Nod to oppression? UK military official visits Bahrain

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The head of the British Armed Forces has visited Bahrain, in what has been denounced as London’s consent to Manama’s recently-intensified crackdown on the pro-democracy drive across the Persian Gulf island.

General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of Britain’s Defense Staff (CDS), arrived in Bahrain on Tuesday, only a day after the Bahraini regime stripped Sheikh Isa Qassim, the country’s top Shia cleric, of his citizenship, accusing him of sowing “sectarianism and violence.”

Houghton met with Shaikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defense Force.

UK-based activism group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), condemned the visit, saying, “Bahrain’s ally, the UK, did not even postpone a meeting on military cooperation, let alone issue a statement on this gross repression of Bahrain’s civil society,” referring to the intensified Bahraini crackdown on dissent.

The BIRD was referring to the declared purpose of the visit, namely follow-up coordination between the two countries in the wake of a bilateral agreement to establish a new British naval base in Bahrain.

“Britain is giving Bahrain a green light for repression,” the group said.

Allan Hogarth, the Amnesty International UK’s head of policy and government affairs, also addressed the issue, saying, “Since its shiny new naval base in Bahrain was announced, the UK has apparently been prioritizing its military ties rather than rocking the boat over the Bahrain’s increasingly dismal human rights record.”

British MP, Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the visit was a “sad demonstration of just how little” the British government cares about human rights.

Bahrain has been in turmoil since a 2011 uprising demanding greater civil and political rights from the Saudi-backed monarchy.

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