Britain’s Prince Andrew hosted the king of Bahrain at the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Saturday in another sign of his steadfast commitment to the repressive Persian Gulf state.
King Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa arrived in London amid growing controversy as violence continues back home, and his son Prince Nasser bin Hamed Al Khalifa, who captains the Bahraini team at Windsor, faces a court challenge to immunity from prosecution over torture claims, according to The Independent.
The Duke of York had been due to attend a Bahrain promotional event earlier in the day at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster but cancelled due a clash in his schedule. Anti-arms campaigners called on the Royal Family to stop advocating business with the “oppressive” regime and said Prince Andrew’s cancellation was the first sign the Royal Family’s support for Bahrain was on the wane.
Bahranis joined the anti-arms campaigners outside the QEII center to protest against the country’s poor human rights record and demanded that the British government sever all ties with the island nation.
Maryam Al-Khawaja, 26, from the Bahrain Center of Human Rights, told The Independent, “The British public and those who are invited to attend to this conference need to have a clear understanding that we are far from the image that the Bahrain government gives on these occasions. Nothing is back to normal.”
Ala’a Shelabi, co-funder of Bahrain Watch, said, “This kind of conference is just one of the massive PR campaigns that the government has been employing over the past three years. The government has moved the battle ground to here in the UK.”
During a visit to Bahrain last month Prince Andrew praised what is happening in the country as “a source of hope for many people in the world and a source of pride for Bahrainis”. He used to visit often as a special representative for trade and investment.
Bahrainis stage more demos
Meanwhile, Bahraini citizens staged more anti-regime demonstrations to condemn the brutal crackdown on protesters by the Saudi-backed forces of the ruling regime.
Thousands of protesters participated in a rally in the village of al-Malikiyah, southwest of the capital Manama, on Friday, Al-Alam reported.
The protesters chanted anti-regime slogans and carried placards featuring jailed political activists.
A similar demonstration was also held on the island of Sitra, southeast of the capital.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations on the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
On May 10, the country’s main opposition bloc Al-Wefaq said in a report that some 170 protesters, including 29 children, were arrested by regime forces in April.
The group also said that some 837 demonstrations were held across the kingdom in April. At least 58 protesters were injured in the government’s crackdown, most of them targeted by birdshots.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds injured and jailed by the regime forces since the uprising broke out.
Physicians for Human Rights says doctors and nurses have been detained, tortured, or disappeared because they have “evidence of atrocities committed by the authorities, security forces, and riot police” in the crackdown on anti-regime protesters.
A string of human rights groups including Human Rights Watch have criticized Bahrain's human rights record. The state brutally suppressed protesters during its version of the Arab Spring in 2011 and there have been widespread reports of Bahraini protesters being jailed and tortured having demanded democratic rights for the Shia majority, an estimated 60 per cent of Bahraini citizens, from the Sunni al-Khalifa monarchy.
Subscribe to our RSS feed to stay in touch and receive all of TT updates right in your feed reader