25th Mar, 2013 –
Citizens for Bahrain looks at the British Ambassador’s interview with the Gulf Daily News on 25 March 2013
British Ambassador to Bahrain, Iain Lindsay, made a number of surprising departures from the usual bland and safe diplomatic language, when he condemned Iranian interference, branded rioters who use explosives as “terrorists” and described Human Rights Watch’s latest report as “unhelpful, condescending and patronizing”.
The Embassy also announced the setting up of a unit to support implementation of reforms. Here are some of the significant quotes from his interview:
“The British government has said publicly that we are concerned by the fact that we see increasing evidence of Iran moving from exploiting Bahrain’s problems for propaganda purposes to providing support to people here who are bent on violence”.
“We condemn Iran’s meddling here and indeed elsewhere and we firmly believe that Bahrain will make progress if Bahrain is given a chance and Bahrainis are given a chance themselves to resolve their problems.”
“People who plant bombs which are aimed at indiscriminately killing people are terrorists, full stop.”
“If you plant a bomb in a rubbish bin and you don’t really care who is going to pick it up or who is going to be killed, that is by any international standards terrorism.”
“The only way you are going to get out of Bahrain’s political difficulties is through dialogue”.
“It’s important for not only the international community to condemn the violence, but for all leaders in Bahrain – political, religious, community leaders – to condemn violence, to make clear that this has no part in Bahrain’s future.”
“Deeply unhelpful” Human rights Watch report
“As far as the Human Rights Watch report was concerned we would disagree with their conclusion that there has been no progress on reform. I don’t think that accurately reflects what happened here or is happening here and I find their comments about the political dialogue deeply unhelpful.
“I think it has taken a lot of courage and a lot of effort to get people for the first time in two years to sit round a table to talk about dialogue. That is no mean feat, and essentially to pooh-pooh that and say that these people are wasting their time I think is deeply unhelpful, condescending and patronizing”.
British-Bahraini cooperation team
“We have set up a cooperation team in the Embassy and in January I think we had eight high-level visits in both directions. I think it reflects the fact that the tempo of the bilateral relationship really has moved up a couple of gears since His Majesty King Hamad’s visit to London where he saw Prime Minister David Cameron.”
“This sort of process will have good days and bad days – it requires patience and leadership. From our own experience this is still early days. In Northern Ireland I think it took one year from the start of the all-party talks to them agreeing an agenda.”
“There are people in the country who are opposed to dialogue, who see it as a sideshow or irrelevant. We disagree with that and I think the whole of the international community would disagree with that.”
“We are seeing much more use of things like IEDs and improvised weapons, but I think the police response has become better. But incidents of unprofessional behaviour must be investigated.”
“We have, in general, seen greater restraint. Certainly in the 18 months that I have been here, things have become more violent on the ground.
“We regret that when things flare up there have been deaths, which is a tragedy, and inevitably when there are deaths that leads to more violence”.
Welcoming Crown Prince’s deputy PM appointment
He also welcomed the new role of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is now First Deputy Premier as well as Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander.
“It’s a good confidence building measure and it certainly gives us and I’m sure our international partners a sense of confidence in the Bahraini government going ahead,” he said. “I think it should also give people in Bahrain a sense of confidence that he is now engaged in the government.”
We welcome the fact that the British Ambassador’s portrayal of events in Bahrain, and his condemnation of acts of terrorism and foreign interference is remarkably similar to Citizens for Bahrain’s own views on these issues, and this is perhaps a refreshing sign that international audiences are beginning to gain a better understanding of the complexities of the Bahrain situation.