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Bahrain — [Siobhain McDonagh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 10:23 am on 11th September 2018.

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Photo of Leo Docherty Leo Docherty Conservative, Aldershot 10:23 am, 11th September 2018

Not as long as that of my hon. Friend, that is true. It is an association of which I am extremely proud, because the relationship between our country and the kingdom is hugely important and historic.

I will make three brief points, the first to set some context about the domestic situation in Bahrain. When we travel to Bahrain, we see a young country that has achieved remarkable development in a very short time. Many points have been made by other hon. Members, but those developments include the steps towards democracy that the kingdom has taken, the remarkable level of religious freedom and of freedom of worship for all religions, and the moves towards a family law that provides greater autonomy and freedom for women in the family. They are all remarkable steps for a young country in the region to have taken. Where else can one meet a female Jewish Member of Parliament in the middle east? The Kingdom of Bahrain has made remarkable progress in recent years. I have travelled throughout the kingdom, including in Shi’a villages, and spoken to all sides, and the modern development of this remarkable young country is something of which they are very proud. That is the domestic context, and we must not forget it.

The regional context is also important. Although I am grateful to Andy Slaughter for securing the debate, his contribution was notably lacking in—utterly devoid of, in fact—regional context in terms of Bahrain’s situation. That context is one of Iranian interference in the domestic affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain. It is a tragedy that, since 2011 in particular, political groups and those seeking to engage in politics have been militarised by the Islamic revolutionary guard corps from Iran, and sectarian divides that were not there before have been created and exploited.

That is a modern-day tragedy, which the kingdom is seeking to overcome. Of course, it did not start in 2011; it started in 1979 with the Islamic revolution in Iran. Since then, Iran has sought to export Islamic revolution throughout the region, and has sought to claim leadership over Shi’ite groups throughout the region. Indeed, a seat is reserved for the Kingdom of Bahrain in the Iranian Majlis—so Iran utterly rejects the notion that the kingdom should be a sovereign state.

That is the important point to remember—what started in 1979. We must ensure that an understanding of the regional context and of the threat that Bahrain faces daily guides our thinking, because the threat is real. Like my hon. Friend Bob Stewart, I have seen Iranian-supplied munitions, explosives and improvised explosive device materials brought into the kingdom by boat by IRGC operatives and, fortunately, seized by members of the security forces.