Bahraini human rights activists welcomed the promise of a British government minister to meet with them to discuss the situation in their country.
The commitment was made by Lord Ahmad, Minister of State for the Middle East, during debate on the situation of human rights in the Gulf countries, held in the House of Lords, the upper house of the UK Parliament, on 24 November.
Bahrain and the other five members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) came under constant criticism for their human rights record during the debate.
This comes amid the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, which has witnessed widespread negative media coverage of the country’s treatment of migrant workers and, in particular, the LGBT community.
Overseeing the public gallery debate was Ali Mushaima, whose father, Hassan Mushaima, is in jail in Bahrain. Also present were opposition activists Ebtisam Al-Saeh and Syed Ahmed Alwadai. Lord Ahmad said he would arrange to meet with them “at the earliest opportunity”.
Ali Musaima said after the debate that he was glad to see his father’s cause in the debate. “Today, as Lord Ahmad tried to defend UK support for my father’s abusers, several other members of my family were detained by the regime in Bahrain for being [the] demand that my father’s fundamental right to treatment be respected.”
Alvadei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said in response to the debate: “It was important that survivors of the torture of the Bahraini regime were present today to hear the minister’s response first hand. We look forward to meeting Lord Ahmad at the earliest opportunity.”
Lord Scriven, Vice Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, opened the debate by noting the deteriorating human rights situation in the region in recent years and questioned whether the UK Government’s Strategy Fund should continue countries of the Persian Gulf. “After a decade of British taxpayer-funded bailouts for these wealthy regimes, their human rights record has deteriorated significantly, often in flagrant violation of international law,” he said.
Along with the lack of democracy, he noted “severe restrictions on freedom of speech, political participation and the media. Migrant workers make up the majority of the workforce in every state and are often denied basic rights. Women and LGBT+ people face systemic discrimination.”
While Qatar’s activities have received a lot of media attention in recent days, all six Gulf states have come under fire, including mass executions in Saudi Arbia and Kuwait this year.
Labor Party colleague Lord Cashman noted that of the 11 UN member states that prescribe the death penalty for consensual same-sex relationships, three are in the Gulf states: Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE. In other Gulf states, same-sex relationships are punishable by at least three years.
Beyond the government, there has been one lone voice in the House offering some support to the Gulf states, with fellow Liberal Democrat Lord Hussein saying the progress Qatar has made in recent years “should be appreciated and applauded.” Lord Hussein said he recently visited Qatar as part of a delegation of parliamentarians from seven European countries, invited by the Qatar National Human Rights Committee.
In charge of the government, Lord Ahmad, who is also the Minister for Human Rights, described the debate as “insightful, passionate, emotional and detailed”.
“It’s important that we have these discussions to highlight these issues and how we disclose them,” he said. “There are times when you really feel like shouting out in public. When I’m no longer on the front benches and I’m back on the back benches, I’m sure there will be times when I raise these issues much more publicly.”
Lord Ahmad said he regularly took up specific human rights cases with Gulf governments and their ambassadors in London, including the case of Jordanian Hussein Abo al-Khair, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia. Lord Ahmad said he raised the issue at the meeting. morning with the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia.
Earlier in the debate, Green Party colleague Baroness Bennett said that after his arrest in 2014, Al-Khair was tortured into confessing to drug-related crimes. like a cell of death. His execution could happen at any moment,” she said.
The debate is unlikely to be the last time the issue of human rights in the Persian Gulf is raised in the room.
“FIFA and world football have brought attention to the Gulf countries,” said Lord Cashman. “This is a floodlight that will last long after the final match. It is a spotlight that reminds us that what is done against people in other countries is just as important and just as urgent as if it were happening to us.”