Outrage as Prince Charles blesses Bahraini sectarian militia naval base

Nathanael Williams

Clarence House stands accused of supporting sectarian tyranny on the Persian Gulf

PRINCE CHARLES has been criticised by human rights campaigners for opening a UK naval base in Bahrain, built by the country’s sectarian and repressive state militia.

In the opening ceremony yesterday [Thursday 10 November] the heir apparent christened the UK base which Ministry of Defence (MOD) officials confirmed had been “gifted” by Bahrain in order for the UK to gain strategic influence in the Persian Gulf.

Both the prince and the UK Government have been criticised for associations with the Bahraini regime, which has used the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF), a sectarian state militia, to put down democratic protests since the 2011 Arab Spring.

Warning video contains scenes of a distressing nature: Protestors shot at by BDF

Speaking to CommonSpace, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), said: “The UK continually claims to support human rights in Bahrain, but to what result?

“Britain has only gotten friendly with a regime which has escalated its repression in the past year. British values are dead and buried, and this paid-for naval base is their graveyard.

“It is a shame to see Prince Charles allowing himself to be a part of this public relations game."

As part of the four-day trip, the Duke of Rothesay’s function was to maintain diplomatic good will during the bases construction. It is due to be fully operational by November next year. Through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted to the MOD, Bird discovered that the UK Government plans to spend a further £6.4m on the base. The figure projected by sources in the Foreign Office, is that the base will cost £30m.

In addition to the base being covered by the diplomatic and military support of the Bahrani regime, it is being constructed and policed by the BDF, which has been criticised for its anti-Shia sectarianism. In recent years the Shia majority in Bahrain has been the target of a smear campaign by Sunni preachers nased in Saudi Arabia and the terror group Daesh (Islamic State).

According to an investigation by Foreign Policy, recruits to Daesh have been drawn from the Bahraini security services, and Bird has acquired evidence that the BDF actively publishes material espousing violence against Shia Muslims.

Apart from participating in crackdowns against the Shia population of Bahrain, the BDF has published three books with sectarian overtones. All featuring the official Bahrain Ministry of Defence logo, these works incite the killing of Shia Muslims. Given the prince’s history of advocating for religious tolerance, Bird have expressed disappointment that no concerns were raised on the trip.

Sectarian literature with Bahraini security forces logo 

Earlier this year, Bahrain was put on to the list of “priority countries” in a report compiled by the Foreign and CommonWealth Office human rights project. Human Rights Watch, MPs and campaigners have argued that the establishment ties between Bahrain and the UK are preventing the country’s appalling human rights abuses from being focused upon.

The naval base will be the UK’s first permanent military base in the region since 1971.

When contacted by CommonSpace, Clarence House, the Prince of Wales’ residence and estate, said that they had “no comment” on the details of the diplomatic trip.

Picture courtesy of Royal Naval Reserve Archive

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