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Scotland's controversial deal with Bahrain

Please find below links to an article I wrote for Scotland On Sunday - published yesterday - about a controversial business deal between a public body in Scotland and the government of Bahrain.……

***Following publication of my report, I was contacted by an organisation called Citizens for Bahrain who offered comment which I am happy to publish here.

Citizens for Bahrain said:

"We fail to understand why anyone should be taking issue with an initiative to develop the education sector in Bahrain. Such an initiative has the potential to benefit Bahrainis from all sections of society and therefore should be considered on its merits, irrespective of any political dynamics.

Bahrainis are an open-minded, tolerant and forward-looking people, so we appreciate all support in better educating our children. We question the motives of opposition groups in seeking to undermine such a great initiative. However, considering that the Scotsman article 'Shame of SQA contract with brutal Bahrain' was so woefully misinformed, let’s set out a few facts:

There has been unrest in Bahrain for around two years. After the worst of the unrest in Spring 2011 the Bahraini Government commissioned an independent inquiry, which found failings in various parts of the state apparatus. Bahrain’s King acknowledged these failings, introduced 95% of the recommendations (as witnessed by the UN Human Rights Council) and ordered a complete overhaul of the security and justice sectors to bring Bahrain into line with international human rights standards.

Protests of an increasingly violent and sectarian nature have since continued at diminishing levels, with youth gathering each weekend to attack police with firebombs and makeshift weapons. For example a policeman nearly lost his eye this weekend after a dart loaded with a 13 inch nail embedded itself in his face.

We therefore hope that the Scotsman’s readership will sympathize that indeed rioters have been arrested, but they are being handled through a reformed justice sector, with judges who have undergone extensive retraining thanks to partnerships with various European judiciaries.

We will not pretend that everything is perfect in Bahrain, but the situation is very different from the one portrayed in the Scotsman, after uncritically swallowing substantial doses of opposition propaganda. The opposition has been described by the British Government as increasingly “militant” and “sectarian”, and increasingly ready to use terrorist tactics, as revealed by a series of bomb plots underpinned by Iranian training and aiming to destabilize Bahrain. We can thank the British Government for supporting Bahrain in the investigation of these explosive factories.

All Bahrainis can agree that we want to see peaceful reform, and most Bahrainis support the consolidation of a Constitutional Monarchy. We do not support the opposition’s vision of violent revolution and a Government based on sectarian principles.

A key element of supporting such reforms towards a more progressive society is education. Therefore the Scottish Qualifications Agency and the Scottish Government are absolutely right to be supporting education in Bahrain. We the people of Bahrain thank them for this."

Thanks for your time,

Billy Briggs.






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