Bahrain Video Special: "Riots", "Reform", & "Brutal Interrogation" --- The Kingdom from 1956 to 1996
This week's excellent post by documentary maker Adam Curtis about the historical background to the current conflict in Bahrain --- reprinted on EA --- has continued to ripple across the Internet, in part because of the window it offers on the British in the kingdom.
This BBC report from 1956 is not only striking for the clipped Queen's English of the presenter. While London's strategic line is reproduced --- "From here we run the whole system of our relations with the Sheikhdoms" --- the feature attributes unrest in Bahrain to domestic complaints about rule and rights. That is a far cry from the British Government's declaration that protest was being fomented by Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser.
And while the report concludes with an interview with the King's British advisor Charles Belgrave, it features --- in the name of "reform" supported by the UK Government --- local criticism of him, and there is an interview with activist Abdulaziz Al-Shamlan criticing "one-man rule" and the lack of justice:
Ten years later, the BBC's Panorama returned to Bahrain to examine Britain's military base, then under great pressure because of London's economic difficulties, and to ask, "Will Britain support [the Bahraini regime] in the style to which they have become accustomed?". No sign of "reform" here, apart from a token "slum clearance" scheme, and the reporter is soon considering the "political prisoners" in the jail to which he has been denied access:
Fast forward to 1996 where, filming covertly, the BBC finds the antecedents of today's images: imprisonment of people simply talking to foreign journalists, "brutal interrogations", and the "daily routine" of youths burning tyres: "To the outsider, it looks more like Israel's intifada [of the occupied Palestinians] than the Gulf States once renowned as desert oases of stability and reliable friends of the West"....