and that it was the Government which is using lethal force.

Now the UK government has taken action and recommended that all UK citizens should leave Bahrain. They are laying on flights to Dubai to help.

A country which violently suppresses peaceful demonstrators is not one which I believe the UK should be supporting - even if the government there has been helpful in our efforts in Afghanistan.

I have therefore put a question to the next council meeting to ask whether Cornwall Council has any investments in Bahrain or whether it invests in companies which do business with the government there. I don't know whether there are any such investments, but if there are we should be withdrawing from them immediately.

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