Dear President Obama,

Stability and progress in the Gulf are best served through solidarity with Bahrain. Making a success of the National Dialogue, consolidating reforms and reconciliation require US support – not punitive action, as some have urged.

Your diplomats can confirm that Bahrain is the most progressive country in the Gulf. Laws enshrining tolerance and diversity are testament to this. Three years of rioting and Iran-backed terrorism put this under threat.

Bahrain’s majority of moderate and educated figures advocate that our future is best served by continued reform as a Constitutional Monarchy. Please do not provide encouragement or legitimacy to those who seek to forcibly implement their intolerant agenda through the same logic of revolution that has failed spectacularly elsewhere. We believe that religious hardliners of all orientations are a threat to our society.

Our way of life is under threat. We live in a country where women occupy influential positions in politics and business; and where the Constitution enshrines women’s rights and religious freedoms. The vision for women of leading opposition groups is wholly retrogressive: They have encouraged segregation in many walks of life, including during protests. Opposition groups opposed implementation of the Family Law which protects women’s rights for inheritance, marriage and child custody. Behind their rhetoric of human rights, these figures have an agenda that is inimical to the freedoms of our diverse society.

With the Cabinet’s recent decision to bring Bahrain fully into line with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Bahrain shows its aspiration to stand with the most progressive nations in the world; at a time when some regional states are going backwards, for example; Iraq’s “Personal Status Law” which restricts women’s rights and allows the marriage of 9 year-old girls.

Instead of adopting confidence-building measures in support of the Crown Prince’s National Dialogue initiative; opposition groups this February embarked on a new wave of protests and rioting. As a result of this escalation four policemen are now dead (compared with five rioters dying in confrontations with police over the last two years). This is the message groups like Al-Wefaq wish to send about their desire for talks.

Opposition groups like Al-Wefaq Islamic Society have every right to act as political parties and seek through elections to regain their seats in Parliament. The problem starts when such an organization is led by clerics, acting according to a theological and sectarian agenda and basing their principles on Ayatollah Khomeini’s doctrine of Welayat al-Faqih; a concept alien to Arabs and Bahrainis, whether Sunni or Shia.

You will be aware of shipments of weapons from Iran which were recently impounded. Your intelligence reports state that Iranian support for militants is continuing. Groups like Al-Ashtar Brigades which claimed recent attacks bear Iran’s fingerprints. We ask that you tell Iran that interference in Bahrain is unacceptable. No sane person in Bahrain wants Iranian-style Islamic republic and rule by Ayatollahs.

In too many regional states, the political scene is dominated by groups like Hezbollah, whose allegiance is not to the nation and civil society. We request your solidarity with Bahrain in helping maintain our tolerant and progressive society so that it does not fall under the shadow of those with a sectarian, anti-Western agenda.     

Citizens for Bahrain

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