On March 12, a survey conducted by the Hong Kong Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) ranked Bahrain as the “best country in the world for expats.” According to the state-run Bahrain News Agency (BNA), 66 percent of those expatriates surveyed said they were “very happy” to live in the country. The BNA notes that “the kingdom is an open country,” and a society in which “its citizens and residents [co-exist] within a secure and tolerant atmosphere.”
Noting Bahrain’s ranking on the survey, Brian Dooley of Human Rights First tweeted, “Bahrain [is the] best country in [the] world for expats unless you’re a journalist or human rights activist.” By promoting the HSBC survey, Bahrain continues to divert attention from its deteriorating human rights record. Just this week, on March 14, 2016, Bahrain arrested prominent human rights defender Zainab al-Khawaja over charges relating to her exercise of freedom of expression. On February 14, 2016, Bahraini police arrested and detained a US journalist, Anna Day, and her three-man film crew on charges of involvement in criminal acts while they covered the fifth anniversary of the Bahraini pro-democracy movement. Dooley notes these practices may have been acceptable and overlooked in the past, when Bahrain “persuaded many that it was serious about lifting its violent repression” due to “lavish PR and some gullible governments,” but recent events suggest the “ceiling is falling in on Bahrain’s reform project.” Such events include UN High Commissioner Zeid’s statement at the Human Rights Council’s 31st session singling out Bahrain for continued human rights violations; notably the alarming number of citizenship revocations the Bahraini government has processed this year, and the recent statement by the U.S. Department of State calling for the Government of Bahrain to release prominent human rights defenders Ebrahim Sharif and Sheikh Ali Salman. While HSBC’s survey ranks Bahrain as the “best country in the world for expatriates,” Bahraini citizens whose political views do not align with the government may not experience the “welcoming society” the BNA claims Bahrain projects.
Tyler Pry is an Advocacy Intern at Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons