Reforms in Bahrain and Foreign Pressure

It is difficult to discuss human rights and democratization in Bahrain, without taking into consideration the international and regional political climate. Admittedly, there are internal problems which impede reforms and also certain political movements which reject them completely or object to parts of them. Hence, the observer of the situation in Bahrain will also sense challenges of a different nature related to the influence of the external political situation.

It is possible to categorize the external pressures on the reform process in Bahrain into three challenges:

  • It is possible to categorize the external pressures on the reform process in Bahrain into three challenges:
  • Another challenge concerns regional pressure on the Bahraini democratization process. The reason for this is that the Bahraini experience was born in an immature regional environment; and perceived by some countries as a temptation for their own societies. This pressurizes these countries into improving their political situations. Unfortunately, instead of improving and reforming their political situation, some countries do the opposite by putting pressure on Bahrain to stop the political process or to slow it down.
  • The third challenge relates to the tense political atmosphere in the region including the instability in Iraq, Iran’s conflict with the super powers and the escalation in violence in more than one neighboring country. This tense atmosphere resulted in sharp polarization which affected the local situation in all countries including Bahrain, and also increased disregard for the reform agenda due to the mounting pressure from various parts of the conflict.

The reform experience in Bahrain is still new and external pressure is mounting. This resulted in obstructing and slowing down reforms and pushing towards violating international human rights standards.

It must be said that this pressure is not a plausible justification for adopting a policy that neglects citizens’ rights. It is also an un-acceptable justification for slowing down the reform process.

The Government in Bahrain must not give in to foreign pressure or slow down the reform process. This is because the stability of the regime in Bahrain depends on the citizens’ satisfaction, which is of the utmost importance. Foreign pressure, on the other hand, can be dealt with as long as public satisfaction and political wisdom, which is able to circumvent these pressures, exist.

Hasan Moosa Shafaei
President - Bahrain Human Rights Monitor