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Commemorating 200 Years of UK-Bahrain “Friendship” – British Council Fails to Launch #200Stories, Bahrain Watch launches #200MoreStories
Bahrain Watch today announces the launch of its new website, #200MoreStories, which casts a critical eye on British-Bahrain relations. The website is a response to the British Council’s competition #200Stories, that was launched on 17 April this year. The competition asks people to commemorate their favourite British/Bahrain memories in “celebration of the 200th anniversary of the historic ‘friendship’”. The British Council extended the deadline to August 4th, but hasn’t published any story to date. The aim of the competition, according to the British Council, is ‘to showcase the way that people in Bahrain and the UK have engaged, inspired and collaborated with each other in spheres such as education, culture and science’.
Prince Charles is set to formally open the newly established British base in Bahrain during his visit to the country this week. According to the Prince’s official web page, the visit will mark the 200th anniversary of the “first agreement between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Kingdom which established formal relations between both countries and has led to enduring diplomatic, political, military and economic ties”. The Royal Navy base cost Bahrain about 30 million pounds, and will host up to 600 British military personnel.
Using a combination of archival research and non-fictional personal narratives, including stories from expats, Bahrainis, and academics, #200MoreStories provides insights into the far-ranging and brutal complexities of the colonial and postcolonial relationship, from segregation to torture. Sometimes, the personal tales simply reflect insightful cultural episodes expose cultural or social tensions.
Marc Owen Jones, member of Bahrain Watch and Research Fellow at Exeter University’s Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies department, said; “there is a danger that the British Council competition will cherry pick only the sanitized stories, whitewashing an often toxic Bahrain-Britain friendship, one that has included torture, oppression, and the institutionalisation of gross inequality. This website will make sure those stories get heard too. Many people are also reluctant about submitting their critical stories to an organisation that works closely with the British government.”
Bahrain Watch will continually update the website with new content, and encourages those with stories, articles, or accounts, to submit text, photographs, or multimedia to [email protected] or [email protected]. Submissions are accepted in both English and Arabic.
Select quotes from stories
He drank from a water cooler designated for British people only. Following this transgression, he was promptly chased by a British guy from management, who also deployed security guards to chase after the errant water thief. – A Bahraini
My wife asks for something from my 4X4, I leave the ward to fetch. Something’s wrong. My eyes, my throat, burn. An ecstasy of fumbling: a CS gas canister or two over the hospital’s perimeter wall. My mucus membranes choke off my throat, I stagger back to the ward. My daughter’s not in her cot. – Mike Diboll
Even though this incident demonstrated the potentially disastrous results of such a cultural clash, most of our interactions with the Bahraini villagers during that era did not culminate in fights. – Pete Lewis
Regardless of one’s qualification, or years of experience, this pillar of the Bahraini economy, as a matter of stated policy, compensated British and Western expats more lucratively; provided them with more generous accommodation, as well as access to better educational opportunities for their children. – Owais Arshad
While I never got to meet Ian Henderson, on the flight out of Bahrain, I asked a British security officer sitting next to me about the beatings of a journalist’s son. – Emile Nakhleh
So they are, but I speak for myself. Bahrain is my home. I choose to be from here. I am ashamed of many things my country has done. Just because my passport dictates that I cannot stay in Bahrain, it doesn’t mean I belong in Britain. – Marc Owen Jones
I’ve written books about the history of Northern Ireland’s politics and conflict, and can see it’s more than just the routine use of tear gas and torture in custody – it’s the accusations of loyalty to foreign powers and complicated layers of identity. – Brian Dooley
I said, ‘It’s a strange turn of fate that a torturer and his victim end up in the same picture’. Henderson smiled a little, and I approached him and said: ‘Isn’t it about time you apologised to your victims?’ – Saeed Shehabi
Arrested another of the men who I really believe knew all about it, but though we used methods of a mild Spanish Inquisition we could get nothing out of him. I felt sorry for the boy…” – Charles Belgrave,1926
Bahrain Watch is a monitoring and advocacy group that seeks to promote effective, accountable, and transparent governance in Bahrain through research and evidence-based investigation. About Bahrain Watch: https://bahrainwatch.org/about.php