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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Bahrain: New visa requirements strands people at airport



Robert Naiman in the Huffington Post writes about being stranded in the Bahrain International Airport. The Bahrain authorities refuse to let him into the country.

In the past Bahrain authorities had almost automatically given Americans visas at the airport. But not now. Naiman reports for the Huffington Post among other activities.

Some observers did get in and their reports of the celebrations of the first anniversary of earlier protests can be found at Witneess Bahrain. The site is blocked in Bahrain itself. The visa policy happened just after Americans had been arrested for taking part in protests.

Although Naiman was not able to report on the protests he was able to observe people in the airport many of whom were having the same problem as he was. Many were simply in Bahrain on business and were much irritated at a barrier that had never existed before.'

The visa policy is impacting a much broader group of people than just those wanting to cover protests. Business people and plain tourists were inconvenienced and angry.

Naiman noted a group of Brits who said they were invited by the Bahrain oil company to give a marketing presentation. They complained they were late for the presentation since authorities would not let them out of the airport. One of them shouted: Ï don't even want to be here!""

A group of Spaniards were coming to Bahrain for a conference. One of the group was even scheduled to give a presentation. Yet they were all stuck in the airport. Needlessly to say thay were angry.

Naiman is quite critical of U.S. policy in Bahrain. The U.S. refuses to raise the profile of the situation in Bahrain so that anything such as happened in Tunisia or Egypt could happen there.

The excuses people give Naiman finds unconvincing. THe U.S. needs Bahrain as a base for the fifth fleet. Bahrain is a defence against Iran. The U.S. cannot afford to offend Saudi Arabia. None of these are very cogent. Certainly Bahrain is not likely to kick the U.S. out of Bahrain because of U.S. criticism nor is Saudi Arabia likely to do anything if the U.S. criticises Bahrain except perhaps grumble. For much more see the full article.

Recently the Obama administration approved the sale of military equipment to Bahrain even after a report commissioned by the king himself had admitted that protesters had been tortured some even dying. Barely a whisper in the mainstream press about this.

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