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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered human rights abuses and UK assistance to Bahrain.
It is a great pleasure to be here under your chair-personship, Ms McDonagh—I think this is the first time I have had the privilege. I very much welcome the opportunity I have been given by the Backbench Business Committee. We do not often get the time to debate some of the smaller Gulf countries, and it is long overdue that the House look in some forensic detail at the issues in Bahrain.
Much could be said in general terms about the appalling human rights record of the al-Khalifa regime, even in the seven years since the Bahraini people played their part in the Arab spring protests of 2011. For a short time, the attack by regime forces on the protest camp at the Pearl roundabout, the invasion by the Gulf Co-operation Council—mainly Saudi—forces, the cancellation of the 2011 grand prix and the systematic crackdown, particularly on the majority Shi’a population, caught public attention, but then other, more momentous events in the region pushed Bahrain into the shadows. Indeed, Bahrain is often in the shadows of its much larger neighbour, Saudi Arabia. I am pleased that we are going to debate Yemen, and no doubt the Saudi intervention there, in the main Chamber, but that is, of course, a Gulf Co-operation Council intervention, in which Bahrain also plays its part. Bahrain also plays its part in the boycott of Qatar.
I am pleased that Bahrain is still a priority country—a euphemism, I am afraid, for what used to be “country of concern” on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office list. I am also pleased to report that, in a Foreign Affairs Committee publication that is hot off the presses today, Bahrain is cited as a country not just where there are human rights concerns but where—this is in line with the theme of the debate—the UK Government are not acquitting themselves well in the recognition of those concerns.